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“ARMY OF DARKNESS: COLLECTOR’S EDITION” (Blu-ray Review)

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Fans of the EVIL DEAD franchise are among the most ardent collectors in the landscape of horror home media. Considering the various impressive DVD sets (including the lauded “Book of the Dead” packaging), the Blu-ray sets including two different editions of EVIL DEAD II and the excellent special features that come with each release, EVIL DEAD fans have spent a lot of money and raised a bar of expectations over the years. So when Scream Factory announced that they would be releasing a Collector’s Edition set of ARMY OF DARKNESS on Blu-ray right on time for the premiere of ASH VS. EVIL DEAD, many EVIL DEAD fans were skeptical about what the specialty distributor could offer outside the already impressive, studio-released Screwhead Edition Blu from years back. As it turns out, the answer is a hell of a lot, with Scream Factory offering not only the definitive home media release for the film but one that puts the Screwhead Edition to shame.

First off, this Collector’s Edition is far more than a cheap re-release, offering four different versions of the film over a three disc set plus myriad incredible extras both old and new. That’s right: fright fans will get the pre-existing HD versions of the 81-minute Theatrical Cut and 96-minute Director’s Cut, as well as a brand new 4K interpositive scan of the 88-minute International Cut and the standard definition release of the 90-minute Television Cut. As opposed to the Screwhead Edition, which contained just the theatrical cut plus the alternate ending and deleted scenes, this gives ARMY OF DARKNESS fans a chance to witness the version of the film they most prefer while also offering terrific replay value for each disc.

As for the transfers, Scream Factory’s crown jewel is, of course, the 4K interpositive scan of the International Cut, which gives ARMY OF DARKNESS the clearest, cleanest and most appropriate-looking visuals to date. While the Theatrical Cut is a fairly good transfer and the Director’s Cut offers a greater contrast in its visuals, the International Cut marries the best of both worlds with a stunning new visual and audio mix that might just make it the definitive cut, especially for those who prefer the “Hail to the King” ending as opposed to the “Lost in Time” ending. Furthermore, the audio transfer on all of the films are top notch, with both a 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Track available for each film guaranteed to please those with (or without) fancy home theater set-ups.

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However, what truly makes this Collector’s Edition the definitive ARMY OF DARKNESS release is the enormity of the special features provided, almost making this 3-disc package a box set of its own. The two greatest assets provided are the feature length documentaries offered on the first and second disc, with the 96-minute “Making Of”  documentary offering interviews with almost every actor and crew member Scream Factory could cull, save for Sam Raimi and Embeth Davidtz. The second disc offers nearly an hour of documentary footage detailing the FX process from the KNB team, working in their prime, which will put a smile on the face of anyone who adores the practical FX of the past.

Impressively, those two mega-extras are just the tip of the iceberg, with new and old extras filling out this set to offer something for every kind of collector. The first disc comes with the Original Opening (plus optional commentary from Raimi and Campbell), Deleted Scenes (plus optional commentary), Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots and a Home Video promo, all of which are ported over but are entertaining and fun nonetheless. The second disc offers a commentary track with Raimi, Campbell and co-writer Ivan Raimi as well as a wealth of vintage features, including interview clips, “Making Of” interviews, and Deadite Creation EPK footage. And the third disc, despite also hosting the TV version, offers two brand new still galleries of rarely seen behind-the-scenes and prop photos, plus (and potentially, most enticing of all) a look a storyboards of deleted/alternate scenes, as well as a 19 minute featurette on the crew and cast to cap everything off.

For a franchise that has so often provided fans with exceptional home video releases, ARMY OF DARKNESS not only meets expectations but absolutely excels to become possibly the best release of the film to date. Scream Factory put together a worthwhile purchase with this disc, and with a variety even in the films to choose from, this release rivals even their strongest output. It’s a benchmark release for both the company and the film, and cannot come with a higher recommendation.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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