The Crow

Can you believe I watched this for the first time this year? What attracted many has kept me away: the spectre of actor Brandon Lee’s actual death.

Brandon Lee, son of Bruce, was filming a scene like almost any other in the movie. It was a film about vigilante justice, heavy on violence. Michael Massee, the actor portraying Funboy, was required to fire a .44 magnum revolver loaded with blanks at Lee. The revolver had been inspected days earlier for a previously filmed scene in which it was not fired but needed to be seen loaded. Dummy rounds are used for this, which have a bullet, a spent primer, and no powder. One of the dummy rounds had a bullet, a live primer, and no powder. When test-fired, the primer propelled the bullet into the barrel, where it stopped. The gun was then rechecked, but no anomalies were found because the primer was now spent and the barrel was not inspected. Days later, the same gun was to be used again, without specific consent from or an additional inspection by the weapons coordinator, who had been sent home early. This time the gun was loaded with blanks, which are fully charged rounds but have no bullets. They make a convincing gunshot noise when fired, but no bullet is released – except in this case, there was a bullet, lodged in the barrel. A blank can still kill if used improperly, even without a bullet; the force of the exploding gas is enough to cause significant damage. But in Lee’s case, the exploding gas caught up with the bullet in the chamber and sent it straight into Lee’s abdomen where it lodged itself into Lee’s lower spine. The crew eventually picked up on Lee’s being slow to get up; he was rushed to hospital and spent 5 hours in surgery but was pronounced dead the next day, just 2 weeks before he was to marry his sweetheart, Eliza. His body was flown to Seattle to be buried beside his father. Production was shut down with an incomplete film and Paramount wrote it off. Entertainment Media Investment Corporation then bought the film and completed it using rewrites, body doubles, and ground-breaking (for 1993) CGI special effects.

So I feel a little guilty saying that I just didn’t like it. I suppose it was the Twilight of its time, its dark energy meant to feed the teenage need for rebellion and a certain morbid romanticism. But the whole thing’s a bit overwrought for me. Its moody, melancholic style doesn’t nearly make up for the wholly ridiculous things happening on screen. It’s about a guy who comes back from the dead in order to seek revenge on those responsible for murdering himself and his girlfriend, accompanied by – well, I’m sorry to say it, but it’s quite visibly a raven.

Despite Lee’s magnetic performance, the movie feels corny, and let’s face it – dated. It simply hasn’t aged well. Sean felt it was important that I see it, and since I made him watch The Craft, it was only fair that I succumbed. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

12 thoughts on “The Crow

  1. steveforthedeaf

    As a recovering Goth myself I am both aware of all the movies failings and shortcomings and still very much taken to a happy place by this film. I love it. It’s terrible, I know that. But it’s alos tied to so much nostalgia for lolling about all day in flats with throws on the walls and candle wax on the floorboards. “It can’t rain all the time”

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  2. Robert Jantzen

    Have you ever seen Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon? It was the only Hollywood production he made, more sophisticated than the Hong Kong cinema productions. [I am recalling, but not absolutely sure.] I still remember Bruce crashing into our world as the sidekick to the Green Hornet. There was no one else like him. [imdb does not list you as a reviewer.]

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  3. Liz A.

    Absolutely everyone I knew back then urged me to see this. And I still haven’t. The whole death thing just made it impossible for me to see it. And it’s just not my thing. I wasn’t quite goth, but I was goth adjacent back then. Still, not my thing. Glad I haven’t missed much.

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  4. Sybille Lengauer

    Loved the crow as a teenager in the 90ies, rewatched it a few years ago and didn’t understand why. You are right, it didn’t age well – but the soundtrack is still great.

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  5. selizabryangmailcom

    What a pointless death and waste of life. I understand not checking to see if an actor’s wearing the right sweater, the one with the hole in the left sleeve, for continuity. I can’t understand on any level shrugging and saying “Eh. We already checked it, it’s all good,” about a loaded gun. How f***ing dumb and reckless can you be?

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  6. D. Wallace Peach

    I remember watching this when it came out. I don’t remember whether I liked it or not, but the real events of Lee’s death are so tragic, it’s hard to separate them from the film and actually “enjoy” watching. I liked this post and thoughtful commentary, Jay.

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