- This article is about the cinema version; for the the original comic see The Crow.
The Crow is a 1994 American action-thriller film adaptation of the 1989 comic book of the same name by James O'Barr. The film was adapted by David J. Schow and John Shirley, and directed by Alex Proyas.
The Crow stars Brandon Lee, in his final film, as Eric Draven, a rock musician who is revived from the dead to avenge his own murder, as well as that of his fiancee.
John Shirley wrote the first four drafts of the script; Schow then came in and rewrote. Shirley and Schow are both published novelists. Shirley's the author of the horror novel Demons and the cyberpunk A Song Called Youth Trilogy, and is also a singer /songwriter. He was the original lead singer of SadoNation and wrote 18 lyrics recorded by the Blue Oyster Cult on such albums as Heaven Forbid. David Schow wrote such horror novels as The Shaft and The Kill Rift.
The remake of The Crow was planned for a 2015 release but was cancelled.
Two albums with music from this film were released: The Crow score and The Crow soundtrack. The soundtrack album was enormously influential and changed the way rock music was used in the film. Jeff Most, the originating producer of The Crow, organized the soundtrack.
“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.”
On October 30, Devil's Night in Detroit, Sergeant Albrecht is at the scene of a crime where Shelly Webster has been beaten and raped, and her fiance, local musician and guitarist Eric Draven died, having been stabbed, shot, and thrown out of the window. The couple were to be married the next day,on Halloween. As he leaves for the hospital with Shelly, Albrecht meets a young girl,S arah who says that she is their friend, and that they take care of her because her mother Darla is negligent and a drug addict. Albrecht tells her that Shelly will be okay but she knows the truth: Shelly is going to die.
One year later, to the day, a crow taps on the gravestone of Eric Draven; Eric awakens death and climbs frantically out of his grave,trembling and wracked with convulsions. Meanwhile, a criminal gang, headed by T-Bird is setting fires in the city.E ric goes to his old apartment and finds it derelict. He has visual memories of the murders,r emembering that those responsible were T-Bird and his gang:Tin Tin,F unboy and Skank. Eric soon discovers that any wounds he receives healsimmediately,and that he, being dead, is now immune physical harm. He then replaces his burial clothes with dark, imposing attire, and using stage makeup, paints his face in a parody of a porcelain harlequin mask given to Shelly as a gift,decorating his lips and eyes with black,scar-like slashes. Guided by the crow, he sets out to avenge his and Shelly's murders by killing the perpetrators.
The crow helps Eric locate Tin Tin,who is obsessed with knives.They engage in a one-on-one alley fight,which Eric wins by catching a knife and pinning Tin Tin to a wall with it. Eric then kills him by stabbing him with all of his own knives. He takes his coat, leaving a large crow-shaped bloodstain on the wall of the alley. He then goes to the pawn shop where Tin Tin pawned Shelly's engagement ring the year before. Eric forces the owner, Gideon, to return the ring and blows up the shop, but allows Gideon to live so that he can warn the others. Gideon goes to warn Top Dollar, the local crime boss and T-Bird's superior,who thinks Gideon is making it all up and kills Gideon by stabbing him in the throat with a rapier, sinking it in to the hilt.
Eric finds Funboy getting high in a apartment with Darla. He teases Funboy, having the man shoot him in the hand and pretending to scream in pain for his own amusement. When it becomes a apparent to Funboy that Eric cannot be killed, he becomes frightened, and Eric disarms him and shoots him in the thigh, piercing his femoral artery. Eric confronts Darla, making her realize that Sarah needs her to be a good mother. Darla rushes out and goes home. Eric then kills Funboy with an overdose of his own morphine. He visits Albrecht,explaining who he is and why he is here. Albrecht tells him what he know about Shellys death and that he watched as she suffered for thirty hours before dying. Eric touches Albrecht and receives from him the pain felt by Shelly during those hours before leaving. As T-Bird and Skank stop at a convenience store to get some supplies,Eric arrives and kidnaps T-Bird. Skank follows the pair and sees Eric as he ties T-Bird to the driver's seat of a car,straps explosives to him, and lets the car drive off the pier,where it explodes up in midair and falls and sinks into a harbordown below.Eric leaves a fiery symbol in the shape of a crow burning at the scene.
Meanwhile Sarah and her mother begin to repair their strained relationship which we are led to believe improves thanks to Eric's words. Sarah goes to Eric's old apartment and talks to him. She tells him that she misses him and Shelly. Eric explains that, even though they cannot be friends anymore,he still cares about her. Skank goes to Top Dollar, who controls all the criminal gangs in the city. Top Dollar and his lover/half-sister Myca have become aware of Eric's actions through various reports from witnesses. Top Dollar holds a meeting with his associates where they discuss new plans for Devil's Night criminal activities. Eric arrives at the meeting,looking for Skank. Top Dollar orders his men to shoot Eric, and a massive gun fight ensues.Top Dollar escapes quickly with Myca and Grange his lieutenant,while Eric systematically kills everyone in the room-including Skank,who is last of all thrown out of a window by Eric.
