Friday, October 30, 2015

Army of Darkness (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - Hail to the Blu-ray!

Let’s talk about one of the most jam packed releases of the year. While I have heard a few criticisms of this release, I truly think Scream Factory did a fantastic job on Army of Darkness as a whole set. You get three discs, four different versions of the movie including the original theatrical, the Director’s Cut, the International Cut and the TV version. After watching all of them there are subtle differences that make this the perfect set for a connoisseur of this series and the inclusion of each version is not simply to pad the set. If that doesn’t lock you in to picking up the set, the extra sure will. Let’s walk through this thing, discuss some concerns from viewers and reviewers alike and then talk about why you should disregard those and take the plunge.

I have the Screwhead release of Army of Darkness now. It looks fine, and I really don’t know if a new version of something similar, with minimal extras or lack of unique versions of the film would have got me interested in another release of Army of Darkness, but this isn’t an ordinary release. What gets you good about this release is that Scream Factory took the time to get the four versions in the set, knowing that Army of Darkness, Evil Dead and Sam Raimi fans are a bit… hungry… for special editions. The set is fits handsomely into one case and comes with a slip cover with new artwork as well as reversible artwork featuring one of the original covers/posters. Each disc contains extras. Let me say that a different way… each disc contains A SHIT TON of extras. That’s the metric measurement used when a disc exceeds expectation and simply blows you away. Think of this release as the great hording of extras and featurettes that is sure to exceed the runtime of the movie by at least double.

There are four different version of the movie in this set including the theatrical cut, the Director’s cut that is longer and features a unique ending, the international cut and then a 4:3, TV release of the movie. Is this overkill? The word overkill does not exist to the Evil Dead/AOD fan. The fans of the works of Raimi simply have one word in their vocabulary: MORE. This works perfectly into this release of Army of Darkness, offering as many versions as one might hope to find in a release.

I know that some folks are upset about a missing “wall jump” scene in the theatrical cut. Is it missing? Yes. Is it a second of your life that you’ll never get back? Guys… I’m not a purest. I’m a movie watcher. A horror lover. I am not happy that a blip of a scene could be missing from a release, but let’s put it in perspective. If you just played the Army of Darkness drinking game ahead of time, you’d have already missed the scene taking shots! In all seriousness this is not a major flaw except to a select few who truly want to nitpick an otherwise solid release. It is noticeable if you’ve seen the damn movie a thousand times, but truthfully, it’s a small blip. I’m not worried about it and my understanding is that there may be a replacement program in the works (though I haven’t seen any notification of how that would work). I would prefer to watch this version than the other release in my collection of AOD. If this is a problem for you, you can probably try to piecemeal something together in terms of an alternate release, but I’d say that it’s not worth wasting your time. Go with this one. Also, the scene in question appears on each of the other cuts… so it’s still there. It’s just a ghost on the theatrical cut.

While we’re on issues involving criticism of this particular release, some folks don’t like the cover art. I prefer the original release artwork for this release. I don’t always and quite often I adore Scream Factory’s choice of art. The new artwork as pictured online is better in person. I know that sounds crazy, but it looks much better when you have it in your hand and can see how the light hits it. I noticed the same thing on the new The Brood artwork from Criterion. Folks were slamming the new Brood artwork; I adored it but in person it has depth. I encourage those of you who dislike the new art choice for AOD should give it a shot in your hands before completely trashing it. It may grow on you.

Perhaps the most impressive extra is the full length making of feature filled with interviews from all the major players in the movie. It’s highly entertaining, informative and filled with great footage. You’ll understand better how this movie was marketed, why it didn’t succeed upon its initial release and how it became a cult sensation. It also seemed to make me understand better the need for Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell to keep buried further sequels to the franchise. You get a clip of the original ending, something truly awesome to behold. This is very unique for fans who grew up watching it in the theater or on TV. I’m curious as to who prefers it. I feel like a bad Horror fan enjoying the theatrical cut the best. You also get the original opening and deleted scenes… WITH COMMMENTARY. It’s nice to have the context for something of this nature. Why was something changed or not included?

