Home Entertainment Review: Darkman (Shout! Factory)

Before Sam Raimi directed the first Spider-Man film franchise in the early 2000’s and staked his claim in the world of superheroes Universal took a gamble on Raimi, who at […]
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Darkman Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition Cover by ‘Ghoulish’ Gary Pullin

Before Sam Raimi directed the first Spider-Man film franchise in the early 2000’s and staked his claim in the world of superheroes Universal took a gamble on Raimi, who at the time was an independent film-maker with no major-release experience, and his “vigilante with a twist” action-adventure film called Darkman. The film, equal parts superhero film and classic horror film, has a cult following.

It’s a cult I’m happy to be a part of.

Spoiler-free blurb? Why certainly!

Dr. Peyton Westlake (Neeson) is on the verge of realizing a major breakthrough in the creation of synthetic skin when his laboratory is blown up by gangsters. Having been burned beyond recognition and forever altered by an experimental medical procedure, Westlake becomes known as Darkman, assuming alternate identities in his quest for revenge and a new life with his former love (McDormand). 

I have personally always loved Darkman. It’s unique in that it straddles the line between genres so well and it’s so quirky that it holds up well to the test of time. I have often used it as proof that Raimi was the right man for the job when it came to the Spider-Man franchise (we’ll forgive him for the “joyride” that was Spider-Man 3). In Darkman Sam Raimi proved that he could take on drama and action while utilizing humor when needed, something that made the Spider-Man movies international blockbusters. This is the film that truly launched Sam Raimi’s mainstream motion picture career – and in this new release courtesy of Shout! Factory it has never looked better.

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You’ve had better days, Liam Neeson.

First and foremost Shout! Factory does a great job of remastering the film in their blu-ray release. Darkman was released on blu-ray in 2004 but had none of the real bells and whistles (or remastering quality) we’ve come to expect from blu-ray releases in this day and age. Shout! Factory steps up and hits a triple that almost drives home a few runs. The sound is sharper, the colors are crisper and brighter, and the overall picture quality is very solid for a film that is twenty four years old (sounds crazy typing that; now I feel old). Being someone who owned the previous blu-ray release of this film (I traded it in after comparing the two releases side-by-side) I can say that this new release is the better of the two. It’s just that much cleaner. This could be attributed to the increases in quality of high definition home releases over the last few years but I also think this can be attributed to Shout! putting in the time to create a better product than their predecessors. The improvements help the film stand the test of time even more, although the tweaks to the audio and video can only do so much to fight off the slight graininess of an old film.

For those of you who are special feature hounds Shout! has loaded this release with a slew of extras. There are original storyboards, all of the TV spots, interviews with Larry Drake (who plays the villainous Durant in the film) and his henchmen, a new interview with Frances McDormand (she plays Darkman’s love interest), and even an interview with the man who created Darkman’s makeup, Tony Gardner. Watching some of the vintage promotional goodies will elicit a chuckle, guaranteed.

All in all Shout! Factory’s Darkman Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition is a great purchase for fans of the film. If you own the previous blu-ray version I suggest giving some thought to replacing it with this one. While it isn’t perfect it is a leap above its original blu-ray release and packed with a lot of nostalgia.
All images property of Universal Studios and Shout! Factory.

 

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