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* FREE MOVIES - Spring 2012:  "8" (2012),  DREAMSCAPE (1984),  1941 (1979), 

Spring 2013
(revised 8/8/14)

THE EVIL DEAD (1981 / U.S. - 1982)

Running Time: 85 mins.
Aspect Ratio:
1:37 - 1 ("blown up" to 35 mm from orig. 16 mm)

Directed by: Sam Raimi
Produced by: Robert Tapert, Irvin Shapiro (uncredited),
Sam Raimi (Ex. Prod.), Bruce Campbell (Ex. Prod.)
Written by: Sam Raimi
Dir. of Photography: Tim Philo,
Chris Innis (2010 re-release restoration),
Bob Murawski (2010 re-release restoration)
Edited by: Edna Ruth Paul, Joel Coen (Asst. Editor)
Spec. Makeup FX: Tom Sullivan
Special FX: Sam Raimi (uncredited)

Music by: Joseph LoDuca

     While the phrase "like a bat outta hell!" was coined over one hundred years ago, one suspects it was done so by a shaman or soothsayer who'd glanced into the future and caught a "sneak peek advanced screening" of an experimental 1981 low budget horror "opus" called THE EVIL DEAD.  Produced and filmed by a neophyte Michigan film maker - aided and abetted by a group of friends on (and with) an almost literal shoestring, the "little movie that could" (about a of group of Spring breakers who unwittingly unleash a cabal of demons into the secluded woods) would go on to make it's debut at the Cannes Film Festival where it would manage to impress and scare the livin' hell out of horror legend Stephen King.  

     It would become a worldwide financial success as well as the first "multi-platform" film release.  It would evolve into a bonafied franchise, spawning two popular and critically acclaimed sequels, a line of video games, a series of comic books, and a much anticipated 2013 remake.  It would go down in history as one of the most popular cult films of all time ... .  And oh yeah, it would also launch the careers of writer / director Sam Raimi (DARKMAN, the original SPIDER-MAN trilogy, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL), actor Bruce Campbell (THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTRY JR., BUBBA HO-TEP, CARS 2), and even those ever ubiquitous Coen Bros. - Joel & Ethan.

     Both born in Royal Oak, Michigan, Raimi and Campbell grew up together, directing between them a number of small super 8 mm projects. While working on a suspense sequence to one of them, the proverbial "lightbulb" went off in Raimi's head to focus his career on the horror / thriller milieu. After attending a personal film school of numerous drive-in horror movie showings, Raimi struck upon the idea of shooting a $1,600 short film ("WITHIN THE WOODS") in order to generate interest and to raise the minimum $100,000 he'd need for a planned feature length "expansion".

     After receiving advice from a local lawyer, he and Campbell launched a campaign in which they secured donations, borrowed and (as they put it) "begged" family and friends in order to raise the necessary capital.  Raimi would direct, and Campbell would take the lead role of "last man standing" Ash.  After responding to a casting ad in THE DETROIT NEWS, actress Betsy Baker was hired to portray Linda.  And Ellen Sandweiss (who had appeared in WITHIN THE WOODS) was set as Ash's ill-fated sister Cheryl. Setting off to Tennessee (the only state expressing interest in the project) Raimi's 13 member cast and crew began what would become their self-proclaimed "comedy of errors" in film making.

              WITHIN THE WOODS

     Living close quartered in the actual cabin in which they filmed, tensions inevitably arose among some members of the company.   Unable to afford professional dollies, Steadicams and the like, Raimi improvised the film's now legendary camera moves and "Dutch Angles" via clever tricks such as the sliding of  the camera down a homemade wooden ramp, and even attaching it to a bicycle ridden at high speed through the interior of the cabin - a stunning visual moment which caused real life injury to Campbell when he was run over by the homemade "rig". Between cold swampy conditions, primitive make up effects (gallons of Karo syrup as blood; "undead" contact lenses which could only be worn 15 mins at time; and experimental prosthetics - one of which when removed from Baker's face, ripped off her eyelashes) and other hardships, by the end of shooting many had come down with various severe illnesses.

      Raimi edited the mountain of footage down to a commercial 85 mins. at a Detroit facility with Edna Ruth Paul.  While Paul supervised most of the trim-down and pacing, her assistant - an up and coming filmmaker named Joel Coen, took the lead on the infamous "shed scene" wherein Ash attempts to save Linda's possessed soul by physically dismembering her body with a chainsaw.  Joel and his brother Ethan, impressed with and inspired by Raimi's "fund raiser short" WITHIN THE WOODS, chose to film a similar "interest generator" to secure funds for their own planned feature BLOOD SIMPLE.  And a life long friendship was born between the three.

     Raimi's film - then titled BOOK OF THE DEAD, found a patron saint in producer / distributor Irvin Shapiro (1906 - 1989).   Shapiro was a notoriously eccentric but ingenious cinema impresario who'd introduced U.S. audiences to foreign fare such as THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, THE BATTLESHIP POTEMPKIN and BREATHLESS, as well as helping jump start the careers of Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorcese and George Romero.  With his international distribution connections he was also a co-founder of the Cannes Film Festival; and it was at the Spring 1982 fest that Shapiro secured a non-competition screening of Raimi's film, now titled THE EVIL DEAD ... as Shapiro felt the original moniker was much too weak.  Viewing THE EVIL DEAD at Cannes, Stephen King lauded  it as  "The Most Ferociously Original Film Of The Year", and Shapiro was canny enough to use that quote in the movie's memorable ad campaign.

     With interest stoked, THE EVIL DEAD was picked up in the U.S. by New Line Cinema - then still under original founders Robert Shaye & Michael Lynn, and at the time (a few years before their breakout A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) known for small budgeters such as ALONE IN THE DARK, XTRO, and John Waters' POLYESTER. As the then still new home video rental market was beginning to boom (most titles at the time were primarily for rental and not for sale), New Line struck upon the early 1980s version of what today is "On Demand" - they released THE EVIL DEAD both theatrically and for VHS rental simultaneously.  And while only a moderate success theatrically in the U.S., it's home video as well as international reputation (especially in England where it became the "#1 Video Nasty") lead to it's eventual status as one of the most popular cult films in cinema history.

     EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN arrived in '87, was a box office hit, and made it's way on to the "Top Ten" lists of numerous critics.  Imbued with more humor, it would be topped in budget and gags with 1993's ARMY OF DARKNESS.  All three starred Bruce Campbell as the luckless but heroic Ash.  And in addition to his own burgeoning career, including the tongue-in-cheek biography IF CHINS COULD KILL: CONFESSIONS OF A "B" MOVIE ACTOR (2002) and MAKE LOVE! THE BRUCE CAMPBELL WAY (2005), he continues to find time to make appearances in most of Raimi's films, including DARKMAN, all three SPIDER-MANs, and even a post credit cameo in the current EVIL DEAD (2013) remake directed by Fede Alvarez, and produced by Raimi & Campbell.


THE EVIL DEAD (1981 / U.S. - 1982)

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