The Crow (1994): Remembering Brandon Lee and The Crow

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It has been a while since we looked back at the top nostalgic movies of the 90s. The Crow (1994) is a movie that holds a lot of nostalgia for many people. It was the last film appearance of Brandon Lee, who tragically died during filming. The movie is based on James O'Barr's comic of the same name. I remember watching the movie and being so fascinated by the story and the characters.

I was sad when Brandon Lee died, and it made the movie even more special to me. Who would miss noticing Bruce Lee in any movie? And the Crow is a special one since it was the last movie he ever made. It must have been tough for the family and fans to watch it. However, I find it a good reminder of the life well lived of Bruce Lee.

The Crow is about a musician named Eric Draven who is murdered, along with his fiancée. He is resurrected by a crow and comes back to life to exact revenge on those who killed him. The movie is full of action, yet it also has a lot of heart. I think that's why it resonates with so many people. It's a great movie to watch if you're feeling nostalgia for the 90's.

Background History of the Crow Film

What caught my attention back then and kept me glued to the movie was its plot. The Crow had a unique way of presenting suspense. You could not easily predict what would happen next. This is one of those movies that I would wish had a re-run or a sequel of some sort.

When it comes to character presentation, the Crow was on top of the class. In the film, Sgt. Albrecht responds to a crime scene where Shelly Webster has been beaten and raped (October 30th) on the Devil’s Night in Detroit. Eric Draven, a musician, and her fiancé were stabbed, shot, and tossed out a window before his body was discovered on the street.

The wedding was supposed to take place the next day, on Halloween Albrecht and Shelly run into a young girl named Sarah as they are leaving for the hospital; Sarah claims to be their friend and that Albrecht and Shell take care of her. As much as Albrecht hates to break it to her, he has to let her know that Shelly doesn’t have long to live.

A year later, after being tapped on the head by a crow, Eric finally comes to and gets out of his grave. Meanwhile, the T-Birds gang, responsible for Eric and Shelly’s murders, is arsonizing buildings across the metropolis. Returning to his abandoned former apartment, Eric is overcome with memories of the murder committed by T-Bird and his crew. (Tin Tin, Funboy, and Skank).

When Eric learns that he can help from any injury, he goes out to revenge for his and Shelly’s murderers with the help of the crow. By using the crow’s clues, Eric is able to track down Tin Tin, who he then murders (by stabbing him in every major organ in alphabetical order), takes his coat, and goes to the pawn shop where Tin Tin had pawned Shelly’s engagement ring, demanding its recovery from the owner, Gideon.

He then sets the store on fire with gasoline rescuing Gideon in time for him to tell the others. Eric confronts Darla, Sarah’s heroin addict mother by squeezing the morphine from her veins after discovering Funboy with her and killing him (by making him overdose on his own morphine stash). This helps Darla realize that Sarah needs her to be a good mother to Sarah. In the meantime, Eric’s act have ben reported to Top Dollar, the criminal lord who controls the street gangs within the city, and his lover/half-sister Myca.

Development of the Plot of “The Crow”

Eric pays Albrecht a visit, and while there, he explains who he is and why he’s in the city. After listerning to him for a while, Albrecht spills the beans about Shelly’s death and how he witnessed her agony for thirty hours until she finally passed away. Eric puts his hands on Albrecht and experiences the agony that Shelly went through for so long.

After Albrecht’s visit, he helps Sarah avoid being hit by a car on the way home. Before vanishing, he provides her a hint about his identity while still concealing his face. At the convenience shop where T-Bird and Skank have stopped to stock up on supplies, Eric unexpectedly appears and abducts T-Bird. Skank pursues the two, watches as Eric pushes T-car Bird’s into the river, and then runs away to Top Dollar.

The next day, Sarah and her mom start making up for lost time, and Sarah visits Eric at his apartment to express her sadness over being apart from him and Shelly. Despite the fact that they are no longer able to be friends, Eric wants her to know that she is still important to him.

