Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness (1993)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 7-Oct-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 85:07
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (53:35) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Sam Raimi
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Bruce Campbell
Embeth Davidtz
Marcus Gilbert
Ian Abercrombie
Richard Grove
Case ?
RPI $21.95 Music Joseph LoDuca
Danny Elfman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Portuguese
Polish
Greek
Hungarian
Turkish
Czech
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Those of you who have been reading this site for quite a while now may remember my review of Dungeons and Dragons from mid-late 2001. Those that do (that is, those that managed to put up with the idea of reading almost 2000 words on why I liked such a terrible film), may remember that I stated my favourite film of all time was Army Of Darkness. Well, that was then and this is now, and yes, I still like Dungeons and Dragons, and I still rank Army Of Darkness as my favourite film.

    No fan is really quite sure what makes this film so good - it is overacted, the effects are - to be kind - poor, and the script weak, but yet it still has an IMDB rating of 7.3 out of 10, taken from almost 16,000 votes. How come so many thousands of people rate, what is on the surface a poor film, so well? To begin to understand that we have to travel back to 1979. It was in that year that Sam Raimi, and his film-school buddies Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert, started the four-year odyssey that would lead to The Evil Dead, a guerrilla horror film that pushed the limits of decency, and that really made a name for itself on video. Four years later, Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn followed, but to the horror (no pun intended) of many fans of the original, it was now just as much a comedy as it was a horror movie. This new approach won a legion of new fans however, and undeterred, the terrible threesome pushed on and with the biggest budget yet released Army Of Darkness in 1993. Yet again the series had gone through a metamorphosis, and this time bore almost no resemblance to its eldest sibling, ditching virtually all the horror, and replacing it with even more comedy, and adventurous derring-do. This left a film that was a swash-buckling comedy, and a studio that had no idea what to do with it. On theatrical release Army Of Darkness failed to make an impression, and only through video release did it find its audience: legions of fans who "got" what Sam Raimi and co were aiming for, who understood the humour, and who revelled in the corny one-liners. In short - geeks and nerds who all wished they could be the cowardly anti-hero Ash, or at least thought he was worth a chuckle.

    The (admittedly thin) plot for Army Of Darkness follows directly on from the first two films in the Evil Dead series. In fact, for the first five minutes we get a recap of events from the first two films (or, more accurately, another recap of events from the first film, with a new recap of events from the second film). Similar to the "recap" that ran at the start of Dead By Dawn, which was filmed entirely from scratch as the rights to the original could not be obtained, this is mostly new footage. Once that is done with, and Ash (the ever-enjoyable Bruce Campbell) has been sucked some seven hundred years into the past, the action really gets underway. Initially in the capture of Lord Arthur (hmmm...where oh where did they get that name from?), Ash uses his demon fighting skills and twentieth century knowledge to turn the tables on his captors and put himself (and his boomstick) in a position of power. There is only one problem - according to the castle Wise Men, to return Ash to his current time a book is needed - the Necronomicon. Unfortunately for Ash, only the one prophesied can quest for the book, so off he rides, with the head Wise Man's magic words in mind to say when he retrieves the book. After a misadventure with a number of mini-Ash's, and the subsequent sprouting and bodily dismemberment of his Evil twin, Ash locates the book, and with something approximating the magic words, claims it. Unfortunately, it seems the all-powerful magic forces are quite picky, and really wanted the exact magic words, and so Ash returns to the castle with a book that is now useless to the living (well, except for the nifty ability to send him home), and an army of deadites on his heels. Ash must face his own inner demons (and the prompting of his heart for his lost love Sheila) in an effort to lead the "primitive screwheads" in the battle of their lives against the...(drum roll please)...Army Of Darkness!

    That may sound rather silly, and in truth it is, but what the tens of thousands of dedicated fans of this movie across the world all know is that silly is exactly what it is meant to be. From the very outset, this was never meant to be anything other than what it is - cheesy B-grade schlock. Army of Darkness is not, however, just any cheesy B-grade schlock movie, it is by far and away the finest example of a film that was designed from the ground up to be a good, fun, adventure that wears its cheese on its sleeve. It is a combination of factors that have lead to this great success. There is the corny yet oh-so-quotable dialogue, the over-acting (and Bruce Campbell's pitch-perfect delivery), the combination of some excellent effects with other rather poor effects, the boisterous score, and last, but certainly not least, the brilliant visual flair lent to all of this by Sam Raimi. Had the mix been even a little different - had the effects been brilliant, the dialogue serious, or its delivery based in reality, it would have reduced the attraction this film has.

