• Army Of Darkness (Collector's Edition)



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: October 27th, 2015.
    Director: Sam Raimi
    Cast: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz
    Year: 1992
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    The Movie:

    First there was the theatrical release on DVD, then the limited edition, then the ‘bootleg edition' and then the ‘Boomstick edition.' That was followed with a Blu-ray from Universal Studios called the ‘Screwhead Edition' and now yet another Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory? What's an Army of Darkness fan to do? Well, the powers that be would say ‘spend, spend, spend, sucker' and the mass merchandising and plethora of truly shit quality spin-offs would prove that's what they want - aside from the John Bolton adaptation from Dark Horse years back has there been a good Army of Darkness comic? Nope! Teaming him up with Herbert West can't cover up crappy writing and sloppy art! That said, Dark Horse's four issue Evil Dead mini-series was good stuff and Ash Vs. The Evil Dead on Starz looks like a return to form so hope springs eternal. But we’re getting off topic here. As always you have a choice in the matter – but having said that, is this new three disc Blu-ray from Shout! Factory worth yet another double dip? In short - absolutely. But first, the movie(s).

    After battling the deadites, poor Ash (Bruce Campbell) finds himself transported back to medieval times where the uneducated locals decide, after he decimates a few monsters, that he's ‘the chosen one.' With his shotgun and his trusty chainsaw Ash is technologically way ahead of his time and he uses his weapons and his know-how to lead an army of scruffy English types in a war against the deadites, figuring that if he can get his hands on the Necronomicon he'll be able to whisk himself back home and resume his life working in the sporting goods section of S-Mart once again.

    Of course, it doesn't work out entirely all too well and his lady friend, Sheila (Embeth DAvidtz) winds up possessed by the evil that has followed him through time and he winds up delaying his trip back to begrudgingly help save the day once more.

    Army Of Darkness gives us a more accessible Ash in a funnier, softer film that, while plenty entertaining and in many ways very original and well made, feels a little lacking compared to the first two. Not bad, not even close to bad, but it doesn’t have the punch of Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2. Part of that could be over-saturation but part of it is most certainly the drastic shift in tone. The first Evil Dead was played fairly straight, the second with tongue placed firmly in cheek, and this third entry almost entirely for laughs. Rest assured, there's nothing even remotely scary about Army Of Darkness and it's much more of a fantasy/action film than it is a horror picture.

    While the nasty edge might be gone, however, Raimi's (so far) last run at the Evil Dead universe on the big screen is not at all a waste of time. Some excellent Harryhausen stop motion animation effects give the deadite army interesting life and Campbell's performance, as hammy and dopey as it might be, is definitely fun. Sure the film relies far too heavily on catch phrases and one-liners for its own good but it's hard not to have a good time with this one if you don't need to take it too seriously. And if you do, well, you're watching the wrong movie. And now, undoing the evil previously set forth by Universal, Shout! Factory have offered up a set that is pretty damn close to definitive. And here’s where things get a little bit tricky.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    There are four, yes four, versions of the movie included in this set – the theatrical cut (eighty-one minutes), the director’s cut (ninety-six minutes), the international cut (eighty-eight minutes) and the TV cut (eighty-eight minutes). Three of those versions are presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition widescreen and the fourth (the TV version) in upscaled 1080i. More on the TV version in a bit.

    The international version of the movie is presented here in an all new 4k scan of the inter-positive and, limitations of the source material aside, it looks great. Detail is vastly improved over the older Universal release and the digital noise reduction that was evident on that disc is no longer a problem. Colors look great and the image is clean, clear, nicely textured and shows good depth. Some of the scenes with a lot of optical effects work show softness and some dirt but that’s how it goes with optical effects work sometimes, you can’t really fault the transfer for that.

    The theatrical edition looks like it uses the restored footage from the international cut where it’s able to (which is the majority of the running time) with the alternate bits inserted from the aforementioned Universal disc. Not a perfect solution, but a perfectly understandable one. The director’s cut looks a little weaker than the other two, contrast is a bit iffy in spots, but it’s still pretty solid in terms of detail, grain, cleanliness and color. Shout! Factory has done a nice job across the board here in terms of the video.

