Documentaries about horror movies are sort of a thing these days and I could not be happier for that. As a huge horrorhead, I love learning more about the movies that molded and shaped me into the fright film fanatic that I am today. They’re not only informative and enjoyable but comfortable, like visits with old friends, and one of my oldest film friends is the zombie classic, Dawn of the Dead.
Way back in 1978 a small group of documentarians were allowed insider access to watch that movie getting made and interview zombie granddaddy George Romero, producer Richard Rubinstein, special effects guru and actor/stuntman Tom Savini, and three out of the four stars of the original zombie in a shopping mall classic. That doc was called Document of the Dead and while it has been around for a long while, it’s always sort of been an elusive beast to get a hold of. You wouldn’t find it on Amazon.com and copies only occasionally popped up on eBay, and then usually for more than a pretty penny.
Three cheers then to Synapse Films which has just released an updated, re-edited, and re-mastered version of this documentary as The Definitive Document of the Dead. Here you will find the original 1970s doc on Dawn of the Dead with additional scenes from, and commentary on, the O.G. of all the modern zombies: Night of the Living Dead. There are a ton of interviews with almost everyone involved with Dawn, both in front and behind the camera. You can see Tom Savini preform some of his stunts and create his makeup effects, but the best bit is easily the long talks with writer/director George Romero as you get a lot of nice inside info on his creative process and his take on movie making.
However while the first Document stopped there, this Definitive Document earns its new title and keeps on going. Day of the Dead is the next film covered with behind the scenes stuff and interviews with some of the cast. Then the documentary jumps ahead some more years to the set of Two Evil Eyes which, while not an official “of the Dead” movie, does sort of have a zombie in it. Another time jump brings us to Survival of the Dead and then it skips to Diary of the Dead, although both are only covered briefly. And even 2009’s Survival of the Dead, while not really covered here at all, does have some behind the scenes bits play as the credits for this comprehensive, thirty-two years in the making documentary plays. Now no movie is covered as thoroughly as Dawn of the Dead, but it is good to see all of Mr. Romero’s Dead movies get some sort of attention here. Oh and did I mention the whole thing starts off with zombie Claymation and ends with a zombie parody song, so yay!
As for extras on this new DVD, there’s only one: a new audio commentary from writer/producer/director/interviewer, Roy Frumkes. That’s it, and that’s fine as anything else they had that would normally be an extra on another DVD has been included in the actual documentary.
The Definitive Document of the Dead is a must have for (un)deadheads everywhere. And as it’s a region free DVD, I do mean everywhere. I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary and highly recommend it to all, but especially to the new fans of flesh-eating fiend flicks. If you’re only exposure to zombies is The Walking Dead, you need to get this movie and bush up on your zombie classics. Consider it part of Horror 101. Watching it will not only educate and entertain you, but make you a better person. How many movies can you say that about?