    Army Of Darkness has almost as many detractors as it does supporters - there are few who would stoop to selecting it as their favourite of the Evil Dead trilogy (although I belong to that group), and many more who just simply don't "get" the humour. By far the most vocal in their criticism of Army Of Darkness are the horror devotees who fell in love with The Evil Dead. That film is regarded in an almost holy light by the hard-core horror audience, and to them Army Of Darkness is like witnessing a favourite band go "mainstream" - something that is both unforgivable and almost to the point of ruining their appreciation for the earlier work. Sam Raimi himself has always said that Dead By Dawn was how he always intended The Evil Dead to be, but he just did not have the budget or experience to pull it off the first time. Be that as it may, there will always be those who hate this film for its desecration of The Evil Dead and many more who just simply won't quite "get" it.

    Hopefully from the overview presented here, those who have never seen this film before will have some idea as to what to expect. It certainly isn't for everybody, but then again, it is one of those rare sequels that works just as well without having seen the previous films in the series (those who prefer the others would say this actually works better seen first). Anyone who enjoyed the humour and visual style of Spider-Man should at least give this a rent to see where Sam Raimi first cut his teeth.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    It would be interesting to know where MGM sourced the film material for the print of this DVD from, as it is one of the most variable transfers to be put on disc. At times it can be brilliant, then in the very next scene, the absolute picture of mediocrity. Overall, it is not so good more often than good, but it is on par with most other presentations of this film on DVD.

    Presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    It is in sharpness and clarity that the transfer is easily the most variable. This is never more obvious as in the contrast between the scene after Ash's escape from the pit (that is, his "boomstick" talk) up until 18:38, and the scene directly following that one, in the throne room where Ash is being fed grapes. The former scene is pristine and clear, and looks stunning. The latter scene is a smudged mess of grain and overall softness that is not only ugly to watch, but defies explanation as to how it could have been attached to the excellent footage that came only a few seconds earlier. This duality keeps up for much of the first half of the movie, with the general rule being that out-doors day-time scenes look great, while indoors or night scenes look rather poor, usually with heavy grain and often quite soft as well. Shadow detail is also quite variable, although for the most part it is generally acceptable. The night scenes do not provide the depth that a crisp clear transfer would provide, but are good enough, while indoor scenes are a little flatter than the outdoor. There does not appear to be any low-level noise present, but as most of the darker scenes are quite high in grain, it is somewhat difficult to discern.

    Colour is ever so slightly washed out, although the filming location would have had a lot to do with this - the Californian desert does not do an excellent job of doubling for medieval England to start with, and combined with the bright sun it isn't really a surprise that greens are muted and everything has a slightly dusty appearance. Apart from this, colour is constant throughout, and does not cause any distractions.

    Compression artefacts are seen only infrequently, with some pixelisation coming up during a few of the particularly heavily grain-affected shots, such as the sky from 3:09 to 3:26, and in the throne-room from 18:39 to 21:43. Film artefacts are a much larger problem - it is fair to say that the print this transfer was taken from was rather battered, and it is quite obvious that no restoration work was done. As with virtually everything else wrong with this transfer, the artefacts tend to come in batches, with some scenes being almost completely clear of them while others are rife. Some of the worst are the effects heavy sequences, such as the initial look at the Necronomicon from 1:30 to 1:47 and on the mystical vortex from 2:30 to 3:09. There are also a few smudges and so forth on camera lenses such as the dirt from 3:48 to 4:01 and in the "evil" POV shot from 27:42 to 27:50.

    The subtitles are well paced and easy to read. Unfortunately, they do a poor job of conveying Bruce Campbell's inflections on some of the most quotable lines (for example, the subtitles read "Well hello Mr Fancypants" when Ash mocks Henry the Red). There is nothing that could really have been done about this (writing helloooo would probably be more confusing than helpful), but it is a pity.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 53:35 during chapter 9. It does not interrupt any dialogue, but does come during a scene with some camera movement, and is therefore quite obvious.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer presented for Army Of Darkness is excellent, and unlike the video, keeps up the good work for the entire length of the film.

    There are five audio tracks present on this disc. They are the original English dialogue, and dubs in German, French, Italian, and Spanish. The English and German soundtracks are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps), while all others are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (at 192 Kbps). These tracks are not surround flagged, but from some small sampling, they do appear to carry surround information.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, and never creates any problems. Audio sync is generally spot-on in the transfer, although the dialogue of Evil Ash and the deadites is often not too well synched. Some lee-way needs to be given here however, as these are either "talking" models, or major face prosthetics - either way the dialogue was definitely looped, and synching to a gnashing model jaw would be none too easy.