    In regards to the differences between the different versions of the movie included in this set, we kindly direct you to the Book Of The Dead fan site for an insanely comprehensive breakdown but be aware that if you’re one of the few who hasn’t seen this movie before, there are spoilers aplenty at that link.

    Before we move on, let it be known that there is a quirk with this set – in the theatrical cut (and only the theatrical version) there’s a quick cut that omits a shot of Ash jumping over a wall and when this happens the audio briefly goes out of synch. Shout! Has acknowledged this and are working on a fix. This does not happen in the other cuts of the movie.

    Each of the versions in this set (excluding the TV cut) has an excellent English 48kHz 1.5 Mbps DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix as well as a DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track accompanying it. The lossless tracks are good. There's some great surround activity during the attack on the fortress where you'll definitely notice your subwoofer and rear channels keeping busy but the quieter moments in the picture fair almost as well, in that they make good use of some subtle ambient background noise. Danny Elfman's March of the Dead sounds terrific here, as does the rest of the now somewhat iconic score, and there are no problems with hiss or distortion to complain about at all. Optional English closed captioning is present across the board.

    OK, the extras. They’re spread across the three discs in this collection as follows:

    DISC ONE:

    Along with the theatrical version, this disc includes a new feature length documentary called Medieval Times: The Making Of Army Of Darkness. Clocking in at almost ninety-seven minutes in total this insanely comprehensive piece made by Red Shirt Pictures. Raimi and Davidtz are missing from this piece but that’s about it, pretty much everyone else who could be wrangled up for this has been (though Ian Abercrombie has passed away and Bridget Fonda is absent though they do talk about how she wound up in the movie). Yes, some of the stories told here will be familiar to those who have purchased the film and delved into past supplemental packages but there’s just a load of great information in here regardless. Alongside the newly recorded interviews are scores of archival images and clips used to add visual flair and it’s all very nicely assembled and plenty slick looking.

    This covers pretty much EVERYTHING you could want – pre-production, the shoot and the locations, the effects, the casting, the characters, post production and the film’s enduring cult legacy are all topics of discussion here and it’s all done with a warm sense of humor that makes this a joy to watch regardless of how well you know the stories behind the movie. Look for input here from Campbell, cast members Marcus Gilbert, Ted Raimi, Timothy Quill, Richard Grove, Bill Moseley, Patricia Tallman and Angela Featherstone, DP Bill Pope, assistant director John Cameron, editor Bob Murawski, production designer Anthony Tremblay, composer Joseph Lo Duca, costume designer Ida Gearon (Bruce Campbell's wife - though she explains they didn't meet and fall in love on this movie but while working together on Mindwarp!), SFX and makeup guys Howard Berger, Tony Gardner, Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, William Bryan, Gary Jones and William Mesa and last but not least stunt coordinator Christopher Doyle.

    Also on the first disc are some familiar but essential bits and pieces – the alternate ending that was used in the director’s cut, an alternate opening sequence with optional commentary from Raimi and Campbell, eleven minutes of deleted scenes also featuring optional commentary from Raimi and Campbell, a theatrical trailer, two minutes of TV spots and a fun home video promo spot.

    DISC TWO:

    The second disc holds the director's cut of the film and is accompanied by an audio commentary featuring Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Ivan Raimi. This was originally recorded for the two-disc Anchor Bay DVD released back in 1999 and it’s a fun track. These guys obviously go way back and have no trouble getting along, that camaraderie is evident throughout the track. There are tons of stories here about getting this third film in the Evil Dead series made, discussions about locations, effects, casting choices, stunts and more. It’s all done with a great sense of humor.

    Also included on disc two is the new massive fifty-four minute collection of Behind The Scenes Footage that was shot by the KNB Effects crew while they were working on Army Of Darkness. This is fun stuff and it gives us a great look at what it was like working behind the scenes on this feature and the general vibe that existed on set, specifically with the effects teams.

