Thursday, January 17, 2013

Definative Dead Document


16mm and various video formats
Available in separate DVD and Blu Ray editions.

I'm quite a big fan of director Roy Frumkes DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD. It is one of those documentaries that I watched frequently while I was in film school. I found watching George Romero create to be both comforting and inspirational. I missed Synapse earlier release of the movie when DVD's first hit the market, but I did get it in the DAWN OF THE DEAD five disc box set. So I was anxious to see what was new about it for this latest release. What exactly made it "definitive".

I'm afraid to say there is a LOT new about the film, and pretty much none of it good. It seems that Roy Frumkes has felt the need to update and tinker with the movie as years go by. Even the VHS edition I used to watch in film school was a different edit than the one he initially created. That edition has some behind the scenes footage of TWO EVIL EYES spliced in at the end. I guess the DVD edition was different too. But this time has has done a total facelift to the movie that feels more like corrective surgery gone horrible wrong. Something like a half hour of the original on the set of DAWN OF THE DEAD footage has been removed and replaced with stuff that would barely pass muster as extras on a DVD. There is a whole stop motion animated cartoon of Romero fighting off zombies that opens the movie now. Then the meat of it is the same with the DAWN OF THE DEAD stuff. Then it veers horrible wrong with a very long set of "interviews" from people who worked with George over the years. The problem is, this footage isn't interviews, it is some hotel party at a horror convention and Frumkes sticking his palm-corder into various people's faces to get sound bites. It feels like some horror convention version of those awful TMZ shows.Or worse extras on a Troma DVD.  Then we get an excruciatingly long behind the scenes clip from SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD in which Frumkes acts as a zombie and screws up take after take. These two bits take up a majority of the new running time. Replacing former footage that was much more interesting. 

I feel like shit slagging on this because everyone involved from Synapse to Frumkes himself. But this is just a painful missed opportunity.The DVD I reviewed had a commentary from Roy that is in some ways better than the final cut of the film. He explains why he removed things (generally he just liked the new stuff) and talks about being on the set of DAWN. 

I have not viewed the BLU RAY so I do not know if there is anything different from the DVD release.

Reviews © Andrew Copp

Here is a promotional video for DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD from Japan. This is NOT on any releases I know of.

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