Darkman – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Darkman ThumbOriginally slated for December, Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition of Sam Raimi’s Darkman finally arrives on Blu-ray.  For good reason, too.  They got Liam “I will find you and I will kill you” Neeson to sit down for an interview exclusive to this release.  And, to be honest, this release was PACKED before they even cherry topped it with that impressive get.  This may be its 2nd release on Blu-ray, but that previous release had absolutely nothing in the way of bonus materials.  But, luckily for you, people who actually care have got their hands on this film and delivered enough reason to double dip or to reward those who have waited and hoped for something more substantial to get released.

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Dr. Peyton Westlake is on the verge of some ground breaking research.  He has created a type of synthetic skin in hopes to help acid burn victims.  The only problem is that it disintegrates after 99 minutes.  Meanwhile Westlake’s girlfriend Julie Hastings, an attorney, discovers a memorandum exposing Louis Strack as a developer bribing members of the zoning commission.  Strack admits to Julie that he’s been doing that, but is in the process of designing a brand new city that would create a lot of jobs.  However, there is a mobster named Robert Durant who wants the memorandum to disappear.  He invades Julie and Peyton’s home looking for it and roughs up Peyton at the lab, disfiguring him and then blowing up the place after finding the memorandum.  Peyton is not dead though severely disfigured.  He uses his synthetic research to take on disguises and avenge the wrong that has been done to him.  He becomes Darkman.

Sam Raimi’s Darkman comes hot on the heels of 1989’s Batman and feels very much in the vein of that superhero mold.  Part of that happens to be that both were scored by the legendary Danny Elfman.  Unlike most of the films that followed Batman, Darkman is a completely original presentation.  Raimi had wanted to make a film on Batman or The Shadow but was never able to secure any rights.  So, he decided he would conjure up his own “comic book hero”.

Darkman is definitely that comic book type of hero, but what makes him such comes from other inspirations.  He is very much a Universal Classic Monster super hero.  He feels like he has the combined elements of the Invisible Man, the Mummy and Phantom of the Opera among many other inspirations.  The film itself indeed plays out like a classic monster movie as well.  Even moreso than a comic book film it feels to be of that type of ilk.  And Liam Neeson’s Peyton Westlake is not only written on the page like a character from those incarnations, the actors performance is very much in the spirit of those productions.

If you first saw Darkman in the early 90s when it came out, one thing may have caught you off guard on your first viewing.  Actor Larry Drake, who plays the vile Durant, was on a show called LA Law.  He played a character named “Benny”.  He was kind of a dumb guy, but Benny was one of the most lovable characters on television.  To see him go from that to this is instantly showing the range of talent Drake has.  He not only plays Durant, but there’s a sequence in which he plays Westlake in disguise as Durant and he totally nails it.  You can really make out the subtleties of these being two different characters.  It’s a shame Drake never took off to more than B movies, because he really displayed a special kind of talent in this film.

There are some rear projection/green screen moments in the film that are a bit revealing, but for the most part, the film’s effects still hold up and are quite phenomenal.  The make-up alone on the film is tremendous and has some of the best practical blockbuster make-up effects of all time.  Another thing astounding to me was watching the stunt sequences and realizing how awesome and magical it is that it’s a real guy running and jumping away from explosions.  It has a real sense of movie magic, danger and stakes that make a viewer feel more involved and “into” the film.  Nowadays most of it is all fake, looks fake and loses its sense of danger.

Sam Raimi’s Darkman is likely the best superhero film that came in the wake of the success of Tim Burton’s Batman.  Its not based off of any property but is a loving tribute to the classic monsters of Universal’s history.  The film delivers some tremendous effects work and some great superhero action.  It also features a lot of the goofiness, looseness and fun that Sam Raimi is known for.