    The score for this film was provided by long-time Sam Raimi collaborator Joseph Lo Duca, while the main theme (the March of the Dead) was penned by Danny Elfman. Lo Duca is a skilled composer and produces a score that is spot-on here. It is mostly very cheesy, and is firmly tongue-in-cheek, but can deliver the goods where necessary.

    Surround activity is superb. This 5.1 surround mix is different from that used on all other cuts of this film (see the R4 vs R1 section for more information on the different cuts available). It has excellent presence, and includes plenty of both ambient and directional surround usage (the crowd scenes towards the start surrounding the pit are a good example). The surrounds also carry the score, and give the soundstage a nicely wide feel.

    The subwoofer also has plenty to do, from a number of big explosions to backing up the score, it delivers a more than pleasing rumble.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras presented here are not exactly numerous, but will be appreciated by fans and non-fans alike.

Menu

    The menu is static, 16x9 enhanced, includes a shot of the movie's poster, and is silent.

Deleted Scenes (13:52)

    These are four scenes excised from all versions of the film (with the exception of the extensions to the Windmill scene that is mostly intact in the director's cuts). They are interesting in and of themselves, but all are better off out of the film. The scenes are as follows:     The scenes are presented at 1.85:1, are not 16x9 enhanced, and feature Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio. They are of atrocious quality, being heavily marked and scored, and with plenty of grain and colour bloom. In short they are not pretty to watch, but at least they are here.

Original Theatrical Trailer (1:58)

    This is the original theatrical trailer, and is truly one of the great trailers of all time (ask yourselves, how many other trailers have said "...drop the Oldsmobile"). Presented at 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Okay...this is where it gets really complicated. There have been no fewer than five releases of this film in Region 1 (four of the five from the same company), a further five releases in Region 2, as well as another release in Region 3. Then of course there is ours out here in Region 4. For those who weren't counting, that is a sum total of twelve different releases for the one film. So which is the best version, and where do you start? Well, there is no definitive answer to the first question, but the second is that you want to clarify the different "cuts" of the film before you start looking at different versions.

    There are four different cuts of this film as follows:

    The following sections describe the various cuts of the film, and outlines their basic availability. Following from that is the region comparison chart (although with this many releases it is a tad confusing).

US Theatrical Cut

    This cut of the film is by far the shortest, clocking in at just over 81 minutes (NTSC running time). This was the version released theatrically in the US, and was heavily influenced by bosses from Universal studios. Despite this interference, or possibly because of it, the film takes on a far tighter feel than in the other versions - it is all about the one-liners and the gags, and the great battle at the end. One other important factor about this cut of the film is that it is the only one to include the line "Good...bad...I'm the guy with the gun", which even Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell mention is their favourite during the director's cut commentary (it is also a tad strange then that this version of the line does not appear in any of the director's cuts).

    This cut of the film is available on DVD in Region 1 from Anchor Bay in two (currently available) editions, plus a third edition from Universal. There is also a further Anchor Bay edition that is now long out of print. It is also available in Region 2 UK from Anchor Bay in one of two different editions, and Region 2 France from Studio Canal (only one edition).

Director's Cut

    The director's cut of the film clocks in at just over 96 minutes (NTSC running time), and is quite substantially different in feel to the US Theatrical Cut. It is darker, with a different ending that is considerably less "happy" than the theatrical one. It also has a more epic and atmospheric feel - many of the additions are just more pacing between scenes, so the movie doesn't seem to move along quite so fast. The emphasis on the one-liners is reduced a little, and placed more heavily on the visual style. It is not quite as immediately enjoyable as the theatrical cut, but is still good fun, and provides for plenty of flashy visuals.

    This cut of the film is available on DVD in Region 1 from Anchor Bay in two (currently available) editions, plus two further Anchor Bay editions that are now out of print. It is available in Region 2 UK from Anchor bay in one of two different editions, and from Region 2 Germany by Laser Paradise.

International Theatrical Cut

    The international theatrical cut is a "half-way" point between the director's and US theatrical cuts. It runs at around 88 and a half minutes (NTSC running time), and on the surface appears to be more similar to the theatrical than the director's cuts. Even more so than the director's cuts, the additions to the international cut are almost entirely "padding" - additional footage of Ash riding on his horse between destinations, more time for the build up of the Army, and more time with Ash in the castle before he leaves to quest for the book. Additionally, this cut includes two scenes that are not in the director's cut of the film - a "love scene" and a very short shot in which Evil Ash rips down Sheila's dress prior to kissing her (calm down fanboys - there's no actual nudity here). While the look of this cut resembles the theatrical, including using the ending from that cut, the feel is more like the director's cut, as the extra scenes just give the film that much more breathing space. This is a very good cut of the film.

