"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Army of Darkness

Man, here we are on Sam Raimi’s fifth movie, and I feel like it’s his fourth major breakthrough. THE EVIL DEAD was the smashing debut that put him on the map, CRIMEWAVE didn’t do much for him but EVIL DEAD 2 was the cult masterpiece that moved him from the map to the pantheon, then DARKMAN was his first studio movie and first actual big moneymaker.

But during the couple years he spent trying to get DARKMAN going he’d also agreed to make an EVIL DEAD III with Dino De Laurentiis, this time with a bigger budget to accommodate the Medieval Dead concept he’d wanted for 2 but had to abandon because it was too expensive. Produced by De Laurentiis and released by Universal, ARMY OF DARKNESS not as expensive as DARKMAN, but is arguably larger in scope – it’s a period piece with a castle, lots of knights in armor, horses, catapults, an army of skeletons, plus various possessed ladies, a flying beastie, an Ash that grows a second head and then splits off into a monstrous Evil Ash, etc.

Man, they really used to have posters like this. I remember it. They just painted them. It was great.

And from my perspective, ARMY OF DARKNESS seemed like the movie that turned the most new people on to Raimi and THE EVIL DEAD, and therefore set the tone people expected from him and especially Bruce Campbell from that point on.

Watching the three EVIL DEADs close together it’s very noticeable that Ash is a totally different character in each of them. First he’s a pretty normal college student who becomes the main character only because he’s more honorable than his friend and doesn’t want to abandon his girlfriend. In the second he’s a punching bag for supernatural forces until he takes charge and sort of transforms or self-actualizes (and self-surgeries, come to think of it) into an action hero. But in this one he’s more of a buffoon, a nerd in his regular life who turns into a cocky asshole when transported to the past with the advantage of an operable shotgun and chainsaw. He proves himself with violence, demands help getting back to his own time period, then, as he’s apt to, accidentally summons the god damn evil dead (or Deadites as they call theme here).

So the tone of the movie is very different – the horror concepts are treated seriously, but the Deadite warrior dialogue kind of sounds like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, some skeletal hands do a Three Stooges routine with Ash’s face, and at the end their leader’s skull pops open and blows like a train whistle. Maybe even without all that, Ash’s frequent funny reactions to everything (and the broader goofiness of the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court premise) would make it more comedic than EVIL DEAD II. It’s a horror comedy adventure, complete with Ray-Harryhausen-tributing stop motion skeletons. This jokier version of Ash was carried over into the eventual TV series continuation, and I’ve always felt it was the reason many people were shocked that Fede Alvarez’s 2013 EVIL DEAD was (like the movie it was remaking) not really joking around.

For part II they couldn’t get the rights to footage from part 1 to recap its events at the beginning, so they decided to reshoot them. This time they did have the rights to footage from part II, so they used it, but they still redid some shots of Linda so she could be played by Bridget Fonda. According to Campbell’s memoir, “She had been a fan of the series and asked for a small role. What were we gonna say, ‘No’?” The Evil Dead Companion adds the additional context that she had auditioned to play Julie in DARKMAN and was so good she made Raimi cry, but he felt she was too much younger than Neeson to play his girlfriend.

That’s another thing you notice watching the three movies close together: Raimi does not give a fuck about continuity. So he has the three Lindas, and suddenly Ash is making constant references to his job at “S-Mart” that was never mentioned once before, and the ending of EVIL DEAD II is far from set in stone. Ash still falls through a portal to 1300 BC, is captured by soldiers, shoots a demon in front of them and is hailed as their chosen one, but not in the same way we saw it the first time. Now it’s stretched out from one incident to the whole first act of the movie. It amuses me because it was normal back then to fudge that sort of thing, but I think it would drive people crazy in an internet world.

Every time I watch ARMY OF DARKNESS, the part I’m excited for is that first stretch, when he’s thrown into a pit to battle captured witches, the wise man (Ian Abercrombie, JACK FROST 2, GARFIELD 2) throws him his chainsaw, he leaps up and catches it on his stump, does this badass ENTER THE DRAGON type pose…

…climbs out of the pit, terrifies everyone with his “boomstick” and berates them as “primitive screwheads.” He also frees fellow prisoner Duke Henry the Red (Richard Grove, POINT BREAK, EXTREME JUSTICE, SCANNER COP, MONEY TRAIN) on what seems to be a whim, but turns out to be crucial to later saving the day.

