Christmas Horror

The myriad DVD releases of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead has made fans skeptical of whether anything new and substantive can possibly be added to the existing archives on prior special editions, and undoubtedly when the film makes its debut on HD (discs of the Halloween, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, and Evil Dead II are already out on Blu-ray), the desire will be not a bare bones edition of Evil Dead, but everything assembled under one roof – which is what the new 3-disc Ultimate Edition mostly manages to achieve.

There’ve been more than enough single editions of The Evil Dead to satisfy budget-conscious fans over the years, so it makes sense to simply offer an Ultimate edition, particularly since those who regard Raimi’s film as a worthy horror flick don’t just like the film – they love it (myself included).

We covered the film in detail when it arrived in the very cool Book of the Dead edition back in 2002, so our review of the Ultimate compares the new extras, things left off, and the re-release of the 1.33:1 full screen version of the film, once available on long out of print DVDs from Elite and Anchor Bay.

There hasn’t been a full clarification by the filmmakers as to exactly how the film was meant to be seen, and it’s a similar problem with Joe Dante’s The Howling: both films were aimed at the drive-market and enjoyed popular home video releases, yet the letterboxed versions on DVD always felt tight, sandwiching and cropping the frame down with a discernible loss of upper and lower detail.

What exactly is the preferred ratio? Well, like MGM’s Howling special edition, Anchor Bay’s Evil Dead Ultimate set gives us the choice, which is important in these cases because there are appreciable benefits to watching the films in 1.33:1 only because the matting, whether or not done primarily to satisfy home theatre buffs, feels tight on the actors’ heads at times.

This isn’t the same thing as a panned and scanned 1.33:1 version of a widescreen film, as movies shot for an intended 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 exhibition ratio should never be touched, and when labels plop a full screen version on a dual layer DVD, you know that useless transfer is taking valuable space away from the widescreen version, robbing it of more visual resolution and a more robust selection of sound mixes you could be enjoying on your home theatre system. The 1.33:1 version of The Evil Dead is on a separate DVD, so it’s not affecting the widescreen version.

In any event, check out our review of the Ultimate Edition from Anchor Bay / Starz Home Entertainment, alongside a film review of Within the Woods, the short film made in 1978 by Raimi & Co. to raise funds for the Evil Dead. Currently archived on YouTube, it’s the missing link in completing the archival history of the Evil Dead mythos, and contains a enough unauthorized score and song clips burned into the sound mix to ensure the legal fees necessary to clear the film’s home video release will likely never happen.

Also uploaded is the 1936 British film version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, compacting the Frederick Hayward’s popular play into a short B-movie starring the inimitable Tod Slaughter. It’s creaky and clunky, but works as a fun B-movie, if not an interesting glimpse into the play’s elements reworked by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler for their 1979 musical, filmed by Tim Burton in 2007 and debuting in theatres Dec. 20th. The 1936 film, available from Alpha Video, is also a great intro to Tod Slaughter’s scene-chewing acting style, and fans wanting more info on this marginalized eccentric should visit a detailed and affectionate tribute site HERE.

Also newly uploaded is Suzie Templeton’s wonderful stop-motion animated film of Peter and the Wolf, set in a murky Soviet era period, yet true to the spirit and tragic horror of the original musical narrative by Sergei Prokofiev. Although available in Europe as a Region 2 PAL DVD, it’s worth hunting down if you have a multi-region player. The animation and characterizations in this Oscar-Nominated film are really quite beautiful.

Lastly, while the fine details on a fat review of the newly expanded 2-CD set of Jerry Goldsmith's classic Alien score is being wrapped up, we've added an interview with composer Elia Cmiral, who recently scored two films picked up for the travelling After Dark Horrorfest series: Dario Piana's The Deaths of Ian Stone, and Mark Young's Tooth & Nail.


Visit’s Main Page HERE!
Rare Soundtrack CDs for Sale: Discounted up to 30%!
Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews


Copyright © mondomark