In 1978, filmmaker Roy Frumkes set about making a documentary about the making of George Romero’s classic horror film Dawn of the Dead. It was eventually released in 1985 at a 83 minute cut. If you own the Ultimate Dawn DVD, you own this and have most likely watched it. Now here we get the definitive version of the film at 102 minutes. But does the extra 19 minutes warrant buying it again?
The original Document is a fantastic behind the scenes look at the making of an independent horror film. Any young filmmaker looking to learn a thing or two would do well to watch this film. For me, it ranks up there as one of the better documentaries about the making of a film.
The added footage picks up years later on the set of more recent Romero films. As Frumkes points out in the commentary, it’s sort of like his version of the British series 7 Up. These later interviews are okay and vary in quality. Some pretty good, some okay. There is a great moment where you see a very frustrated Romero on the set of Diary of the Dead when a scene isn’t working. Also, the interviews with Romero’s daughter give some great insight into the Romero household.
However, the added footage to this definitive version is so drastically different in style and feel that it really doesn’t fit. It makes the film feel overall very inconsistent and thus lowers the overall score for this version of the film. (My score for the 1985 edit of the film would be much higher) This footage would be better served as special features on the disc rather than part of the film. They are certainly worth watching, but adding them into the film seems like a very odd choice.
The film is presented in various formats changing throughout the film and 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo sound. You get a typical documentary look here. The 16 and 35 mm stuff shot for the original documentary all looks pretty good, but the newer digital stuff is typically flat.
Commentary: with director Roy Frumkes. There is some interesting stuff here, but a lot of it is very dull.
If you seen Document of the Dead already, you don’t need to see this version, but you’ll probably enjoy it. However, if you’re a fan of horror films and more over have a desire to make them yourself, then you totally owe it to yourself to see this film, be it the original or this one.
Synapse Films presents The Definitive Document Of The Dead. Written and Directed by Roy Frumkes. Starring: George Romero and Tom Savini. Running time: 102 minutes. Rating: Not Rated. Released: November 13, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.