Release: Dec 06, 2020 - Author: Muck47 - Translator: Mike Lowrey - external link: IMDB
Comparison between the "Original Cut" and the "Definitive Cut" (both included on the British Blu-ray by Second Sight)
A few additional master errors with a duration of less than 0.5 sec each were not listed in the report.
History of the best known Romero documentation
1) Roy Frumkes' legendary documentary Document of the Dead has undergone a curious release process. Originally, Frumkes only wanted to create a kind of educational film series about independent filmmakers for his New York School of Visual Arts. Producer Richard Rubinstein, who had already worked with George A. Romero on Martin, gave Frumkes the opportunity to accompany the 1977-78 filming of Dawn of the Dead. The material was edited into a 66-minute original version, which was first shown at festivals in 1981 and is included as a 16mm HD sample on Synapse's 2012 US Blu-ray. On the Scandinavian DVDs, a 63-minute version of this "initial version" is included, which, however, has apparently only been reconstructed from the version now mentioned under point 2 and therefore lacks 3 minutes of material.
2) Since no deal was made with a distributor for commercial release in the 1980's, Frumkes accepted an offer from his former student Len Anthony in 1988 to distribute the film on VHS via his label Off Hollywood. To spice things up a bit with current shots, over 20 minutes of interviews and other material were shot on the set of the Romero/Argento collaboration Two Evil Eyes, while at the same time 3 minutes of the original version were cut. This is how the 1989 "original version" or first, widely published version of the film was created. However, it is possible to distinguish more precisely between these two versions of the film:
a) 84min NTSC / Blu-ray: First shown on the 1998 US DVD by Synapse and e.g. available on the UK Blu-ray by Arrow Video
b) 92 min NTSC resp. Blu-ray: This version shows some more "Deleted Footage" after the credits. However, on e.g. the US DVD by Synapse or the UK Blu-ray by Arrow Video this is also largely stored in the bonus material and there are no deviations in the film itself. By the way, this doesn't contain all shots of the 3 minutes omitted from the initial version - some moments can still only be found there.
3) But the version history did not end there: In 2012, the 101-minute "Definitive Cut" was released for the first time on another US DVD. The last third of the film contains new scenes of Romero at a 2006 convention, various comments on the follow-up films or an interview with Romero's daughter Tina. At the same time, over 20 minutes were removed again, which were present in all previous releases.
So if you want to see it all, you won't be able to avoid adding several versions to your collection. Fortunately, on the British UHD/Blu-ray box set to Dawn of the Dead by Second Sight, available in the UK since November 16, 2020, both the "Original Cut" and the "Definitive Cut" are included together in the bonus material. Synapse's 2012 BD/DVD combo in the US again included the "Definitive Cut" along with a new HD scan of the 66-minute initial version.
The extensively modified Definitive Cut
The heart of the 2012 new edition was of course the whole 35 minutes long, last third. The term "definitive" is justified here, since it not only covers all three sequels created after 2000, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead as well as Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake, but also the Day of the Dead and the 1990 Night of the Living Dead remake by Tom Savini, which were strangely not mentioned at all in the 89 documentary follow-up. Shaun of the Dead and other films with influences from the last decades are also mentioned. In addition, there are several new interviews, which sometimes tie in with earlier shots. A well-rounded thing.
In addition, there are a few additional snippets of old material to be discovered here and there. There is also a completely new intro with a curious stop-motion sequence as well as more recent interviews and the like. At the same time, the original introduction including the Marx Brothers scene was completely removed. So already here it becomes obvious for every viewer that the "Definitive Cut" did not have the goal to show all the material and instead cuts were also made here.
In general, it is noticeable that a large part of the more than 20 minutes that have been cut are allotted to moments that are rather redundant. Longer film excerpts or interview statements, which were actually already brought to the point in earlier, should be mentioned here. The material that was re-shot in 1989 was also cut down again particularly noticeably, whereby some critical comments by George Romero and Tom Savini about the commercial film industry fell victim to the scissors.
All in all, the first screening of the film, the advice is that you should view the Definitive Cut. The more compact cut is good for the original material and only here can you see the whole picture over several decades. Nevertheless, the original version remains interesting for fans, because especially the longer shots of the respective film sets provide a nice insight into the creative work.
Runtimes are ordered as follows: Original Cut Blu-ray / Definitive Cut Blu-ray
00:00-01:33 / 00:00-03:42
The original cut starts with black screen and an offscreen narration. It is followed by credits on black background, a Marx Brothers clip and then an old interview with George.
