• Gabe Powers

Evil Ed Blu-ray Review (originally published 2017)

Mild-mannered film technician Edward enjoys his job. That is, until he finds himself transferred from his regular post to the “Splatter and Gore department,” where he’s forced to edit hours upon hours of grisly video nasty footage. Traumatized by the onscreen violence, Ed starts to lose his grip on reality – with ghastly (and bloody) consequences. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)



Nostalgia for the days of the mom & pop home video store is often misplaced in an era when rare and cult-approved titles are literally at our fingertips. Unfortunately, the unsung art of luring unsuspecting consumers into renting super-obscure horror titles with gimmicky VHS box art has been lost in this browse & click era, where the very concept of forbidden has little meaning. Anders Jacobsson’s Swedish-made, low-budget horror satire Evil Ed (aka: Censor!, 1995) was one of many movies that horror fans of a certain age (including myself) only saw, because the A-PIX Entertainment video box art was too graphic to ignore. It depicts a shocked, screaming man getting his head split directly in half by a disembodied axe – his brains, blood, and facial sinew spreading and splattering apart in glorious, hand-painted detail. The nonsense tagline reads “It’s a no brainer,” a delightful pun that explains the gross visual and tells the potential renter that they need to stop overthinking this and just rent the goddamn movie already (for the record, the company actually produced two versions of the cover, one of which was designed for the family-friendly Blockbuster Video market and merely featured the title character with a skull for a face).


Was Evil Ed worthy of such a stomach-churning adornment? Well, that depends on who is viewing the film. From an American horror fan’s point-of-view, it is a slightly better than average homage to the gory glory days of ‘80s horror. It’s well-made in a DIY, but not amateurish fashion. Jacobsson and company (according to the extras, the crew shared most filmmaking duties) do an admirable job of creating an over-the-top cinematic world that slowly spirals into more extreme camera angles and editing techniques as the title character is corrupted by violence. The constantly bug-eyed, juvenile comedy grows obnoxious after about 20 minutes (it was developed as a short subject and maybe should’ve stayed that way...), but this is usually neutralized by the charmingly weird tonal dissonance caused by the filmmakers’ attempts to disguise their Swedish roots.


Acknowledging those Swedish roots and watching the film from a Swedish P.O.V. also make it a smarter movie – or at least a movie that is more clever than its awkward references to Sam Raimi and George Romero films would imply. In its native land, Evil Ed was a toothy takedown of the government’s long-standing film censorship board. As such, the cleverest jokes are often seated in Swedish pop-culture and may fly over the heads of American audiences. For instance, Jacobsson contrasts the outrageous violence of the in-movie horror franchise (dubbed Loose Limbs 1 through 8) with a dull, black & white melodrama that is clearly aping Ingmar Bergman’s movies, which were the only popular Swedish film exports for quite some time. Still, if you’re one of those people that’s just looking for a silly and ambitious DIY gore/creature effects showcase, the lack of context shouldn’t be a problem. You could do a whole lot worse than Evil Ed. I’m certainly not one to judge.



Video

As mentioned above, Evil Ed was relatively easy to find on VHS in North America, but the US DVDs (from Image Entertainment and Ardustry Home Entertainment) were misframed (1.56:1) and included only the censored R-rated cut. Arrows Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack goes beyond expectations by not only including the unrated cut in the appropriate 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but also a completely new director’s cut (dubbed the Special Ed-ition) compiled and approved by Jacobsson himself that runs about five minutes longer than any version previously available. The two 1.78:1, 1080p transfers are taken from the same original 16mm AB negative source, which was scanned in 2K at Focus Film in Stockholm. Arrow then did their own clean-up under Jacobsson’s supervision. The 16mm source isn’t as detailed or dynamic as a 35mm might’ve been, but the scan squeezes the footage for everything it’s worth. Given the softer qualities of the format and the frequent darkness of cinematographer Anders Jacobsson’s photography, details are actually pretty sharp and elemental separation is decent, despite a general lack of hard edges. Grain structure is thick, yet natural with little sign of compression or telecine noise. The palette is predominantly tinted in a sort of Michael Mann/James Cameron blue that was very popular at the time and this new master helps to differentiate other hues – mainly pinks, greens, browns – from the fray.


Audio

The original stereo soundtrack is presented in uncompressed LPCM 2.0 alongside a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio remix. Though this was a Swedish production, it was made for international release, so all the dialogue is performed in English with the exception of some of the movies-within-a-movie. With a few exceptions, all of the Swedish actors were then dubbed by different actors who had American accents and most of the effects were added in post. This is a rare case where I’m actually going to recommend a remix over the original track, because the 5.1 version doesn’t change the basic structure of the mix and manages to regulate the dialogue in the center channel. In comparison, the stereo track has some bleeding and inconsistency issues when it comes to dialogue. Given the degree of ADR and foley used in the original mix, it’s not surprising that it could be easily adapted without losing its essence all these years later. The music is by Henriksson & Lindh, a group I can’t find a lot of additional information on (they only has one composer credit to their names). Their whimsical, cartoonish score is mixed alongside pop and novelty songs from E-type, Happy Nite Quartet, It's Alive, and Mango Kings, and gets a decent fidelity boost from the 5.1 remix.



Extras

Disc 1 (Special Ed-ition Cut):

  • Introduction to Special Ed-ition with Jacobsson and editor Doc (4:13, HD)

  • Keep ’em Heads Rollin’ (45:32, HD) – An extensive and amusing retrospective documentary with Jacobsson, Doc, second unit director/production manager/etc. Kaj Steveman, co-writer/producer/etc. Göran Lundström, and actors Johan Rudebeck, Camela Leierth, and Par Löfberg. It includes storyboards, uncut dailies, an international language dub comparison, and behind-the-scenes footage/photos.

  • Before Ed (9:47, HD) – More with the filmmakers about their pre-Ed short films, including HD footage from said movies.

  • Beyond Ed (10:13, HD) – A follow-up to the previous featurette in which the filmmakers discuss what they’ve been doing since Evil Ed’s release.

  • Reconstructing Edward (21:05, HD) – This featurette covers the restoration and creation of the new Special ED-ition cut.

  • New Scenes (6:10, HD) – Jacobsson and Doc breakdown the newly instated footage.

  • Deleted Scenes (21:36, HD) – Concerning the many scenes that were not reinstated. The scenes themselves are workprint quality with their original Swedish-accented dialogue.

  • Bloopers

  • Special Ed-ition trailer, English trailer, three Swedish trailers, and two satirical teasers.

  • Still gallery


Disc 2 (Unrated Cut; disc 3 is a DVD copy):

  • Lost in Brainland (3:06:39, HD) – A much, much longer version of the retrospective documentary on the first disc. There is nary a stone left unturned as the filmmakers cover the entire production, from conception, to release and reaction.

  • Lost in Brainland bloopers (4:14, HD)


The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.


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