"Army Of Darkness" is a classic horror comedy, the 3rd in the "Evil Dead" series, starring Bruce Campbell and directed by Sam Raimi, who recently has directed such films as A Simple Plan and For Love Of The Game. After the sort of low-budget productions of the first two features, "Army Of Darkness" was more of a mainstream effort, but still, it's not only well-written but downright hilarious. It's campy, but still awesome.
Campbell again stars as Ash, the ultimate wise-guy and perfect anti-hero. Sucked into a time tunnel, he finds himself fighting the forces of the dead in midevil times. The special effects are perfect throughout: very well done and at the same time, hilariously cheesy. Even better is the script, full of priceless one liners, which are performed greatly by Campbell. What's so great about this character is simply how much the character doesn't give a damn about any of it. He'd rather find a way home, but soon, he finds that he has no choice but to fight the army of the dead.
"Army Of Darkness" is simply fun all around. You get a sense that the people involved in the making of this movie are having a great time and in turn, the audience does as well. The screenplay is full of gems and Campbell's performance is outstanding. If you haven't seen this film before, do yourself a favor and pick up the new edition from Anchor Bay. It's a very fine presentation of a hilarious classic.
VIDEO: There are two discs here, one for the director's cut and one for the theatrical release. The theatrical release disc contains both an anamorphic widescreen and full-frame transfer. The widescreen image of the theatrical release looks great. The picture is clear, crisp and sharp, with fine detail in the picture apparent. Colors are strong and vibrant throughout, looking consistently natural and accurately rendered. Even in the darker scenes, images are clear and detail is quite nice. Fleshtones are also nicely rendered. The image in both versions is letterboxed to around 1.66:1.
There are only a few very small instances of grain here and there- nothing very noticable. There were no instances of shimmering or pixelization for what I feel is a very pleasing and "film-like" image that I'm sure fans with definitely enjoy.
The director's cut image looks, as Ash might say, a little "funkier". The image here doesn't contain the level of detail that the theatrical cut has. Some of the deleted scenes that are added in on this director's cut version do not look that great, though. These scenes take on a hazy, murky appearance that is definitely different from the rest of the director's cut edition, which, in general, looks fairly decent. It's really cool to finally see the "not-so-happy" ending, though, which is shown on the director's cut. The theatrical version is THX certified.
SOUND: "Army Of Darkness" sounds great on the disc of the theatrical release. Surround use is frequent and engaging throughout the movie and although it's not exactly to the level of some recent action films by any means, it certainly provides for an entertaining experience. Even smaller sounds, like the occasional gust of wind or crowd sounds, are captured nicely here. Gunfire also carries some pretty decent force. The director's cut soundtrack sounds more limited, with less detail and effects. Dialogue sounds very good in the theatrical version, clear and easily heard.
MENUS: Not anything too terribly impressive, but enjoyably animated menus based around the film's art. They could have done something more fun, like if a viewer didn't make a choice right away, Campbell could say, "Hey, pal- we don't got all day!"
Commentary:: This is a commentary from director Sam Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell; Ivan Raimi joins the group later on in the commentary, but doesn't talk too much. The two(and eventually three) talk about how this film was tied into the series and how the series has developed over the years to this picture. The two also talk quite a bit about the production of the movie and the differences between the director's cut and the theatrical release. Interestingly, Raimi states that this version was distributed to some foreign territories, while the theatrical version was the version that Universal wanted Raimi to release.
While Campbell and Raimi talk equally with only a few pauses on this DVD, Raimi isn't quite as interesting to listen to as Campbell, who is entertaining throughout the commentary. The combination of the two do provide quite a bit of informative information about the production, though, with some very interesting tidbits about working with the various actors as well as some thoughts about the effects and other production notes. It may not be a really outstanding commentary, but I think the majority of it is a lot of fun and it makes for quite an enjoyable listen. I wish that the theatrical version would have had a commentary of it's own and even though Campbell and Raimi didn't want to do a commentary for that version, it would have been nice for someone like cinematographer Bill Pope(who is an absolutely awesome cinematographer) do a commentary for the theatrical version.
Trailer: The original trailer is included(on the theatrical release disc)
Storyboards: This is a way cool feature that is included onthe director's cut disc. If you choose, you can play the movie with this feature on: the storyboards will appear in the bottom corner of the picture and although not every scene has a storyboard available, quite a few of them do. These are nicely integrated and placed well on-screen as to not be distracting. And, of course, it's always nice to have this storyboard feature accessable on the movie itself, so you can pause the shot to study the storyboard compared to what's actually on-screen. A nicely done feature.
Deleted Scenes: Four deleted scenes that are generally rightly taken out of the film. They still make an interesting suppliment, though. The quality of these scenes are fair to average; watchable, but not great. You can choose to listen to commentary from Raimi and Campbell during these scenes.(this is on the director's cut disc)
Creature Concept Drawings:A fairly small, but enjoyable photo gallery where viewers can take a look at original ideas and concepts for some of the creatures of "Army Of Darkness".
"The Men Behind The Army": This is a really entertaining documentary that takes a look behind-the-scenes at the making of "Army Of Darkness", with plenty of interviews with cast and crew alike, as well as a look at how the creatures were brought to life. This is narrated by star Bruce Campbell. "Men Behind The Army" is a really well-done and very entertaining documentary. It's not "Hollywood" and just shows people having a ton of fun doing what they're doing. The interviews with the crew who built the puppets are fascinating and listening(and seeing) the kind of detail and work that went into the creature work on this film is really very cool to see. The behind-the-scenes footage doesn't feel like the usual "slicky produced" Hollywood documentaries, which makes it much more engaging and really brings the viewer more of a feeling of what it was like on the set. Again, the interviews here are great to listen to and this is a really entertaining extra. I've seen quite a few documentaries on various DVDs this year and definitely, this is one of the very best. A lot of fun and very entertaining. "The Men Behind The Army" runs about 20 minutes and is included on the theatrical cut DVD.
Also: The "theatrical cut" disc also includes the alternate ending by itself as an extra, as well as cast/crew bios.