After some time lounging on a throne, being fed grapes and giant hunks of meat by various women, being attacked by NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 1990 star and veteran stuntwoman Patricia Tallman as “possessed witch” (or, as he calls her, “she-bitch”), and being a dick to Sheila (Embeth Davidtz, before SCHINDLER’S LIST), Ash is sent on a journey to get the Necronomicon so they can fight the evil and send him back. But first there’s an admittedly shameless callback to the chainsaw hand montage as he has them build him a robotic metal hand. It ends with him saying “Groovy” again.

Yeah, when Ash gleefully pours boiling water down his throat to thwart the tiny evil Ash he swallowed that’s a real EVIL DEAD II moment.

I often forget that this is the section that’s most reminiscent of the other two films. He rides into the woods, a fog rolls in, faint moans can be heard, and the evil force cam chases after him (on a horse instead of in his Oldsmobile). When he takes shelter in a creaky windmill it takes on the role of the cabin in the woods where he’s terrorized for a while. Once again his reflection in the mirror becomes evil, but this time it breaks and the tiny reflections on each shard become tiny little Ashes with high-pitched voices. They knock him out, tie him up like Gulliver and one dives into his mouth, taking him over like Henrietta’s eyeball did Bobby Joe. An eye grows on his shoulder, then it becomes a second head that he fights with until it splits off as a separate self-proclaimed “Bad Ash.” Good Ash shoots him in the face, saws him into pieces to bury, and as the other Ash’s severed head taunts him from the pit, original Ash has my favorite line: “Hey, uh… what’s that you got on your face?” before he shovels dirt over him.

When Ash takes the Book of the Dead without saying an incantation properly it awakens “the army of the dead” made up of “every worm-infested sonofabitch that ever died in battle” and dooms the, uh… whatever the knight guys are called, because “the evil has a terrible hunger for the Necronomicon and it will come here to get it.” Bad Ash crawls out of his grave as a rotted ghoul in bone armor to lead the Army of Darkness against them.

Though this is all caused by his fuck up, Ash doesn’t want to be the chosen one, and insists on being sent back right away, to everyone’s great disgust. Only after Sheila is kidnapped by a winged demon does he feel enough shame to turn into an action hero again and lead them in battle. He uses a chemistry textbook from the trunk of the Oldsmobile to make explosives, inspires the men to step forward (“You can count on my steel!” says blacksmith Ted Raimi) and calls for help from Henry the Red and his men (the LORD OF THE RINGS movies have a few parts that remind me of ARMY OF DARKNESS).

So the last half hour is mostly fantasy movie style battle, and it’s fun to watch all the ways they depict this evil army, including 10 puppets, some stop motion shots (courtesy of “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow of THE TERMINATOR and Flying Burrito Brothers fame) and hundreds of extras in various levels of makeup depending on how close they needed to be to the camera. Robert Kurtzman and Howard Berger, who had formed their company KNB since working together on EVIL DEAD II, did that makeup while Greg Nicotero was off working on THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (the Raimi-Craven rivalry continues). DARKMAN’s makeup genius Tony Gardner handled Evil Ash. And there are many other fun gimmicks throughout the movie, including Ash’s arms and face stretching as they’re sucked into a portal inside the book, tombstones blasting off like rockets, some fire stunts, and Evil Ash being burnt down to a skeleton with eyeballs, kinda like the poster for part II.

One way they accomplished so much with the budget was by having the company Introvision, who had done many effects on DARKMAN, actually be producers. They built sets and miniatures, but they specialize in a patented front projection technique. Bruce Campbell could fight with a skeleton by standing in front of a screen that the already-animated footage projected onto it, and they could see through the viewfinder how it looked instead of having to wait weeks for it to be composited.

In the below shot, for example, I believe it’s Bruce Campbell and two others standing in front of a movie screen onto which footage of the large Bruce Campbell is projected. The results of these shots can be a little cheesy looking sometimes, but I think they work as a Harryhausen tribute, and they’re kind of like a primitive version of how The Mandalorian is made now.

