Honestly, this week’s edition was going to be about somebody other then that title you see above. Last week, when talking about famous Italian director Dario Argento, the same very clear and a concise movie kept playing through my head, a film also by an Italian born cinematic icon. It turned into a trilogy which launched one of the most legendary actor/directors of our day. I’m speaking about Sergie Leone’s “Man with No Name” trilogy…A Fistful of Dollars, A Few Dollars More, and of course the climatic The Good The Bad & The Ugly.
The “spaghetti western” trilogy has inspired future modern day directors such as Rodriguez, Tarantino, and many more but it was also responsible for something much more important.
It put Clint Eastwood on the map. If there’s any man that fits into the “legends of cinema” category, which would be him.
Something stopped me from writing about him. Truthfully, where to even begin? This man could have a book written after him and perhaps, I’ll get right onto writing a shortened version just for you readers here at Mania but it’s still a very large project. Perhaps, split it off into series of his acting vs. his directing…onward into his own influence and those whom are influenced from him.
No, it’s something which should be put on the back burner for now.
Instead, I’m going to be writing about a man who is a hot topic of movie news as a whole at this moment. Someone who began his roots back in the horror genre and is now rumored (among other things) to be going back into the horror genre very soon. This man is rumored in movie news to being selected in some high profile projects and there’s a reason for this. He’s basically single-handedly taught Hollywood that there is a “right way to adapt Comic book heroes”.
I’m speaking of the Spiderman directing genius, Sam Raimi.
You would be hard pressed to go anywhere without Spider-man being plastered in your face one way or another. From walking into your local Wal-Mart and seeing the newly molded toys ready to please children everywhere to the everyday news that Spider-man will be premiering in just about every major nation state of the world at the same time. Variety seems to have a daily news headline about Spiderman 3 with a new release event properly staged and planned by the masterminds over at Sony/Columbia Pictures. The anticipation for this movie is tantamount to a surfer riding the lip of a typhoon swelling wave and we are now approaching the apex of its final crest as it touches the sandy beach beyond. It’s almost home, this project of massive marketability and planning.
As such, let’s talk about the man responsible for the film being as anticipated and loved as it is. The man whom has as large a following of fans as any number of directors working the scene in recent times. There’s a reason he’s as loved as he is. He’s touched films which generally appealed to audiences to the point where some of his characters live in infamy for the quotetastic lines they’ve induced in our fan boy hearts.
Sam Raimi and John Carpenter (also featured in a previous Star Spotlight column) both have seen fit to create an iconic fictional character with such a tough of imaginative grace that the fans whom love these character can spurt out that character’s quotes at the drop of a hat.
Samuel Marshall Raimi was born on October 23, 1959 to a conservative Jewish family in Michigan with Raimi the 4th of 5 children from his dad Leonard and mom Celia. His name was originally Reingewertz but it was shortened to Raimi for a more modern American name. At an early age, Raimi fell in love with films and that love was transformed to something more one day when his father brought home a video camera. They used to make family films on it but Raimi with childhood friend Bruce Campbell decided to go beyond just the occasional family film.
They ( Raimi and Campbell) created a 30 minute horror film titled Within the Woods while attending college together.
You can see where this is going?
Just by screening the shortened homemade horror Within the Woods at college and various tours, they raised $350 k from it and it was this money which helped them invest their passion towards a longer version named Evil Dead (1981).
It was Evil Dead which launched Raimi’s movie career and made Bruce Campbell the horror icon that he is today. A lot of people seem to love the Evil Dead trilogy as a whole but they’ve seen Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness the most out of the series. Evil Dead II was a reimagining of the first one, albeit with more comedic elements and less horror. It still resonates strong with the horror community to this day though.
“The Book of the Dead” recording playing at the beginning of the film is one of the most iconic moments of modern day horror.
In between Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, Raimi was trying to get another idea of his jumpstarted but too much studio interference ended up causing the project to fail. I’m speaking of Raimi’s Crimewave (1985), a film intended to be a live action comic book by Raimi. The studio turned it into a trainwreck and Raimi decided to go back to horror and reimagine Evil Dead with the more comedic elements instead, i.e. Evil Dead II.
In between Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, Raimi wanted to adapt another famous comic book franchise titled “The Shadow” for the big screen but again, there was studio issues here. He was unable to secure the rights to it and instead, created another cult classic for a lot of movie fans, Darkman. It was this films relative success which contributed to getting Evil Dead III: Army of Darkness created. The irony here is that while Evil Dead III has as large a following as Spiderman, it wasn’t as successful in box office as it could have been.
In fact, this is another correlation between Raimi and Carpenter. Carpenter’s films with iconic characters were box office duds for the most part but have very massive followings inside the scene and outside in the Americana pop culture. It goes into the old adage that box office doesn’t mean much to the average movie goer even if it’s vitally important to the studio writing out the paychecks. A film may fail but it doesn’t stop it from being a success or loved by the people. The circle of success doesn’t always follow itself, sometimes it follows a line of reasoning that baffles studio execs to this day.
