Evil Ed AKA Censor! (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (6th June 2017).
The Film

Evil Ed (Anders Jacobsson, 1995)

Horror comedies are a dubious proposition at the best of times, but the very notion of a Swedish horror comedy is enough to suggest a truly bizarre concoction, Swedish cinema largely being associated for international audiences with either highbrow fare such as the films of Ingmar Bergman or Vilgot Sjoman’s I Am Curious (Yellow) (1967), or transgressive (s)exploitation films like Bo Arne Vibenius’ Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973).

As one might expect from a film bearing the label 'horror comedy', especially a film which wears its allusions to Sam Raimi’s Three Stooges-inspired Evil Dead (1981) in its title, Anders Jacobsson’s Evil Ed descends into raucous slapstick. Excessive to the point of absurdity, the film’s violence is definitely situated within a post-Bad Taste (Peter Jackson, 1987) context. Brains are splattered across the floor; limbs are severed by shotgun blasts. The violence is so graphic that one can’t help but laugh at it – or, possibly, be deeply offended. The film is also riddled with allusions, from nods to Sam Raimi’s kinetic use of the camera and smash-cut edits in Evil Dead and Robert Kurtzman’s prosthetic makeup for Evil Ed (Richard Domeier) in Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987), to lines from films such as David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986) – with Ed quoting Dennis Hopper’s seering line ‘Don’t you fucking look at me!’, for example.

The film begins with a film editor, McClane (Michael Kallaanvaara), employed by filmmaking bigshot Sam Campbell (Olof Rhodin) demonstrating odd behaviour in the edit suite, until Campbell manages to gain entry into the room and the editor kills himself with a hand grenade.

Campbell is then forced to hire another editor. He selects Edward ‘Ed’ Tor Swenson (Johan Rudebeck), who is introduced editing an austere black-and-white domestic drama. Ed’s sensibilities are challenged when he discovers what Campbell wishes him to do: Campbell needs Ed to work on the graphically violent feature film series Loose Limbs, cutting back the more outrageous moments to make them more palatable to the state censor. Campbell orders Ed to complete the project in Campbell’s isolated country house.

Whilst Ed edits the Loose Limbs films in seclusion, Campbell asks runner Nick (Per Lofberg), who is in love with co-worker Mel (Camela Leierth), to deliver the reels to his country house so that Ed may work on them. However, Ed’s grip on reality becomes increasingly tenuous. When visiting the kitchen for a snack, he imagines cutting into a severed arm and sees a gremlin in the refrigerator.

When Campbell arrives at the house to check on Ed’s work, Ed sees Campbell as a demon-like figure and kills him, dismembering the corpse. During the night, two burglars break into the house, only to be confronted with Ed before being killed in gruesome ways. Then Ed’s wife Barbara (Cecilia Ljung) and daughter Emmy (Nathalie Kauklija) visit him, only to find Ed covered in blood and displaying strange behaviour. After the bodies of Campbell and the thieves are discovered, Ed is transported to a hospital where he attacks a nurse and several patients before a five-man SWAT team are sent in to hunt Ed down. Meanwhile, Nick and Mel find themselves in the same hospital, with Ed closing in on them.

To outsiders, Sweden may seem to be defined by a generally lax approach to film censorship, at least for many international viewers: when one thinks of Swedish cinema, one might immediately think of the tendency for Swedish filmmakers to push the proverbial envelope in terms of what was (and is) permissible on screens, especially in the depiction of sex and sexuality. Sjoman’s I Am Curious (Yellow) was one of the most memorable and daring pictures of the late 1960s, its for-the-time explicit scenes of sex leading to the film being cut by the BBFC when submitted for UK classification, and causing a furore when it was shown in American cinemas. Likewise, the opening montage of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1968) features near-subliminal images of a sleep being slaughtered, a nail being driven into a hand, and an erect penis. However, in reality Sweden was one of the first countries to establish a board of film censorship (in 1911), and the country’s film censorship board was notoriously strict until it was abolished in 2011. In particular, during the 1980s the films of Dario Argento and John Woo were often seen as being particularly challenging for Swedish film censors, with Argento and Woo’s films frequently being cut heavily or banned in their entirety. The growth of home video formats offered yet another challenge to Swedish censors, with some Swedish politicians suggesting that videocassettes and videocassette recorders should be prohibited from being sold in Sweden. Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and William Fruet’s Death Weekend (1976), both banned from exhibition in Sweden, were often cited as films that validated the censorious mindset – notably in a 1980 televised debate entitled ‘Who Needs Video?’