As had become sort of tradition in horror movies since the ‘80s, there’s a copy of Fangoria visible in Ash’s trunk. It’s an issue with FREDDY’S DEAD on the cover, but you can’t see that under a copy of Dark Horse Presents. The detail that most captured my horror nerd heart at the time was seeing Bill Moseley credited as “Deadite Captain.” It was of course well before HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES and his career renaissance, so I really only knew him as Chop Top from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 and had seen him in SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT III: BETTER WATCH OUT and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 1990. It turns out most of his stuff was cut from this. I think I hear him laugh right before Evil Ash says “Gimme some sugar, baby,” but I’ve never spotted him in the theatrical cut. He plays Evil Ash’s henchman with an eyepatch and horned helmet, seen not very clearly in this shot from the director’s cut:

Oh, also I’m pretty sure this is MANIAC COP director (and DARKMAN dockworker) William Lustig doing his S-Mart shopping in the background here:

Does it make sense to say this is Raimi’s most visually subdued movie up to this point? Maybe not. Raimi and returning DARKMAN d.p. Bill Pope certainly get some Raimi shit in there. We get an arrowcam, a spikecam, a fireballcam, a spearcam and a shotguncam. We get the trademark side views of flying objects. I gotta appreciate that. But it seems to me like most of the castle/skeleton/fantasy movie stuff (which is most of the movie) is shot more straight forward. Which is fine. The shift from horror to fantasy adventure, and the way this is mixed with Raimi and Campbell’s goofball humor, makes it a one-of-a-kind movie, and I always respect a sequel that goes this far to not be a rehash. But for me personally the “grueling horror” of the other two movies is a much more potent cinematic experience and definitely more my speed. So I’ve only watched this one a million times instead of two millions times like the others.

ARMY OF DARKNESS was originally intended for a summer of ’92 release, but got pushed back because of an unrelated dispute between Universal and De Laurentiis (they were fighting about the rights to Hannibal Lectre). When it finally did come out in February of ’93 it seemed like I’d been reading about it forever, and teenage me was very excited that this great director was following DARKMAN by returning to EVIL DEAD and paying off part II’s outrageous ending. I told everybody I was going to go see it after school on opening day, and it turned into a big group outing.

Then when we got there they started debating about which movie we were gonna see.

“You don’t understand,” I said. “I came to see ARMY OF DARKNESS. I’m seeing ARMY OF DARKNESS.” But the friends all decided on something else (I wish I remembered what). So it ends up this one younger kid who knew my sister but who I didn’t really know was the only one who went with me, and he hadn’t seen the EVIL DEAD movies and didn’t know anything about it. But afterwards he said, “You were right!”

He wasn’t the only convert. Though it didn’t do much more than break even in theaters, on video ARMY OF DARKNESS introduced a much wider audience and new generations to THE EVIL DEAD and to Bruce Campbell. It’s hard to explain what a rock star figure he seemed like at the time, even though the movie obviously recognized it with its animated smoky lettering saying


and then



It’s like he was Godzilla or something. Because he was! The next year, when he starred in the quirky western TV series The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., it seemed like a huge breakthrough into the mainstream. It is a fact that I only started watching The X-Files because it was the other new show playing after the Bruce Campbell show. And I knew more than one person who went to see CONGO specifically because they saw him in the ad. (I didn’t go, specifically because I guessed he would die in the opening.)

In the days when Anchor Bay were the best company releasing horror and cult films on DVD, it became a joke how many special edition re-releases the EVIL DEAD movies in general and ARMY OF DARKNESS in particular received. (Here’s a comparison of numerous DVD and blu-ray releases.) This was possible in part because Universal had rejected Raimi’s initial version of the movie, making him shorten it and shoot a different ending that wasn’t as “negative.” For a while, the original ending was legendary. We heard about it, then we saw it in the comics adaptation, then we saw a shitty VHS bootleg, then we finally got an official DVD of it. Ash is prescribed 6 drops of a potion to sleep until the present, but accidentally counts the fifth drop twice, oversleeps and wakes up in a post-apocalyptic future. That’s the ending you get on the director’s cut, which, through various extensions throughout, runs 15 minutes longer than the 81 minute theatrical.