After Top Dollar’s right-hand man Grange examines Eric’s grave and discovers it to be open and empty, Top Dollar calls a gather of his associates to discuss their updated plans for the illegal activities to take place on Devil’s Night. When Eric, on the hunt for Skank, shows up, a shooting breaks out, and almost everyone there, including Skank, is dead.

After Top Dollar, Myca, and Grange manage to break free, Myca speculates that Eric’s immortality will end if he is forced to murder the crow and has been his guide. Since he’s done with his mission, Eric goes back to his grave. As a parting gift, Sarah accepts the engagement ring that belonged to her friend Shelly. Grange kidnaps Sarah on her way home and brings her to the chapel, where Top Dollar and Myca are waiting for her. Eric leans about the situation from the crow and rushes to find and save her. After the crow files into the chapel, Grange shoots it, taking Eric’s immortality with it.

Myca seizes the injured bird for the sole purpose of absorbing its magical energy. Shortly after Eric is shot and injured, Albrecht shows up to pay his respects. During the ensuing fight, Top Dollar kidnaps Sarah and escapes up the bell tower, where he is later seen by Albrecht, who has just finished off Grange. Myca is about to jump to her doom when the crow gets away from her, claws out her eyes and then sends her tumbling down the bell tower. After Albrecht is injured, Eric makes his way to the church’s pinnacle alone. Top Dollar takes full blame of Eric and Shelly’s deaths in the section.

The thirty hours of agony that Eric endured at Albrecht’s hands are what ultimately push Top Dollar over the edge of the church’s roof, where he perishes. While Sarah goes with Albrecht to the hospital, Eric visits Shelly’s grave. After Sarah’s monologue affirms that while people may die, love endures forever, a crow flies over the city and into the night while holding Shelly’s engagement ring in its beak.

The Cast of “The Crow”

The crow had a long list of actors; however, the following are the most notable in the lineup:
  • The Crow, played by Brandon Lee(Bruce Lee) / Eric Draven
  • Rochelle Davis played Sarah Mohr
  • Performing the role of Sergeant is Ernie Hudson
  • Top Dollar played by Michael Wincott.
  • Bai Ling in the role of Myca
  • Playing Shelly Webster is Sofia Shinas
  • Playing Darla Mohr, Anna Levine
  • David Angel played the Skank
  • Tin Tin, played by Laurence Mason
  • Funboy is Michael Messee
  • Playing Grange, Tony Todd
  • Actor Jon Polito plays the title role in Gideon
  • Performer: Bill Raymond as Mickey
  • Marco Rodriguez playing as detective Torres.
The Production of the Show: The Death of Brandon Lee

After witnessing the beating and rape of his fiancée, Lee’s character, Eric is shot on March 31, 1993 at EUE Screen Gems Studio in Wilmington, North Carolina. As Lee enters the room, Funboy (Michael Massee) opens fire with a.44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 629 pistol. Inert fake cartridges containing bullets but neither powder or primer were placed into the pistol for a prior scene involving the same gun.

Dummy cartridges give a more realistic appearance than blank rounds, which have no bullets, and are therefore preferable for close-up sequences involving a revolver in which the bullets are clearly seen from the front and which do not require the gun to be fired.

Due to production constraints, the film’s prop team made their own false cartridges by removing bullets from real rounds, emptying the powder charge, and replacing the bullets. Because the deadly scene required firing the handgun at Lee from a distance of 12-15 feet, the dummy cartridges were switched out for blank rounds, which have a live powder charge and primer but no bullet.

Since the firearms experts had been sent home early from the set, a prop assistant was put in charge of the weapons without being briefed on the requirements that they be inspected before and after use. So, before loading the blank rounds, the barrel wasn’t checked for obstructions. The .44 Magnum bullet struck Lee in the abdomen, killing him, since it was forced out of the barrel by the dummy round that was already lodged in it.

