Picture the scene: It’s the nineties. Despite being an arguably good decade for films, comic book adaptations were something of a joke to begin with, with films like The Phantom and Spawn coming out during this time. However, for every steaming pile of rubbish, there were some nuggets of gold.
On May 13th 1994, a gothic tale about love lost and revenge was released. It will forever live in cinematic infamy, as well as paving the way for good comic book adaptations and stands as a monument to the movie industry. That film was The Crow.
Based on the comic book series of the same name, it follows the story of Rockstar Eric Draven, played by the late Brandon Lee. After he and his girlfriend are murdered on Devil’s Night by a group of gangsters, he is resurrected by a crow a year later, becoming seemingly immortal in the process. With his newfound power, Draven hunts down his murderers, taking them down one by one.
The comic series comes from artist James O’Barr, who wrote the series as a coping mechanism for dealing with the death of his girlfriend, who was killed by a drunk driver. Obviously, both the comic and the film deal with the themes of the death of a soul mate, gang violence and supernatural vigilantism. One key difference between the two is that the comic book’s crow was supposed to be a representation of Eric’s mindset, while in the film, the crow acts as a spiritual guide who regularly helps Eric throughout the film. The film is directed by Alex Proyas, who predominantly directed music videos before going on to do The Crow and has since done films like I, Robot and Gods of Egypt.
Many actors who were big names at the time were in the running to play Eric Draven, like Christian Slater and River Phoenix. However, it would be Brandon Lee, the son of famous actor/ martial artist Bruce Lee, who would end up taking the role. One of the film’s saddest claims to fame is the infamous death of the leading actor, when a defective blank went off, seriously wounding Lee, who would later die in surgery. The film only had a few more days of filming left at the time, so the director used rewrites and clever camera trickery to keep the actor’s image alive, like filming his body doubles in shadows or digitally superimposing Lee’s face on them. Had Brandon Lee survived, this film would’ve undoubtedly propelled him into the Hollywood spotlight, and it makes an already beautifully sad tale just a little more haunting. The film is dedicated to Brandon and his fiancée Eliza.
As well as Brandon Lee, the rest of the cast are awesome and talented actors. Michael Wincott, an actor easily recognized for his gravelly voice and villainous roles, plays the criminal kingpin Top Dollar. Bai Ling from the Lost series stars as his half-sister/ lover Myca. Ernie Hudson from Ghostbusters fame takes on the role of Sergeant Albrecht and there is even a small nod to his previous role in the film. David Patrick Kelly plays T-Bird, and audiences may recognize him as the main villain from The Warriors or as the man who Arnold Schwarzenegger dropped off a cliff in Commando. Laurence Mason as Tin-Tin would go on to star in Prison Break, and The Big Lebowski’s Jon Polito plays pawnshop owner Gideon.
It’s hard to imagine The Crow without its iconic soundtrack, with the most noteworthy track being Burn by The Cure, who wrote the song for the film. It also features a lot of covers, with Nine Inch Nails doing Joy Division’s Dead Souls, Pantera singing The Badge by Poison Idea, and Ghost Rider by Suicide beingcovered by Rollins Band. Both The Cure and Joy Division were notable influences on the original comic, with some comic chapters being named after Joy Division songs, while one page of the comic has the full lyrics for The Hanging Garden by The Cure. The soundtrack was rereleased on 2019’s Record Store Day, to celebrate the soundtrack’s anniversary.
The film spawned many sequels, with three film instalments, as well as a TV show which retold the events of the first film. The three movie sequels each following someone new being resurrected as the Crow, with City of Angels in 1996 starring Vincent Perez, Salvation in 2000 with Eric Mabius, and Wicked Prayer in 2005 featuring Edward Furlong. Rob Zombie was even supposed to make his directorial debut with The Crow 2037, a standalone project which never saw the light of day. Since then, there have been rumours of a reboot circling through the internet, with the latest choice for Eric Draven being Jason Momoa. However, it doesn’t seem like a remake will hit screens anytime soon.
Another heavyweight in the Hollywood industry also made one of his first appearances in film on The Crow. Chad Stahelski, who had his start in film as a stuntman and was a close friend to Lee at the time of his death, was asked to act as a body double for the actor shortly after his death. After The Crow, he would climb through the ranks of Hollywood, going from a stuntman to a fight/stunt co-ordinator and eventually became the director for the stylish and violent film series, John Wick.
The Crow is nothing short of a gothic cinematic masterpiece. The dark and brooding film was well received when it came out by both critics and the public. Twenty-five years later, the film still has a huge cult following. Producers have tried to create sequels and resurrect the film into a Hollywood reboot. However, judging by the success of said films and the luck of trying to get the reboot off the ground, nothing will ever recapture the original film’s dark magic.
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