(Rating: R – Runtime: 1 hr. 42 mins. – Genre: Action/Drama/Fantasy – Premiered: May 13, 1994 – Director: Alex Proyas – Writers: James O’Barr (comic book), David S. Schow (screenplay) – Stars: Brandon Lee, Michael Wincott, Rochelle Davis)
“It Can’t Rain All The Time”
The Crow was released by Miramax in May of 1994. It follows the story of Eric Draven, a rock star who rises from the dead to revenge the rape and murder of his fiance. The picture’s lead, Brandon Lee, was killed on-set a week before the completion of filming when there was a mishap with a gun during a scene. The movie went on to be a commercial and critical success that has spawned a number of sequels. The accompanying soundtrack is considered one of the best of the decade. It can be argued that recent stylized revenge franchises, such as The Purge, owe a great debt to the film. The mythos that surrounds Lee, combined with the overall quality of the movie, has elevated The Crow to cult status.
Cassidy: Throughout the film, there is hardly any sunshine. There is always a dreary tone with lots of rain. How do you feel the movie would have been affected had there been more natural light and brighter scenes?
Ted: I don’t think it would have worked. This isn’t a bright, cheery Spider-Man film starring a wise-cracking Peter Parker fighting crime. Draven came back from the Great Beyond to exact vengeance on thieves, murderers, and rapists. This isn’t something he relished. He did it to right the wrongs that happened to his girlfriend. Sometimes there are things we all must do because they are necessary, and thusly they are best performed in the dark of night.
Cassidy: I actually related to Sarah’s character in the early 90s. She had a grunge appeal, some awkwardness, but carried hope amongst her sadness through the film. Where there any characters that you could relate to in some way?
Ted: “Hmm…Probably Ernie Hudson’s character “Sgt. Albrecht.” He was a decent cop with a good heart who struggled with the hindrances placed before him by the bureaucracy of the police force. He was a good man, caught in an inefficient system, inside a grimy city.
Cassidy: “The Crow” dove into the murky world of sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll. How did the music help build the premise of the film?
Ted: The soundtrack is one of the best in a decade filled with great soundtracks. (Singles, Empire Records, Pulp Fiction, Austin Powers, and The Faculty to name just a few.) Eric Draven is a man of few words. When he does speak, what he says carries weight. In the meantime, the soundtrack fills in the gaps. “Burn” by The Cure was penned specifically for the film. It is haunting and emotive. If you listen to it wearing headphones, it has a depth to it. It feels like one can step into the broken and pestilent city of Detroit on “Devil’s Night.” Radio mainstay “Big Empty” by Stone Temple Pilots, “Color Me Once” by the Violent Femmes, and “Dead Souls” by Nine Inch Nails only further serve to further flesh out the plot and personalities on the screen.
Cassidy: Did you like The Crow’s actual character “look” and why?
Ted: While creator James O’Barr claims that the design is based on a marionette mask that he once saw in a theater window in London, the similarity to Alice Cooper’s stage makeup is striking.
Equal parts rock star and ghoul, I found the look to be nothing short of iconic. It feels like the tattered garb of a hero while skirting the tired tropes of capes and masks. One only has to look at it to immediately know it is “right.”
Cassidy: I have an admiration for movies where love transcends death. How do you feel this enhances “The Crow?”
Ted: Why do you think so many songs have been written about love? It’s something to which everyone can relate. Everybody might not have had someone violently murdered by a gang of thugs, but everyone has lost someone they love. Be it through a breakup, sickness, incompatibility, or fate—each of us has been scarred by the familiar ache we feel when someone goes away—and goes away for good. And I think, I hope, each of us has someone that we love enough that we would defy the finality of Death itself to see them just one more time.
Cassidy: If Brandon Lee had not tragically passed, do you think he would have successfully pulled off the sequel?
Ted: Lee clearly had a connection to, and understanding of, the role. Much like Robert Downey, Jr.’s portrayal of “Tony Stark” in the Iron Man franchise, Brandon Lee “got” the character. It enveloped him and he embraced it. He could’ve played Eric Draven until the end of his career and it would have clicked every single time.