That was a cool ending, and I laugh when he wakes up, sees a bunch of junk and says, excitedly, “Manufactured products!” Had they ever made a sequel, that would’ve been a good one to follow up on, and it makes no sense that Universal made them change it. However, I’m glad they made that error, because I prefer the theatrical ending. Basically, they gave Raimi a bunch more money to shoot more stuff, and he went balls out. In the new ending Ash is working his shift at S-Mart, boring the shit out of his co-worker (Ted Raimi again) with his presumed-to-be-bullshit story about getting sent back to the past.

Suddenly the lights dim, a powerful wind blows through the store, and the trademark evil force cam zooms down the aisle to a customer who turns around, possessed. And it’s a big battle scene with this ghoul cackling, hand-springing, leaping, flipping, flying and punching. Ash punches through a glass case to get a Remington, and rides a rolling cart while pumping off shots (this time is it a tribute to HARD BOILED?). My favorite part is when he whacks the ghoul with his rifle and she gets knocked back but bounces off a conveniently displayed trampoline. As she flips above him he fires five more shots into him, and the movie ends with the famous line “Hail to the king, baby” as he dips his co-worker (Angela Featherstone, CON AIR, THE WEDDING SINGER) for a passionate kiss like he’s Fabio on the cover of a romance novel. It’s such a tour-de-force couple minutes of energetic, over-the-top filmmaking that the movie feels incomplete without it.

(Also, the transported-to-the-future ending is kind of a remix of II’s transported-to-the-past ending, and can’t really feel as out-there the second time around.)

The three-issue comic book from Dark Horse Comics, adapted and fully painted by John Bolton, included not only the original ending, but the skeleton horses that Raimi wanted but couldn’t get to work, and the unfinished “Temple Ruins” scene. Cinefantastique‘s massive ARMY OF DARKNESS issue (knowing their audience, they called it “EVIL DEAD III” on the cover) mentions miniatures being shot for the scene, but also that it had not been finished during principle photography. At least in the comics version – which was definitely made when some of the film had been shot, judging by the accuracy of many of the panels – it was a much more elaborate version of the scene where Ash agrees to quest for the Necronomicon after being attacked by the “Possessed Witch.” In this version he’s waiting for the elders to discuss the situation in these temple ruins, and the witch knocks over a giant pillar, creating a domino effect. One of the columns falls and crushes the witch’s legs, but she still keeps coming. Ash cuts her head off and punts it like a football, but he can still hear it laughing at him in the distance when he says, “I’ll get your damn book.”

If this had been the end of Raimi’s acension, it still would’ve been an impressive run. Within a decade he’d made the hit super hero revenge movie, the disowned but worth seeing comedy and the horror trilogy where each installment is a beloved cult classic in its own right, culminating in this great achievement of getting Universal Studios to release a weird skeleton movie starring his high school buddy Bruce in multiple roles. He’d made movies starring Liam Neeson and Embeth Davidtz before SCHINDLER’S LIST and Frances McDormand before FARGO. But next he would take things even farther in a movie that would star the two biggest names he’d ever worked with, plus two more who were about to blow up even bigger than that, and he wouldn’t have to sacrifice his style or personality to do it.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 18th, 2022 at 7:05 am and is filed under Reviews, Comedy/Laffs, Fantasy/Swords, Horror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

30 Responses to “Army of Darkness”

  1. To be honest, this one took a while to grow on me. My first reaction was “What the fuck is this shit? Where’s the fucking horror?” Everything up to and including the pit fight was great, but the rest of it was a little too corny for me at the time. The fact that the deadites were just skeletons and thus could not spew multicolored goo across the screen was very close to a dealbreaker.

    Obviously, I got over it. Still the weakest of the trilogy but there’s no shame in that.

    The middle section that feels most like an EVIL DEAD movie is the part most improved by the director’s cut. It gets more time to breathe and build and actually has an eerie vibe for a few minutes. Everything about Raimi’s cut is better except, of course, the ending. I hate having to side with the suits, but at least I can take comfort in the fact that their reasoning about why the original ending doesn’t work is wrong: It’s not because it’s a downer, but because it’s lamely realized, with a bad matte painting where a mindblowing twist ought to be. If the last scene had delivered the same story point but had been as kickass as the theatrical ending, I’d have no problem with it.

  2. ” Though it didn’t do much more than break even in theaters, on video ARMY OF DARKNESS introduced a much wider audience and new generations to THE EVIL DEAD and to Bruce Campbell.”

