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Army of Darkness: Screwhead Edition [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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It's hard not to feel there's something wrong when Army of Darkness, the third entry in Sam Raimi's lively Evil Dead series, opens with a 15 certificate. And indeed, this is not quite the non-stop rollercoaster of splat we're entitled to expect.
Like Evil Dead II, it opens with a digest-cum-remake of the original movie, taking geeky Ash (Bruce Campbell) back out to that cabin in the woods where he is beset by demons who do away with his girlfriend (blink and you'll miss Bridget Fonda). Blasted back in time to 12th century England, Ash finds himself still battling the Deadites and his own ineptitude in a quest to save the day and get back home.
Though it starts zippily, with Campbell's grimly funny clod of a hero commanding the screen, a sort of monotony sets in as magical events pile up. Ash is attacked by Lilliputian versions of himself, one of whom incubates in his stomach and grows out of his shoulder to be his evil twin. After being dismembered and buried, Evil Ash rises from the dead to command a zombie army and at least half the film is a big battle scene in which rotted warriors (nine mouldy extras in masks for every one Harryhausen-style impressive animated skeleton) besiege a cardboard castle. There are lots of action jokes, MAD Magazine-like marginal doodles and a few funny lines, but it lacks the authentic scares of The Evil Dead and the authentic sick comedy of Evil Dead II.
On the DVD: Army of Darkness may be the least of the trilogy, but Anchor Bay's super two-disc set is worthy of shelving beside their outstanding editions of the earlier films. Disc 1 contains the 81-minute US theatrical version in widescreen or fullscreen, plus the original "Planet of the Apes" ending, the trailer and a making-of featurette. Disc 2 has the 96-minute director's cut, with extra slapstick and a lively, irreverent commentary track from Raimi, Campbell and co-writer Ivan Raimi, plus yet more deleted scenes and some storyboards. The fact that the film exists in so many versions suggests that none of them satisfied everybody, but fans will want every scrap of Army in this one package. --Kim Newman --This text refers to the Blu-ray edition.
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Of course the half-witted Ash endears himself to the primitive locals as only he can, and soon finds himself in chains and facing certain death in a deadite infested pit. One gore-splashing encounter with a demon later and it dawns on his medieval hosts that Ash just might be the 'promised one', the one that was prophesised to fall from the sky to deliver them from evil.
Naturally Ash is the absolutely least qualified person to be the savior of the world. He's crass, sexist, idiotic and cowardly - all attributes he displays in full when he manages to unleash a terrible evil on the world whilst trying to do the exact opposite, all because he's too bone-headed to remember three little magic words.
Theres one thing that Ash does excel at though, and that is fighting deadites and kicking ass which - having created the whole mess they find themselves in to begin with - he has ample opportunity to endulge in. A groovy mechanical hand later, a run in with a dozen tiny versions of himself resulting in the birth of his evil alter-ego 'Evil Ash', one kidnapped princess, a Rocky-style training montage, and an army of the dead on your doorstep, and the scene is set for one hell of a showdown.
Army of Darkness is without doubt my favorite movie of all time. I watched it at the cinema in 1992 having been enthralled by images on the back of my comic book of a man with a shotgun and a mechanical hand punching-out skeletons, and the poster for the movie sits on my wall to this day. To be honest it is a movie that suffers from terribly low production values and has a cast made up entirely of actors you are unlikely to have ever heard of, but is all the better for it. Animation is of the Harry Hausen stop-motion style, and director Raimi abandons the much more traditional horror of the first two movies for a film that is played mainly for laughs. Its also one of the most deliberately quotable movies of all time, and I defy you not to try and introduce at least a couple of Ash's one-liners into your working day! in short, its a brilliant little B-movie that in the more than 20 years since its release has deservedly gone on to gain a massive cult following.
This version of the DVD provides you with a completely remastered version of the original cinematic release including the 'S-Mart' ending. Also included on the DVD is the Directors cut with a slew of additional scenes as well as an alternate 'Planet of the Apes' ending. You can also watch the Directors cut with commentary from director Sam Raimi and producer Robert Tapert.
My only complaint is that you cannot watch the Directors cut in remastered HD, which is a shame as this was by far the most entertaining version of the film. Other than this however you are holding perhaps the single greatest cult movie of all time in your hands - a very groovy purchase indeed!
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RUNTIME: 96:00 mins. PAL (Director's Cut)
REGION: 2 (locked)
EXTRAS: Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes,...Read more
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