“People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes, something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can’t rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to put the wrong things right.”
OK, let me get this out of the way. The Crow was a vehicle for Brandon Lee, son of martial arts legend and movie star Bruce Lee. The elder Lee trained Brandon in martial arts from the day he could take his first steps. When Brandon was only eight years old, his father tragically died just before finishing production on Enter the Dragon, a movie which would go on to become an international blockbuster making Bruce Lee the greatest icon of martial arts cinema. Brandon followed in his father’s footsteps studying martial arts and drama.
After some television roles and a handful of above average action movies under his belt, Brandon Lee was approached for the lead in a modestly-budgeted supernatural vengeance film based on James O’Barr’s cult comic book series, The Crow. Even though Lee wasn’t a big star name, producers convinced the studio he was the only actor who could bring the right mix of danger, charisma, athletics, fighting skills, and sex appeal to the role.
From the start the set was plagued with many strange and awful circumstances. During the first day of shooting in Wilmington, North Carolina, a carpenter suffered severe burns after his crane hit live power lines. On subsequent days, sets were ravaged by a storm, a grip truck caught fire, a disgruntled sculptor crashed his car through the studio’s plaster shop, and a crew member accidentally drove a screwdriver through his hand. As the cast and crew have recounted in interviews, illness, accidents, and even death touched many of them in their personal lives as well.
One night, just days before wrapping the film, the film crew were pushing setups late into the evening, and it was decided to use a gun without consent of the weapons coordinator who had been sent home early. A metal tip of a dummy bullet (non-firing rounds) somehow had pulled free from its brass casing and got lodged in the .44 Magnum’s cylinder. The dummy bullets were replaced with full power blanks and they handed the weapon to actor Michael Massee (who was so upset by what happened next he quit acting for an entire year). Even though he didn’t point the gun directly at Brandon when he fired, the force from the blank expelled the lodged bullet tip in a curved trajectory which hit Lee, shattering his spinal cord. Brandon was pronounced dead the next day, just three days before Brandon’s marriage to Eliza Hutten (hence the tribute at the end).
The Crow went on become an international blockbuster and spawned four sequels and a TV series. There are many who claim the movie would never have been a hit if Brandon didn’t die. I don’t know about that. Director Alex Proyas’ (Dark City, I Robot) distinctive style mixed with a wonderful cast and an amazingly charismatic lead created a perfect storm of cinema.
The story is very simple. Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his fiancee Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas) are murdered on Devil’s Night, October 30th, by a deranged gang. One year later to the night, with help of a supernatural crow, Eric is resurrected as an invulnerable killing machine to enact vengeance on those responsible for his and his love’s deaths. We witness most of the events through the eyes of Sarah (Sarah Rochelle Davis), a young street girl Eric and Shelly had befriended, and Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson) the policeman who investigated the crime.
There are scenes that are iconic and brilliant. Any scene with Brandon Lee is captivating. The city itself is like a character in the movie, boasting exceptional miniature work giving it depth and Proyas’ sweeping shots explore its dark corners and shadows. The villains are fun and over the top, with great character actors like Michael Wincott, David Patrick Kelly, Michael Massee, Jon Polito and Tony Todd chewing up the scenery with infinitely quotable lines. It boasts a haunting soundtrack, featuring original songs from a virtual who’s who of Goth, Rock and Industrial artists. The movie is a triumph of visual style influencing generations of filmmakers.
Unfortunately you can tell there were scenes never shot that would have tied the movie together properly. It tends to feel a bit disjointed and uneven. There is virtually no back story for Eric and Shelly, no connection really given to the gang, and no reason to care about Sarah. The villains could have also been given a little more time to shine, given the talent pool Proyas was working with. Finally, the Deus Ex Machina finale feels like bit like lazy writing. However, these are minor issues once the film starts and you get swept up in the magic of The Crow.
Presented in 1080p, AVC MPEG-4 encoded at 1.85:1 and running an average of 19 Mbps, The Crow looks incredible on Blu-ray. The previous artifacting, scratches, dirt and transfer inconsistencies are gone. The blacks are stable, and this is important as vast majority of the film plays out at night. Even in the darkest scenes skin tones are natural and the colors rich and detailed. This is as good as The Crow has ever looked.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is vibrant and the LFE really kicks, but there is relatively no immersive surround. The dialog is crystal clear, and the SFX/music balance is excellent. The front three channel focus is unfortunate, but it doesn’t take away from the creative sound cues and action effects.
- Audio Commentary – With Alex Proyas. Not the greatest listen as Proyas tends to get caught up watching the movie and leaves long, silent gaps.
- Behind the Scenes Featurette (SD, 16 min) – A little better than an EPK, but tries to cover too much in too little time.
- A Profile on James O’Barr (SD, 33 min) – Footage from the creator of The Crow, filmed in his basement. O’Barr comes off a bit of a narcissistic ass.
- Extended Scenes (SD, 11 min) – Three extended scenes, one with Eric post rising and two extended fights. Some pretty rough looking footage.
- Deleted Footage Montage (SD, 5 min) – A montage from the cutting room floor.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1 min)
- Galleries – A Original Poster Concepts (23 frames), Production Design Stills (12 frames), and Storyboards for five sequences (The Skull Cowboy, The Arcade Bombing, Funboy’s Last Stand, The Liquor Store Robbery, and Shootout at Top).
This stunningly beautiful, fresh inky transfer more than makes up for the mediocre 5.1 audio track. I have no doubt Brandon would have been an action superstar had he survived this movie. It becomes a bit meta watching his death on screen, but it doesn’t take away from anything in this movie. It could be argued, in a somewhat sick way, that it adds to the pathos. If you love The Crow you will want to own this Blu-ray, and if you are new to it, this is the only way to watch it. Highly recommended!
“Greed is for amateurs. Disorder, chaos, anarchy: now that’s fun!”