    You said it! I still remember walking into my local comics shop and seeing a pile of one-sheets for this on the counter (the first image up top. I wonder if I still have it somewhere? I had it taped to my wall for most of my teen years.) I asked the clerk, who I was friendly with, what this was and he excitedly told me it was the third Evil Dead movie!! I was thirteen and just caught the pre-internet end of the “this are the greatest movies you’ve never seen” word-of-mouth buzz about those films. My friend and his cool mom took us to see Army..in theaters and we loved it! Afterwards, we promptly went to West Coast video and rented Evil Dead 1 and 2 and loved those as well (though were and continue to be confused by continuity mess between the two).

    What a time that a major studio would greenlight a sequel to a cult film that no one saw when it came out six years prior?! And throw what (at least looked like) a decent amount of money at it?! Bruce Campbell was like a living Disney prince and why his career was never bigger, I’ll never understand? Was it his association with too much camp and B-horror? Who knows? Also, like you Vern, I too revisit this one the least out of the trilogy and, reading what you wrote, I have to wonder why?

  3. Flying Guillotine

    January 18th, 2022 at 9:31 am

    I was in college when this film came out, and excited beyond belief to see it. I counted the days until it played at the multiplex at the mall outside our rural college town. I was working at the school paper at the time, and ducked out early “to chase down a lead,” but really to sneak off and see the first possible screening. I was the only person in that theater.

    Between the three films, my favorite is EVIL DEAD II. But I love ARMY OF DARKNESS for its many charms, and eagerly come back to it on a regular basis.

  4. How did I not know that was Bridget Fonda? It looks like she has quit acting, otherwise I would love for her to have a comeback. Her roles in Jackie Brown and A Simple Plan alone were so damn good.

    I remember seeing ads in the back of comic books for Army of Darkness for a long time. The advertising for this film was probably propping up the entire comic book industry for a while.

  5. This might be the best known EVIL DEAD movie in Germany, simply because of how often it runs on TV (Especially in the late 90s/early 00s.) It’s also the only one I showed to my mother. She loved it, although she admittedly was drunk.

    In an episode of either HERCULES or XENA they made a reference to this movie*. In it Campbell’s character Autolycus either met a past, less nice version of him or an evil version from a parallel universe (Forgot which one it was. It’s been a while.), that then started to taunt him about being a nice guy, just like evil Ash in the movie. The difference was that good Autolycus just punched the bad one in the face before he said his “I’m not that good” line.

    Regarding the ending, there is a semi-bootleg VHS (Meaning it’s from a real company, but it often seems like they really didn’t care if they had the rights for the movies they released.) that combined both ending. It starts with the sleep ending, then in the middle a text says that Ash has a dream while he sleeps through the centuries. That leads us to the supermarket ending, before we cut back to the sleep ending. I can’t imagine that this edit was sanctioned by anybody who has any official say in these things.

    *Actually they had quite a few, including one episode about the Necronomicon, that had the bad guy using the words “Klaatu Verata Nektu”, and another episode in which Iolaus had to watch a bunch of kids and after a stressy day declared: “Those aren’t just kids, they are the army of darkness!”

  6. Army of Darkness was the first time I became aware of Sam Raimi’s existence. I remember seeing the trailer and thinking “This looks like another low budget piece of garbage,” but my best friends insisted that we see it, and afterwards I was forced to admit that it was actually pretty good. I was young & dumb.

    Vern’s series is now coming up on my favorite period of Mr. Raimi’s career. From THE QUICK AND THE DEAD (pure entertainment) through DRAG ME TO HELL I think he’s really in the sweet spot; he’s got budgets big enough to service his filmmaking style and he’s matured *just enough* as an artist that it doesn’t *always* feel like there’s a giggling 13 year-old running amuck with a camera — just sometimes. And THE GIFT is really underrated.

  7. This movie is a great indicator on if I want to know someone or not:

    Like it: We can (maybe) be friends.

    Don’t like it: Not interested in ever knowing you and definitely don’t care about your opinion on anything.

    Not shallow, just facts.

  8. If we insist on calling it THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, then surely this one’s official title is BRUCE CAMPBELL VS. ARMY OF DARKNESS.

