Document of the Dead (1989)


USA. 1989.


Director/Screenplay/Producer – Roy Frumkes, Photography – Reeves Lehman, Music – Ralf Ulfik, Animation – Henry Jones. Production Company – Roy Frumkes Productions


Narration: Susan Tyrrell. Featuring: John Amplas, Carl Augenstein, Steve Bissette, David Emge, Ken Foree, Michael Gornick, Scott H. Reiniger, Christine Romero, George A. Romero, Richard P. Rubinstein, Tom Savini, Gahan Wilson

Document of the Dead is a documentary principally about the making of Dawn of the Dead (1978). It was filmed in 1978 during the shooting of Dawn of the Dead by filmmaker Roy Frumkes, intended as a teaching aid for a film school class that Frumkes taught. A decade later, Frumkes commercially released Document of the Dead, returning to shoot extra footage of George Romero as he was making Two Evil Eyes (1990).

Document of the Dead serves as a fascinating profile of Romero, covering not only Dawn of the Dead and Two Evil Eyes, but also Night of the Living Dead (1968) and to a lesser extent Martin (1976). The documentary offers many fascinating glimpses into the quiet-spoken and at times shy Romero and the process whereby he works. It covers the myriad problems that were presented by shooting Dawn of the Dead in a mall. Romero discusses the problems of funding and distributing his films and offers some interesting reflections on the indie film since Dawn of the Dead. We also get to watch cult makeup effects artist Tom Savini at work.

The problem with Document of the Dead is that it is made for film class students rather than horror audiences. Thus it unnecessarily sees the need to stand still to explain what storyboards are, the difference between pre– and post-production, while Roy Frumkes often gets caught up in the technical discussion of shots. Furthermore, it tends to too much of an overly enthusiastic amateur academicism – with discussion of the use of irony in shots, even with laughable earnestness asking Romero about comparisons between himself and Hitchcock. When we get to detailed analysis of a single shot in Night of the Living Dead: ” … the shot of a single zombie gives way, multiplying the horror. Romero is a master of optical design,” the results seem both caught up in its overly reverential adulation of George Romero as a cinematic master and analytic overkill.

Roy Frumkes also went onto produce the low-budget splatter film Street Trash (1987) and Slime City Massacre (2010) and has written the scripts for the Dutch horror film The Johnsons (1992) and the action film The Substitute (1996). Frumkes has also worked as a producer for films such as the Walter Mitty fantasy The Projectionist (1971) where the title character imagines himself in movie scenario daydreams; the horror film Fabled (2002); and the reportedly quirky indie romance The Sweet Life (2003). Frumkes returned to make a further short George Romero documentary with Dream of the Dead (2005), as well as The Meltdown Memoirs (2006) about the making of Street Trash. Frumkes is probably most well known for two films he didn’t make – the famous never-completed Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out, a horror anthology that would have had different segments from various filmmakers including a young unknown Wes Craven, and Dr Butcher M.D., the American release of the Italian zombie/cannibal film Zombie Holocaust (1980), which used footage from Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out.

Full film available online here:-

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