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Army of Darkness - Collector's Edition

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Scream Factory
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Sam Raimi
Bruce Campbell
Embeth Davidtz
Bottom Line: 

A long while back I’d written something along the lines of “I won’t buy another version of Army of Darkness even if it comes with Bruce Campbell’s signature etched into a Waterford Crystal case”. It was getting bad, there, folks, and it seemed that every other month saw a new “definitive edition” or variation on the film being thrust upon diehard collectors, and I had to put my foot down. That being said, things have quieted down a bit since the advent of Blu-ray, and, up until now, we’ve only had one underwhelming offering given us in the guise of a problematic Universal release that looked to have been hastily cobbled together just to get a copy of the film onto the “next gen” format.  I mean, it’s a serviceable enough product, but Universal isn’t exactly known for loading on bonus features or really paying all that much attention to fans clamoring for better transfers or more bonus goodies, so that’s where a company like Scream Factory steps up to the plate. And, boy howdy, did they ever step up with this release!

First, for all of you primitive screwheads who’ve been living under a rock these past few decades, here’s the skinny. Army of Darkness is the third chapter in the Evil Dead series, and follows Ash (Campbell) after the climactic showdown at the end of Evil Dead 2, where our hero finds himself sucked into a vortex that drags him straight into a medieval feud between humans and Deadites. Ash’s arrival is something of a spectacle, obviously, and, fearing he is yet another Deadite trick, he is incarcerated and promptly readied for execution. Just as he is thrown into a pit full o' demons, the kingdom’s wise man (Abercrombie) throws down Ash's chainsaw and "boomstick" (aka; his shotgun) and he promptly kicks zombie ass. From here on out, his would-be executioners are now convinced he is the "chosen one" sent from the heavens to rid the world of the Deadite scourge. Of course, Ash just wants to get home in time to get back to work at S-Mart, but, to do that, he first has to help these medieval meatheads out with their Deadite problem. Of course, because this is Ash we’re talking about, things don’t go quite as smoothly as one would hope.

There are as many versions of Army of Darkness as there are films in the Evil Dead series, but, for me, the theatrical version is the way to go as it’s just a leaner, meaner, and funnier flick that perfectly rounds out the trilogy for me. Scream Factory, however, knows opinions are like assholes, and opted to give every version of the film its moment in the sun, here, presenting the theatrical, “International”, director’s, and even the lowly, edited television cuts of the film in all of their HD glory.

Each version of the film has its good and bad points in terms of quality, but, for my money (once again), the theatrical is the winner here. While the International version is said to have been culled from a new 4K scan, much of the theatrical version uses the same source. To me, it seemed more consistent and less grainy than the International version, while the Director’s Cut came in a close third with a mostly pleasing image, but a touch darker palette that made the grain in night sequences a bit more noticeable. Coming in a distant fourth is the TV cut, which, in my opinion, is only included here for completists and should be viewed as a “bonus” feature. The theatrical, international, and Director’s Cut versions all have both 5.1 HD Master Audio soundtracks as well as 2.0 DTS HD versions. The 5.1 tracks sound quite impressive, making great use of the extra channels, but the 2.0 tracks are no slouch, and I actually found the dialogue a touch crisper with the focus on the center channels as such. Still, if you’re playing it loud enough, you’ll get the best bang for your buck with the 5.1 mixes!

Bonus features are plentiful and spread out over the set’s three discs. Much of the material has been recycled from past releases, including several short featurettes, trailers, stills galleries, etc, but we do get some great new content, including a feature-length retrospective entitled Medieval Times: The Making of Army of Darkness that is jam-packed with interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and lots of great anecdotal goodies from many of the film’s major players (with the notable exception being Sam Raimi, himself!). Here's the full list o' fun stuff:

DISC ONE (Theatrical Version, 81 min.) – 1080p High-DefinitionWidescreen (1.78:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0

DISC TWO (Director's Cut, 96 min.) – 1080p High-DefinitionWidescreen (1.78:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0

DISC THREE (International Cut, 88 min.) – 1080p High-DefinitionWidescreen (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 GilbertTed RaimiTimothy QuillRichard GroveBill MoseleyPatricia 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 BergerTony GardnerRobert Kurtzman, And Greg Nicotero, "Pit Bitch" Performer And Effects ArtistWilliam 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
    • 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
    • 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.)

After Univeral’s Screwhead Edition Blu-ray, I knew we’d see a better release down the road, but I didn’t expect it to come from Scream Factory, nor did I expect it to be such a comprehensive release. This is now the version of Army of Darkness to have, and, with the bulk of quality features carried over (as well as the excellent new supplemental material), fans should definitely consider the upgrade. Highest recommendations!


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