    I, too, remember how the poster appeared as either the inside front of back cover of seemingly every comic book of this era. It seared into my brain, but it would be years before I’d see the movie. I was surprised and delighted to find out THAT’S what the movie was.

    Since I first saw the three Evil Deads all in a row on the same day, Army has been my favorite. It’s filled with too many good moments and lines. And while each movie rewrites the previous installment and/or Ash’s character a bit (and the TV series continues this tradition), I do like how this one shows how he’s gained XP, like with “It’s a trick. Get an axe.” Or how Ash smashes the mirror immediately, having learned his lesson from the previous movie (though the extended version makes it more obvious why he does so). I prefer the theatrical ending, but word on the street is a new 4K disc will be out soon, which I hope has all the cuts and footage they can locate. My DVD is only the theatrical with the alternate ending as a bonus, but every time I catch the movie on TV they show a longer TV cut.

    The makeup guy being the same makes sense– Bad Ash appears to have the same lipless mouth and teeth as Darkman.

    Also, I’m an idiot who somehow knew Bridget Fonda was in this but always thought she played the deadite in the theatrical ending.

    I agree with geoffreyjar on how Army of Darkness is a way to measure friendship. Freshman year in college I struck up a conversation with some guy watching Army of Darkness on the common room TV and we ended up roommates for a few years and good friends to this day. We also road-tripped to Philly to see the chin himself present My Name Is Bruce in person.

  9. I saw this at a second-run ‘dollar’ cinema and the screening was packed for whatever reason. Up until this point, I had certainly seen events in films rip the roof off (the twist in Diggstown comes to mind). But this was definitely the first time I had ever seen the entire movie rip the roof off. I was shocked to later learn that it didn’t make money and was initially considered a flop, because at least that night, in that theater, it PLAYED.

  10. I was way hyped for this through all the delays. I got my dad to take me and later learned some other kids at my school saw it but didn’t know it was a sequel. They thought it was a bad Monty Python and the Holy Grail riff. My school was pretentious and I got no credit for informing them the prologue was actually an entire movie.

    I prefer the theatrical ending too just because it’s a wild Raimi action scene. The problem with the apocalypse ending is not that it’s a depressing downer. It’s a downer momentum-wise. He just wakes up and sees what happened. Maj is correct that they didn’t pull off the FX tho and that’s another reason.

    Is it bad if I can’t wait for Vern’s take on For Love of the Game? Haven’t seen it since it came out but the oddest entry in the Raimi canon may be interesting 20 years later.

  11. Likewise, fell in love with Bruce and Raimi via army of darkness in the vhs store with my two best pals, and also couldn’t believe Bruce’s career didn’t completely rocket after this (though he didn’t just fine, I think?! Always glad Raimi took him along for cameos when he blew up – a quality thing to do). Man, what a tonic to see this kind of thoughtful, interesting directing, sfx. They may sometimes make them like this anymore, but it’s very very rare. Loving the retrospective, Vern.

  12. I agree that the director’s cut ending has a better concept than execution, but I still prefer it; I think it’s more in line with the film’s characterization of Ash and with the general vibe of the series. And at its core, it’s a *much* funnier joke.

    The theatrical ending is fun, though.

  13. I was somehow way the hell out of it when this movie came out. Nothing looked familiar to me on the poster (which was advertised heavily in the comics I was reading), even Bruce Campbell. I remember my friend Kevin talking about it and thinking “WTF, this sure sounds like a sequel to Evil Dead!??”

  14. This was the first of them I saw – my buddies and I went to the cinema with no idea that it was an Evil Dead sequel, we just loved the idea of a Chevy Olds and a chainsaw in medieval times. And you know what’s crazy? It was a good YEAR AND A HALF before I worked out the ED connection! I loved Darkman independently of AoD, and got the Marvel Darkman comic book miniseries. The back page had a ‘history of Raimi’ type thing, which talked about Evil Dead II (which I’d seen the cover of a million times at the video store where I worked, and had thought nothing of it…) and how the hero cut off his own hand and welded a goddamn chainsaw onto the stump and all of a sudden the flashback at the start of AoD made sense and it took me all of 6 minutes to get my butt to the video store and hire EDII and fall in love.