Eric, having finished his quest, returns to his grave. Sarah goes to say goodbye to him and he gives her Shelly's engagement ring. She is then abducted by Grange who takes her into the nearby church where Top Dollar and Myca are waiting. Though the crow, Eric realizes what has happened and goes to the church to rescue her. Unfortunately,Grange shoots the crow as it flies into the church, making Eric lose his invincibility. Myca grabs the wounded crow, intending to take its mystical power. Albrecht arrives, intending to pay his respects to Eric, just after Eric is wounded. Top Dollar ties up Sarah and climbs the bell tower as a fight ensues, with Albrecht killing Grange. Just before she is about to shoot Eric, the crow escapes Myca's grip and claws her eyes out, and knocks her down the bell tower where she hangs on the rope for dear life before she falls to her death. When Albrecht is wounded, Eric climbs to the roof of the church on his own.There,Top Dollar admits ultimate responsibility for what happened to Eric and Shelly. They fight, and in the end, Eric gives Top Dollar "thirty hours of pain" he absorbed from Albrecht; the sensation sends Top Dollar flying off the roof of the church where he fails and becomes impaled on the horns of a gargoyle. After Eric saves Sarah from falling in the collapsing roof Albrecht goes to the hospital, and Eric is reunited with Shelly at their graves.
Later, Sarah pays a final visit to the cemetery,and the crow, perched on Eric's headstone, gives her Shellys engagement ring, dropping it in her open hand before soaring over the city and into the night.
“If the people we love are stolen from us,the way to have them live is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.”
Brandon Lee’s Death
Shortly after midnight on March 31, 1993, Brandon and his co stars, Sofia Shinas, David Patrick Kelly, Laurence Mason, Angel David and Michael Massee, were filming a flashback sequence in which Brandon and Sofia’s characters, Eric and Shelly, get murdered in their apartment. Brandon’s character, Eric, was supposed to get shot by Michael’s character, Funboy, with a 629 .44 magnum revolver, from a distance of 12 to 15 feet away. Brandon had initially been instructed to fall forward after getting shot with what was supposed to be a blank round. It is unknown whether or not Michael was told to point the gun directly at Brandon as different people have said that he was told not to point the gun at Brandon, while others have said that he was told to point the gun directly at Brandon. The cast rehearsed the scene twice without an issue. When they were shooting the scene, Brandon had walked in and got shot by Michael. When Brandon got shot he fell backwards as opposed to forwards like he was supposed to. Initially the cast and crew thought Brandon spontaneously changed up his character’s actions and they thought nothing of it. After the director yelled “Cut!”, when Brandon didn’t get back up the crew started to think he was joking. When they realized he wasn’t joking, the cast and crew soon suspected that Brandon somehow hurt himself by falling backwards. It was soon feared that Brandon had internal injuries when they noticed his abdomen starting to swell. He was rushed to New Hanover Regional Medical Center where he underwent six hours of surgery and was given 60 pints of blood. Efforts to save Brandon were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at 1:03 PM at the age of 28. When an autopsy was performed a .44 magnum bullet was removed from his body. Brandon‘s death certificate cited a gunshot wound to the abdomen as the cause of death.
What led to the incident is that the crew was under serious time constraints, as others have stated that the studio was putting pressure on Alex Proyas to finish the film. Due to not being able to purchase real dummy bullets, the prop crew tried to make their own dummy bullets from live rounds by cutting off the tips and unloading the gun powder. The bullets were then loaded into a .44 magnum revolver. That same revolver, at some point during filming, was fired with the bullets still in the chamber. When the gun was fired, the tip of one of the bullets remained lodged in the barrel. The production crew had sent the weapons expert home early and the handling of the weapons was left to the prop crew who were presumably unaware that the guns need to be checked and cleaned after every usage. When blanks were loaded into the same .44 magnum gun, the prop crew either didn’t notice or disregarded the severity of the obstruction in the gun. When Michael shot the gun, the explosive charge of powered gases of the blank caused the bullet fragment to be fired at Brandon with the same force as a live round, striking him in the abdomen and mortally wounding him. Brandon’s death was investigated by Wilmington police and was ultimately ruled an accident due to negligence. Following the death of her son, Linda Lee Cadwell had sued the filmmakers for the negligence that caused Brandon’s death. The lawsuit was settled out of court and the footage of Brandon‘s death was destroyed.
After Brandon’s death, Alex Proyas was faced with the decision to either complete the film or leave it unfinished. With the support and approval of Brandon’s mother and fiancé, Alex decided to finish the film. The beginning of the film, which wasn’t finished when Brandon died, had to be rewritten. The remaining scenes that were filmed without Brandon were completed with stunt doubles and CGI to put Brandon’s face over the faces of the stunt doubles. Paramount was originally supposed to distribute the film but backed out due to filming delays and Brandon Lee’s death. Miramax picked up the film and the film was released on May 11, 1994.
In Popular Culture
The Finnish Band, The 69 Eyes, dedicated the song Brandon Lee, to the film’s lead actor. The song also contains references to The Crow. The line “Victims. Aren’t we all?”, a memorable line spoken by Brandon’s character Eric Draven, is used in the chorus. Brandon is also directly mentioned in the second verse in the line “What would there be...beyond the eyes of Brandon Lee?
