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Trivia / The Evil Dead (1981)

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  • Acting in the Dark: Ellen Sandweiss claims that the script only read "Cheryl is attacked by the woods" and that they kept adding more to the scene when they were filming. So she didn't realize it was a rape scene until she saw the final film.
  • Amateur Cast: None of the actors had ever done a movie before. Bruce Campbell and Ellen Sandweiss were frequent collaborators with Sam Raimi in the short films he'd been making for years, but had never been in a professional production of any kind, and the other three actors had only done commercials before Sam Raimi recruited them through an ad in The Detroit News. Everyone except Campbell quit acting after Evil Dead, although the three women all returned to the craft in the mid-2000s and have made decent careers for themselves.
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  • Ashcan Copy: "Within the Woods," a short film made primarily to get the first true Evil Dead film financed.
  • Banned In China:
    • The first film was one of Britain's "Video Nasties" that got Mary Whitehouse's knickers in a twist. It was more to do with the title than the content; titles with stuff like "Evil" and "Dead" were banned in a knee-jerk reaction (although the tree rape scene didn't do it any favors).
    • This also led to Sam Raimi going to England to defend the film's content in court. This experience also caused him to express Old Shame through explaining the tree rape scene...
    • In 1984, the film was banned by German authorities; it wasn't until 2016 that the ban was lifted in that country.
  • Blooper:
    • When Ash is holding the chainsaw above the possessed Linda you can see the actress's pulse racing - clearly terrified at the chainsaw being held right above her.
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    • When Cheryl has returned to the cabin after being attacked by the woods, Scott goes to say something and then steps out of frame. This is because his actor forgot his line.
  • Bowdlerize: The British Board of Film Classification would not approve the release of the film without some of the goriest moments being edited out, and after it became public enemy number-one of the Video Nasties controversy anyway, they demanded further cuts in order to allow it to return. While the censored version was still incredibly gory (there wasn't really any way around that), the impact of the violence was lessened somewhat by removing all moments where one character stabs or strikes another repeatedly, and all shots of blood gushing from wounds were edited out.
  • Breakthrough Hit: For Sam Raimi.
  • Doing It for the Art:
  • Enforced Method Acting: When possessed Linda is trying to stab Ash the confusion is helped by the fact that the actor's contact lenses meant they didn't know where Bruce Campbell was.
  • Flip-Flop of God: Sources differ as to where Sam Raimi got the name "Ash" from. Raimi once claimed that he named him Ash because "that was all that was going to be left of him at the end", though the earliest plot synopsis already describes him as surviving and escaping. Bruce Campbell instead recalls that his full name was initially meant to be "Ash Holt", because he is an "ass hole", although he isn't much of one in the original.
  • Follow the Leader: The creative team preferred making comedies in their amateur Super-8 days, and in fact, Sam Raimi didn't even like horror movies; they chose to make one anyway after doing some research and determining that the most commercially successful low-budget independent films of the recent past had been horror flicks, like The Last House on the Left, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and The Hills Have Eyes.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: More recent home video releases have made some minor digital alterations to the footage, primarily to remove flubs such as crew members being visible on screen or jump-cuts in the middle of scenes. The most noted alteration is the deletion of a particular special effects shot of a lightning strike, which looks quite poorly done; it was removed in the 1999 DVD release, but returned in most subsequent versions.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The movie was a very modest hit in the United States, just making around $2 million, which is only really impressive in comparison to its $500,000 budget. In Europe, it was huge, resulting in it ultimately earning more than $29 million dollars worldwide. It was largely on the back of its European success that Dino De Laurentiis agreed to fund the sequel.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: For a period of five years starting in 1985, the film was completely unavailable commercially in the UK, thanks to the moral panic driven up against it and the other Video Nasties. Even after it was re-released in 1990, it had been censored by more than a minute's running time, and it wasn't until 2001 that the uncut version was finally included.
  • Lying Creator: Sam Raimi is known for telling tall tales regarding the production of the movie, which - given the genuine and notorious Troubled Production - many people end up willing to believe. He once claimed that, while filming the final shot on a bicycle, he crashed straight into Bruce Campbell and broke Campbell's jaw, which he absolutely did not; on another occasion, he claimed that the cabin used for filming had previously been inhabited by a family whose mother and grandmother suddenly died of natural causes on the same night during a lightning storm, which may possibly be true but certainly seems implausible.
  • Movie-Making Mess: A crew discovering that feature films are much harder to make than short films, No Budget, unsavory work conditions and a director making sure the actors are really frightened, and you got what Bruce Campbell described as "a comedy of errors".