That being said, I think the studio would’ve screwed up the sequels. Much like every other successful film, there would be temptations to rush out a follow-up in the unending tradition of the Hollywood Cash Grab. In their excitement, they would cut corners on “unessential” elements like script and casting and the whole thing would implode upon itself.
And honestly, it’s not a role that just anyone can play, as proven by the sequels that were produced. Lee brought a charisma and honesty to the role that hasn’t been duplicated.
Ted: For years, “The Crow” has been criticized for glorifying revenge. Do you agree?
Cassidy: I have seen many revenge movies over the years, but I don’t feel that The Crow is one. There is nothing glamorous about the premise and I always feel a sense of hopelessness within all the characters. While the premise is based on revenge, I also see the film trying to explain how love transcends evil in a pretty gothic way (which was so 90s!). Eric has a painful purpose, but he does nothing I would consider admirable. The movie is very violent, but his purpose is brought into the supernatural realm and his mission is pretty damn entertaining. *hides face*
Ted: Often action films don’t consider the consequences of crime. “The Crow” does. What lessons can filmmakers learn from this approach to presenting a story?
Cassidy: The Crow is a raw story about revenge, and this impacted the success of the film. I wanted to see the cause and effect of the horrible actions that took place. The crimes were committed in such a chilling way that I felt empathy for Eric Draven (The Crow). I wanted to be on his side and see justice served for all parties involved. People are drawn to that grit in a film. Over the years, crime TV has emerged in record numbers and audiences are becoming more and more desensitized. We all look for the cause and effect now.
Ted: Though not shot there, the film is set in Detroit. How does that factor into the overall tone of the movie?
Cassidy: To be honest, I have never really concentrated on the location. I always felt a despondent City-of-Angels-(LA)-type of vibe. The Crow had such a melancholic, dark tone that any location would have been devoured by the gloomy darkness. The production crew did a great job of minimizing sunlight in shots, increasing urban decay, and tying in as much rain as possible. This choice complimented the grim characters as well.
Ted: The soundtrack is arguably one of the best of the 90s. What do you find to be the most memorable scene that marries music and images in the movie?
Cassidy: I really loved all the music, and the soundtrack was amazing. What I enjoyed was how there were moments of intense classical music when there was a glimmer of hope or a memory of Eric and Shelly together. The grunge/alternative and hard rock that was peppered throughout was a perfect build up to the intense action scenes. Who doesn’t love Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails? My all-time favorite song from the soundtrack is “Big Empty” by Stone Temple Pilots (RIP Scott).
Ted: Have you seen any of the sequels? If so, what is your opinion of them?
Honestly, I watched the first sequel when Sarah’s character was all grown up but vaguely remember it. I weighed it so heavily against the original film, which I consider a classic. I don’t recall it giving me the wow factor. Now I want to re-watch the sequel just for kicks. *laughs*
Ted: What about Brandon Lee’s performance still resonates with people 23 years after the release of the film?
Cassidy: Brandon gave a great performance and radiated pain through his character so well. He appeared so broken within his journey of revenge and I felt for him. I wanted to see him win. When an actor can evoke so much emotion in their audience, they have successfully portrayed their character. The Crow is a special movie for a tragic reason. Brandon Lee passed away on set a few days before filming ended due to a horrible accident. Morbidly enough, I tied his actual passing to his character’s passing and it drew me into the movie even more. The film was released posthumous and that has a tendency to draw people to it. He was so young and talented.
Ted: The Crow is the result of a perfect storm of converging elements: an intriguing concept, combined with an irreplaceable lead performer, and a legendary soundtrack. It was the right movie at the right time. Because of that, a magic was created that resulted in a film greater than the sum its parts. Like Eric Draven, The Crow will live forever.
Cassidy: Overall, The Crow is one of my favorite films. The timing and the era in which it was released aligned perfectly with the film’s tone and delivery. The Crow is timeless. While there have been rumors of a reboot, I hope filmmakers will let this 90s gem bask in its greatness.
“If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.”
-Cass & Ted