In stark contrast to the plethora of worldwide The Evil Dead DVD releases, Within The Woods has never been licenced and officially released on DVD anywhere in the world. Despite this, there have been many rumours circulated over the years, but a properly restored transfer looks as far away as ever.
The Only Retail DVD Release
The German distributor T.U.T. (The Union Television) released Evil Dead with a poor quality version of the short as an extra, in 2004. The transfer was virtually identical to screenshot number 4 on the 'Releases & Bootlegs' page. Many of the other extras are the same as the Anchor Bay Evil Dead trilogy UK boxset. This version has been re-packaged a number of times since then with various covers, but the actual disc content is the same.
T.U.T. is one of a handful of German distributors notorious for releasing official-looking bootlegs of films they havenít actually licensed, and its highly unlikely they would have been given permission to include the short, if Anchor Bay couldn't in the USA or UK, giving this release a semi-bootleg status even though it can be legally bought online and in stores.
The Anchor Bay DVD Mystery
When Anchor Bay announced their final stand-alone DVD release for The Evil Dead - the seminal 'Book of the Dead' edition - in 2002 the horror community wet their pants over the advertised inclusion of Within the Woods. A digitally cleaned image with a newly mastered soundtrack was promised in the run up to it's release. At the 11th hour an unseen force intervened. The exact nature of the problem was remains a mystery to everyone outside of Anchor Bay and the legal people involved. More importantly, this mysterious problem meant was that there probably wouldnít be a release, EVER!
Anchor Bay Evil Dead DVD ad from Rue Morgue #25 (January 2002) Scan kindy provided by Brett Daughenbaugh.
So what do we know?
Michael Fleisher, Anchor Bay's US chief, posted a statement over at http://www.mhfv.net, dated 15th January 2002. You can read it below, although it has been abridged slightly to remove all the text which didnít mention or refer to this situation:
".....on Monday, we were notified of an unexpected situation that is going to prevent us from including WITHIN THE WOODS on our DVD. I do not have further details on that. However, this is not an attempt to hold the short back for another release of EVIL DEAD down the line, or anything of that nature. Needless to say this is disappointing for us as I am sure it will be for the fans. As a result of this, WITHIN THE WOODS is being removed from our packaging and website details, and will not be mentioned in any further ads or print material concerning our March 5th EVIL DEAD promotion. Unfortunately a few advertisements were already running that do mention WOODS, however at this stage we weren't able to recall everything.ÖÖ.In the end, we did everything we could to make WITHIN THE WOODS happen, but, as many other studios have experienced, sometimes last-minute roadblocks can intervene when everything seems set in stone. We've never had an occasion where a feature of a DVD had to be dropped at such a late stage in the process,....."
Obviously this got a few responses requesting clarification, so Michael responded with this on 16th January 2002:
"Without getting into specifics, here's what the situation is. The music clearances WERE resolved and the situation had been put to rest, however another legal issue came up out of the blue and because of it, WITHIN THE WOODS will most likely never see release on home video. That's really all I can say about it. It's a unfortunate situation in any case."
On the 28th of January 2002, a further clarification was made:
"Over the course of the week, the news of "Within The Woods" having to be dropped from the upcoming EVIL DEAD: BOOK OF THE DEAD has been announced and like everyone here at Anchor Bay, fans have been very vocal about their disappointment that it won't be present in the release.
However, over the past few days, several incorrect rumors have surfaced and also some misconceptions about this situation. I want to address these now, and hopefully put this to rest and move on. No one is happy about this, least of all Anchor Bay.
1. WITHIN THE WOODS has been pulled because of a legal situation which I am not allowed divulge publicly. It was not related to the music issues, which had been cleared. It is a separate matter that was not anticipated and unfortunately cannot be resolved. This means that neither Anchor Bay Entertainment (or anyone else for that matter) will be able to release WITHIN THE WOODS on home video, ever. Delaying our release will not solve this issue. It will not be released by itself or as part of any other EVIL DEAD release. This is not our choice.
2. Related to the above point, many people have suggested that we are holding out on WITHIN THE WOODS to include it later in some other EVIL DEAD DVD or a EVIL DEAD TRILOGY box set. There are no other EVIL DEAD DVDs planned at this time. Also, there will NEVER be a box set with all three films included. Each of the three EVIL DEAD pictures are owned by separate participants which would make a box set highly difficult for a variety of reasons. Disregard any rumors you may read about a a box set. It is not going to happen, ever....."
".....4. Although we had finished our re-mastering of WITHIN THE WOODS, the discs had not yet been manufactured. We were in the final stages of production on the disc when this situation occured. Although the time and expense of altering our final materials is considerable, we fortunately don't have any finished product sitting somewhere that has to be destroyed or recalled....."
Since these statements, there have been a number of reasons put forward on various websites & message forums. A big one that keeps coming up is Sam didn't hold the rights to the music used to score the film (which is true). The score was composed mainly from tracks taken from other movie scores available at the time; Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Death Wish, Jaws, Sorcerer, On Her Majesty's Secret Service & The Deadly Mantis, were all used among others. This was not the reason, as the Anchor Bay version had already been re-scored with new music by composer Mark Raskin.
Because Within The Woods was removed so late in Anchor Bay's DVD authoring process, a menu screen was left on the disc detailing this. If you have the DVD you can scan through the VOB files and find it yourself, here it is;
Other reasons put forward have been last minute reluctance on Sam Raimiís part (this is something Bruce has mentioned in a number of Q&A sessions) and legal issues involving one of the actresses. There were only two females in cast; Ellen Sandweiss & Mary Valenti, and it would be unlikely that Ellen wouldn't give consent as she went on to act in The Evil Dead. It could only really be Mary Valenti if that was the case.
There have been many forums posts regarding the situation since that original announcement. This one posted by Don May Jr, the president of Synapse Films, is worthy of note. Don is a friend of the guys, and has worked with them before. It was posted on the AV Maniacs forums, 25th of September 2006.
Anchor Bay was all set to include it. The music WAS changed and ABE did all the work to remaster the title and author the disc and get the DLTs prepared... At the last minute, literally, the DLTs were held back at Raimi's request and the DVD authoring was changed to remove the short.
The WITHIN THE WOODS does indeed exist in a completely remastered form with new replacement music. ABE still probably has it on tape somewhere... but Raimi just had second-thoughts about including it and put a stop to it at zero hour.
It was SO close to being pressed that you can still see the text screen menus for WITHIN THE WOODS on the existing DVD... they were not removed, just "authored" out of the navigation. You can view these text screens on the DVD if you have a computer video tool that allows that sort of thing.
But, that being said, I actually have a pretty beautiful version of the "original" version of WITHIN THE WOODS that I got from Scott Spiegel YEARS ago... but you'd have to pry it out of my cold dead hands to see it (not to mention dig it out of one of the millions of boxes in my basement first).
When Scott Spiegel was interviewed by Calum Waddell for the 2004 'Hardgore' UK R2 Intruder DVD, he was asked if Within The Woods it would ever see the light of day, he replied;
That's all in Sam Raimi's court. Bruce and I have been trying to put it out, but I think Sam is waiting for the "Super-Ultra Edition" which means fans will have to buy The Evil Dead on DVD about ten times (laughs). I think thats a cool idea as well! I have the film actually, I have a Super 8 print of it and I think it would be better with a new transfer and soundtrack. The soundtrack is really the sticking point because we used music from other movies on it, but that can be sorted out easily enough. maybe we can get some new music for it.
So sadly the chances are we may never see Within The Woods in a pristine release, and we'll just have to be content with the various poor quality bootlegged versions.