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This piece draws from many sources, but mainly four; The Evil Dead Companion by Bill Warren, If Chins Could Kill by Bruce Campbell, and The Unseen Force The Films Of Sam Raimi by John Kenneth Muir, and Cinefantastique Magazine (Vol 23 No 1 - August 1992). All these are a must for any Evil Dead fan, and I would highly recommend buying all four of them.


Because of the varied nature of effects work on Army Of Darkness, it was felt that no one company could serve all the requirements, so the list of effects was split up and allocated to a number of companies. There were some effects cross-over points, but broadly; KNB EFX group (run by Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger; who having bonded so well on Evil Dead II, formed their own effects company together) managed many of the on-set physical effects & Deadite makeups. Tony Gardener's Alterian Studios handled the makeup on the principal characters; with Bruce Fuller handling Evil Ash, Garret Immel managing Evil Sheila, with Roger Barelli sculpting and Bill Sturgeon coordinating. Vern Hyde, Gary Jones and crew created some of the physical mechanical effects such as the chainsaw, catapults, flying rigs & explosions. Introvision International Inc managed much of the post-production & model work, and Pete Kleinow produced most of the animated footage. Tom Sullivan did have a brief effects role in creating a new Book of the Dead, a task which he was given one weekend to complete. He assembled it, drew each page, and used water colour paints to add some colour. Further into production it was realized that Tom's book was going to be too small to feasibly allow Ash to be sucked in to it for the graveyard scene. A much larger book was quickly created, and four of each page from Tom's book were pieced together to form one large page in the new book.



Tony Gardener's Alterian Studios was tasked with the makeup & prosthetics work on the principal characters; Ash and Sheila. They also handled the makeup for a number of other sequences including the makeup required for the miniature Ashes in the windmill mirror scene. Eight stunt doubles were made up & dressed to resemble Ash, which were supplemented in places by a number of mechanical puppets. These puppets were jointed like a GI Joe action figures, but being only a few inches tall, were too small to contain complicated armatures, so the torsos were supported with rods while wires which ran through the limbs and out to a puppeteer were manipulated to create movement. Because the film had been comprehensively storyboarded they could pre-determine the best way to hide any wires from the camera making their task much easier on set.

Starting the sequence, hollows were built in to an oversize section of the floor to accommodate Ash and a number of the look-alikes, each lined with glass so they would reflect the set's overhead rafters and really appear to be shards of mirror. Most of the shots requiring doubles used just three actors rather than all eight; Bruce was always the lead, with Deke Anderson (credited as Mini-Ash #2) and Bruce Thomas (credited as Mini-Ash #3). The doubles wore prosthetic noses & chins to make them look more like Ash.

Some later shots required Bruce to interact with the puppets, such as when two are holding his mouth open, so another can dive in. For this shot the articulation was carefully designed to illicit certain movement, then puppet's hands were glued to Bruce's face and his feet to the floor, so when Bruce moved, so did the puppets, although it was Bruce moving the puppets rather than the other way round. To augment the smaller puppets, some larger versions were made for specific shots to allow more control. Using Introvision also negated the need for oversize props, in fact the only item needed was the large fork used to impale one of the little Ashes, an effect achieved by Bruce act in reverse motion, and having the fork pulled out of shot, then running the footage backwards to give the complete effect.

Alterian also handled the physical good/bad Ash split makeup effects. Three mechanical heads were constructed with varying degrees of expression, which could be fixed to a shoulder harness worn by Bruce. To keep up the illusion, he had one arm hidden inside the harness which he could use to control of the fake arm, and had to keep his body tilted over to the right to make himself look even, given his much wider left shoulder. A second opposite harness was produced to allow Bruce to play the heads of both bad and good Ash. Animation took over when both Ashes fall to the ground sprouting extra limbs, but stuntmen were hung side by side for certain closeups. Probably the most memorable set of makeups involved Ashes escape from the book 'vortex' and his resultant deformities. All this was achieved with prosthetics, which involved facial appliances and elbow length foam 'gloves'.


Chris Doyle was the production's Stunt coordinator, pulling together much of the on set stunt work. Much of the sword fighting was coordinated by Chris. Some of the actions were assembled and rehearsed as they were needed at the start of a given shooting day, while other key sequences were worked on weeks in advance, allowing time to rehearse each move to perfection in terms of the actors positioning & timing. This was especially important of any footage that had to be combined via Introvision with live actors or animation in post-production. Ash shooting the pit monster was no easy stunt to perform, the Deadite role was filled by stuntman Rick Blackwell. He had to perform a backflip and fall back in to the pit, but the makeup meant he could only see out of one eye. It was about fifteen feet down to the floor of the pit, although crash mats were piled up reducing that distance to about eight feet. Just in case anything went wrong there were people standing either side just, but Rick did the stunt twice flawlessly. Incidentally, the same stuntman played the role of the Stay-Puft Marsh-mallow Man in Ghostbusters.