In season 1 episode 14 “Limitations”, of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a rape victim, Lois Green, recalls that before she was raped, the biggest event in her life was that Brandon Lee died filming The Crow. She mentions that her and a friend went to go see the film repeatedly because it was beautiful and tragic, and they were fans of Brandon’s.
The song Even in Death by Evanescence, contains the audio spoken by Rochelle Davis’ character Sarah at the end of the film “...people die, but real love is forever”, in the original version of the song for the album Origin.
In the eleventh episode of the tenth season of South Park, Hell on Earth 2006, the character, Satan, dresses up as Eric Draven.
- Brandon Lee was the only actor in the film to get nominated for an award for his performance and win.
- In the early version of the script for the film, the character Sherri from the comic book was initially an 11-year-old girl named Elly. In the actual film Sherri is a 13-year-old girl name Sarah.
- In an early version of the script, the relationship between Sarah and Eric was closer to the way it is in the the comic.
- The birds used in the film are actually ravens not crows.
- Brandon Lee cut himself on the breakaway glass in Gideon’s pawnshop.
- The line “Believe me. Nothing is trivial”, spoken by Eric Draven is improvised by Brandon Lee.
- The line “I see you’ve made your decision. Now let’s see you enforce it.” spoken by Eric Draven is an altered version of President Andrew Jackson’s quote “That’s John Marshall’s decision. Now let’s see him enforce it”.
- The line “Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children”, also spoke by Eric Draven, is a slightly altered version of the quote “Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts little children” by William Makepeace Thackeray.
- Iggy Pop, who played Curve in The Crow: City of Angels, was supposed to play Funboy in the original film but he had to decline the offer because of his touring schedule.
- James O’Barr gave away most of his earnings from the film to charity.
- Brandon Lee was supposed to star in two sequels to The Crow.
- The outfits Michael Massee wore in the film are inspired by Iggy Pop and the outfits the Funboy character wore in the comic.
- Alex Proyas and Brandon Lee wanted to shoot the entire film in black and white but the studio wouldn’t allow Alex to experiment with this approach, so Alex used monochromatic color themes mixed in with red and dark gray.
- Movie executives initially wanted to make The Crow into a musical starring Michael Jackson. The movie took a more serious turn when Alex Proyas was chosen as the director and Brandon Lee was chosen as the star.
- This was Brandon Lee’s last film while it was also one of Michael Massee’s first films.
- It was rumored that Brandon’s death was included in the film when in reality the footage was destroyed.
- The film was dedicated to Brandon Lee and his fianceé Eliza Hutton.
- Brandon Lee, Bai Ling, Michael Massee, and Sofia Shinas are the only members of the cast that can speak more than one language.
- Despite rumors about why there were only flashbacks of Eric and Shelly in the finished film, Director Proyas said that it was always his idea to have a montage "to simulate painful flashes" of memories. Many scenes involving Brandon Lee and Sofia Shinas were not filmed. Brandon asked for all the make-up scenes to be shot first. They were due to film most of the intimate scenes after April 1, 1993.
- During Eric Draven’s confrontation with Tin Tin, the portion of the confrontation where Eric slaps Tin Tin and Tin Tin spits in Eric’s face, is improvise by Brandon Lee and Laurence Mason.
- The line “I feel like a little worm on a big fucking hook”, spoken by Skank is improvised by Angel David.
After Brandon Lee’s Death, the following scenes were changed.
- Eric and Shelly’s death scene. Originally, Eric was supposed to return home after grocery shopping and walk into the apartment completely unsuspecting when he gets shot by Funboy. In the actual film, Eric returns home sensing something is amiss and he is stabbed by Tin Tin when he throws a knife at Eric as soon as Eric walks through the door.
- Sarah visiting Eric in his apartment. Originally Sarah and Eric were supposed to sit in front of the fireplace in Eric and Shelly‘s old apartment and Eric was supposed to explain to Sarah why he couldn’t be friends with her anymore. In the actual film, Sarah wanders through the apartment by herself while talking to Eric. Sarah is about to leave when Eric doesn’t respond, and she’s stopped when Eric appears behind her in the window, telling her that he does care about her.
- Albrecht helps Eric elude the police, and T-Bird's death scene. The dialogue in both of these scenes were removed.
- Brandon Lee as Eric Draven
- Rochelle Davis as Sarah Mohr
- Ernie Hudson as Sergeant Albrecht
- Michael Wincott as Top Dollar
- Bai Ling as Myca
- Sofia Shinas as Shelly Webster
- Anna Levine as Darla
- David Patrick Kelly as T-Bird
- Angel David as Skank
- Laurence Mason as Tin-Tin
- Michael Massee as Funboy
- Tony Todd as Grange
- Jon Polito as Gideon
- Bill Raymond as Mickey
- Marco Rodríguez as Torres
Miramax/Dimension Collector's Series
A Deluxe Edition That Takes You Inside The Movie!
- 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
- French Language Track
- Spanish Subtitles
- Devil's Night Retribution Trivia Game
- Enhanced Playback Track
- Screenplay Viewer