Tag Archives: Sam Raimi

Darkman, A Comic Book Superhero Movie That Never Was a Comic Book

 

Sam Raimi has a few franchise films worth noting. A really popular horror franchise and a really good comic book superhero franchise come to mind. (Evil Dead…Spider-Man) But there was a time he did a mash-up before mash-ups became a thing…with 1990’s Darkman series.  Starring Liam Neeson as the Darkman in the title, along with Frances McDormand, Ted Raimi, Colin Friels and Larry Drake, it’s a wonderfully creative tale and works as a superhero movie, comic book movie and a horror at times. Liam, Frances and Larry all give great performances. I wish they would come back to this series as it’s a fun one, maybe as a future TV show like they did with the Evil Dead series.  darkman-wallpaper

Sam Raimi originally wanted to do a movie of the famous “The Shadow” series, could not obtain the rights, so came up with his own movie similar to that one and called his character, Darkman. He also Drew inspiration from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera, Batman, The Invisible Man and The Elephant Man. When they went into production he wanted to cast his production partner up until that time, Bruce Campbell, but the studio he was working with didn’t think he was good enough to sell the movie. For the role of Darkman, Sam Raimi wanted someone who could play a monster with the soul of a man. An actor who could do all that beneath a lot of makeup.darkman-2

Bill Paxton was almost cast as Peyton Westlake (Darkman). According to Paxton, he told his friend Liam Neeson about the audition. When Neeson got the the role, Paxton was so angry that he did not speak to Neeson for months. Some of Darkman’s elements were inspired by Batman. Liam Neeson worked 18 hour days in ten-piece makeup, but he liked the challenge, and the idea of working behind a mask on camera, as well as exploring the possibilities this entailed. Neeson also had input on the costume he wore as Darkman, especially the cloak. The hardest part was speaking with false teeth, because he didn’t want them to move at all.  Sam Raimi is a fan of the Batman character, and was among those passed over to direct Batman (1989). Larry Drake and Liam Neeson would later work on Batman Beyond: The Winning Edge (1999) and Batman Begins (2005) respectively.darkman-pic

Larry Drake was cast because of the way he underplayed Durant. Quiet, careful, but intense. Sam Raimi had never watched a single episode of L.A. Law (1986), where Drake played the developmentally disabled Benny (I believe he won an Emmy award for this role and if you’ve seen him in this, he’s awesome!). But Drake’s face reminded him of a modern day Edward G. Robinson. He looked so mean and domineering, yet he had an urban wit about him. Raimi believed these qualities made him the perfect adversary for Darkman.darkman-larry-drake

Evil Dead II and Medieval Dead

 

Let’s just say up front, that I’m a big fan of how this group of guys made it into Hollywood.  Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert, being the main 3 went out and raised money from family and friends then went out to a cabin in the middle of nowhere and shot the original Evil Dead.  As a young filmmaker I loved the idea of just getting a bunch of my buddies together and shooting horror or action and just having a blast and then…poof, magically a movie is made, released and successful our careers are on jet boosters…

Now, with that said, I know that’s not exactly what happened.  They had a struggle with every part of that movie, especially after it was shot and put into post and then trying to get it out to the public. And at some point after all the struggle, they probably wished they had a lot more money and time and support to go back and do the movie the way that they would have preferred, after the first experience and then guess what?  They were given that EXACT opportunity and the second time around they decided to not make a sequel…really, but a remake…as a comedy, this time.  And they did it and the result is Evil Dead 2: Dead Before Dawn…which is a BRILLIANT and INCREDIBLE movie.  It’s so fun, scary, crazy and everything great.
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So again, it’s successful and the audience grows and gets even bigger on Video, so a company comes to them again and they are given an opportunity to do a direct sequel this time, and what do they do? They go out and add 2 more genres! The original was straight horror.  The second was horror, comedy.  The third they added Science Fiction (time travel) and Fantasy (witches, magic, demons) to go along with the comedy and horror. And guess what?  They end up calling it, Army of Darkness. It works again!  It’s both BRILLIANT and INCREDIBLE! Fantastic in all ways and so, so, so much fun.evil army_of_darkness_sd1

Now the first one, I love the “making of” story about kids making their first movie and by itself is a very scary movie, but not a top favorite of mine.  But those other two, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, together is some great crazy film-making at it’s best. Films, I would add, that would NEVER be made today.  Studios wouldn’t know how to categorize them and wouldn’t know how to market them in today’s system. But they are crazy good.evilgroovy-gif

Who do we have to thank for the making of 2 and 3? None-other than Stephen King! He liked the original so much, that not only did he give a quote for the marketing of the film, which also helped to sell it, he also convinced Dino De Laurentis to finance the making of number 2. Now the only reason I’m calling this a remake (there’s been a debate rolling for years) is simply because they replay the entire first movie in the first 10 minutes of #2 and mainly because it is a deep departure in tone by adding a great deal of comedy in the second one.

