Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Army of Darkness

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, July 28, 2000

I’m not that good.

Special features

Commentary Track7
Deleted Scenes8
Sketches4
Storyboards6

This was originally the ‘companion disk’ to the 2-disk limited edition of “Army of Darkness”. Army of Darkness was a hilarious send-up of ‘B’ movies, and was also funny in its own right. This disk, however, was not originally meant to be sold alone, and doesn’t stand up without the theatrical release.

RecommendationSpecial Interests Only
DirectorSam Raimi
Movie Rating5
Transfer Quality7
Overall Rating4
Formats
  • Enhanced Widescreen

I think it is important to keep the filmmaking process in perspective when making a home video release. Calling this version of “Army of Darkness” a “director’s cut” shows a severe misunderstanding of how films are made. This disk is not the director’s cut. It is the first completed draft of the film that director Sam Raimi presented to the studio as a starting point. Sure, some changes were subsequently made simply because the studio required them to be made. But some changes were made as a result of Raimi having more time to think about the movie, more time to come up with better scenes. Some of the discussion between Raimi and others after the initial draft resulted in a better movie. Those changes should not have been “rolled back” if this is to be considered a “director’s cut”.

Even the blurb on the back from Bruce Campbell doesn’t call this a “director’s cut”. He calls it “the closest thing you’ll get” to a director’s cut. As I was watching this movie, I was unpleasantly surprised to see one of my favorite scenes go by without actually getting to my favorite scene! The line “Good. Bad. I’m the guy with the gun” was instead “I’m not that good”. A director’s cut? Sam Raimi, on the commentary, said that he liked the theatrical version of this scene better also. Listen to the commentary and you’ll hear that a lot: that the director preferred the theatrical release.

The main difference between Raimi’s vision of the film and the theatrical vision was the ending. Raimi’s original ending was quite a bit different from the ending that was shown in the theaters. I would have liked to see the theatrical ending also, among the extras. Raimi preferred his original ending, so that one scene was correctly included in the “director’s cut”. But the rest were not.

I don’t think they even considered it a “director’s cut” when they did the commentary. At one point, Raimi is talking about one change he wants to make, “but don’t count on it,” because he needed to get permission from the DVD producers! (He also needed permission from the songwriter of the song he wanted to add, but the important point is that he wasn’t in control of this release.)

This disk was originally released as part of a 2-disk limited edition. It was the companion disk to the theatrical release. As a companion disk it stands up very well. We don’t need the theatrical ending because that’s on the main disk. But as a stand-alone disk, this DVD does not hold up at all. You really need the theatrical release (another twenty dollars) to really enjoy the film. (Or at least, I do.)

Other clues that this disk wasn’t meant to be released alone are the lack of a trailer: the movie’s trailer isn’t included on this DVD, because originally the trailer was on the ‘main’ DVD in the set.

This is a fun movie. “Ash”, the hero from the earlier two films, has somehow been transported back in time (perhaps along with the Necronomicon) and must retrieve the book to end the scourge afflicting the lands of Arthur. This was the first “Evil Dead” movie I’d seen, and I liked it enough to want to see the earlier films.

The entire movie is a string of homages to earlier ‘B’ films. From the magic phrase that allows opening the book safely (“Klaatu Barada Nicto”), to the three stooge-like skeletal antics, pretty much every scene has some sort of link to another film.

The extras are pretty cool. The storyboards are shown via “subtitles”. You turn on storyboards and then watch the movie: the storyboards are shown in the lower right of the screen. That’s great, and really opens up the possibilities of what you can do on DVD with audio tracks and subtitling.

The four deleted scenes are also cool, not so much because the deleted scenes are really good, but because they also have an audio commentary! Raimi and Campbell discuss why the part wasn’t included in the final cut, and also comment on some of the film techniques used.

The character sketches are interesting, but there aren’t that many of them.

The commentary by Raimi, Campbell, and (partway through) Ivan Raimi (Sam’s brother and co-writer) is the main draw of this DVD. They made a good commentary on the first Evil Dead special edition, and they make a good commentary here as well. They talk about the people in the movie, the effects and who did them and how, and the thought process behind the writing and acting. They’re interesting people to listen to.

If you run across the 2-DVD set at a reasonable price, I’d recommend it. This has a great commentary by Raimi and Campbell, and some really nice commentary on the deleted scenes. But this is not a ‘better” disk than the theatrical release. Too many good directorial changes were rolled back out of this so-called “director’s cut”. This is really a working draft of the film, not a true director’s cut. It makes a nice addition to your collection if you’re a huge fan of the film and already have the theatrical release. It is a great complement to the theatrical release (what it was originally designed for). But I can’t recommend getting it as your only version of the film.

Recommendation: Special Interests Only

DirectorSam Raimi
ActorBruce Campbell
Spoken languageEnglish
SubtitlesNone
Special FeaturesCommentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Sketches, Storyboards
More links

If you enjoyed Army of Darkness…

If you enjoy Bruce Campbell, you might also be interested in Dead By Dawn and The Evil Dead.

If you enjoy Evil Dead, you might also be interested in Dead By Dawn and The Evil Dead.

If you enjoy Sam Raimi, you might also be interested in Dead By Dawn and The Evil Dead.