Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: The Crow: Collector's Series (1994)
Studio Line: Miramax - Believe in angels.

Catch the explosive hit that thrilled moviegoers and critics everywhere! Brandon Lee (Rapid Fire) plays Eric Draven, a young rock guitarist who, along with his fiancée, is brutally killed by a ruthless gang of criminals. Exactly one year after his death, Eric returns - watched over by a hypnotic crow - to seek revenge, battling the evil crime lord and his band of thugs, who must answer for their crimes.

Director: Alex Proyas
Cast: Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, David Patrick Kelly, Angel David, Rochelle Davis
DVD: 2-Disc set; widescreen 1.85:1/16x9; audio Englih DD & DTS 5.1, French Digital Stereo; subtitles Spanish; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 18 chapters; rated R; 101 min.; $29.99; street date 3/20/01.
Supplements: Behind-The-Scenes-Featurette; Feature Commentary Track With Producer Jeff Most and Screenwriter John Shirley; A Profile Of James O'Barr; Extended Scenes; Deleted Footage Montage; Original Poster Concepts; Production Design Stills; Storyboards; DVD-ROM Features: Devil's Night Retribution Trivia Gamer; Enhanced Playback Track; Screenplay Viewer; Weblinks.
Purchase: DVD | Music soundtrack - Various Artists | Score soundtrack - Graeme Revell

Picture/Sound/Extras: A-/B/B

Some people felt that 1994’s The Crow never should have been released. That wasn’t due to any problem with the subject matter, though the film’s dark take on revenge after death clearly wasn’t for everyone. Instead, the movie had obtained a negative aura due to the unfortunate demise of star Brandon Lee during the production. Lee died because a projectile came from a gun that fired blanks.

Deaths on movie sets aren’t a tremendously rare occurrence, as they happen a few times a year. However, it is very unusual for a film’s star to pass on during the making of a movie; the last major accident of this sort that I recall was the demise of Vic Morrow on the set of 1983’s Twilight Zone movie. The combination of the tragic manner in which Lee died and the grim subject matter of The Crow led many to feel that it should probably never see the light of day.

However, I believe the producers did the right thing when they decided to release The Crow. From all reports, Lee was very excited about the project, and it sounds like he would have not wanted it to be suppressed. Ironically, the real-life tragedy that occurred actually accentuates the strengths of the film, as Lee’s death makes the movie all the more creepy and eerie.

Not that it would have been forgettable without that terrible accident, as The Crow managed to offer a fairly compelling experience. The film tells the story of musician Eric Draven (Lee). At the start of the film, Eric’s fiancée Shelly (Sofia Shinas) and he are brutally murdered by a local gang because Shelly attempted to block their takeover of her apartment complex. One year after this incident, Eric comes back from the dead as the Crow, a powerful being who seeks revenge for these events.

Essentially the film is little more than a series of stalkings and killings. Eric hunts down his assailants and offs them one-by-one. At times, there’s not a lot of suspense because Eric has become impervious to harm. Of course, the villains eventually find a way to hurt him, but this aspect doesn’t play all that important a role in the movie, so it has to succeed based on our interest in Eric’s activities.

The Crow does fairly well for itself because of the somber aura created. Director Alex Proyas shows a dark and dismal vision of Detroit and plays up the atmosphere for all it’s worth. At times this may seem like little more than music video artistry, but I thought it worked nicely for the spirit of the piece. Really, it’s the strong visual aspects of The Crow that make it memorable, especially since they integrate nicely with an appropriately-somber Goth rock soundtrack.

As for the actors, The Crow featured a decent supporting cast that includes minor names like Ernie Hudson and Michael Wincott. The latter is quite good as the villainous Top Dollar; Wincott’s gruff appearance and whiskey voice work well in the part. Hudson’s acceptable as good cop Albrecht, but it’s an underwritten and semi-superfluous role, so there’s only so much he can do.

It can be hard to judge Lee’s performance because of all that’s happened since he made the film. Although I thought he was fairly good, I don’t believe his work deserves all of the accolades it’s garnered; his death seems to have influenced some opinions. Lee offers a strong physical presence as Eric, and he handles the fight scenes quite well. He has more trouble with some of the emotional moments, and he lacks much style or panache at those times. Nonetheless, he performs acceptably at all times, and I had no great problems with his work.

As a whole, The Crow didn’t thrill me, but I thought it was a fairly compelling and well-made flick. The moody and atmospheric style of the piece clearly made it more memorable than it could have been, and the film offered a generally interesting experience. The Crow isn’t a classic, but it’s a solid enough revenge fantasy.

