Russo attended West Virginia University while his friend Rudy Ricci attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Ricci met George A. Romero at Carnegie Mellon and introduced Russo to Romero on Russo’s Christmas vacation. After college, Russo was drafted into the Army and served a two year stint. Meanwhile, Romero with Russell Streiner formed The Latent Image to produce commercial films with the aim of eventually making a full length feature film. When Russo got out of the Army, he joined his friends in The Latent Image and soon plans were made for a feature film. Russo crafted a rough idea about a young man stumbling upon a host of ghouls feeding off human corpses. Romero loved the idea and a few days later he presented Russo with forty pages of a story based on the idea. The film ultimately became Night of the Living Dead which led to Romero’s Living Dead series and the Return of the Living Dead series with the latter based on a story by Russo.
Russo went on to author many novels and, like his friend Romero, began making films of his own. The Booby Hatch was a sex comedy released in 1976. Midnight was an adaptation of Russo’s novel of the same name and released in 1982. His novel The Majorettes was adapted by Russo himself and directed by Bill Hinzman who played the Cemetery Zombie in Night of the Living Dead. Russo’s next film was Heartstopper which featured “name” actors Michael J. Pollard and Moon Unit Zappa. Russo considers it his favorite of the films he has directed.