    Things start to get far less complicated as to availability now. This cut of the film is only available here in Region 4 from MGM, or from Region 2 Norway, also from MGM. These two appear to be the same disc.

Hong Kong Director's Cut

    Finally, the Hong Kong director's cut. This cut of the film is almost identical to the "standard" director's cut, except that the scene where Evil Ash rips Sheila's dress is included in this one. I have not been able to ascertain whether the love scene is also in this cut of the film (if anyone knows for sure, drop me a line). It runs only 24 seconds longer than the "standard" director's cut, so a guess would have to say that the love scene is not included.

    Availability for this version of the film is simple. It is available from one source only - Region 3 Hong Kong, through MGM.

Disc Spec Comparison

    Before embarking on the following disc comparison, I will make a few points (and assumptions).

    The Region 4 and Region 2 (MGM) versions of this disc miss out on:

    The Anchor Bay Theatrical Cut disc misses out on:     The Anchor Bay Director's Cut disc misses out on:     The Region 3 (MGM) version of this disc misses out on:     So which version to choose? It really depends what you are looking for, and how well you know these films. For someone looking to add Army Of Darkness to their collection for the sake of completeness, or for someone who is looking for a place to start their Army Of Darkness collection, then you can't really go past the local version. Available for under $20, it has a good cut of the film, some deleted scenes, and will serve as a good enough introduction. For those who want only to buy one version of the film, but want it to be the best possible, then it would have to be the Region 3 Director's Cut version. This version contains the full director's cut, plus some, as well as the commentary track, a 5.1 audio mix, and what is supposedly the best picture quality on any Army Of Darkness DVD by miles.

    The fanatics, of course, will probably want to have four versions of this movie - the Region 4 international cut, the Region 3 director's cut, and the two Anchor Bay cuts. This is made a little easier as Anchor Bay offers a double-pack of both the Director's and Theatrical cuts in Region 1 and Region 2 (in fact in Region 2, the movie can only be purchased in the double-pack). Oh, and just to make things a little more difficult, Anchor Bay also has a four-disc Evil Dead Trilogy box-set available in Region 2 that contains all three films, plus a fourth disc of extras that are exclusive to the box-set, and not available on any Evil Dead release anywhere else in the world. Choose wisely, and may you be forever entertained.

Summary

    Army Of Darkness is the greatest of all cheesy B-grade adventure movies. It has more quotable lines than any other film in cinema history, a star-making turn from Bruce Campbell that didn't, brilliant direction from Sam Raimi, and a hackneyed story that just makes the film so much better in the eyes of fans. Most people won't "get" it, others will hate it for destroying the name of The Evil Dead while the legions of devoted fans will continue to love it. But you have to watch it to determine which category you fall into.

    The video quality is extremely variable, with some scenes brilliantly clear and crisp, while others are soft, grainy and difficult to make out. Overall, it is bad more than it is good, but it is still watchable, and is better than some other versions of this film available around the world.

    The audio quality is excellent. There is plenty of bass, and the surrounds are heavily used. A great 5.1 mix.

    The extras are minimal, although they will definitely be of interest. Just the fact that this film has finally made it to DVD in Region 4 is enough for me, however.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Thursday, November 06, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

Other Reviews
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - Dark Lord (Bio? We don't need no stinkin' bio!)

Comments (Add)
Great review... but geeeze! :) - Simon O'Connor (I wouldn't suggest reading my bio)
Get the Region 3. - grug (there is no bio.) REPLY POSTED
Evil Dead 2 French version? - Mickey Juice
French Evil Dead 2 - grug (there is no bio.)
R3 is not quite perfect... - Antony
grug, you've convinced me - Simon O'Connor (I wouldn't suggest reading my bio)
Get the R3, avoid the UK R2! - Phil Q
As a confirmed hater of this film... - Anonymous
One Region 3 Flaw - Nyk
Good... Bad... - napalm68
Army of Darkness preferred version debate continues - Steveo
International Cut... Slept Too Long Ending? - Luke
RE: International Cut... Slept Too Long Ending? - Tom Tuttle
Ultimate Edition released on Blu-ray April 2013 containing all versions - Trevor