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Introduction
If you are a fan of the Evil Dead trilogy then you are quite possibly very poor from having to purchase each new version of these movies as they are re-released. There are five (count ‘em) releases of this film on Region 1 DVD and this includes a highly limited 2 disc set which is fetching upwards of $75 on auction web sites. How annoying for those that have splashed out for this as now Anchor Bay have decided to release this set as a UK PAL release for a fraction of the cost. This set includes the theatrical cut of the film as well as the Director’s cut (both of which are available separately on Region 1). Separately to this review, we at DVDAnswers have put up a comparison page allowing you to vet the video transfer of each release for yourselves. To view that, click <a href=http://www.dvdanswers.com/index.php?r=0&;s=8&c=12>here</a> otherwise read on to find out just how many times I expect you to Hail to the King, baby!

Well hellooo Mr Fancy Pants...
Film
Bound in human flesh and inked in blood, this film is the final chapter in the story of the (incredibly hard to pronounce) Necronomicon, or Book of the Dead. It opens with a brief flashback to the previous two films showing that Ash’s girlfriend (now played by Bridget Fonda) is attacked by the dark forces that are normally contained in the book. After eventually dealing with these, the book opens a portal which sucks Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his car into the past. Landing in a wasteland, he is soon confronted by knights on horseback and from here, placed in shackles after he is accused of being one of “Henry’s men”. This brings in two feuding armies under the command of Henry the Red and Lord Arthur. Henry is captured finally after many fatalities and is sentenced to death by being thrown into the pit. A soldier from Henry’s camp is thrown into the pit and seconds later a fountain of blood gushes from its darkened depths causing much panic in Ash. A knock to the head renders him dazed and in he goes. As well as spikes on moving walls, there resides an evil witchy hag and a monster in the pit very reminiscent of what Ash has already dealt with in the previous film. This is to his advantage as after he takes a hearty beating, he starts to battle back. However the witch is too strong and rains punches on him again and again. This is the crucial moment when his luck turns. The local wise man is convinced Ash’s arrival fulfilled the prophecy and that he has arrived to save the castle and it’s occupants from the Deadites. These “Deadites” are vicious monsters of the night which regularly terrorise the castle’s occupants and who are part of the evil that is consuming their fair land.

Ash uses his impressive communication skills, and his shotgun to go from being treated like a slave, to being treated like a king. This leads him into finding out how to travel back to his own time for which he will need the Necronomicon to perform this act. With this knowledge in mind, and some magic words to speak upon finding the book, Ash sets out on a quest to retrieve the Book of the Dead. The people are thrilled as it can not only send him back, but destroy the Deadites, and so his journey begins.

I don’t want to spoil the comical and scary antics that Ash encounters during the film, however this film did have a lot larger budget than the previous two films and it does show. While being a horror flick in places, it is also a funny film with a lot of slapstick comedy derived from the 3 Stooges (including one famous scene acted out by three skeletons). Ash has more fantastic one-liners here than anywhere I can remember and from this many films and computer games have ripped them off including Duke Nukem (a popular first person shooter PC game from a few years back). Bruce has said that he does not want to star in the movie of this game as they have blatantly ripped off the Evil Dead series and he would not reward them by playing Duke in a film version of this (overrated) game.  

Gripping
Since there are so many bits of trivia related to this film I thought I would share a few with you lucky people:

    [*]The magic words Ash says to claim the Book of the Dead (Klaatu, Barada, Nikto) are the same words used to command the robot Gort in Day the Earth Stood Still, The (1951).[*]When Ash calls Wiseman Joe "spinach chin," it is a reference to the 1949 Three Stooges short "Malice in the Palace." In it, Moe calls a man with a long beard "spinach chin."[*]The Oldsmobile that goes through time with Ash and falls from the sky belongs to director Sam Raimi. He included it in most of his early movies, each time more battered than the last.[*]Director Sam Raimi shot two different endings. The UK version had the cruel and morbid ending while the U.S version was a slightly funnier and definitely happier ending. Both are included in this set as part of the theatrical and director’s cut versions of the film.
It is full of plot holes, continuity errors, historical problems and some of the most fantastically cheesy dialogue you’ll ever hear in a movie, and maybe if just one or two of these were present then the film might be bad, but with everything this way, it just works and is a great movie.

Bruce only acts well when he is in pain
Video
A bit of a mixed bag really. Both discs are presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. The first disc does have the better video transfer and actually shows more of the print however when watching this you miss out on the extra scenes. Although the disc is not marked as THX certified, and it has a different menu system to the THX theatrical cut of the movie, the picture is in deed comparable which is interesting. This disc might not have been submitted for THX certification and if it did not have the DTS soundtrack then it would be from what I can tell, identical to the other (bar the menu system). There is a lot of dirt present on the camera lens at times so while the transfer has been touched up, getting rid of dust and sand is another thing altogether. Comparing the feature to the trailer shows what hard work has been done with the colour reproduction and removal of artefacts which is commendable. The Director’s cut on the second disc is a slightly cropped transfer as can be seen from the <a href=http://www.dvdanswers.com/index.php?r=0&;s=8&c=12>Video Comparison</a> I did, and is a lot softer with the colours appearing quite bleached in places but then if you can put up with it, you can see the alternative ending as well as a few extra scenes (totalling at around 15minutes). So it is a toss up between extra footage and quality. If this was a review of two separate packages then making a choice would be hard (especially since the first disc comes with DTS!) however fortunately since they are bundled together there is no need to make this decision. If you want the extra footage then watch disc two, and if you want the theatrical cut with the happy all American ending then watch disc one. There is also a 4:3 theatrical version of the film on the first disc however if you chose to view this, you cannot get the DTS sound and since the 4:3 cropping of widescreen movies is one of the worst things that can happen to a film, I did not even access it however I would imagine the video quality is the same. To be honest, who cares! No-one with any sense would go near it anyway.

