THE CROW - 20 Years Later

1994's The Crow, starring Brandon Lee. Produced by Dimension Films, distributed by Miramax Pictures.

Mark Turner
Fantastic Almanac

Released 20 years ago, The Crow, like Batman, was a film based on a comic book. Unlike Batman, the 1998 comic book was inspired by the tragic death it's authors fiancée, who was killed by a drunk driver. To cope with the loss, James O'barr joined the Marines and eventually came-up with the concept of The Crow; a man named Eric Draven is murdered, along with his wife, by a gang of thugs. Eric's ghost rises from the dead, with the help of a mysterious crow, to reap vengeance on the killers and to help those who cannot help themselves. The comic book was a success and that's when Hollywood came knocking.
Original Cover Art by Jame's O'Barr for The Crow
Brandon Lee, the son of famed martial arts fighter and film and television actor, Bruce Lee, had starred in a number of martial arts action pictures. Sadly, when Brandon was a child, he lost his father to a tragic, and mysterious death involving an analgesic painkiller. Bruce Lee was only 32 when he died and was at the height of his career. Brandon, at the time he was offered the part of the The Crow was 27, and just beginning to make a name for himself and this latest role was a possible ticket to a larger career in Hollywood.

Nearly all principal photography had been completed on the picture when the unthinkable happened.

On March 31st of 1993, while filming the key sequence when the gang members attack Eric Draven and his wife . . . a prop gun was improperly loaded by the props department and the blank discharged a dummy rubber-round that was only supposed to be used for close-ups. The dummy round blasted its way into Brandon's stomach. He was rushed to a hospital, but after 6 hours of surgery, Brandon Lee was pronounced dead. The shooting was ruled an accident and all film of the incident was destroyed after the ensuing trial.

The eerie parallels between father and son and the tragic early deaths of both were not lost on the moving going public. The story of man risen from the gave in his last screen performance was one reason people wanted the see the film, but also, in a summer filled with good, but less 'spectacular', or lighter films, The Crow was a ticket to a spooky Halloween ride filled with action and wild dream-like visuals. It proved to be hit and critics liked it too. The Crow was the 24th highest grossing picture of 1994, just above Natural Born Killers.            

The success of the film sparked sequels and even a TV series. It was obvious to me when Batman The Dark Knight came-out, that Heath Ledger's Joker was a demonically inspired version of Brandon Lee's Crow. If you haven't seen Brandon Lee's work in The Crow, I highly recommend it. It should be kept in mind anytime we sit to watch a movie based on a comic book. The Crow still has wings.

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