Because you know... Japan.
So, first the good news: both France and Germany are releasing Sam Raimi's horror-fantasy mash-up cult classic ARMY OF DARKNESS on Blu-ray in exhaustive Special Editions, which are all set to include a grand total of three cuts of the film: The familiar 81 minute R-rated "US Theatrical" version, the 89 minute "International Theatrical" version few English speakers have ever seen, and the 97 minute "Director's Cut". Ginchy, right? We can finally marvel at Bruce Cambpell at his Campbelliest in 1080p, free of the studio mandated cuts that saddled the American cut of the film!
What could possibly go-- actually, I'm not even gonna finish that sentence. At least half of you know exactly where this is going, but, let's talk about it anyway...
The good news is that, at the very least the 81 minute "US Cut" will be pulled in its entirety from the same HD master Universal has released on Blu-ray in various territories, while the 89 minute "International Cut" will be provided by an HD master compiled by MGM for various European and Asian territories. So what of the 10 minutes worth of footage featured only in the Director's Cut? If early reviews can be trusted, I've got three words for you, friends:
Standard Definition Upscale.
"But what about the MGM Hong Kong DVD?!" I hear some of you ask. "That looked great! It had to be from an HD master!" And supposedly it was... partially. According to a hastily translated account ripped from - if I'm not mistaken - the FOLLOWING REVIEW, this is what they had to say on the matter (with some basic grammar fixes by yours truly):
"MGM had an HD-Master for the Euro Version. They used it for the release in Germany and for the Hong-Kong DC, both on DVD. For the additional scenes in the HK DVD, MGM had only an SD-Master, which they edited into the Euro Version. So the Director's Cut on DVD in Hong Kong is a mix of the Euro Version HD Master, and additional scenes in SD."
That's coming from somebody who's actually seen the disc, but... honestly, I have trouble buying it. The fact is, the "DC Exclusive" footage looks great for a standard definition release, and it all just looks so damn good, I have trouble believing that MGM haphazardly spliced an interlaced SD master into a pristine HDCAM source to accomplish it. More importantly, the DC includes fresh scans - HD or not - from a 35mm source from start to finish. Clearly MGM has access to a complete and usable film source - why not request that single reel of footage be re-transferred? Could this be a joint venture between Filmedia and Koch and both of them decided, "Psh, fuck that DC, man - it's just not worth the money"? Hell, Koch transferred less than a minute for their release of 4 Flies on Gray Velvet, something just doesn't add up here.
Maybe I'm completely wrong, but the difference in quality between the International Cut and the Director's Cut is simply a non-issue; I have trouble even spotting when it switches from familiar footage to extended gags, and considering I broke a dozen blood vessels in each eye watching the color timing snap unexpectedly on that totally uncut German release of Ebola Syndrome where everything suddenly turns a jaundiced yellow hue whenever extended blood is about to flow, I'd like to think I'd notice something. Of course, it's not impossible that MGM created an SD master of the DC from start to finish, and this new HD master was Frankensteined between that and a pre-existing "International" HD master... there's just too many variables here to put my finger on, at least before the damned thing is officially available to the public.
The Filmedia French release (Evil Dead 3 : L'armée des Ténèbres) packs all 3 cuts on a single disc, presumably via seamless branching, with a retail of 25 Euros. Germany has an upcoming release via Koch Media (Die Armee der Finsternis), which will be available in both a Director's Cut only single disc for 15 Euros, or a top-popping 6 disc 2 Blu-ray/4 DVD combo in a Media Book for 45 Euros. That hefty price increase comes with the now rarely seen US TV Cut (basically a sanitized presentation of the International Version) and ports Director's Cut commentary, while both include various behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, and a host of deleted scenes that every fan of the film has probably seen at one point or another. My guess is that Koch and Filmedia will be using the same HD master, but as nobody's yet seen the German release, it'd be premature to state that as fact.
I'm on the fence over which of these releases to grab, but it won't be too much longer before I get one of them shipped to my door. We'll take a more in-depth look soon enough. In the meantime, I'll try to share some thoughts on a very special purchase I made earlier in the week... we'll see how horribly distracted I get, though.