The Dead Double (Evil Dead/Night of the Living Dead)
By: Devon B. on January 19, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Big Sky Video (Australia). Region 4, ED: PAL NOTLD: NTSC ED: 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). NOTLD: 4:3. ED: English DD 5.1 English DD 2.0 NOTLD: English DD 5.1. ED: 81 minutes NOTLD: 96 minutes
The Movie
Directors: Sam Raimi, George Romero
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Hal Delrich, Ellen Sandweiss, Sarah York / Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman
Screenplay: Sam Raimi / John A. Russo, George A. Romero
Country: USA
Year: 1968
Two great films in one handy package. Too good to be true? Yes. Yes, it is.

Despite melding influences from various creepy films, The Evil Dead remains quite silly, and I think the only person who ever took it seriously is Mr. Promo Blurb himself, Stephen King, given that he found it 'the most ferociously original horror film of the year.' Guess Mr. King missed that many of the elements were not exactly new.

Plot wise, The Evil Dead is right up there in complexity with The Maltese Falcon. Five youths rent an old deserted cabin, become possessed, and hack each other up into quivering pieces. There's really not much more story than that, but this movie is the introduction of Bruce Campbell as Ash, the coolest hero ever. Not that the viewer will sense the might that is Ash right away, because he's a jerky wimp till his friend Scotty is eliminated. When Ash can no longer hide behind Scotty's tacky 70s coattails and has to fend for himself he becomes cool. Evil Dead's Ash has a ways to go before he becomes the ass kicker he is in Army of Darkness, and in Evil Dead, Ash even expresses concern about other people! Maybe it's character development, maybe it's a continuity error, but Ash isn't selfish yet. Actually, it's impossible to tell if the series has any continuity errors as the fucking back story is changed with each instalment…

Despite being virtually storyless, Evil Dead is highly entertaining, featuring great Sam Raimi camerawork and great Bruce Campbell chin. The film is certainly dated, but still enjoyable. It may be difficult to get through the hamminess of the beginning, but the effort shall be rewarded with a tree raping, wrist gnawing, pencil to the ankle good time.

The Dead Double set also includes the legendary Night of the Living Dead. Night of the Living Dead is one of two films that successfully scared me (the other was Alien, which my foolish parents let me screen alone at the tender age of six). I was much older when Night got me, practically all grown up at age eight. I was old enough to know better, but after the movie was over, I went outside to gather firewood, and had to check the road for zombies. I lived out in the country at the time, so the setting seemed nearly identical, but fortunately, I wasn't in Pittsburgh.

Night of the Living Dead is a classic, and much has been said, so I won't delve too far into this film. Also, it's basically thrown in as an extra with the deluxe Evil Dead disc. If you haven't seen it, you have no right to call yourself a horror fan. It is simply the best zombie movie ever, and is entertaining, ironic, thrilling, and controversial. However, the version included in this set is colourised, which makes it completely worthless. The Night disc is also DVD-5, instead of the high quality DVD-9 like The Evil Dead disc, which just further enforces the idea that Night is meant to be nothing more than an extra.
The Evil Dead appears in the 'new' digitally remastered transfer supervised by Raimi and is presented in 'anamorpgic [sic] widescreen'. To be anamorpgic, the film obviously has to be cropped from its correct 1.33:1 ratio, and here it is cropped to 1.85:1. Care was taken with this process, so the mattes weren't just stuck over the top and bottom of the screen. The framing was moved so that Scotty's infamous eye gouging makes it over in the new transfer, but other shots, like that of the boards falling from the bridge, used the full screen and are missing relevant picture information. The worst example is when Ash steps in a puddle in the cellar, because the pack of cigarettes in the water is almost completely lost. While this newer print is sharper than the old Elite disc, that DVD is in the correct aspect ratio, so my copy isn't heading to the tip just yet.