Now a side note about the title of the 3rd movie…they didn’t want to name it Evil Dead 3 for some reason and toyed around with calling it Medieval Dead (which I like a lot actually) but ended up putting Army of Darkness on all the marketing and posters and stuff and in the movie itself has the title come up with…”Bruce Campbell vs.” and then another title card comes up with, “The Army of Darkness.” Why didn’t the posters call it Ash vs. The Army of Darkness? Great title and is another reason I’m so glad that the new Starz series is called Ash vs. Evil Dead. Ties it back in together and truthfully I’m still a big fan, the series is great fun and to be honest, they can still go into the realm of Science Fiction and Fantasy if and when the series really gets rolling, which I would totally embrace.  Right now it’s straight comedy-horror, but the possibilities are endless. Let’s see what season 2 gives us.Ash-vs-Evil-Dead-poster-featured

As for my thoughts on season 1, there were some great moments and ASH was by far the best thing about the series. Bruce Campbell is a personal favorite of mine, my brother and I have met and spoken to the actor on 3 separate occasions and on each one, we walked away bigger fans of his than going in. He’s a really top-notch person in real life and drop-dead hilarious and fantastic with people. If he ran for president, I’m serious, he would give anyone a run for their money, he’s than engaging, down-to-earth and likable. He was everything you’d want in a 50 year old Ash and more, and I found the series to be a great extension to the whole Franchise. Thank you for making it guys and for keeping the fans happy, we all appreciate it!

Stunt Team for Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

 

I only saw this film as The Road Warrior (1982) when it was released in the US, but the Mad Max 2 title has since been added to the film in North America to re-establish it’s place in the series. This one is a lot like Evil Dead 2 in execution, where the 1st film in both of those series, Evil Dead and Mad Max were both very low budget films done independently of any studio. When those films were released and both were hits, the Directors, Sam Raimi for Evil Dead and George Miller for Mad Max were inundated with offers from Hollywood but both decided to do “sequels” of their films instead. What they are really, are just the proper films the directors would have made the first time around if they had the proper budgets to work with originally. Both Evil Dead 2 and The Road Warrior are highly superior films to their originals.mad-max-2-the-road-warrior-1981

I also want to add that it was this film and not the original film that caused a huge fervor and drew a whole slew of copycats of apocalyptic road pictures that has come after it.  The first one is good, don’t get me wrong, but I really think it’s this movie, specifically the last 20 minutes, that caused the cult status that it has attained.  It is arguably, the best road battle that has ever been put to film. It is utterly fantastic. That’s why it gets the nod for Best Movie Stunt for 1982.madmax2-carchase

More than 80 vehicles were involved in the production. According to cinematographer Dean Semler, the camera rig used to get medium close ups of Max driving required him and an ac (assistant camera) to stand on a small platform mounted to the driver’s side of the car. They found out during one sequence that they miscalculated the lift, because whenever they went up or down a hill the platform would actually scrape the ground, sending out a shower of sparks. (Initially alarming all involved, they just shrugged and kept shooting without cutting.) Most of the final action sequences (including Pappagallo’s death by trident machete, Wez’s final attempt to kill the Feral Kid, then the collision between Max’s truck and Humungus’ hot rod) were filmed on 24 July 1981. The collision caused more damage to the truck than expected, so the truck’s turnover (scheduled for the same day) had to be postponed. The truck was repaired, then crashed the following day.madmax road

The Road Warrior was directed by George Miller for Kennedy-Miller Productions.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Things to look up (go to IMDB page):

  • George Miller
  • The Road Warrior
  • Kennedy-Miller Productions

History of film companies as defined by Wikipedia: Kennedy Miller Mitchell (before 2009 known as Kennedy Miller) is an Australian film, TV and games production house in Potts Point, Sydney, that has been producing television and film since 1978. It is responsible for some of Australia’s most well known and successful films, including the three Mad Max films, the two Babe films, and the two Happy Feet films.madde

Kennedy Miller Mitchell is one of Australia’s oldest existing film production companies, and the internationally most successful.

Many of the films are directed by the co-founder, George Miller, though he sometimes takes an organisational role and prefers to use someone else to direct, as with Babe, which was directed by Chris Noonan.

The company’s main current project is the fourth Mad Max film, titled Mad Max, Fury Road. After being “in development hell for 25 years”, according to Miller, the film went into pre-production in 2009.