  • No Budget: The film was financed entirely through small-level investments by various wealthy Detroit residents, such as doctors and business owners, most of whom proved difficult to entice. To drive the point home: before production began, Rob Tapert, Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi's best-case scenario was producing it for $150,000, while their absolute lowest, worst-case-scenario budget was $90,000. When it came time to start filming, they had only $85,000 to work with. It was for this reason that much of the Fake Shemping was required: they ran out of money to pay the cast and crew long before filming was completed, so they had to film the rest by themselves for free, with whoever they could persuade to help.
  • Old Shame:
    • Sam Raimi has expressed shame over the tree rape scene. Doesn't seem to have stopped it from reappearing in the remake though.
    • Bruce Campbell admitted to regretting the scene where he repeatedly and violently slaps Linda.
  • Orphaned Reference: The characters were supposed to be high while listening to the tape. They tried this for real, but the entire scene had to be re-shot due to their uncontrollable behaviour. The smoke is visible in one scene.
  • The Shelf of Movie Languishment: After being completed in 1980, the film didn't premiere until 1981 and did not receive a wide release until 1983.
  • Star-Making Role: For Bruce Campbell.
  • Throw It In!:
    • When a possessed Cheryl's hand bursts through the window to grab at Ash's face, the puppeteer actually grabbed Bruce Campbell's face - and he was bleeding for real.
    • A scene of decapitated Linda trying to rape Ash was added to 'even out' the controversy over Cheryl being raped by the tree.
    • All the way up until filming began, the ending of the script called for Ash to simply leave the cabin and exit the woods to safety. It wasn't until they started shooting that production assistant Josh Becker suggested the final scare.
  • Trope Namer: Fake Shemp.
  • Troubled Production: In his autobiography, Bruce Campbell described the production as a "comedy of errors" and "twelve weeks of mirthless exercise in agony." Sam Raimi and the cast and crew had done some shorts before, but a feature proved to be much harder.
    • The cabin used as the film's set was also used as lodging for the thirteen crew members. Living conditions were terrible, and the crew frequently argued. The actors went days without showering or bathing (the cabin did not have plumbing), and fell ill frequently in the freezing weather. Things got so bad that, by the end of production, they were burning furniture to stay warm.
    • On the very first day of shooting, the crew got lost in the woods.
    • Several people were injured during the shoot and couldn't get medical help due to how isolated the cabin was. In one particularly gruesome instance, Betsy Baker's eyelashes were ripped off during the removal of her face mask.
    • The special effect used to create the Deadites' possessed-looking eyes was done with contact lenses as thick as glass that could only be worn for fifteen minutes at once because they prevented the actors' eyes from breathing. Campbell compared the effect to putting Tupperware over the eyes. (Perhaps it's not for nothing that the remake dropped this particular effect.)
    • Raimi takes pride in how he "tortured" his actors on set, feeling that it made it easier for them to capture the characters' pain and misery. When Campbell tripped and injured his leg during one scene, Raimi poked the injured area with a stick.
  • Unbuilt Casting Type: Bruce Campbell is best known for being a comedic badass, in this franchise. But in the first film in the series, Ash starts out as a normal guy who spends a lot of time getting trapped under bookcases and being something of a Distressed Dude. Essentially he becomes an Action Survivor as opposed to a Rated M for Manly badass.
  • Urban Legend of Zelda: It's rumored that the Finnish cut of the movie - dropping nearly twelve minutes of footage - was done by Renny Harlin.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Ash and Scotty were meant to be drinking moonshine in the car scene - which is why Ash makes a funny face (his reaction to the drink). Scotty can still be seen holding a Mason jar full of clear liquid in a few shots.
    • Linda's make-up when she gets possessed was originally going to have her as a snake-like creature. However the make-up artist later changed it to look more like a Creepy Doll. The original make-up can be seen when Ash is dragging her outside (filmed before the indoor scenes).
    • The original cut ran for about 110 minutes - putting more emphasis on the tragedy of Ash not being able to help his friends. It was cut down to the more marketable 85 minutes.
    • Originally, Linda's magnifying glass pendant was supposed to inadvertently burn the Natorum Demonto with a beam of sunlight, cluing Ash in that he needed to destroy the book with fire. They couldn't get the effect to look right, so they rewrote the scene to instead have Ash simply use it as a tiny grapnel to snag the book; by this point in filming, switching the prop into something more logical for this purpose was out of the question.
    • Ash was intended to die at the end when the surviving demon attacks him. This was later changed when Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell returned to make Evil Dead 2.
  • Working Title: Filmed and premiered in Detroit under the name Book of the Dead, but distributor Irvin Shapiro changed the title for fear that viewers wouldn't want to see "a movie about a book". Before settling on The Evil Dead, various other titles were considered, like Blood Flood, These Bitches Are Witches, Fe-Monsters, and The Evil Dead Men and the Evil Dead Women.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Richard Demanicor and Theresa Tilly did this film under different aliases so as not to lose their SAG memberships - so they are credited as Hal Delrich and Sarah York.

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