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Scream Factory’s 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoding does the film solid service.  I’m not versed in the previously released bare bones Blu-ray of the film from Universal.  This one delivers a sharp picture.  The colors are nice, but could have been a bit more prominent.  This may be due to the film stock being used at the time.  The colors are very strong, though when it comes to Darkman’s face.  It’s a little flat of a picture, but there are some moments (for instance when Darkman returns to his burned up lab) that add some good dimensions.  The detail is rather strong on Darkman’s outfit and his bandages.  The textures and patterns are incredibly impressive and discernable.  This is a really good picture and the best that Darkman has ever looked.

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Darkman delivers an above average 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio track that feels a tad thin in the “boom” department.  All the effects and the like a distinct and clear, but I wanted the track to consume me.  It does make use the of the sub, but I wanted a strong impact on crashed and explosions.  The dialogue is nice and centered.  The actors’ words are clear and crisp.  The Danny Elfman score probably gets the best treatment of this whole track as it sounds marvelous in this 5.1 track.  As per usual, Scream Factory supplies a 2.0 DTS-HD MA track that sounds really good, loud and clear.

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This disc is loaded with a bunch of brand new interviews (with KEY people at that) and vintage content.  It’s the edition of Darkman fans have been deserving for many years.  Also, as per usual, the cover art insert flips around to display the original theatrical poster art for the film.

Commentary With Director Of Photography Bill Pope

Interview With Liam Neeson (HD, 7:29) – In one of two major gets for this release, the actor recalls his time on the film and being young and eager to do all the make-up effects.

The Name Is Durant With Larry Drake (HD, 15:59) – Larry discusses getting the role, as there was trouble from the studio on letting them cast “Benny” from LA Law as a major villain.  He also discusses his work on the sequel.

The Face Of Revenge With Makeup Designer Tony Gardner (HD, 13:21) – The make-up man discusses how he took the job and planned with confidence on Bruce Campbell being the lead, but then felt as a novice when Neeson was cast in the role.

Henchman Tales (HD, 12:57) – All the henchman minus Ted Raimi talk about their contributions to the film.

Dark Design (HD, 16:46) – A look at what it took to create the world of Darkman with the production designer.

An Interview With Frances McDormand (HD, 10:50) – Academy Award winning actress Frances McDormand talks about her desire to elevate the “damsel in distress” role to classy, respectable heights.  She also takes a moment to rant about how this was “real” movie making and not the fake CGI stuff we see today.  LOVE HER!

Darkman Featurette (HD, 6:26) – A vintage promotional video about making the film featuring interview clips and a narration about production filled with on set footage.

Cast And Crew Interviews (HD, 8:59) – Little sections of vintage interviews (same as the featurette) with the lead actors discussing their characters and Raimi discussing his inspiration for the film.

Vintage Interview Gallery – All of the previous vintage interviews are here in the full uncut, raw form.

  • Colin Friels (HD, 12:14)
  • Frances McDormand (HD, 20:43)
  • Liam Neeson (HD, 28:02)
  • Sam Raimi (HD, 23:09)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:47)

TV Spots (HD, 4:24) – 12 television ads for the film

Still Galleries

  • Behind The Scenes/Make-up Effects – 55 photos documenting shooting the film and how the effects were done.
  • Posters And Artwork – 23 posters, lobby cards and inserts for the film.
  • Production Stills – 102 promotional photos for the movie.
  • Storyboards – 99 storyboarded concepts and scenes

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This was an easy 5.  It’s a terrific film (that I think has held up quite nicely), yes, but it has received the most royal of royal treatments.  No, there’s no Sam Raimi retrospective look at the film, but you probably weren’t expecting it to begin with.  With a good presentation and an amazing array of extras, this one knocked it out of the park and then ran a couple extra laps around the bases just for fun.  Scream Factory truly had themselves one of their best months in their short history with February 2014.  And the year is just getting started!



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

3 Responses to “Darkman – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    So excited to pick up this release.

    Does Raimi not talk about this movie? I was expecting something from him.

  2. Brandon Peters

    He does, but all of Raimi’s interviews are 1990 press kit fluff stuff.

    I can understand if Raimi’s not on there, but the fact that Ted Raimi isn’t is weird. You’d think he’d have been a given.

  3. Brian White

    This is a classic! Glad to see Scream treated it right!