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Posts Tagged ‘Tony Gardner’

Army of Darkness

Tuesday, January 18th, 2022

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. (read the rest of this shit…)

Darkman

Thursday, January 13th, 2022

After his horror breakthrough, his failed comedy, and his knockout horror sequel, Sam Raimi finally made it to the semi-big-time. He’d really wanted to do a movie of Batman or The Shadow, but could never get the rights. Then he came up with the idea for his own dark avenger, one with the ability to change his face. His 40-page treatment The Darkman was greenlit by Universal Studios in 1987.

Raimi brought in NAVY SEALS writer Chuck Pfarrer to flesh out the treatment as a screenplay, which was then rewritten by Raimi and his brother Ivan (under the theory that Ivan, a doctor, could help make the medical sci-fi aspects plausible). The studio brought in the team of Daniel and Joshua Goldin (up-and-comers they also had working on PROBLEM CHILD) to bring the various drafts together before the Raimis went at it again. By the time the movie was made and released at the end of August, 1990, Tim Burton had made his BATMAN movie and all the studios were trying to mimic that success. Surely that was an influence on Raimi’s choice of composer Danny Elfman, and on the minimalist marketing campaign based around a silhouette and the question “Who is Darkman?”

I’m sure at the time I would’ve been interested in this movie anyway, but I was specifically excited when I read that it was the genius behind beloved video favorite EVIL DEAD II taking his first shot at a large scale mainstream movie. Seeing the posters, reading about it in magazines, seeing it on the big screen, I accepted it as a big time summer blockbuster alongside DICK TRACY, BACK TO THE FUTURE III and DIE HARD 2. But Raimi having four times his budget on EVIL DEAD II still meant about a third or a fourth of the budgets of those films. Even Cannon’s DELTA FORCE 2, released the same day as DARKMAN, had a slightly higher budget. I think it’s a testament to Raimi’s exciting directorial style that his many green screen and miniature techniques, which have dated technically more than any of those other movies, still seemed flashy enough to stand toe-to-toe with them. (read the rest of this shit…)

Evil Dead II

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

“Then let’s head down into that cellar and carve ourselves a witch.”


After the financial and (perceived) artistic failure of CRIMEWAVE, Raimi and company were itching for a win, and knew their best bet was to return to the one that had worked, THE EVIL DEAD. When they couldn’t find financing, their savior was the same guy who arguably made their careers by raving about THE EVIL DEAD: Stephen King. One of the crew members Raimi and friends had interviewed for the potential sequel was working on King’s directorial debut MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, and happened to mention to King that Raimi was having trouble getting a greenlight. King was like Are you kidding me? There could be an EVIL DEAD part 2 but nobody will let them do it!?, called up his producer Dino De Laurentiis and convinced him to meet with Raimi. So give that man a medal.

De Laurentiis was skeptical of the project, especially after Raimi and friends rejected filming at his Wilmington, North Carolina studio. But he agreed, allowing a $3.6 million budget, small enough to rule out their plans to set it in medieval times, but giving them more to work with than either of their previous films. And the studio gambit worked exactly as intended – the three hour drive to the locations made it harder for higher ups to pull any CRIMEWAVE shit..

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The Dark Backward

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

Before I start one of these retrospectives I research the movies that came out during that summer and put together a schedule. But in the course of doing 1991 I keep stumbling across movies that seem worthy of looking at that I missed because they were limited releases, TV movies or DTV and didn’t show up on any of the release date lists I looked at. So when I realized Adam Rifkin’s THE DARK BACKWARD played on one screen starting July 26, 1991 I thought I should backtrack a little to cover it.

For those not familiar with it, it’s a forcefully weird and uncomfortable comedy that was a favorite of mine in the ‘90s, one of those movies I rented on VHS and made a dub of to show to people who had never heard of it, which was most people. It was Rifkin’s first script ever, written at age 19 after moving to L.A. to try to become a director, made when he was in his mid 20s, and it’s a sense of humor and world view that admittedly appealed to me more when I was closer to that age. But it’s such a distinct and unadulterated vision I can’t help but still kinda love it. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Return of the Living Dead (35th anniversary revisit)

Monday, August 24th, 2020

August 16, 1985

THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is a movie that I already reviewed thoroughly for Halloween 2015, but it’s such a classic I felt it would be wrong to exclude from this retrospective. So feel free to click on that link for a straightforward piece about some of the reasons I love the movie, but this one will zero in on a few aspects I feel are interesting in context with other movies we’ve discussed from the Summer of 1985 movie season.

As a horror-comedy that’s more of a real horror movie than a parody, RETURN arguably has a kinship with FRIGHT NIGHT. But obviously its closest comparison is its brother from another producer, George Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD. Earlier in the summer I wrote about some of the ways DAY fit the specific moment of 1985. RETURN does it in a totally different way. Romero’s takes a grey, grim approach to railing against the Reagan era, while RETURN writer-director Dan O’Bannon does the EC Comics and punk rock version. Like so many of the movies we’ve been looking at, it’s a very soundtrack-oriented movie, embracing music of the time. But it’s not Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper or even Oingo Boingo – it’s punk rock bands like T.S.O.L., The Cramps, The Damned and The Flesh Eaters. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hell Fest

Monday, October 8th, 2018

HELL FEST is a mainstream horror movie released on 2,297 screens by Lionsgate, but I never saw a trailer for it and only heard of it because Brian Collins recommended it on Twitter (he also interviewed the director). So I guess social media can still work for good old fashioned word of mouth, not just Russian disinformation campaigns.

For people who like horror but get bored of formula and cliche, this is probly nothing special. But for horror fans like me who enjoy variations on tradition, it’s a surprise treat: a slick, well-made straight-ahead slasher movie with some cool ideas, production value, a solid cast, even likable characters. I honestly thought they couldn’t make movies like this anymore – it seems straight from the post-SCREAM slasher revival, except without any meta stuff (other than we’re having fun being scared while the characters are having fun being scared). Also, no big names in the cast. The only face I recognized besides cameo-ing Tony Todd was Bex Taylor-Klaus from Scream: The TV Series. (But maybe others would be known to me if I was younger.) (read the rest of this shit…)