Air rams attached to stuntmen were used along with pyrotechnics to simulate explosions, and the ensuring action. Some larger and some smaller rams were used, the largest of which could pull someone forty feet high. Parts of the 'Deathcoaster' sequence also came under Chris' remit. This was a heavily modified Delta 88 Oldsmobile, although not Sam's prized original of course. His involvement was the Deadites hit by the helicopter blades, which was again achieved via air rams. He had three stuntmen each hooked up to a line so they could run five to six feet into shot, then the line would go tight which would trigger a solenoid/switch which engaged the air ram and jerked them out of shot as if hit by the helicopter blades. The spinning blades were a physical on-set effect, so the shot was filmed at a particular angle to hide the safety gap left between the blades and stuntmen.


The climatic battle scenes used a range of effects to bring the Deadite army to life. The army of actors was split in to four grades of quality. The D-group were just dressed actors wearing cloaks, which were usually the horse riders. Way off in the background, The C-group actors simply wore black suits with a skeletons painted on. The black of the suits would blend into the background leaving only the skeletons shown on screen. A stage better, and closer to the camera, there were B-group actors in form-fitting suits with fake bones & dressing attached to them, along with quite detailed masks. The A-group Deadites closer still were played by stuntmen trained in sword fighting, wearing fully detailed foam latex body suits and heads for close-ups. Ten articulated skeleton 'puppets' were built by KNB for use directly next to the camera. They took moulds from real skeletons so they could be reproduced in fibreglass, which were dressed with lightweight vacuformed armour.

Eight of these were made as rod puppets with mechanical hands, all of which could be controlled from underneath, and could made to move via dolly tracks or worn as backpacks by effects crew members, although this meant digging a trench for the operators so the skeletons were at the correct height. Of these eight; four were bare skeletons and four were covered in rotting flesh. The remaining two skeletons were fully articulated torsos, with cable controlled bodies and radio controlled heads. Initially the stages of makeup were kept tightly ordered in their distances from the camera, but as the dailies came it, they found it looked better if the various stages were mixed & matched to give variation. The crew did experiment with Deadite riders & horses. Designs for an articulated skeleton horse were drawn up, but had to be shelved because of budgetary limitations in favour of real horses. Rather than abandon the whole thing, they pursued the idea of dressing real horses in black suits dressed with bones, but this too was dropped as it would need to have been shot against a black background as an optical effect making it of little use of the grand battle scenes. Even so, dressed fake skeletons were used mounted on the real horses, for example next to the the Deadite Captain as he announces that the army is ready to charge, although it was felt that they never quite moved quite right.


KNB also handled a number of other effect set-pieces including; the Deadites in the castle pit, the possessed witch, and the winged Deadite which grabs Sheila. Two full size versions of this Deadite were built; a mechanical puppet, and a bodysuit which was worn by Nadine Grycan. The suit was made with fake front arms, and wearer's arms went in to the wings to allow the creature to flap. Because allocated location shooting time began ran out, the bodysuit was filmed in closeup & medium shots as a projection at Introvision, and the puppet was never used. The long shots in the sequence were then filled in with stop-motion animation figures. Most of the medium & long shots of skeleton evil Ash were stop-motion animation, but KNB did build a life-size articulated puppet for use in close-ups, with a movable arms, head, eyes & mouth. To begin with, this was affectionately called 'Skeletor' on the set. It was controlled from below using a series of cables and pulleys, although there was some difficulty with the arms, meaning nobody was quite sure where the sword it was holding would go. This lead to it's later re-naming as either 'Drunkator' and 'Strokator'.

Bruce performed much of his own stunt work, which include sword fighting, driving the 'Deathcoaster' himself in some shots, although in wide shots a double was used, and riding atop the shopping cart while firing his rifle in the 'heroic' alternate ending. That same sequence also called for a Deadite flipping through the air, which also was overseen by Chris. This utilized a piece of apparatus called a 'Russian swing', which is an A-frame which would be fixed near the ceiling with a flatbed swing hung from it ten feet below, which the stuntman would be strapped into. This would allow him to swing back and forth, twist, and backflip all relatively safely. The shot itself was made a little more challenging because the stuntman had to be fitted with squibs to simulate being hit by Ash's bullets, but it all went off without a hitch.

Ash twirling his shotgun in the castle courtyard and putting it into the holster on his back, was far more complex a setup than you might think. Having learned the intricacies of shotgun twirling the hard way while shooting Evil Dead II, a lightweight balsa wood replica gun was constructed with fishing weights at either end and a simple ring in place of the trigger guard. This allowed Bruce to twirl the gun for as long as was needed without any problems. Putting it in his back holster couldn't easily be done either, so a prop person simply knelt behind Bruce and pressed the shotgun to his back for the remainder of the shot, adding the sound effect in later. Contrary to Ash's assertions, the shotgun he's holding isn't a Remington at all, it's actually 12-gauge Stoeger Coach Gun in a satin-walnut & polished-blue finish, and usually costs around $350 to $400 to buy new.