    Creating The Deadites is basically a twenty-one minute sit down chat with Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger about creating the deadite soldiers that are used throughout the movie. It's an interesting discussion and these guys are always fun to hear from.

    Rounding out the extras on disc two are roughly five minutes of footage that was shot on the set during the production of the film, a five minute ‘vintage’ making of segment and five minutes of extended interview clips with the cast and crew.

    DISC THREE:

    The main draw on the third disc is the aforementioned international cut of the movie but as noted earlier, this set also includes the TV version of the movie and disc three is where you’ll find it. This is presented in 1080i and it looks like an upscaled tape. It’s presented fullframe, which is how it would have been broadcast originally and the presentation is lacking compared to the other versions BUT the fact that it’s included here at all can only be seen as a positive.

    Also on hand is the nineteen minute long The Men Behind the Army piece that will be familiar to those who have owned this on DVD before. It’s an interesting mix of interview and on set footage with an emphasis on the effects work that went into creating the medieval world and the creatures that inhabit it.

    Rounding out the extras on disc three are the international theatrical trailer, two separate still galleries (one made up of behind the scenes photos and the other focusing on props), eight minutes of storyboards, and a ‘special thanks’ section.

    Each of the three discs in the set contains animated menus and they fit inside a standard sized Blu-ray keepcase. This in turns fits inside a nice cardboard slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    Army Of Darkness may not be the ultimate experience in grueling terror but it is a lot of thoroughly ridiculous fun and a film that has rightly gone on to find a huge following. Raimi and Campbell are both in fine form here and no matter how many times you see it, it’s still pretty entertaining stuff. As to the Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory? You get all four cuts of the movie, a feature length documentary that runs longer than any of those four cuts of the movie, strong audio and video and just a massive amount of supplemental material. Realistically what more could you want????

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps of the International Cut!




























    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Raf A.'s Avatar
      Raf A. -
      Some shots are missing from the Internation Cut as well as the Theatrical.
    1. bgart13's Avatar
      bgart13 -
      Please give us some details, Raf. I have to admit, I was a huge Evil Dead and Army Of Darkness fan, but I had never heard of the International cut until this was released. I guess I stopped paying attention to AoD before the wave of blu-rays out there.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Supposedly, there are two shots missing from the windmill sequence in the international cut, Ben, when Ash is hunting down the little Ashes. That scene is edited in a radically different way in the international cut to the US theatrical cut, so I'm not sure if I would notice: having seen the international cut at the cinema, and then the director's cut on VHS, I was hugely surprised when I saw just how differently the windmill scene is edited in the US theatrical cut.I've got this set on its way to me at the moment. I'm looking forward to digging in to it, especially the international cut, which was the first version I saw at the cinema in the UK.
    1. Raf A.'s Avatar
      Raf A. -
      Quote Originally Posted by bgart13 View Post
      Please give us some details, Raf. I have to admit, I was a huge Evil Dead and Army Of Darkness fan, but I had never heard of the International cut until this was released. I guess I stopped paying attention to AoD before the wave of blu-rays out there.
      I've read about it here - http://forum.blu-ray.com/showpost.ph...postcount=2409
    1. bgart13's Avatar
      bgart13 -
      Wait a second. Did you mean Scream's version is missing shots that are supposed to be in the international version? Or just that shots are missing/different in the international version from other versions?
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Quote Originally Posted by bgart13 View Post
      Wait a second. Did you mean Scream's version is missing shots that are supposed to be in the international version? Or just that shots are missing/different in the international version from other versions?
      The argument that's been put forward is that those two shots should be in the international cut and are missing from that version as it appears in the new US Blu-ray.
    1. Derrick King's Avatar
      Derrick King -
      Someone posted the following response from Scream RE: the missing shots in the International Cut at the Blu-ray.com forums
      Over the weekend, we became aware of an additional issue regarding missing footage from the international cut of ARMY OF DARKNESS. This footage was not included in the 35mm interpositive of the film provided to us by MGM, which was used to create our new transfer of this international cut. Our production department and the DVD Producer are currently investigating this issue further, however at this time we cannot guarantee that a replacement program will be put in effect for this version of the film.