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

The story goes that Sam Raimi wanted to make The Shadow except the producers wouldn’t consider him for the lofty project. So instead of pouting and whining, Raimi made his own version of The Shadow. Except his semi-hero would have nothing to do with Lamont Cranston so there would be no lawsuits. Raimi’s vision turned into Darkman. This was a rather big relief for filmgoers that were seeing way too many elderly superheroes being revived for the big screen. Raimi was creating an all new character that deserved to be in a comic book. Darkman: Collector’s Edition shows that Sam Raimi could make an exciting superhero film before he got his hands on Spider-Man.

Dr. Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is a scientist working on a realistic synthetic skin. He’s all focused on the project the skin last for 99 minutes. What’s it going to take to get over the hump. Even as a major egghead, he still has a wonderful girlfriend in Julie (Frances McDormand). What he doesn’t realize is that she’s in the middle of a turf war between her boss (Colin Friels) and mobster Robert Durant (Larry Drake). This mess explodes its way into Westlake’s lab. The aftermath leaves people thinking Westlake is dead. But he’s barely alive. He looks like The Incredible Melting Man. Westlake escapes from the burn hospital with pure revenge on his mind. He uses his skin invention and his ability to feel no pain to become a superhero. He won’t rest until he destroys all that ruined his life. No need to give too much away about the plot.

Darkman was a bit of a surprise coming in 1990 after the wake of Tim Burton’s Batman. The character was not the most compassionate of figures. His disfigured nature made him a bit more repulsive than suave Bruce Wayne. Even stranger was seeing Larry Drake playing a psychotic villain. For several seasons he’d been the mentally challenged Benny on LA Law. Fans of action films embraced the film. The film was a bit of a hit. This success allowed Raimi to get inside the Hollywood system after a decade of being a cult indie director of Evil Dead movies. He made the comic book movie that didn’t have to leap out of the pages.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the comic book dazzle of Bill Pope’s cinematography. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The new mix pops around the speakers during the major action scenes. The movie is subtitled.

Interview with Liam Neeson
(7:29) is a new feature with the star of Taken. He liked that Raimi showed up for work in a jacket, shirt and tie. He got into the operatic feel of the character.

The Name is Durant with Larry Drake
(15:59) explores how he went for the sweet guy on LA Law to being a ruthless mobster. There’s a lot of talk about the positive and negative aspects of being an actor that gets typecast.

The Face of Revenge with Makeup Designer Tony Gardner (13:21) breaks down the makeup effects. Gardener had worked on Evil Dead II. He explains what went into making Liam Neeson look frightening.

Henchmen Tales (12:57) pays tribute to the various heavies that went after the Darkman. Dan Bell looks like a retired rock star. How does one get cast as a villain’s goons. The Coen brothers hung out on the set.

Dark Design (16:46) interviews with Randy Ser and Philip Dagort about the production design and art. He and Sam went back to the old Batman comic books and classic Universal Horror to shape the movie.

An Interview with Frances McDormand (10:50) explains that she was Raimi’s old roommate along with the Coen brothers. She rather inspired her character in Darkman. Sam also cast her so she could pay her share of the rent. She would go on to win an Oscar with Fargo thanks to her other roommates.

Darkman Featurette (6:26) is the old Electronic Media kit from the original release. Sam talks about the film along with the rest of the cast.

Cast and Crew Interviews (8:59) is a second helping from the original media kit.

Vintage Interview Galleries include past chats with Colin Friels (12:14), Frances McDormand (20:43), Liam Neeson (28:02) and Sam Raimi (23:09).

Theatrical Trailer (1:47) is taken from a video transfer. Does let you know how good the Blu-ray looks compared to the VHS release.

TV Spots (4:24) keeps asking, “Who is The Darkman?”

Still Galleries includes Behind the Scenes, Make-up Effects, Posters, Artwork, Production Stills and Storyboards.

Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Bill Pope. The cinematographer guides us through the film and his legendary career. This is a master class level breakdown. Michael Felsher hosts the conversation.

Darkman: Collector’s Edition brings together all the elements of what made this a special film when it was released back in 1990. The mixing of vintage and new bonus features gives the proper context to how it was received by audiences.

Shout! Factory presents Darkman: Collector’s Edition. Starring: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand and Larry Drake. Rated: R. Running Time: 96 minutes. Released: February 18, 2014.

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