Every once in a while, a movie comes along that sticks with us for any number of reasons. We re-watch it regularly and are as excited to see it each time as if it was the first time our eyes witnessed it. I have that type of movie ever since 1992. A little known, independant comic book was the basis of a screen play that was then adapted into a motion picture. That comic book and that movie was James O’Barr’s “The Crow.”
The story of the movie is well known, but I will paraphrase it. I am constantly surprised by the amount of people who have never seen this movie. Eric Draven and his fiancee, Shelly, are murdereed the day before they are due to be wed on Hallowe’en by a gang. There is a Native myth that when people die a crow will carry their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes when a soul is so heavy with grief and sadness, that it can not rest. The crow will the bring the soul back to the land of the living to set the wrong this right.
Eric is brought back with the ability to heal any wound and a growing sense of his new “after death” experience driving him slowly insane as the film goes on. He paints himself up to look like one of Shelley’s harlequin masks and sets out to take the life of each of those gang members. As long as he completes his task, he will retain his power and be re-united with Shelley in the after life but if he meddles in the problems of the living, that is another story. He will then lose his powers and be mortal.
The film was made 0n a shoe string budget and is more well known due to the accidental shooting death of Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee, who was playing the lead character in the movie. The movie was shot so that the last week’s of scenes would be the start of the film and Brandon would not need to wear make up. Here is the details of the event according to The Crow wiki:
“Weeks prior to the event, a scene was being filmed that required dummy rounds to be shown being loaded into the handgun. Inexperienced crew members, pressured by time constraints, purchased live ammunition, removed the bullets, dumped the gunpowder, and then replaced the bullets back into the empty cartridges with the live primers still in place.
When the time came to film the scene where Michael Massee shoots Lee’s character, the same gun was loaded with blank cartridges. Unbeknownst to the crew, the bullet from one of the dummy rounds had become lodged in the barrel of the gun. It is believed that someone on set was playing with the gun, pulled the trigger and inadvertently caused the live primer to fire; this would have resulted in the bullet moving a couple of inches into the barrel of the gun. When the gun was operated, the propellant in the blank rounds – which is used to give the visible effect of a gunshot – dislodged the bullet, which penetrated Lee’s abdomen and lodged in his spine. The injury caused massive blood loss. As the production company had sent the firearms specialist home early, responsibility for the guns was given to a prop assistant who was not aware of the rule for checking all firearms before and after any handling. Therefore, the barrel was not checked for obstructions when it came time to load it with the blank rounds.
Soon after the accident, Lee was taken to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, where he died about 12 hours later, at 1:03 p.m. After Lee’s death, the producers were faced with the decision of whether or not to continue with the film. Sofia Shinas, who had witnessed the accident, did not want to continue and went home to Los Angeles. The rest of the cast and crew, except for Ernie Hudson, whose brother-in-law had just died, stayed in Wilmington. Paramount, who were initially interested in distributing The Crow theatrically (originally a direct-to-video feature), opted out of involvement due to delays in filming and some controversy over the violent content being inappropriate given Brandon’s death. However, Miramax picked it up with the intention of releasing it in theatres and injected a further $8 million into the production to complete The Crow, taking its budget to approximately $15 million. The cast and crew then took a break with script rewrites for the flashback scenes that had yet to be completed.“
The movie went on to be a success and a cult classic that was now linked to the “Lee Curse” that has been thought to be surrounding Bruce Lee and his family. It spawned 3 additional sequels with The Crow: City Of Angels starring Vincent Perez, The Crow: Salvation starring Eric Mabius and The Crow: Wicked Prayer starring Edward Furlong. All the sequels consisted of different characters in the form “The Crow” but seemed to be panned by critics and fans alike. Some fans felt that there never should have been a franchise after Lee’s death and others just wanted more Eric Draven.
I personally enjoyed the sequels and the very short lived television program The Crow: Stairway To Heaven. You have to look at them as not a continuation of the original film but as they were truly meant to be, a separate vehicle to tell a new chapter in the same mythos. Only The Crow: City Of Angels has any link to the original film as it features a grown up Sarah in the female lead role. She mentors Ashe on what she saw Eric go through.
The idea of a love being so strong and so deep that it even transcends death adds such an amazing and emotional weight to the sad story that we watch as the movie unfurls. The confusion of why he has returned and surrounding the moments when he can “see” the memories as he touches objects pulls you into the middle of his madness. People say it is not a romantic film and I will disagree with them to the end of time. This is a romantic story. The entire idea is spawned from a terrible sadness surrounding a great love. The chance to come back and right all the wrongs, to balance the scales so to speak, knowing that you may never truly reclaim what you have lost but bringing peace to it.
So do yourself a favor and thank me later. Go get a copy of The Crow and pop it in the DVD player or VCR. Sit down and watch. Allow yourself to be pulled in to the story and watch the conviction Brandon Lee puts into his performance. Whether you have seen it or before or will be watching it for the first time and remember……real love is forever.