Synapse Release of Document of the Dead is Definitive (DVD Review)

You know… George Romero doesn’t get enough credit for inventing the modern zombie movie. Oh wait, yeah he does. In fact if there’s one thing you can be certain of, it’s that George will get tied to any discussion on the zed words that you’d care to read. In 1985 Director Roy Frumkes put together a documentary focused in on Romero’s second zombie opus, Dawn of the Dead and exposed a small but dedicated audience to life behind the camera of the dead. While it’s been over thirty years since Dawn of the Dead was lensed and just under 25 years since this powerful look into zombie filmmaking first made reared its rotten head, the story is just as relevant, the revelations behind the creation of the modern zombie movie movement are powerful and the story is worth revisiting. Thus Synapse Films has sought to bring us an updated version of the classic documentary about the legendary director and infamous movie in DVD and Blu-ray (though I haven’t had the chance to gaze upon the amazing blu awesome). Is it worth your pennies?

First off, Document of the Dead has changed quite a bit since it was released in 1985. Oodles of footage has permeated the Dawn of the Dead façade and made it one giant Romero Love Fest. If you haven’t seen it in awhile, now the time to pick it up in a complete and damn fine looking version. That being said of course, the new material is completely out of sorts, drags the documentary out and discusses non-zombie flicks from Monkey Shines to Two Evil Eyes. It’s as if the whole doc becomes unfocused and you lose the intent of Frumkes initial work. That’s nothing that horror fans can’t get behind. We’re used to the hodge podge, throw everything including a speared kidney at the screen. At about 45 minutes into the doc the whole thing starts focusing on Romero’s late 80’s career even branching into the 2000’s. It’s something to see. It’s lovely to spend time with George, but pure Dawn of the Dead Heads might wonder why the urgency to push beyond Dawn. I have no idea. I’m not film historian. The only thing I can tell you is that about 60% of the way through the whole thing makes a great big modern movie shift. Maybe it would have been better to include the additional footage as bonus clips? Just a though.

Not from the Synapse Release

The gang’s all here. You’ll love watching Tom Savini work on zombies. He speaks so goddamn well that its hard not to be enraptured into his makeup mystique. You might even learn a thing or two about put on latex appliances or getting creative with gore. Even when the film ventures out into Two Evil Eyes you get a taste for his expertise and perfectionist mentality. Document of the Dead is as much a story of Romero as it is the actors and crew that worked on Dawn and some of Romero’s other works. Martin and Night of the Living Dead get quite a bit of screen time through the first half of the film. I wish it would have included The Crazies as well. Ce la vie.

While there aren’t any extras on the DVD release, there are indie tributes paid to dear old George throughout the documentary itself and even an amazing Calgon commercial from George’s previous life in advertising. You’ll laugh. Calgon will take you away. Either George is too humble or he is blissfully unaware of the import of his body of work, especially Night of the Living Dead. Clearly he’s humble. Down to earth. Centered. A genius. Document of the Dead serves as a way to introduce you to the man behind the zombie. I particularly enjoyed meandering through each one of Romero’s hairstyles, watching him smoke like chimney and pondering the importance and significant of his tell-tale, signature scarf.

While I didn’t get to view the Blu-ray I expect nothing less than a gorgeous transfer from Synapse. As you know I pretty much love everything they do. I’m not entirely certain that one would need a brilliant hi-def version of this documentary, but given that he limited release Blu will be mega-collectible there’s no reason not to pick it up. You may have a copy of Document of the Dead on another disc say via Arrow Video’s Dawn of the Dead release or elsewhere. This is a nicely packaged edition with fan favorite artwork. No frills. No extras on the DVD. A second cut of the film in hi-def on the Blu which isn’t the uncut version of the documentary. I’ve heard this is a sticking point for some buyers so you’ll need to decide if you’re one of them. This purchase is really one for the Dawn of the Dead fans, the fans of the cannon of Romero and completists. It’ll sell out. We’ll you get a copy? After all, this is the Definitive Document of the Dead and you can always enjoy the Roy Frumkes commentary.

Please stop by Synapse and get yours before they’re gone and then you have to go pay fuck knows what on eBay.

About Jimmy Terror

Dr. Jimmy Terror, more commonly known as James P. Harris, has been “writing your eyes” shut since 2010 with his horror themed blog, Dr. Terror’s Blog of Horrors (whose name is a play on words derived from the Amicus film, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors). In the early 2000’s he fronted the band The Vaudeville Vampires, a short-lived "Horrorabilly" band which saw the creation of a catalog of horror related songs before disbanding (with only one, six song demo ever being produced and distributed). He has had only one on screen appearance to date in the horror short, Ocean Parkway, as maniacal, gloved killer with a hair fetish. Having done some un-credited, behind the scenes work in some low budget genre pictures, he is currently working on his first foray into screenwriting with a demonic, retro gore entry that pays homage to Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento as well as other Italian masters of the genre.
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