July 30, 2023

Tom Sullivan is INVALUABLE

2014 / 103 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😸

This disc actually contains two excellent feature-length documentaries. Both of them might be of great interest to fans of the original Evil Dead franchise, as they focus on a couple of the lesser-known individuals associated with Sam Raimi during his early years.

Invaluable is an affectionate retrospective on the life and career of Tom Sullivan. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the guy who created the make-up effects and stop-motion animation for the first two Evil Dead films. He also designed the original “Book of the Dead,” with artwork that continues to be used or emulated in later films. Fans of the original will absolutely love the amount of vintage behind-the-scenes photos and footage.

Always more of an artist than a make-up guy, Sullivan’s career in movies was actually pretty short, but he kept busy creating illustrations for Lovecraftian publications. In addition to Sullivan, who comes across as laid-back and humble, interviewees singing his praises include Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi and numerous other Evil Dead colleagues. He also reveals his struggles coping with the sudden death of his wife in the ‘90s, which affected him greatly until he began appearing at horror conventions, providing some surprisingly bittersweet moments in the film.

The all-new Microwave Barbie.
Less complimentary overall - but just as engaging - is Other Men’s Careers, the other documentary (included here as a bonus feature). This one focuses on Josh Becker, whose Evil Dead ties are a bit more tenuous. He did some second unit work on the original film before going on to write & direct a variety of low budget features over the years, many of them featuring Bruce Campbell, who’s interviewed extensively. 

Becker appears brash, headstrong and arrogant (which is ironic, considering the guy’s body of work). His abrasiveness is often confirmed by numerous others, most who manage to find eloquent ways to say he’s kind of an asshole. Like Invaluable, this one also features its subject suffering a personal crisis (in this case, recent struggles with alcoholism). We may not like Becker, but he’s got a great story to tell.

Though he’s discussed extensively and appears in plenty of archival photos & footage, Sam Raimi himself doesn’t contribute to either film. Considering how much Sullivan’s influential work boosted Raimi’s own early career, that’s kind of a surprise. Maybe there was a falling-out that no one wished to discuss, or maybe he was simply too busy. Still, Invaluable is a must-watch for hard-core Evil Dead fans, with Other Men’s Careers being a helluva chaser.


OTHER MEN’S CAREERS - Feature-length documentary about writer-director Josh Becker.

“BONG FLY” & “COSMOS LOCOS” - 2 shorts by director Ryan Meade.


“IN THE SPOTLIGHT” - Vintage interview with Tom Sullivan.


UNEDITED TIM PHILO INTERVIEW - Philo was cinematographer for The Evil Dead.




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