Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - DARKMAN Collector's Edition on Blu-ray ""

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Scream Factory - DARKMAN Collector's Edition on Blu-ray

As sad and perhaps obvious as it is to say, the Sam Raimi that is making films today seems just a shadow of a resemblance to the guy who blew my mind when I was in high school after seeing EVIL DEAD II for the first time. I'll never forget that experience either. My best friend's older brother was really into films and had this amazing collection of them on VHS tapes. He also had a great dot-matrix-printed alphabetical guide to what he had and what tapes to find those movies on. I remember the night we dug out his tape of EVIL DEAD II and watched it with some friends of ours. I had no idea what to make of it. It was a horror movie, but it had funny moments. It felt wrong to me. At the time, I had seen few horror films that had too many lighter moments, let alone full blown Three Stooges style slapstick thrown into their macabre melange. It stuck with me for days and days (and is still one of my favorites). I became a Raimi fan soon after and kept track of everything he was doing. It has been quite rewarding on some level to see him rise to the level of success that he presently has. And perhaps my statement about him not resembling the guy from way back when is not totally fair. After all, he made a fun return to form as recently as 2009 with DRAG ME TO HELL so perhaps there is still hope. It remains to be seen that Raimi is one of the more inspirational filmmakers of the 1980s and his influence can be felt far and wide to this day. It was he who first showed the Coen brothers how to create a "shaky-cam" which was just a two by four board with a camera in the middle and to operators on either side. Sam used it to great effect in the EVIL DEAD films and the Coens would use it in BLOOD SIMPLE as well. The fact that both Raimi and the Coens are kinda huge names in movies at this very moment is pretty neat actually. But I digress. Let's talk about DARKMAN. Sam Raimi put out EVIL DEAD II in 1987. DARKMAN would be his next produced feature film. It was his first big-ticket Hollywood studio movie and he certainly made it an interesting one. It is rather fitting that said studio was Universal who were the originators of some classic Horror films and characters that we all know and love to this day. Equally fitting was it that Raimi's film was something of a mad scientist/monster film in it's own right. And not one that would have seemed like a great commercial idea at the time either. DARKMAN, though he may have had the air of a comic book character, came from Raimi himself, so people had no idea who he was at the time (which played into the studio's "Who is DARKMAN?" marketing campaign). In an interview he did at the time with the Orlando Sentinel he said, "I wanted our hero to be hideous as opposed to good-looking. I wanted him to have to lie, to be deceitful to get the girl. And I wanted him to deal with failure and despair and self-hatred and to commit acts that later he would question. . . . My hat is off to the studio for allowing me to do that because it's clearly not the most commercial way to go." DARKMAN is a really neat little film. I love that it is nestled between EVIL DEAD II and ARMY OF DARKNESS in Raimi's filmography and somehow it fits well there. DARKMAN has lots of Raimi's signature wild camera movement flourishes and even has some of he equally signature comedy bits as well. It really feels in some ways like a "kid in a candy shop" kind of director's movie where a young filmmaker (Raimi was 30 at the time) who still has a lot of his own personality and vision is given a studio budget and allowed to stuff as much of himself into a movie as he can. On top of that, the movie is given some decent marketing dollars and a summer release (late summer, but nonetheless)! This kind of thing doesn't happen all that often so when it does, it is always interesting to look back on those movies years later to see how they've held up. For me, DARKMAN holds up quite well and I am more than pleased to see it get this kind of tender-loving-care Collector's Edition treatment from a great label like Scream Factory.
Though Raimi himself is notably absent from the special features of this disc, Scream has still done their usual outstanding job delivering a supplement-packed edition that fans will undoubtedly love.

Some of the supplements include:
-"Dissecting DARKMAN: with Liam Neeson" (8 mins). The lead actor talks about his origins with the project, working with Sam Raimi and the character.
-"The  Name Is Durant with Larry Drake" (16 mins). In a lively & articulate interview, actor Drake discusses his origins as an actor, how the way he looked dictated a lot of his early roles, his audition for DARKMAN and his thoughts about developing and playing this "unredeemable character".
-"The Face of Revenge with Tony Gardner" (13 mins). Makeup Designer Tony Gardner talks about his history with Raimi (worked on EVIL DEAD II) and coming in to work on some "wet and gooey" designs, how his initial designs were based on the idea that Bruce Campbell would be playing the part and how he adjusted them based on Liam Neeson's very different face.
-"Henchman Tales" (13 mins). Actors Dan Bell and Danny Hicks discuss their roles as bad guy helpers to Durant in the film (how they were initially hired and their memories of working on the movie). 
-"Dark Design" (17 mins). Talks to Production Designer Randy Ser and Art Director Philip Dagort about creating the several different unique "worlds" of DARKMAN and the idea of Raimi wanting the energy and feel of a live action comic book and how they went about translating that to the screen.
-An Interview with Frances McDormand (11 mins). The actress shares her history with Raimi (met him through the Coen brothers, shared a house with him around the time of DARKMAN) and that exciting time in their lives when the were first being presented with a lot of amazing opportunities. 
-DARKMAN Featurette (7 mins). A vintage promotional featurette from the film's release which features interview bites from Sam Raimi and the cast.
-Cast and Crew Interviews (9 mins). More vintage promotional interviews with Raimi and the cast.
-Vintage Interview Gallery. Contains what appears to be the full interviews that the featurette was made from with Colin Friels, Frances McDormand, Liam Neeson and Sam Raimi.

Also included is a lovely and informative commentary track with director of photography Bill Pope who was working with Raimi for the first time on this movie and who would go on to a long and amazing career which continues to this day. Some of his credits include ARMY OF DARKNESS, all three MATRIX films, SPIDERMAN 2 and 3, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, THE WORLD'S END and the upcoming ANT-MAN film. 

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