The DVD:

The Crow appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although not without flaws, The Crow came pretty close to perfection, as much of the movie looked absolutely terrific.

Sharpness seemed fantastic from start to finish. At no point did I discern any signs of soft or fuzzy images, as the entire film appeared crisp and well-defined. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no concerns, and while print flaws cropped up occasionally, they stayed modest throughout the film. I saw a few speckles and a little grit, and some light grain cropped up on one or two instances, but otherwise the movie looked fresh and clean.

The Crow featured a very stylized color palette, one that often went for a very monochromatic look. As with films such as Se7en, this was the sort of movie that wasn’t actually shot in black and white, but much of the effect strongly resembled that kind of image. Nonetheless, when colors appeared, they seemed quite intense, especially since The Crow utilized a fair amount of strong reds at times. Those hues looked solid and vivid, and I saw no problems related to bleeding or noise.

Due to the film’s monochromatic nature, black levels became especially important. As such, I’m happy to report that the dark tones of The Crow seemed deep and rich, and contrast levels were excellent. Shadow detail looked appropriately heavy but never excessively thick, as all low-light situations - and there were many - offered clear, well-defined imagery. Ultimately, The Crow provided a fairly stunning visual experience; were it not for a few minor print flaws, I would have definitely awarded this DVD an “A” for picture quality.

Although the film’s soundtracks also were very good, they didn’t seem quite as strong as the picture. As is the case with many new DVDs from Buena Vista, The Crow included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. As is also often the case, I thought the two tracks sounded virtually identical. The DTS version provided moderately strong low end, but otherwise I couldn’t distinguish between the two.

For the most part, the film’s soundfield seemed to offer a nicely broad and engaging experience. At times I found the localization to appear somewhat ill-defined; for instance, I might hear the roar of engines, but I’d be unable to accurately locate the origination of the vehicles. In this regard, The Crow was a little erratic, as many scenes provided more specific audio and didn’t suffer from this minor failing. In any case, the audio used all five channels to a solid degree, and I found that both effects and music cropped up from all around quite frequently in the film. Sounds moved reasonably well between channels, and at times panning could sound smooth and realistic. Other than a few vaguely-defined sequences, the soundfield provided a well-placed experience.

Audio quality generally sounded fairly good as well. Dialogue displayed a few concerns, as some speech seemed mildly edgy and rough. However, most of the lines were acceptably natural and distinct, and I detected no problems related to intelligibility. Effects could be a bit thick at times, but they usually seemed clear and accurate, with reasonable dynamic range and no distortion. The film’s musical soundtrack combined a score from Graeme Revell and a variety of Goth/metal rock songs, and these are reproduced well. The score seemed acceptably clean and crisp, and the tunes showed appropriately sludgy and dense qualities. I found that bass levels were fairly high and the low end usually seemed strong, though these elements could have been a little tighter. While The Crow didn’t provide a stunning auditory experience, it worked fairly well for the material and it earned an overall grade of a “B”.

This new two-DVD release of The Crow marks the film’s second appearance on DVD, as this package replaces the old movie-only edition. While the supplements found here seem a little sparse for a two-disc set, they nonetheless add a fair amount to the experience.

First up on DVD One is a running audio commentary from producer Jeff Most and screenwriter John Shirley. To my surprise, Most strongly dominated this affair, as he offered the majority of the remarks. Shirley chimed in on occasion, but it was really Most’s baby. Although this seemed a little unfair to the writer - who appeared to want to say more but had trouble getting in his statements - I nonetheless thought the commentary was a solid piece that nicely illuminated a variety of aspects related to The Crow. Although a variety of production issues were discussed, the emphasis more strongly stuck with character development and story points, plus we learned about how the whole “Crow” legend fit into this movie. It’s clear that the crew gave a lot of thought to the material, and this commentary ably lets us in on their ideas. It’s a very compelling piece that I really enjoyed.

Other than the audio commentary, DVD One is light on extras. The only additional bits found on the main disc are some “Sneak Peeks” for other Miramax/Dimension DVDs. We discover ads for the Scream boxed set, the From Dusk Til Dawn boxed set, The Faculty, Break Up, and Phantoms. Oddly, nowhere in this package - on either disc - will you find a trailer for The Crow.

