Army of Darkness (USA, 1992)

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‘Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas.’

Army of Darkness – aka Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness  is a 1992 American comedy horror film directed by Sam Raimi from a screenplay co-written with Ivan Raimi. It was co-produced by Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell. It stars the latter and Embeth Davidtz. Principal filming took place in California during 1991.

It is the third entry in the Evil Dead franchise, following The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1987). In it, Ash Williams (Campbell) is trapped in the Middle Ages and battles the undead in his quest to return to the present.

The makeup and creature effects for the film were handled by two different companies: Tony Gardner and his company Alterian, Inc. were responsible for the Ash & Sheila Makeup Effects, while Kurtzman, Nicotero & Berger EFX Group was credited for the remaining Special Makeup Effects characters.

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Danny Elfman, who composed the score for Darkman, wrote the “March of the Dead” theme for Army of Darkness. Joseph LoDuca, who composed the music for The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, scored the remainder of the film.

Army of Darkness premiered on October 9, 1992 at the Sitges Film Festival, and was released in the United States on February 19, 1993. It grossed $21.5 million against a $11 million budget.

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The S-Mart ending was shot for the American release; Universal Pictures wanted to end the film on a high note for the character of Ash. The original ending, preferred by Raimi and Campbell themselves, is one in which Ash is shown being placed in a cave and given a potion which will put him to sleep for centuries. Echoing his experience in botching the recovery of the Necronomicon, Ash mishandles the specific instructions for the potion, accidentally taking an extra dose. Ash awakes and arises from his cave to find himself in a post-apocalyptic future, in which the city of London is in ruins. The original ending has subsequently been restored to the director’s cut of some releases.

Over the years, there were numerous rumours of an Army of Darkness 2 film being in development but Ash finally returned in the wonderful 2015 TV series Ash vs Evil Dead, with no mention of his medieval adventures in the first series due to copyright reasons.

Opening plot:

Being transported to the Middle Ages, Ash Williams is captured by Lord Arthur’s men, who suspect him an agent for Duke Henry, with whom Arthur is at war. He is enslaved along with the captured Henry, his gun and chainsaw confiscated, and is taken to a castle.

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Ash is thrown in a pit where he kills a Deadite and regains his weapons from Arthur’s Wise Man. After demanding Henry and his men be set free, as he knew it was a witch hunt, and killing a Deadite publicly, Ash is celebrated as a hero. He grows attracted to Sheila, the sister of one of Arthur’s fallen knights.

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According to the Wise Man, the only way Ash can return to his time is through the magical Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. Ash then starts his search for the Necronomicon. As he enters a haunted forest, an unseen force pursues Ash into a windmill, crashing into a mirror. Small reflections of Ash in the mirror shards come to life, with one becoming a life-sized clone, after which Ash kills and buries it.

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When he arrives at the Necronomicons location, he finds three books instead of one and determines which is the actual book. Attempting to say the phrase that will allow him to remove the book safely – “Klaatu barada nikto”, he forgets and tries to unsuccessfully mumble and cough “nikto”. He then grabs it and rushes back, while the dead and his evil copy resurrect, uniting into the Army of Darkness…

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On October 27, 2015 Shout Factory! released a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray with the following special features:

Disc One (Theatrical Version – 81 min.) – 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.78:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0
-Medieval Times: The Making Of “Army Of Darkness” Featuring Interviews With Star & Co-Producer Bruce Campbell, Actors Marcus Gilbert, Ted Raimi, Timothy Quill, Richard Grove, Bill Moseley, Patricia 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 Berger, Tony Gardner, Robert Kurtzman, And Greg Nicotero, Performer And Effects Artist William 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

Disc Two (Director’s Cut – 96 min.) – 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.78:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0
-Audio Commentary with Director Sam Raimi, Actor Bruce Campbell, and Co-Writer Ivan Raimi
-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

Disc Three (International Cut – 88 min.) – 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.78:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0
-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
-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)
-Still Gallery Of Props And Rare Photos From The Collection Of Super Fan Dennis Carter Jr.
-Storyboards For Deleted Or Alternate Scenes
-Vintage “The Men Behind The Army” Featurette (19 min.)

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Reviews:

The setting is Frank Frazetta by way of Monty Python, the action strictly Three Stooges Meet Jason and the Argonauts (lots of eye-boinking). Like Brian De Palma, Raimi borrows from a lot of sources but mooshes the stolen elements into an inspired style all his own … Raimi doesn’t have a thing on his mind except to give you a raucous good time, and he does.” Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic.com

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“With its glorious effects — not to mention a robust Bernard Herrmann-esque score by Joseph LoDuca — this film is first and foremost a tribute to Ray Harryhausen, though Raimi also finds room for shout-outs to William Shakespeare, The Day the Earth Stood Still and especially The Three Stooges.” Matt Brunson, Creative Loafing

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” …unlike Raimi’s other Evil Dead flicks, the effect of all this cinematic wizardry has no unnerving cumulative effect … Without the visceral impact and maniacal energy of its predecessors, Army of Darkness fails as anything but a tongue-in-cheek kids’ adventure show.” Steve Newton, Ear of Newt

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” …as this is mainly a comedy, its accomplishments there must also be mentioned. Aside from the numerous one-liners that are still often quoted to this day, just about as much of the comedy is physical as well. Great examples include a long portion of the film’s second act in which Ash is questing for The Necronomicon. It basically becomes a one-man show… Jeff Beck, The Blu Spot

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“…the film spends its latter portion staging a prolonged battle between militias of men and skeletons that’s short on inspiration and urgency, and thus serves only to highlight Raimi’s clever (for the early ‘90s, at least) melding of live-action and stop-motion effects. By opting for gonzo mania over any element of unnerving otherworldly terror, the film proves just a throwaway goof, and ultimately one with an inflated sense of its own funniness.” Nick Schager, Lessons of Darkness

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The film spawned a comic book seriesArmy of Darkness comics are based on the film of the same name published originally by Dark Horse Comics, and later by Dynamite Entertainment who initially published them through Devil’s Due Publishing. The stories follow the adventures of the Evil Dead series, Ash Williams, and has included a number of crossovers with a wide variety of characters such as, Marvel Zombies, Darkman, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Dracula, Xena, Danger Girl, Re-Animator and even Barack Obama.

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Cast and characters:

  • Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams/Evil Ash
  • Embeth Davidtz as Sheila
  • Marcus Gilbert as Lord Arthur
  • Ian Abercrombie as Wise man
  • Richard Grove as Duke Henry the Red
  • Timothy Patrick Quill as Blacksmith
  • Michael Earl Reid as Gold Tooth
  • Bridget Fonda as Linda
  • Patricia Tallman as Possessed witch
  • Ted Raimi as Cowardly warrior/Second supportive villager/Anthony, the S-Mart clerk
  • Angela Featherstone as S-Mart store girl
  • Noah Gillispie as Pit Monster

Filming locations:

Bronson Canyon, Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, and near Acton, on the edge of the Mojave Desert, California

Wikipedia | IMDb | Image credits: Wrong Side of the Art!

 

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Categories: 1990s, action horror, cheesy horror, comedy horror

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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