Audio
Again, I will have to divide this into two sections. The theatrical cut on disc 1 features something which will make the owners of the two disc Region 1 set very jealous – a 6.1 DTS-ES soundtrack! However let me first start with the audio mix. I found the audio mix to be reasonable, with the rear speakers being used a lot for music and background noises. But a lot of the dialogue is front, nay centre speaker only which disappointed me a little especially since during such scenes as in the castle courtyard there is a lot of background chatter and amusing one liner quips thrown in by the peasant population which would have given the soundtrack a little more depth. I found some of the speech a little soft at times, even on the clearer and better defined DTS track. As I said, it is mostly the music and sound effects that make the best use of the surround speakers and this does work well. The audio, obviously only recorded in stereo originally, has been turned into a surround track and at times it seems quite expertly from the use of the surround sound field. It is not a fantastic sound mix, some of it is muffled and a little subdued but it is good enough at times to make me smile.

The DTS soundtrack is a fair bit better than the Dolby Digital one. It picks up a few more of the background noises and is significantly louder than its competitor. Some of the explosions are more defined and the music improvement certainly does affect the perception of the films music making it a lot more enveloping. There is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack present for people without the necessary equipment to get surround sound, or who want to listen to the film as it was originally presented (however you’d have to be mad as the new surround track is pretty great!).

The second disc is the director’s cut and is presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. This is a shame as to get the full audio effect it means you can only watch the first disc. This was probably done this way so that it was not necessary to create a surround mix for the extra scenes and what with the poorer quality of video on this disc it really would make you wonder why it was included after all. The reasons are simply this: you get extra scenes and more importantly, a commentary. However I would imagine that a casual viewer would just plump for the first disc whenever they were interested in watching it. The soundtrack is a little scratchy at times but as 2.0 soundtracks go, it is average to slightly above average. You won’t be using this disc as a demo of your sound system that’s for sure, but you do get to say to people that the soundtrack is how the film was originally presented so for completeness sake, it does work out.

Nevermind that it has no lungs to blow with, it can still pipe a mighty fine tune
Extras
For people with 4:3 televisions, who don’t like those black bars on their DVDs the first disc comes with a 4:3 option. I didn’t watch it as I don’t believe in 4:3 presentations if the film was originally intended to be shown in widescreen. If you want a little more information on this then check out Chris’ article entitled “<a href=http://www.dvdanswers.com/index.php?r=0&;s=8&c=9>Why Widescreen?</a>”. Anyway, if you select the 4:3 option, you can’t get the DTS soundtrack so there is no way I am going near it. Also on the first disc, is a behind the scenes featurette entitled “The Men Behind the Army” narrated by the charismatic star, Bruce Campbell. This is a great 19 minute featurette which really goes into the way the monsters were created. Again, this is the sort of thing fans will lap up. Some of the ways they created some of the monster suits in particularly the flying banshee which was created with two sets of arms with space for the woman inside the suit to switch between which sets of arms she was controlling depending on the scene are really ingenious. Again, there is more talk of how much pain Bruce Campbell has to go through to get a scene finished. There are also some Talent Bios which just show you what other productions the cast and crew have been involved with, as well as the Theatrical Trailer.

On the second disc, the fun continues. First up is a commentary from Campbell, and both Sam and Ivan Raimi. This is essential listening for any of the fans out there and it is both funny and informative. Poor Bruce really does take a beating in this film (actually Sam mentioned in the Spider-Man commentary that he wanted a way to somehow hurt Bruce a bit more in the film of the wall crawler but they couldn’t work it in – you can read my review of that <a href=http://www.dvdanswers.com/index.php?r=0&;s=2&c=530>here</a>). They talk at length about the way shots were filmed, the acting of the extras and which were their friends and which part of a scene Universal wanted cut from their version of the DVD release. Basically, you have to listen to it. There are four deleted scenes included which are listed as “Never Seen Before Deleted Scenes” which is a kind of truth. I do not think they have been available officially in the UK before, but they are on both of my other copies of the director’s cut DVD (Region 1) on which they are again listed as “Never Seen Before”. I think it is more of a poke at the DVD industry and their often inclusion of such labelled material, however they are quite good and come with a full commentary which is always useful to have on a deleted scene. Particularly strange is the different take on the opening scene, which was supposed to tie in with the deleted ending which is on this disc.

The Storyboards extra is interesting as it is linked into the actual film. So when watching the movie, the relevant storyboard is presented on screen at the same time. An interesting way to present this but it is a shame that these cannot be accessed separately. The Creature Concept Designs are a gallery which is just a selection of pictures for the monsters. Some are pretty gross actually. All the menus are animated as you would expect and they are accompanied with relevant screams and music.

To give you an impression of the Storyboard feature
Overall
Fans will have had this on pre-order for a while I would imagine, but perhaps some of the rest of you should have a look at it. It is not in the same league as it’s prequels in terms of horror or scare factor but it is a lot more fun with excellent forever quotable one liners. Listening to the commentary will make you aware of the suffering Raimi puts Campbell through when they make a film and I truly believe that Bruce Campbell is the King of B movie Actors. The next time you meet a nice girl, try asking her to “Give me some sugar, baby” and see what happens. Apparently you get a sensual kiss, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

NB: The running times for each feature are 81 and 96 minutes respectively. Also, it is not released with region coding information - hence if you can play back video in a PAL format it would work on any DVD player.


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