  15. I first saw this at video night with some friends. The guy who picked it was disappointed that our VHS didn’t feature the post-apocalyptic ending he was familiar with … because that was the theatrical ending in some territories, and he’d seen it on a trip to Japan. When I eventually saw it myself, years later, I was a bit underwhelmed, but maybe that’s just because my friend had built it up so much. I’m glad that nowadays I can watch both.

    Speaking of Japan, I wonder if the BRUCE CAMPBELL VS. ARMY OF DARKNESS titles were the inspiration behind the Japanese retitling of ATOMIK CIRCUS as ALIEN VS. VANESSA PARADIS.

  16. I’m too lazy to google it, but I think I read somewhere that ARMY OF DARKNESS was in Japan called CAPTAIN SUPERMARKET.

  17. CJ Holden: Yeah, it was, but they’d still see the English title sequence.

    I’m probably overthinking things, and ALIEN VS. VANESSA PARADIS was just a riff on ALIEN VS. PREDATOR. But it’s pretty odd to see an actor’s name in the title of a fiction feature.

  18. Fun lil sidenote: that era of amazing Anchor Bay dvds (and endless ED reissues) was all being produced by William Lustig, who worked for them at the time. I think when AB was purchased by Starz is about the time he decided to make Blue Underground its own thing.

  19. Shoutout to Brisco County Jr.! Not to take away from The Mummy, Tomb Raider, or Uncharted, but I think they might’ve come the closest to capturing that Indiana Jones lightning-in-a-bottle. (Certainly they were better at it than Young Indiana Jones.) No ancient ruins, no Nazis, but the same vibe–not too sexy or violent for the normies, but not too straight-laced for the reprobates. I remember a few years back, my sister had a baby, and as she was a single mother (my sister, not the baby), my mom ended up doing a lot of time babysitting the little sprout. I busted out my DVDs of BCJ (as well as Legend with Richard Dean Anderson and John De Lancie, which is close enough to be in a shared universe–seems everyone in the 90s got the Weird West thing right except for Will Smith and his dudes). All three generations had a good time watching it through from start to finish; though I may have to double-check with the baby, since she’s learned to talk since then.

    Anyway, it’s Bruce Campbell playing a Wild West Indiana Jones. OBVIOUSLY it works.

  20. Loved Briscoe so much I’ve been afraid to revisit because I’m worried it’ll make me sad all over again it didn’t get a second season.

    Seeing Bruce profiled on Entertainment Tonight was something back then.

  21. I never saw BRISCO back in the day, so I decided to give it a shot at the start of the pandemic. I watched a few episodes but I just couldn’t get into them. I’m sorry to say that I seem to be allergic to the whole audiovisual package of syndicated 90s TV. I can’t stomach HERC or XENA or any of those shows. Shit, I can barely make it through the opening credits of BLACKJACK. I know I have said some dismissive things about the art of cinematography in the past. I guess it’s something you only miss when it’s gone.

  22. This is my favourite of the three ‘Dead’ movies.

    For me, Raimi takes it to ’11’ in this one.

    Some of this could be because this was the first of his movies that I caught in the theatre, and I don’t think that experience can be replicated.

    At the opening Friday matinee in February 1993, my girlfriend and I were not only the only people in the theatre, but the other 5 screens were completely empty. There was a snow storm happening and during the 90 minutes in the theatre 6 inches of snow came down, nobody else was out. We were pretty surprised that the theatre was actually open at all.

    In a version of geoffreyjar’s comment that you have to like this to be a friend, my girlfriend at the time was actually even more pumped for this film than me, what a girl. We stopped dating, but she’s still one of my best friends 30 years later, and we still watch this at least once a year.

    Random thoughts:

    I’ve always considered Raimi a fan of the slapstick comedy stylings of The Three Stooges first, and then a horror fan second, so for me, the sheer berserk abundance of comedy in Army of Darkness just hit my sweet spot. I’ve never really found any movie ‘scary,’ so horror never really works for me. I loved the first two movies, but ultimately still consider them homages to that style of screen comedy first, and exploitation horror second.

    I also love how, despite the budget, it almost feels like Army of Darkness enjoys still looking ‘cheap.’ There’s a goofy, slap dash look too so much of it. The film almost plays better on VHS than on a better quality visual medium. For instance, I have no intention of replacing my DVD with a blu-ray, it just wouldn’t be right.

