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Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Colin Friels, Larry Drake, Nelson Mashita
Length: 96 min
Label: SHOUT! Factory
Release Date: February 18, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0
- Interviews with Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand
- MY NAME IS DURANT – interview with Larry Drake
- THE FACE OF REVENGE – interview with Makeup Designer Tony Gardner
- HENCHMAN TALES – Interviews with actors Danny Hicks and Dan Bell
- DARK DESIGN – interview with Production Designer Randy Ser and Art Director Philip Dagort
- Audio Commentary with director of photography Bill Pope
- Vintage “Making of” and interview Featurettes featuring interviews with Sam Raimi, Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand and more…
- Vintage full-length interviews, not used in the featurettes, with Sam Raimi, Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Still Galleries – Posters & production stills, Behind the Scenes, Make-up Effects and Storyboards
Even though mainstream audiences know Sam Raimi as the man behind the internationally successful Spider-Man films, genre fans know him as a prolific master of gory, twisted horror, often conceived, and executed with a healthy dose of dark humor. However, before Spider-Man, Raimi delivered unto the world a much more bloodthirsty hero, aided by state-of-the-art practical effects and a manic sensibility shared by his enthusiastic cast and crew. That hero was Darkman, the cult figure who fought crime with brutal violence and deceitful mindgames throughout three films in the ‘90s, even though only the first received a theatrical run. Darkman has assembled a growing cult of loyal fans since it’s initial release, and thanks to Shout! Factory, those fans may have been given the film’s most definitive home release yet.
Darkman’s reputation remains in a strange existential limbo, as it’s not a trainwreck as some other franchise non-starters from the ‘90s were yet it never pulled the popularity of more beloved superhero or even antihero properties. Darkman is much more in the line of Raimi’s Ashley J. Williams character rather than Peter Parker, yet make no mistake, Darkman certainly has a comic book sensibility, with visuals that pop off the screen with cartoonish disregard for logic or reality. However, Raimi has long claimed that the film was inspired by the classic Universal Horror Films, even if Raimi’s humor and effects-driven narrative makes the resulting product akin to Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt.No matter what genre you’d like to lump it in, Darkman is fun, unique and absolutely chaotic, offering one of the most impressive and consumably mischievous entries of Raimi’s career. With hyperactive performances, laborious make-up effects and endlessly quotable dialogue, Darkman never takes itself too seriously, instead aiming to create a hero of the most disgusting sort possible amongst a gallery of colorful, unhinged villains. But most importantly, Darkman represents a superhero at a breaking point, one that’s psychologically broken and without repair, which makes him leagues more interesting than the cathartic relationship of a hero and an alter-ego. However, for Raimi’s telling of Darkman to exist at all, it’s contingent on the dedication towards performance on the part of the actors. Liam Neeson provides one of the strangest and most captivating performances of his career, hitting every emotion on the spectrum while somehow creating a poignant atmosphere to the character’s crisis. Frances McDormand takes a much more restrained approach to her character, relying more so on her natural, classically-inspired charm. Meanwhile, the standout performance of the film comes from Larry Drake as the sadistic Durant, offering an effeminate smarm and obsessive neurosis to the archetypal high-level henchman.
Shout!’s video transfer of Darkman is much more impressive and painstaking in its restoration over previous High Definition releases. However, the application of DNR and moderate edge sharpening provide a less natural filmic look than is ideal, which will make grain-haters jump with joy, but serious cinephiles recoil. However, the film is so reliant on colors and effects, the picture still gives plenty of pleasure.
A nearly repetitive category when applied to Shout! releases, the utmost care has been given to the audio transfer on this disc. The dialogue and score are mixed incredibly well, with a perfect clarity and focus towards a balanced fidelity. The sound mixing also gives a great new dimension to the various sound effects, further enhancing the cartoonish aesthetic of the film.
The features are what truly set this release apart from any previous Darkman disc, especially with the excellent series of interviews that are unique to this set. New interviews with Liam Neeson, Larry Drake and Frances McDormand show the actors appreciation for the film and its legacy, particularly Drake who provides the most fun and lengthy of the interview segments. Crew interviews with Tony Gardner, the production designers and a few of the henchman actors are also incredibly anecdotal in nature and make for fascinating viewing for Darkman die-hards. Furthermore, there are vintage featurettes and interviews, many of which seem to be taken out of cable-oriented TV spots and specials, and there’s an Audio Commentary from DP Bill Pope that’s sure to entrance any budding filmmaker, detailing the film’s process and the implication of effects on the lighting and camerawork.
The Bottom Line
Another win for the Shout! team, this edition of Darkman should usurp the shelf space from previous releases, offering a slightly better looking picture and better sounding audio track while providing some of the best features in the distributor’s history. The film itself holds up incredibly well, especially for those in the need for a bizarre and lighthearted take on the all-too-serious superhero genre.