Army of Darkness: Limited Edition (2-Disc set) (1992)

At the end of Evil Dead 2, Ash (Bruce Campbell) managed to get rid of the Ultimate Darkness by opening up a time warp and sending it back to the Middle Ages (If you haven't seen that movie, you'll just have to take my word on that). Trouble is, he and his '73 Oldsmobile also got sucked into Medieval England, and as resident Evil Dead butt-kicker, he now has to reclaim the Necronomicon from its haunted resting place to not only end the demonic menace, but get back to his own time. And to put it bluntly, he screws up big time.

The humor in the third (and to this date, final) installment in the Evil Dead series is much more overt and (dare I say it?) low - this is a Ray Harryhausen adventure movie directed by the Three Stooges. The demonic hordes, presented as terrifying in the first two movies, are played for laughs. This is cited by many as their favorite entry in the Evil Dead Trilogy; it's certainly the most mainstream, as director Sam Raimi continued the general tone of this flick in his highly successful Hercules and Xena TV series.

Read the full review in The Bad Movie Report.

Any misgivings I had after Anchor Bay's dismal initial pressing of Evil Dead 2, my favorite in the Trilogy, were dispersed by this disc; the transfer of the theatrical version is pristine, with a flawless print boasting fine color, true flesh tones, deep blacks and shadow detail, which are pretty important if your movie has the word "darkness" in its title. This is a definite replacement for my old Universal laserdisc (or DVD) of this title - its audio mix ran to the unbalanced, and the over-amped sound of Ash's shotgun generally resulted in 911 calls by panicky neighbors. This disc's THX-approved mix is much more even-handed, while remaining sonically rich.

The Director's Cut was apparently cobbled together from many different sources. For that reason, it doesn't look or sound as good as the other disc whenever it includes footage not found in the theatrical version. Still, though it does get kind of grainy, it never looks too bad.

Anchor Bay does its usual fine job on the interactive menus, with something unpleasant rushing at the screen each time you choose an option. Both versions of the movie are divided into 23 well-chosen chapters.

On the first disc, "Talent Bios" are presented for Raimi and Campbell. You also have your choice of the Widescreen or Fullscreen versions of the movie. The first disc also includes the movie's original ending as a separate chapter and "The Men Behind The Army", a 20 minute documentary created especially for this disc and narrated by Bruce Campbell, concerning the KNB effects team and the process of creating a literal army of the undead.

The second disc is loaded to the rim with extras. Besides finally being able to own the fabled Director's Cut, there is an audio commentary featuring Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and co-writer Ivan Raimi. The commentary is funny and informative, with Bruce doing most of the heavy lifting. This guy always seems to come to his commentaries prepared. Sam, on the other hand, seems to be more than a little embarrassed by the film. (This was recorded when Sam was making his stab at mainstream acceptance with For Love of the Game.)

If candid Campbell isn't enough for you, there are four additional deleted scenes with commentary, including the full windmill scene and an alternate opening that goes with the post-apocalyptic ending. And finally, there are storyboards that you can watch along with movie, thanks to the miracle of DVD subtitles. (Frankly, these work much better than the alternate angle ones on the Tomorrow Never Dies disc.) While I usually don't find these storyboard-to-film comparisons very interesting, these storyboards include some sequences that were cut from the film, like the "pillars" scene that was jettisoned in favor of the "she-bitch" scene.

Anchor Bay has already released the first disc from this set separately, and they will be releasing the second disc separately this summer (these are getting as bad as the Bond films!), limited to a pressing of 40,000. This means that the out-of-print 2-disc set isn't quite the collector's item it used to be, but it remains the definitive treatment of this cult classic.

Freeman Williams and Scott Hamilton, 6/23/00

Running Time: 81 minutes (theatrical), 96 minutes (director's cut)
MPAA Rating:
Format: Widescreen 1.66:1, Standard 4:3, 16x9 enhanced
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Surround, THX approved
Languages: English
Subtitles: None
Region: 1
MSRP: $44.98 (out of print)

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