With Army of Darkness not performing up to speed, Raimi faded back into the background for a while, instead opting to produce TV shows which were considered b-material all the way but like I say above, also had large followings. The syndication, dvd sells, and television audiences around the world immediately took to the cheesy popcorn goodness of his “Hercules”, “Xena Warrior Princess”, “M.A.N.T.I.S” , “Cleopatra 2525” series. Sure, this was around the same time that Baywatch was ruling the airwaves in European countries and silicone breasted babes were topping the charts of pop culture year round here in America. Those same audiences ate up Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess.
If anything can be said about Raimi, he knows how to appeal to the genre niche audience with that fan boy driven imagination of his. He appeals to those of us who just want to have some fun even if it’s downright silly and offball related. This is the reason why he appeals to a lot of genre fans and why his following of Raimi-ites continues to grow.
In the mid 90s, he stuck to the tv scene and producing other films but he didn’t direct anything himself throughout this period other than The Quick and the Dead. It wasn’t until 98 until he released something with the mainstream audiences. This was the time where he directed and released the Bill Paxton & Billy Bob Thorton film A Simple Plan. This film did reach out to a lot of mainstream audiences outside of his own following and he ended up appealing to this wider reach with his 99 release For Love of the Game. After filming Costner’s last baseball related film, he would go onto make The Gift for a 2000 release.
When seeing the recent news about Sony, Dunst, Maguire and Raimi all going back and forth over “taking a break” before doing Spiderman 4, here’s a little understanding of these types of arguments.
From the year 00-this moment, the only films Raimi has had a chance to create is Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004) & Spider-Man 3 (2007). Raimi has told Superhero Hype this past week that “Yes, I’ll do a Spider-Man 4” as well though his mind is officially “blank” at the moment.
Good reason for that, too. These films probably take a lot out of him. He’s a comic fan at heart first and foremost and he’s not the type to rush out a film even with the studio constantly breathing down his back hairs. He said he would take 3 years between Spidey 2 and Spidey 3 and that’s exactly what he did. Imdb already has Spider-Man 4 listed as coming out 2009 but as always, I’m thinking they’re jumping the gun on that one. Nothing is set in stone and even if Sony throws Fort Knox’s gold reserve at Raimi, he will need some kind of break here. Perhaps, a 2010 release is more manageable if the parties agree to the terms. Saying “Yes, I’ll do another Spiderman film” and doing another one immediately are two different types of answers.
Raimi has also been offered the director’s chair to New Line’s The Hobbit. That’s a damn serious offer to digest for a director who has the love for the genre as he does. It’s not one to be shrugged off and while a lot of Peter Jackson fans and fan crazy websites may be upset about the decision, should Raimi choose to take it, I’m sure Peter Jackson himself would give Raimi his blessing in much the same fashion as John Carpenter gave Rob Zombie his own. Name any director which wouldn’t jump at the opportunity of making The Hobbit even with the utterly strange childish antics from New Line’s chairman Shaye. No, a director may go on record saying how wrong Jackson has been treated here but that won’t stop the same director from personally salivating over the opportunity to bring this book to the big screen under the care of their lens.
There’s also a rumor that Raimi is actually “planning” a return to the horror genre. Could this be another trip for our horror hero Ash after his iconic Spidey franchise? All that’s being said is he’s planning a return to horror. Not what the project is about. It could be a new original concept that’s been floating in that brain of his or it could be a glorious return of his Ash character. Who really knows?
All that can be said is Raimi has some very tough decisions to go along with a much needed vacation. While he’s the one whom has to choose, it seems like whichever decision he makes could & will upset fans of any of the perspective franchises. Anger comic book lovers with not going immediately back to Spider-Man 4? Anger Peter Jackson fans with going onward to direct The Hobbit? Possibly alienate his core audience with deciding to shelve the rumored return to horror? What seems ironic here is Raimi is on top of his game in Hollywood and I respect the hell out of him for his credits (both cheesy and otherwise)…He has some great choices that any other director would kill to have inside the industry scene, yet, it seems as if everyone whom is not named “Samuel Marshall Raimi” wants to decide his future for him.
Raimi’s Directing Credits:
It’s Murder! (1977)
Within the Woods (1978)
The Evil Dead (1981)
The Evil Dead II (1987)
Army of Darkness (1992)
The Quick and the Dead (1995)
A Simple Plan (1998)
For Love of the Game (1999)
The Gift (2000)
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Spider-Man 3 (May 4, 2007)
There’s also discussion on remaking “The Evil Dead” set for a 2008 release. Raimi will be penning the screenplay for it since he’s its original creator and should have say over the project. He’s only accredited as “writer” for the upcoming planned remake, not director or producer.
For now, he’s in discussions to direct a mini series “Wizard’s First Rule” for television in 2008 and Spider-Man 4 in 2009 along with of course New Line’s The Hobbit.
Spider-Man 3 hits theaters everywhere on May 4, 2007.
Whatever the case for Sam Raimi, even with the tough decisions, his future is most definitely bright!
This will do it for this week’s edition of Star Spotlight. Talk to you later, fellow Maniacs.