Night of the Living Dead
is presented at 1.33:1. The print is better than most of the zillions of editions released back when it was mistakenly believed the film was public domain, but this print still has scratches, specks, and grain. You probably won't notice it, though, because the colourisation will divert all your attention. The colourisation is head achingly bad, and severely fucked with my eyes. The colour bleeds and some things that were a bit dark are completely lost in black. The problem with colourisation is that people want their money's worth, so everything is garish to the point of eyestrain. I mean, Johnny has a pink polka dot tie for Chrissake. The zombies end up looking worse than any this side of a Pericles Lewnes movie. I tried turning the colour off, but the colourisation process messed up the image too much for that to work. The DVD sleeve proudly claims this is an all new colour version, but I suspect that it is the old Ted Turner colourised print. Given the DVD is NTSC, I would assume that Big Sky Video just procured cheap copies to redistribute here, but the disc has the OFLC's R18 logo, which means Big Sky probably pressed this themselves.
The Evil Dead audio options are the same remixed 2.0 and 5.1 tracks from the Elite release, and I assume the 8,000 subsequent Anchor Bay releases. The 5.1 track has more verve and volume, but is still too quite during some dialog. I would guess this is more a problem with the source material than the transfer, though.

NOTLD features a 5.1 channel audio. The sleeve says it's the original mono, but I guess Big Sky Video were just trying to trick the purists into purchasing.
Extra Features
The Evil Dead DVD is a fully loaded disc. Some of the extras are rather generic, like the quotes and trivia section, the cast and crew credit listing, and the filmographies for the three integral people behind the film, as well as one for lighting and soundman Josh Becker. But there're plenty of decent extras, such as two commentaries, 18 minutes of outtakes, the trailer, and a poster and still gallery. The poster and stills gallery has nowhere near the number of stills the Elite disc has, but it benefits from including ad art. There's also a featurette called Discovering the Dead, which runs around 13 minutes. The sound is so low it's nearly indecipherable, and when it cuts to a clip from the film the volume jumps way up. I guess this is an okay featurette if you're interested in UK video, but it bared little interest to me until about eight minutes in when it moved into The Evil Dead's association with the 'Video Nasties' campaign. The featurette ends very abruptly. Bruce Campbell's doco Fanalysis is here as well. Featuring input from Harry Knowles, Tim Thomerson, Ted Raimi, and The Chin himself, it is a fun little diversion. It's no match for Trekkies, but is still entertaining. The extra that might have locals double (or perhaps triple) dipping is the exclusive interview with Campbell conducted by Film Threat's Chris Gore. The audio is really bad, but at over 70 minutes long, it's certainly an extra worth a look. My review copy didn't come with the liner notes touted on the back, but I'm going to presume they are just the same few quick paragraphs from the Elite sleeve. The extra I was most interested in, when it first appeared, anyway, was the commentaries. I wanted to hear the guys explain how the hell that horrible car window continuity error (when Scotty yells at the fishermen on the side of the road) got through and reveal the origins of the suspicious looking trophy head.

Campbell's solo commentary is funny, entertaining, and enlightening. Bruce explains why the title of the film was changed from Book of the Dead, remorses that Ash seems unable to cope with fibreboard, rips on Raimi, and addresses why Ash gives his girlfriend the most hideous necklace in the history of jewellery. Raimi and producer Bob Tapert's commentary covers much of the same material as Campbell's, but is not as amusing. While they do provide a few extra details, Campbell's track is really the one to listen to. Their commentary might have been salvaged if they'd covered one detail Campbell missed: HOW THE HELL DID THAT HORRIBLE CAR WINDOW CONTINUITY GET THROUGH??? I can forgive everyone overlooking that odd trophy, but that window continuity is SO bad I noticed it at age 12!!!

The Night of the Living Dead disc has no extras, but, hey, it is in colour.
The Verdict
Will we ever see a definitive release of The Evil Dead, complete with a certain notorious short? Maybe, but it's probably a loooooooong ways off. If you want to see the film the way it was meant to be, then the Elite disc is still the way to go, but this local edition is a nice release with superior extras to the Elite DVD. However, it may be worthwhile getting the single disc release, because all Night of the Living Dead's presence does is stuff up The Evil Dead's sleeve.
Movie Score
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