It’s in this context, of a climate in which films such as John Woo’s Hard Boiled (1992) were banned from public exhibition owing to their supposed glorification of violence, that Evil Ed picks its targets. Made in 1995, during a decade in which debates about mimetic/copycat acts of violence inspired by screen mayhem seemed to be an almost constant feature of the news, Evil Ed satirises the mindset of the censorious in a manner that might remind the viewer of 18th Century satirist Sidney Smith’s assertion that ‘Men whose trade is ratcatching love to catch rats… and the suppressor is gratified by his vice’. The titular ‘Evil Ed’, whose name is borrowed from a secondary character (played by Richard Romeier) in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1986), functions essentially as a censor after being ordered by Campbell to tone down the violence in the Loose Limbs films. However, Ed finds his new job rapidly takes a toll on his sanity, his exposure to the violent sequences from Loose Limbs turning a once meek editor of monochrome Swedish ‘art’ films into an ultraviolent monster who is intent on purging the world of sin and spouts the corny one-liners of a horror film villain.

Ed acquires his new role, as the editor responsible for cutting the Loose Limbs series into something that will be acceptable to the censors, following the death of the editor we see in the film’s opening sequence. Shutting himself in the edit suite, this editor, McClane, is shown furiously working at the Moviola, until an acetylene torch is used to sever the lock on the door, thereby allowing Campbell to gain entry to the edit suite. McClane has been driven mad by his work on the Loose Limbs series, the films’ graphic violence presumably affecting him in the same way it affects Ed later in Evil Ed. ‘Fuck you and your bloody company’, McClane tells Campbell, ‘I’m just another chunk of meat lost in brainland’. With this assertion, McClane places a hand grenade in his mouth and pulls the pin. The grenade detonates, spattering gore over the face of Campbell, who adds nonchalantly, ‘You’re fired!’

Being able to frame the violence in the Loose Limbs films as fiction (ie, by recognising it as a fictional construct) seems not to have protected McClane from its nefarious influence. Theories that attempt to explain the impact of screen violence on its audience run the gamut from those that suggest screen violence has a positive impact on its viewers (the catharsis model, in which viewers are said to release pent-up feelings of anger and resentment through watching violent films) to those which argue that the impact is wholly negative (the hypodermic needle model, which posits that communication between films and their audience is ‘one way’ and that audiences are in effect ‘injected’ with ideas by films). In between these two polar opposites are various theories which suggest a more subtle influence: reinforcement theory, which suggests that viewing screen violence simply reinforces a viewer’s pre-existing feelings towards violence (those attracted to violence are likely to find it exciting; those who dislike violence will find it repulsive); Social Learning Theory (as exemplified in Albert Bandura’s infamous Bobo Doll study, which suggests that audiences learn through role models); and reception theory (which positions the viewer as active in decoding and creating the ‘meanings’ within films). Evil Ed satirises the censorious mindset by presenting the influence of the Loose Limbs series as having a very direct, negative effect upon its viewers – regardless of whether they acknowledge it as fictional or not. Even though Ed is involved in the making of the Loose Limbs films, they weave their strange spell upon him, causing Ed to lose touch with reality.

Evil Ed often cuts to scenes in the Loose Limbs films, interweaving their moments of grue with the mayhem taking place in the main narrative. To some extent, the Loose Limbs films anticipate the ‘torture porn’ phenomenon of the early 2000s, featuring a maniac who finds increasingly gruesome ways of dispatching his victims. ‘In this film’, Ed tells his wife Barbara via telephone, ‘a woman gets raped by a beaver and then shot in the head with a bazooka’. The near-seamless intercutting of the footage from the Loose Limbs films with the story of Ed may lead the viewer to question whether what s/he is watching is the main narrative or simply clips from the film-within-a-film. To some extent, the effect is comparable to Lucio Fulci’s delirously metafictional Un gatto nel cervello (Cat in the Brain, 1990) or Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994). Ed is equally confused by the overlapping of his reality with the violent world depicted in the Loose Limbs films: ‘I don’t feel so good’, he tells Campbell, ‘I don’t know what’s happening to me. I’m not sure if this job, or the violence, or the blood… I don’t know if I’m able to continue with… [….] These films, they give me the creeps’. Later, Ed calls Campbell on the telephone and tells him, ‘It’s your world; I just live in it’.

