Sam Raimi’s pre-Quick And The Dead films have always been wildly popular with fans on home video, prompting an array of different special edition releases across multiple formats. However, if one film from the first part of his career can be singled out as the most popular for reissues, it’s got to be Army Of Darkness. The variety of edits for this film has inspired an array of releases over the years – and Scream Factory has now attempted to create a one-stop-shopping option for its fans with a triple-disc blu-ray set that has no less than four(!) versions of the film along with a barrage of extras.
The film features hi-def transfers for the original theatrical version of the film, the director’s cut and the international version prepared by Dino De Laurentiis. All three cuts look impressive, with a vivid color palette and a rich level of detail. Even the director’s cut, which has looked rough in DVD incarnations, is improved here. Some reviewers have noted a two-second shot is missing from the theatrical version and word has it that a replacement disc will be released at a later date.
Both 5.1 and 2.0 stereo mixes are included for each of these cuts: the 5.1 tracks were listened to for this review and they all benefit from crisp mixes with effective bursts of surround activity throughout and a strong representation of the film’s lush, rousing musical score.
This collector’s edition set also includes a staggering array of extras spread generously across all three discs. The first disc features the biggest of them all, a feature-length documentary about Army Of Darkness entitled “Medieval Times.” This epic yet focused 96-minute piece covers the film from inception to its current day cult status. Raimi doesn’t appear it except in archival clips but Bruce Campbell acts as its central figure, with an array of cast and crew coming it to deliver plentiful anecdotes.
“Medieval Times” reveals how everyone was cast (with great Campbell anecdotes on several cast members), a segment devoted to the effects work with the members of KNB-EFX explaining their work, tributes to Raimi, the logistical complexities of shooting the finale and plenty of details on the film’s tortured post-production process, which included delays, recutting, the reshoot of the ending and troubles with the MPAA. It covers a lot of ground without ever getting dull and the warmth and good humor of its participants make it a blast to watch.
The first disc also includes the film’s original “downer” ending that didn’t make it past preview screenings but was later included in some overseas video versions, an alternate opening that has a more traditional horror feel than Army Of Darkness ended up having and 11 minutes of deleted scenes that offers a bit of more character and plot info. Both the alternate opening and the deleted scenes have optional Raimi/Campbell commentary.
A series of promos close the first disc out. The theatrical trailer plays up the film’s humor and fantasy elements, a series of five t.v. spots utilize the same style as the trailer and a “U.S. Video Promo” is simply one of the t.v. spots with some new graphics at the end to promote the film’s VHS release.
The second disc features a commentary track for the director’s cut version of Army Of Darkness with Campbell, Sam Raimi and co-writer Ivan Raimi. They go into detail about why Universal recut the film, provide explanations for why each of the deleted scenes was cut and provide plenty of details on the special effects. There is also a nice tale about Irvin Shapiro, Raimi’s distribution mentor.
Next up is some “on-set footage,” about five minutes of video that revolves around Raimi at work directing. “Creating The Deadites” is a segment from 2009 devoted to the film’s special effects, allowing Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero. It expands on the FX-oriented material that is covered in “Medieval Times” and gives more detail on individual sequences. Berger and Nicotero give the viewer a nice sense of the complex variety of techniques involved in the special effects and their tales are illustrated with copious behind-the-scenes footage.
Behind-the-scenes fans will also appreciate a 54-minute reel of video footage from the set provided by KNB-EFX. It provides lots of material from the set and the FX lab, revealing that everyone worked very hard but was united by a sense of cameraderie defined by lots of good-natured, goofy humor. Along similar lines, a 5-minute “making of” is a vintage EPK from Universal that features some interview clips with Raimi, Campbell and producer Rob Tapert. A few minutes worth of additional interview clips for those three men from the EPK interview sessions rounds Disc 2 out.
The third disc adds a final version of Army Of Darkness as an extra in the form of the television version. This 93-minute cut is full-frame and taken from an analog video source. Fans will want to check it out as it has some scenes and audio not used in the other three versions of the film on this set. An international trailer is also included, with the primary difference between it and the U.S. trailer being a logo for Dino De Laurentiis’ company on the front.
The one featurette on the third disc is entitled “The Men Behind The Army” and is a 19-minute piece on the special effects. It covers the same basic ground as the other FX-oriented extras on this set but it has some unique behind-the-scenes footage, including a funny bit of Raimi clowning around in the FX shop, and it also features the third member of KNB-EFX, Robert Kurtzman, offering his thoughts on the group’s work.
The remainder of Disc 3’s extras are devoted to image galleries. The first of two still galleries offers over 300 images that include production design sketches, FX lab photos and conceptual drawings, behind the scenes photos, stills and several different posters from around the world. A second image gallery features a few dozen more rare images, including both on-set shots and images of specific props. The final gallery is devoted to storyboards, covering four sequences. It’s worth noting that these sequences cover material not included in any version of the film, with helpful titles explaining what didn’t make the cut.
All in all, this a truly impressive set from Scream Factory, allowing the viewer to explore all versions of the film in good quality and piling on extras that cover most anything fans could want to know. If you love this film, it’s a must-buy.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Army Of Darkness, click here.