Once all the exterior material had been completed, the production re-located to the Introvision International inc stages in west Hollywood, where they could begin the Introvision process which was overseen by Bill Mesa (Introvision's visual effects supervisor) and took around seven weeks. Introvision is a variation on the standard rear-screen projection process, allowing a background with additional foreground elements which an live actor can interact with. The complex itself consisted of four stages including a small one for close-up shots. This meant that while one stage setup was being used, another stage could be being prepped. Continual rotation allowed them to turn out anything up to four shots in a day depending on their complexity.


The Introvision setup used a sixty foot tall Scotchlite front-projection screen at the back of the stage, that bounced back virtually all of the light it received. Various miniatures & background plates were shot on Vista Vision, which offered twice the negative size of 35mm giving a finer grain and a more convincing composite with the live action footage. The pre-shot plates were projected on to the screen through the same camera lens as was filming the scene, so everything would align perfectly. The footage filmed, would be the finished composited image without any further need for film post-processing. The stage could also have a number of silver painted elements in the foreground which were similarly projected on to such as scenic items like rocks, walls or trees, allowing an actor to seemingly move behind and in front of elements in the projected image. The light wasn't bright enough to register on the actors clothing, and their bodies blocked their own shadows on the screen. Unlike blue/green screen matte shots which have to be composited together before the final effect can be appreciated and can take a few weeks, using Introvision, the finished effect can be seen through the camera's viewfinder.

Although complex, the process allowed great versatility, and allowed a large amount of interaction between actors and previously shot & projected stop-motion animation, such as Ash's fight with skeletal 'Bad Ash', although careful timing of each live movement was important to ensure each would action would line up with the projected footage. An effects assistant would count upwards via a megaphone, and the actors would know that on a specific number they had to perform a certain action, or be in a defined position, although they would be unable to physically see with what they were interacting. This usually meant careful and painstaking rehearsal, and many takes of each shot to precisely align each action, especially when they were acting with more than one animated element was in the frame. This is in direct contrast of the usual movie convention of filming live action first, then adding in the animation during post-production.

Just to further mix the effects, certain sequences intercut animated footage with on-set mechanical effects to trick the audience, such as Ash escaping the graveyard, and Ash sword fighting with the skeletons. Introvision could also utilize a motion control camera rig, so camera movements & motion used in shooting the background plates and models could then be repeated exactly when shooting the live action footage allowing seamless blending & camera movement between the two.

Post-production also included a number of stop-motion animations sequences, some of which were then combined with live action using Introvision. Pete Kleinow produced most of the animated footage, including part of the good/bad Ash sequence, featuring the Ash spidery puppet with four arms and four legs, and the Ray Harryhausen like skeletons.


The exterior castle set was modelled after Warwick castle in England, and was augmented using the Introvision process. Only certain parts of the full size castle were physically built, being around twenty-five feet high at its lowest up to sixty feet at its highest point. Parts built included the lower courtyard, the gatehouse, and the blacksmiths shop. The remaining portions of the castle were added as a post-production effect. This was achieved by blending live footage with a highly detailed miniature castle. It had six towers including a square one, and another with a spiral staircase up the outside.


There were also a number of other miniatures built including; the inside portcullis section of the castle, the pit, the windmill, and the 21st century destroyed London skyline used in the original apocalyptic ending. The most complex set was the graveyard which was a forced perspective miniature around thirty by forty feet, blending four different scales out to the horizon, the largest of which was closest to the camera and used a fourteen inch high Deadite skeletons. Further back than this they used 1/12th scale, then 1/20th scale, and finally the farthest was 1/24th scale. A number of hidden troughs were cut in to the set to allow the animators access to everything on the set.


The most difficult shot in the whole film was the wide angle view, in which the camera moves up over the hill revealing bad Ash & Sheila overlooking the vast army of the dead. As many as 50 skeletons are visible moving in the shot with fifteen channels of movement programmed in to the Lynx motion-control spectrum system which was on an IBM AT computer. Only six of those skeletons in shot were actually stop-frame animated by hand, with the remainder controlled by the computer using cables connected to servo motors.

This ten second shot took around three days to set up, rig and light, with an additional two and a half days to animate. This miniature was augmented with parts of the graveyard built full scale which could be used for tracking shots, and the gravestones that blew in to the air were miniatures mounted on air mortar rigs filled with fullers earth.

Many of the miniature scenic elements were designed by Tony Tremblay, who was initially brought in to specifically design the castle, but went on to become a general production designer. He started in January of 1991 by talking to Sam and producing some initial sketches, then made miniature mock-ups, before gaining approval to make the fully sized & detailed miniatures. The shooting schedule was arranged so that the miniatures were shot a month before principal photography began, to allow time for developing & editing, before the footage would be needed for projection at Introvision. Some sets never made into the finished film such as the volcanic chamber which was originally proposed to house the three books, and a ruined temple set. His work from start to finish took around eight months, and encompassed 20 miniature sets altogether.


The effects work on Army Of Darkness was far more complex than anything Sam, Rob or Bruce had worked on previously, and many effects which were then produced physically, would now be achieved using CGI. But in the end, because of the a vast and varied wealth of special effects talent, there was very little required which wasn't achieved, and the only restraint on Sam's wild imagination was the budget.
 
 
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