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Definitive Document of the Dead, The 
Written by: on November 28th, 2012

Theatrical Release Date:
USA, 1985
Director: Roy Frumkes
Writers: Roy Frumkes
Cast: George A. Romero, John Amplas, Carl Auglenstein, Roy Frumkes, Tom Savini, Richard Rubinstein

DVD Release Date: November 13th, 2012
Approximate Running Time: 102 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Variable Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Synapse Films
Region Encoding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95

Synopsis: A fitting and loving tribute to the work of filmmaker George A. Romero, detailing the production of his 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead, together with additional, updated footage from his recent Diary and Survival of the Dead shoots.

To say that the horror world owes director, writer, editor and overall artiste George A. Romero a massive debt of gratitude is nothing less than a gross understatement. As the creative force behind such legitimate genre classics as his original Dead trilogy—Night, Dawn and DayMartin and Knightriders (yes, yours truly is taking a stand for the greatness of this oft-misunderstood 1981 film), Romero has given birth to the nightmares of an entire generation, while serving as an influence and inspiration for legions of horror filmmakers in his wake.

The Definitive Document of the Dead is a documentary film by writer/director Roy Frumkes, chronicling a weekend in the production life of Romero’s 1978 monster Dawn of the Dead, a fascinating and enthusiastic trip which details the process from pre-production to distribution and beyond, featuring cast interviews and footage taken during the film’s overnight shoots at the Monroeville Mall near Romero’s college home of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The image of a stressed-yet-smiling Romero—usually with an ever-present cigarette or cup of coffee—is one which returns again and again throughout the course of Frumke’s film, as the director graciously and openly discusses the joys, successes and struggles of his filmmaking career, from his Night of the Living Dead naivete to his continued humility at being considered a true master craftsman.

All the while, Frumke’s camera and Nicole Potter’s narration retain a feeling of humility all their own; a respect and admiration for their subject which shines through in each shot, particularly when Potter’s narration subsides, and allows the events on screen to unfold naturally. The result is a documentary unlike many of its peers, aided here via Synapse’s re-edited, re-mastered and updated version, boosted by additional footage shot during Romero’s production shoots on 1990’s Two Evil Eyes with former Dawn partner Dario Argento, as well as 2003’s Land of the Dead and its Diary and Survival sequels.

Although the Romero we see becoming frustrated on the Survival set may seem a bit different from the optimistic and genial Romero back in Monroeville, the fact that this is a director who still works very much outside of the typical Hollywood fashion is a point which is touched upon almost continuously. For George A. Romero, creating killer zombie movies is all about family, so it just comes natural for The Definitive Document of the Dead to reflect this sentiment within its warm, welcoming tone and presence.

The DVD:

Synapse presents The Definitive Document of the Dead in a variable bit rate, full screen presentation. Given the fact that this documentary has evolved over the years with continually added footage, much of the films varying scenes are representative of the technology of the time, with most of the film retaining a realistic, docu-styled edge. Colors are bright overall, with a solid sound presentation throughout the film.

Extras include an all new commentary by the film’s writer, producer and director Roy Frumkes, with Synapse’s Definitive Document of the Dead receiving a solid presentation score overall; a thoroughly recommended documentary for Romero and genre film fans alike.

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