    Raimi’s hyper active camera always thrills me, maybe more so than ever in Army of Darkness. I love how he plays with frame rates to create quicker zooms and track ins, and everything is in camera. This kind of technique and craft is a disappearing thing in filmmaking.

    The sheer inventiveness of this, the handmade ‘craft’ involved in the special effects (the effects work is actually ‘special.’) The amazing score. Bruce Campbell going full Bruce Campbell.

    I’ve always been partial to the theatrical ending. Of course that’s the ending I saw initially, but it’s more slam bang nature feels more in keeping with the overall tone of Army of Darkness.

    A buddy of mine while in film school made a bootleg version of all three films (inspired by Coppola’s The Godfather Saga cut.) He re-edited footage from all three films, deleted/cut scenes etc. It took advantage of the fact that all three were not direct sequels. It was a pretty cool little ‘experiment.’ He made a few VHS copies for friends. A few years later at a flea market in Toronto I actually stumbled across an ‘original’ copy that he had made, for sale for a few hundred bucks.

    Vern; hope you’ll cover Raimi’s 2nd unit directing work in the Coen Brothers ‘The Hudsucker Proxy.’

  23. Syndicated and Syndicated-adjacent 90s TV is my happy place, but I couldn’t get into BRISCO when I gave it a shot some 13 years ago. Think I liked JACK OF ALL TRADES a little more. Maybe I should give BRISCO another shot, I might appreciate more now that they actually tried to tell complete stories from beginning to end with their 45 minutes.

    I believe UK was one of the countries that got the “overslept” ending in theatres, or at least that was the standard home video version here.

  24. The Japanese Army of Darkness poster is absolutely incredible. Bruce Campbell’s soup cans abound.

  25. I rented Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 from the local gas station when I was a kid because I loved the box art. Okay, I rented the 2nd one for other reasons but that’s how it started. I remember seeing the trailer for this on TV but I don’t remember anything about it mentioning Evil Dead and I felt like the only one who knew this was connected to previous movies among school friends. I asked for my mom and dad to take me and a few friends to see this at the movie theater on my birthday. We got to see it the day after release and we all had a fantastic time. I love this memory. Such a great time in the theater. There was even a kid sitting close by that mentioned when we were walking out while the credits were rolling that he felt like this was a sequel to “The Grateful Dead.” I immediately corrected him and he was like “Oh yeah!” Those movies! I was 14. That was a great time.

  26. I first saw ARMY OF DARKNESS in the second-run movie theater at my college’s absolute dump of a student activity center. (It’s since been torn down and replaced with a different building – the activity center, not the college).

    Because of DARKMAN I had rented the first two EVIL DEADs on VHS, and enjoyed Ash’s buildup into a comedy warrior by the end of part 2. So I was psyched for this.

    I will always treasure the moment when the old guy tosses Ash’s chainsaw to him in the pit battle. The audience went Yoda-draws-his-lightsaber nuts at that slow-motion moment, and the moment was beautifully capped when Ash jumps up and impossibly connects his wrist to it in midair like some kind of freeze-frame high-five.

    I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder than I did at every single thing Bruce did and said in this movie. I must have been the exact right age to feel that way. Good times.

    I also fondly remember a local newspaper critic’s amused response to the movie. He described the opening shot of shackled feet stomping past the camera, and added “If such a thing is possible, the feet overact.”

  27. My opening night audience also cheered the chainsaw throw, like they knew what it was in a way Marvel fans all do now but it was rare in Glen Burnie 1993.

  28. I have a really cool story about how I found Evil Dead 2 about a year before Army of Darkness came out. It’s really a one in a million shot, and it only could have happened in the early ’90s or thereabouts. But I won’t bore you with it. I’m sure I’d just get a bunch of “Well, actually” and “If you remember”, and I don’t have the patience for that anymore.

  29. We promise we won’t. I mean the royal “we” because I can’t predict others’ behaviour, but I’m sure others will behave themselves.

  30. I love Evil Dead and I love Sam Raimi but I really dislike this movie.

    Anyway here’s one of Sam’s BIG jobs, a VA Lottery commerical I remember seeing in VA when I was a kid and was super excited to see Bruce and Ted pop up on my tv without fanfare. I wonder who in the hell had this idea, someone must be a fan!

    Old Rare Lottery Commercial Featuring Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi

    Found this on an old tape I was watching.

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