After the Death of Bruce Lee

The Producers had to decide whether or not to move forward with the film after Lee’s passing. Lee had already shot most of the scenes and just had three days left of principal photography. Except for Ernie Hudson, whose brother-in-law had recently passed away, the rest of the cast and crew remained in Wilmington.

Due to production delays and some debate regarding the violence being unsuitable considering Lee’s death, Paramount Pictures decided against distributing the Crow theatrically (it was originally a direct-to-video feature). However, Miramax decided to release it in theaters, so they put up an additional $8million to finish production, bringing the total budget to over $23 million. After then, the cast and crew took a break to rewrite the script for the unfished flashback scenes.
Walon Green, Terry Hayes, Rene Blacer, and Michael S. Chernuchin rewrote the script to include narration and additional scenes. For this scenes, Lee’s stunt double Chad Stahelski acted as a stand-in, and Lee’s face was digitally superimposed onto Stahelski’s skull via CGI. There was a rewrite of the film’s unfinished prologue and the apartment scene was reshot with CGI taken from an earlier sequence starring Lee.

Skull Cowboy, a character from the source comic book, was scheduled to appear in the movie and even had some sequence shot with him. In this capacity, he helped Eric Draven bridge the gap between the afterlife and the present. Michael Berryman was cast in the part until Lee’s untimely passing made it necessary to rewrite the script. After Lee’s death, O’Barr said he felt like he’d lost his fiancée all over again and he regretted creating the comic.

Why “The Crow” became the most Popular Movie in the mid-90’s.

Well, the death of Brandon Lee was the major selling point for the movie. In terms of box office success, the Crow came as a pleasant surprise. At its first weekend, the film earned $11,774,332 from an estimated 1,573 U.S theatres, for an average of $7,485 per location.

Miramax may have exaggerated its opening weekend earning by as much as $1 Million, according to industry sources. After spending a total of $23 million to produce, the film made $93.7 million globally. This included $50,693,129 in the United States and Canada and $43 million elsewhere.
It was the tenth best-grossing R-rated film of 1994 and the twenty-fourth best-grossing film overall in 1994. The movieve made over 1,245,403 pounds in the UK despite having a R rating there. And about $4,604,115 in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain across Europe.

The Ugly side of “The Crow” Movie

Based on 61 critic reviews, The Crow has a 7.1/10 approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It has been generally agreed upon by critics that “The Crow” is an action-packed visual effect that also has a soul in the performance of the late Brandon Lee. With a Meta score of 71/100, reflecting a generally good review. The film also has been well received by the critical community at large.

Both the action and the aesthetic were lauded by critics. Rodger Ebert hailed it “a remarkable piece of visual style” and Caryn James of the New York Times called it a genre film of high order, sleek and slick. Rolling stone dubbed it a dazzling fever dream of a movie. The film was also received well by the LA times.
James Berardinelli described the movie as a case of art mimicking death, and that specter will always hang over The Crow, and Desson How of the Washington Post claimed that Lee’s death haunts every scene. That was the dark side of the movie. Watching it with the realization that you will never watch the actor in action ever again is sad and painful. It is among the movies that you watch with a somber mood even when the screens are funny or exhilarating.

Ebert proclaimed it not just to be Lee’s best film, but alos better than any of his father’s, and Berardinelli and Howe agreed, calling it an appropriate epitaph to Lee. The majority of critics, including Berardinelli, believed that the movie would have ben Lee’s breakout.

Final Thought

Sometimes I tend to believe that if Brandon Lee hadn’t died, this movie would either be turned into a sequel or a series of some sort. The plot had some room for continuity. Also, since the end of the movie was prematurely ended because of the death of Lee, there was a need to make a completely new replica.

If Brandon Lee was alive today, he would be one of the biggest actors in Hollywood. Even after his death, he remains one of the top actors in history. I loved watching his Karate movies as they were well-scripted and easy to understand for our age at the time.

What do you remember about Brandon Lee (aka Bruce lee)?