The KNB feature on disc 2 is great for effects nerds. It’s great to see that team working on an earlier project which goes hand in hand with the Creating the Deadites Featurette and the vintage Making of featurette.  Some of this footage gets roped in with the full length making of feature.

As a happy coincidence, I had the chance to enjoy Army of Darkness on 35mm this past weekend at the Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horrorthon. Exhumed doesn’t announce their lineup ahead of time, and it was the final movie of the night. It went over well, and while I had to duck out a little early, I stayed until the true battle against the deadites began. It was a great looking print, and having just watched four different versions from Scream Factory, I left the theater thinking just how happy I was that Scream did such a great job with the release. Yes, I said that to myself in my head. I hope the attendees of the Horrorthon get in on this one. It’s a good year to be the king, baby.

Now go prep thy self for Ash vs. Evil Dead.

You can order Army of Darkness from Scream Factory now

From Scream Factory:

Bound in human flesh and inked in blood, the ancient "Necronomicon" – the Book of the Dead – unleashes unspeakable evil upon mankind in director Sam Raimi's (Darkman, Drag Me to Hell) outrageously hilarious third chapter in his Evil Dead Trilogy.
Back to do battle with the hideous "Deadites," Bruce Campbell returns to the role of Ash, the handsome, shotgun-toting, chainsaw-armed department store clerk from S-Mart's housewares division. Demonic forces time warp him – and his '73 Oldsmobile – into England's Dark Ages, where he romances a beauty (Embeth Davidtz, The Amazing Spider-Man) and faces legions of the undead. Can Ash save the living from the evil dead, rescue his girlfriend, and get back to his own time?
Bonus Features

DISC ONE (Theatrical Version, 81 min.) – 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.78:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0
NEW Medieval Times: The Making Of "Army Of Darkness" Featuring Interviews With Star & Co-Producer Bruce Campbell, Actors Marcus Gilbert, Ted Raimi, Timothy Quill, Richard Grove, Bill Moseley, Patricia Tallman And Angela Featherstone, Director Of Photography Bill Pope, Editor Bob Murawski, Production Designer Anthony Tremblay, Composer Joseph Lo Duca, Costume Designer Ida Gearon, Special Make-Up Effects Artists Howard Berger, Tony Gardner, Robert Kurtzman, And Greg Nicotero, "Pit Bitch" Performer And Effects Artist William Bryan, Mechanical Effects Artist Gary Jones, First Assistant Director John Cameron, Visual Effects Supervisor William Mesa And Stunt Coordinator Christopher Doyle (96 min.)
Original Ending
Original Opening With Optional Commentary By Sam Raimi And Bruce Campbell
Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary By Sam Raimi And Bruce Campbell
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots
Home Video Promo

DISC TWO (Director's Cut, 96 min.) – 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.78:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0
Audio Commentary With Director Sam Raimi, Actor Bruce Campbell And Co-Writer Ivan Raimi
NEW Additional Behind-The-Scenes Footage From KNB Effects (55 min.)
Vintage Creating The Deadites Featurette (21 min.)
Vintage "Making Of" Featurette
Extended Interview Clips With Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell And Robert Tapert

DISC THREE (International Cut, 88 min.) – 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.78:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0
NEW 4K Scan Of The International Inter-positive
Television Version With Additional Footage (90 min., Standard Definition (1.33:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0)
Theatrical Trailer
NEW Still Galleries With Rare Behind-The-Scenes Photos From Production Designer Anthony Tremblay, Visual Effects Supervisor William Mesa And Special Make-Up Effects Artists Tony Gardner And KNB EFX, Inc. (Over 200 Stills)
NEW Still Gallery Of Props And Rare Photos From The Collection Of Super Fan Dennis Carter Jr.
NEW Storyboards For Deleted Or Alternate Scenes

Vintage The Men Behind The Army Featurette (19 min.)

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