Roy Frumkes has had a fas­ci­nat­ing career in the world of film, writ­ing and pro­duc­ing every­thing from under­ground favorites (Street Trash) to box-office hits (The Substitute).  The thread that has run through­out his career is his documentarian/filmmaker rela­tion­ship with George Romero: it began when he showed up as a pro­fes­sor to fol­low the pro­duc­tion of Dawn Of The Dead and hasn’t stopped, with Frumkes con­tin­u­ing to vis­it Romero’s film sets over the ensu­ing decades.

The first fruits of the­se labors arrived with Document Of The Dead, a fan-beloved doc­u­men­tary that focused sole­ly on Dawn Of The Dead.  The major­i­ty of it acts as the heart of The Definitive Document Of the Dead.  This footage con­sists of footage shot on the set dur­ing the film­ing of the big “bik­ers vs. zom­bies” set­piece, fleshed out with addi­tion­al inter­views that allow it to give a con­cise por­trait of the film’s devel­op­ment, pro­duc­tion, edit­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion chal­lenges.

No mat­ter what form you see it in, this footage is always a joy for Romero fans to revis­it.  It cap­tures the direc­tor in the mid­st of the come­back that would make the remain­der of his direct­ing career pos­si­ble and his love of film­mak­ing comes through strong­ly.  Tom Savini is sim­i­lar­ly ebul­lient when he pops up in this doc­u­men­tary and the pro­ceed­ings fea­ture a trea­sure tro­ve of on-set footage, includ­ing Frumkes and anoth­er doc­u­men­tar­i­an get­ting trans­formed into zom­bies by Savini so they can appear in the film’s pie fight sequence.  To top it all off, Susan Tyrrell pro­vides the nar­ra­tion for this mate­ri­al!

However, this orig­i­nal doc­u­men­tary footage is mere­ly the largest mod­ule of footage in The Definitive Document Of The Dead.  It assumes a place of promi­nence in what has become a sort of ciné­ma vérité col­lage of doc­u­men­tary mate­ri­al that indi­rect­ly chron­i­cles the Dawn-to-the-present sto­ry of Romero while also turn­ing a mir­ror to Frumkes, who grows from a young pro­fes­sor into a film busi­ness vet before our eyes.

The result is a free-form, some­times ram­bling jour­ney when com­pared to the tight, focused nature of the orig­i­nal Document Of The Dead — and yet, per­haps this is by design.  As time moved on, Frumkes tran­si­tioned from stu­dent to film­mak­er and it is obvi­ous that Document Of The Dead became more a diary-styled exten­sion of his adven­tures with Romero rather than a pure doc­u­men­tary project.  As such, it doesn’t need to tell a full sto­ry or come to con­crete con­clu­sions.  Instead, it offers impres­sions of what life is like for Romero, his actors, his col­lab­o­ra­tors and Frumkes him­self.  What it lacks it in sto­ry struc­ture it makes up in tex­ture.

On this lev­el, The Definitive Document Of The Dead is well worth the time for hard­core hor­ror buffs as it deliv­ers a steady string of inter­est­ing anec­dotes along the way.  Highlights include Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg goof­ing around with a zom­bie pup­pet and mak­ing it speak like Arnold Schwarzenegger, a reunion of sev­er­al Day Of The Dead cast mem­bers at a hor­ror con­ven­tion and Romero’s daugh­ter Tina talk­ing about what it was like to grow up with a titan of ter­ror for a dad (she tells a great sto­ry about his love of Christmas).

To sum up, how much you get out of The Definitive Document Of The Dead depends on how you approach it.  If you don’t know much about Romero’s career and want a clas­si­cal­ly-styled career ret­ro­spec­tive, look else­where because that isn’t the pur­pose of this film.  However, if you are already a Romero fan and intrigued by the idea of a fly-on-the-wall, impres­sion­is­tic por­trait of Romero as a zom­bie auteur, The Definitive Document Of The Dead offers plen­ty of rewards in its own unique, stream-of-con­scious­ness style.