In addition to these, DVD One includes some DVD-ROM materials. Most interesting is the “Enhanced Playback Track”. This adds a neat text commentary at the bottom of the screen, and we also find occasional still images that appear; one click on the thumbnail allows for larger reproduction. The execution of this piece could be a little spotty, as it occasionally stuttered and paused, but that may have been more due to my computer. In any case, it’s a nice little addition.

I ran into more technical problems when I ran the “Screenplay Viewer”. This displayed the movie in a small box while the text scrolled at the side. My computer wouldn’t run the film itself, but the script still appeared. As long as it works - which it probably would on a better machine - this was an interesting piece.

Moderately fun was the “Devil’s Night Retribution Trivia Game”. There you have to answer multiple-choice questions that span the entire Crow series; most focus on the first film, but there are also queries about the comics, the other two movies, and other works. Since I’m not well-versed in all things Crow, this was tough going for me. Though the contest offers four different difficulty levels, these didn’t seem to alter the toughness of the items themselves; instead, the number of incorrect responses allowed decreases at higher ratings. I eventually made it to the end, where the lack of a fun reward disappointed me.

Lastly, the DVD-ROM area offers a “Weblink”. Although it implies that you’ll find connections to a variety of Crow-related sites, I only saw one to the main page at

On DVD Two, we first find a Behind the Scenes featurette. This program lasts 16 minutes and 30 seconds and it appears to come from around the time of the film’s original release; all of the information seems to have been culled during the production. The show combines the usual mix of footage from the set, movie clips, and interviews with participants. All of the main players are heard from, with the odd exception of director Alex Proyas, who appears nowhere in this program or on the DVD as a whole.

Despite his absence, I found the “BTS” program to be a generally decent little featurette. It works best due to its immediacy and the focus on a variety of aspects involved in making the movie. It also could be rather creepy to hear Lee discuss the movie’s subject matter and death in general. Oddly, the show makes virtually no mention of Lee’s demise other than a minor bit at the very end.

Actually, you’ll find very little coverage of this topic anywhere on the DVD. I figured there’d at least be some sort of tribute to Lee, but the mentions of his sad fate are very few and far between, which comes across as vaguely tacky. His death was so well-known that I felt it had to be addressed in the package, but the DVD’s producers prefer to largely ignore it. On Superman, I thought the disc shouldn’t have mentioned Christopher Reeve’s paralysis since it had nothing to do with the film, but Lee’s passing was intimately related to The Crow, and it really should have been covered. I would have liked to have heard about the controversies that surrounded the release of the movie.

Nonetheless, the “Behind the Scenes” featurette is a pretty interesting show, as is A Profile of James O’Barr. This 33 minute and five second program offers an October 2000 interview with the creator of the Crow comic, and it’s a fairly compelling piece. O’Barr clearly has led a messed-up life, and his discussion of these events was brutally honest. I was able to get a good insight into the origins of the comic and quite a few other details in this strong interview.

The Extended Scenes area provides three lengthened segments. Viewed as a whole, these run 11 minutes and 30 seconds. For the most part, I found that the restored material did little to enhance the scenes. Really, the extra footage essentially just made the pieces more violent than they previously had been.

A little more interesting was the Deleted Footage Montage. This five minute and 25 second section offers a variety of trims from scenes, some unused footage - including the “Skull Cowboy” - and a few outtakes. It’s presented in a semi-music video style, with tunes in the background. Despite that addition, I could hear the appropriate audio from the shoot when necessary. I thought this presentation provided a good way to provide a mix of material not long enough individually to merit inclusion as deleted scenes.

Speaking of the “Skull Cowboy”, we see more of him in the Storyboards area. There I found artwork created for five different scenes. These include between 19 and 93 drawings per scene for a total of 304 frames. I’m not a big fan of storyboards, but some of these were interesting, especially since they focused on shots that didn’t make the final film.

Additional still frame material appears in both the Original Poster Concepts and Production Design Stills. The former shows 24 alternative advertising looks, while the latter gives us 13 drawings that informed the appearance of the film. Both are fairly interesting but unspectacular.

In many ways, the same sentiments relate to The Crow itself. I liked the film and thought it displayed more style and verve than it probably should have, but the movie didn’t do much else to stand out from the genre. Nonetheless, it’s a good flick that generally worked well. The DVD offered excellent picture plus generally positive audio and a nice mixture of extras. Due to its dark subject matter, The Crow won’t be for everyone, but fans of this kind of grim material will want to give it a look, and those who already know they love the film will be very happy with this solid new DVD release.

Equipment: Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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