The film acknowledges the stereotypes of Swedish cinema in the black and white ‘art’ film Ed is shown editing early in Evil Ed, before he is hired by Campbell to edit the Loose Limbs pictures. Ed is shown in a clinical, white edit suite, his work orderly and his environment calm and sedate. The film he is editing is shot in monochrome and features a man and woman engaged in an argument. (It’s not unlike ‘Mon dejeuner avec Vera’, the satirical ‘art’ film that Jorg Buttgereit has his protagonist watch in Nekromantik 2, 1991.) The world of Campbell – and his product, the Americanised Loose Limbs films – is presented in stark contrast with this. Ed is transplanted from his ordered, clinical edit suite into Campbell’s office. Waiting to see Campbell, Ed finds himself in a department, the ‘Splatter and Gore Department’, that is dominated by bright colours, loud pop music and visual excess. Campbell’s office is decorated in horror film posters, a copy of Halliwell’s Film Guide prominently featured on the guru’s desk. Ed, still in his white lab coat, looks desperately out of place. Campbell demands that Ed perform his function as editor not in the clinical edit suite to which he is accustomed, but in Campbell’s isolated country house; there, Ed’s work as editor seems mostly to be conducted at night. In this way, the film offers a direct contrast – particularly in terms of its use of story-spaces/settings – between the (stereotypical) world of Swedish cinema and that of American ‘splatter’ cinema.


Video

Presented in 1080p, using the AVC codec and taking up about 25Gb of space on the Blu-ray disc, the ‘Special ED-ition’ of Evil Ed has a running time of 98:49 mins. This new edit of the film restores some footage; some of the differences are covered in the ‘Reconstructing Edward’ featurette included on this Blu-ray release as an ‘extra’. The previous BBFC-imposed cuts have been waived. The film is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, which seems natural; compositions seem balanced.

Shot on 16mm but blown-up to 35mm for cinema exhibition, Evil Ed is presented here in a version that easily surpasses the film’s previous DVD releases. The new presentation is based on the film's 16mm negative. Contrast levels are good, with defined midtones but blacks sometimes seem veered towards milky grey rather than ‘true’ black. Colours are bold, with the blue wash of the nighttime scenes being represented particularly strongly - though this colouring sometimes has a slightly 'digital' look (the colour grading was achieved using Da Vinci Resolve, and in the extra features we can see the saturation levels of individual colours being 'tweaked'; this approach is most likely the reson for the 'digital' look that the film's colours possess.)

There’s a good level of detail present, but given that the film was shot on 16mm and almost all of the picture takes place in low-light situations, the structure of the film image seems quite muted. At other times, the image seems dominated by what looks more like video noise than natural film grain. (See the large screengrab below.) There’s no damage to speak of. The presentation is a huge improvement over the film’s previous home video releases, though as noted above the grain structure seems a little ‘off’.




 photo vlcsnap-2017-06-06-22h06m42s729_zps0bdzhegq.png

Audio

Audio is presented, in English, via the choice of a LPCM 2.0 stereo track or a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Both tracks are clean and clear, the 5.1 track naturally offering a more ‘rounded’ soundscape; but purists will want to default to the LPCM 2.0 track. Shot in English, the film’s dialogue is as bizarre and stilted as that in Swedish filmmaker Bo Arne Vibenius’ oddball transgressive thriller Breaking Point (1975). ‘I love the concept of pain’, Ed tells Nick at one point in the film, ‘Pain makes people so repentant. It almost gives me a hard-on’. He continues to add: ‘There’s something wrong with your brain. But don’t worry: I can help you’.

The film is accompanied by optional English subtitles for the Hard of Hearing. These are easy to read and free from problems.

Extras

The disc includes:
- Optional introduction by director Anders Jacobsson and co-producer Doc (4:13). Jacobsson and Doc giggle incessantly before introducing Evil Ed to the viewer. The introduction is in Swedish, with optional English subtitles.

- ‘You Keep ‘Em Heads Rollin’ (45:32). This documentary explores the genesis, production and release of Evil Ed and features input from Jacobsson, Goran Lundstrom, Johan Rudebeck, Doc and others. Anders Jacobsson talks about the origins of what became Evil Ed in an earlier project. Rudebeck reflects on how he came to be involved in the project. The film was shot, Jacobsson suggests, in a ‘guerilla’ style; production began without a script, and Jacobsson admits that the most important thing was to find a suitable location in which to make the film. Nobody was paid for working on the film: ‘Everyone had enthusiasm, but no money’, Jacobsson says. The documentary is in Swedish, with optional English subtitles.