Note: The differences between "Original Cut" and the actual original version (66 minutes) will be discussed in more detail in a separate report. The credits have already been changed here.
In the Definitive Cut, it starts instead with a warning from George to the cinema audience. Afterwards, a summary of the long genesis of the present, repeatedly expanded documentary up to the Definitive Cut. This is followed by more modern credits, a stop-motion sequence and a later shot of George at the 2006 Chiller Theatre Convention.
Definitive Cut 129.7 sec (= 2:10 min) longer
03:25-03:45 / 05:35-05:43
In the Definitive Cut, the shot of the house is considerably longer and here it is briefly stated that the documentary slowly took shape and now the participants are introduced in more detail.
In the Original Cut, several more shots from Night of the Living Dead follow and the off-commentary is much more elaborate.
Original Cut 11,1 sec longer
04:40-04:59 / 06:38
In the section "Pre-Production", we begin by discussing Romero's previous film Martin. In the Original Cut, you could see the first dialogues from it without comment, the Definitive Cut starts with the following title insertion of the film.
+ 19.1 sec
05:14-05:31 / 06:53
Even before the insight into the script, some of the film shots (including off-commentary) were tightened.
+ 17.4 sec
05:56-05:59 / 07:18
The scene in the aisle was shortened a bit.
+ 2.5 sec
06:08-06:25 / 07:27
After the next page of the screenplay, it starts again earlier.
+ 17.8 sec
07:12-07:22 / 08:14
Before the black-and-white scenes, further shots and an off-commentary that Romero manipulates the viewer here.
+ 9.8 sec
07:27-07:32 / 08:19
Further moments in which the speaker adds that irony is now used as a stylistic device.
+ 5.5 sec
08:16-08:27 / 09:03
The page a moment longer, then the interview with George starts earlier. He says that he usually writes quite detailed.
+ 10,5 sec
11:01-11:52 / 11:37
Part of the Night section used for comparison with Hitchcock has been removed.
+ 50.9 sec
12:30-12:42 / 12:15
Before George devotes himself to The Thing, he makes a further commentary in the original version.
+ 12.4 sec
Shortly after, the first exclusive part of the original version is available, which is missing in both the "Original Cut" and the "Definitive Cut" and does not appear under "Deleted Footage": In further off-commentary, after the scene in the aisle from Dawn, a comparison is made with other artists such as D. W. Griffith and Roman Polanski. As said before, more about this in the separate report.
14:24-14:37 / 13:57
Further film footage and commentary by George, in which he once again deals with the process of writing that is becoming independent.
+ 13 sec
15:23 / 14:43-15:07
For a change, the Definitive Cut is longer than the Original Cut: The producer emphasizes that George has never had as much budget available as in this film.
Remark: This was already shown in the original version.
Shortly afterwards, there is another 1.5 minute long piece exclusively in the original version.
17:08-17:31 / 16:52
The first comment about the atmosphere with George as director was removed in the Definitive Cut.
+ 23.2 sec
17:46-17:51 / 17:07
Scott H. Reiniger speaks a little longer.
+ 4.9 sec
20:19 / 19:35-19:36
David Emge a bit longer in the Definitive Cut.
Note: In the original version, he spoke much longer, but this was also included in the "Deleted Footage".
26:46-28:05 / 26:03
In the Original Cut, there is a longer block about the meaning of storyboards.
+ 78.5 sec (= 1:19 min)
28:38-29:18 / 26:36
The black and white part with scenes from Martin is longer, then it goes into the room earlier. With an off-commentary by John Amplas.
+ 40.3 sec
33:19 / 30:37-30:38
A cut to the interview with George in the mall halls starts a little earlier.
35:13-35:37 / 32:32-32:51
Strangely enough, alternative course up to the long shot of George on the bench. The Definitive Cut contains a first shot of it.
Original Cut 5,3 sec longer
37:19-38:44 / 34:33
The segment about the scene with the priest was completely removed.
+ 85.4 sec (= 1:25 min)
50:59-52:19 / 46:47
George talks longer about sound effects and his approach to editing. He describes music as important in this process to find the right rhythm.
+ 79.8 sec (= 1:20 min)
54:27-54:32 / 48:56
After the excerpt of the Box Office list, George makes a short comment.
+ 4.8 sec
55:14-55:26 / 49:38
With regard to release problems, George talks a little bit more about the MPAA and the X-rating in the original cut.
+ 12.6 sec
55:58-56:21 / 50:09
Again a little more about the US release.
+ 22.9 sec