- ‘Before Ed’ (9:47). This featurette examines some of the films those involved in making Evil Ed were associated with prior to the production of the main feature. Clips from their shot-on-VHS shorts are included and interspersed with interview footage. The featurette is in Swedish, with optional English subtitles.

- ‘Beyond Ed’ (10:13). The cast and crew reflect on their careers following Evil Ed. Again, this featurette is in Swedish, with optional English subtitles.

- ‘Reconstructing Edward’ (21:05). This featurette focuses on the assembly of the ‘Special ED-ition’ cut. Jacobsson and Doc, the co-producer, look at the film cans, the script and the edit log before reviewing some of the raw footage. We also get to see some of the surviving prosthetics and practical effects, and the grading (done digitally via Da Vinci Resolve). The featurette is in Swedish, with optional English subtitles.

- New Scenes (6:10). Here, the audience is presented with the material that has been added to the ‘Special ED-ition’ of the film. The clips are introduced by Jacobsson and Doc, Lundstrum, Cecilia Ljung and Rudebeck.

- Deleted Scenes

- Trailers and Teasers:
-- Special ED-ition trailer (1:04);
-- English trailer (1:59);
-- Swedish trailer (2:28);
-- Swedish teaser 1 (0:33);
-- Swedish teaser 2 (0:31);
-- ‘Bergman’ teaser (0:44). This trailer foregrounds the clips from the black and white ‘art’ film that Ed is seen editing in the early sequences of the picture, before an onscreen title declares ‘Not!’ and the audience is presented with a montage of the film’s moments of mayhem;
-- ‘Nutty Professor’ trailer (1:43). This trailer mimics the appearance of a newsreel film, with Rudebeck playing a disturbed Ed contorting behind a doctor who asserts, in a faux-German accent, that Ed has been driven mad by ‘extremely violent scenes from a splatter movie’.

- Gallery (1:02).

An ‘easter egg’ is included. Highlight ‘Gallery’ on the ‘Extras’ menu and press right. A series of interviews (5:37) are included in which the actors reflect ironically on their involvement in the film.

The Limited Edition release also includes a second Blu-ray disc containing the original edit of the film and a three hour documentary about the production. (This disc wasn’t provided for review.)

Overall

A bizarre film that speaks very much of the era of its production, Evil Ed still feels remarkably fresh and relevant today. The film’s ironic examination of the alleged effects of screen violence tapped into the zeitgeist, especially amongst fans of horror films who were frustrated with film censorship and censors’ seeming refusal to ‘get’ the use of violence in horror pictures. Though the filmmakers were inspired specifically by the Swedish film censors’ approach to screen violence, Evil Ed spoke equally to British fans of horror films who were used to the BBFC demonstrating a similarly heavy-handed approach to the genre. (Ironically, upon the film’s UK release the BBFC demanded that Evil Ed be shorn of two seconds of footage showing blood on the breasts of one of the victims of the Loose Limbs film-within-the-film, an image that the then-Chief Examiner of the BBFC, James Ferman, considered to be a ‘trigger image’.) Evil Ed’s approach is scattershot and the dialogue is largely risible, but it’s hard not to be swept up by the enthusiastic approach of both cast and crew. That enthusiasm is communicated very clearly in the contextual material included on this Blu-ray release, which is indepth and excellent. Though the colours sometimes have a 'plastic' digital appearance and the grain structure seems a little 'off' - being both muted and, in some scenes, replaced by what seems like video noise - the presentation of the main feature is also a large improvement over Evil Ed’s previous DVD releases. This is definitely the best version of Evil Ed to buy, but just be careful that the film's rampant gore doesn't turn you into a raving maniac.







 photo vlcsnap-2017-06-05-21h57m17s988_zpsmrpcazyz.png
 photo vlcsnap-2017-06-05-21h57m44s729_zpskopdpf08.png
 photo vlcsnap-2017-06-05-21h57m51s608_zpspaergp24.png
 photo vlcsnap-2017-06-05-21h57m55s191_zpsutq8uhqf.png
 photo vlcsnap-2017-06-05-21h58m02s473_zpsdjsx1yeu.png
 photo vlcsnap-2017-06-05-21h58m42s114_zpsrp62cor5.png
 photo vlcsnap-2017-06-05-21h58m46s268_zps4klmaiau.png
 photo vlcsnap-2017-06-05-21h59m07s611_zpszk5rura1.png

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.