Get Physical: The Crow 30th Anniversary Edition

Revisit the original before the reboot

30-years ago, on May 13, 1994, The Crow flew into theatres and straight to number one on the box office charts. Audiences were immediately taken with the plight of Eric Draven (Brandon Lee), a twenty-something musician resurrected from the dead to get vengeance on those who killed him and his fiancée Shelley Webster (Sofia Shinas).

The premise of an artist tragically dying before fully reaching their prime had an extra ring of truth considering that Lee lost his life during  production.

Lee’s passing cast a sombre shadow over the final product, but it did not dim the film’s light. Adapting James O’Barr’s popular comic series, director Alex Proyas, working with a screenplay by David J. Schow and John Shirley, presents a visually striking superhero tale that felt aesthetically different from many colourful films of the ’90s. His transformation of Detroit’s inner city into a landscape is equally beautiful and haunting. Three decades later, the dark skies and grimy streets still serve as the perfect playground for criminals who killed for work and pleasure.

While it is easy to see some similarities to Tim Burton’s Batman films, The Crow remains a pulsing work years later. Draven is at times both a vigilante crusader, sans the cape, and a twisted clown-faced jester. Rather than making a paint-by-numbers superhero tale, Proyas uses Draven’s supernatural gifts as both a strength and a devastating curse.

His body may be able to physically heal itself after being shot and/or stabbed, but it’s the anguish he wrestles with on the inside that cuts deeper than any blade could. Given the power of enhanced sight, through his connection with the crow he takes his moniker from, Draven can both see what is ahead of him and that which is in past. The latter of which is a source of great distress for our leather pants wearing hero.

Each item or person connected to Draven’s past brings back horrors from the night that he was thrown out a window and his fiancée was repeatedly raped and tortured. These visions not only revictimize Draven, and Shelley by extension, but keep him trapped in a cycle of anger from which he cannot easily free himself .

As Smashing Pumpkins famously sang “despite all my rage, I am still a rat in a cage.”

The act of seeing is treated as something that both empowers and entraps Draven at various points. Even The Crow’s main baddies, crime boss Top Dollar (Michael Wincott) and his occult loving main squeeze Myca (Bai Ling), are obsessed with eyes and vision beyond the now. They frequently use eyeballs–Myca has a habit of cutting them out of their victims–to intimidate others and to make potions intended to give Top Dollar the insight he seeks.

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Although the notion of seeing beyond what is in front of you is nothing new in religion, it adds an intriguing layer to the world the film inhabits. Draven is far from a Messiah, but the film has a few Jesus references. Even though it’s not labelled a spiritual film, he carries the sins of many.

Original created as a way for O’Barr to cope with the unexpected death of his own fiancée, The Crow has spawned a franchise with plenty of longevity. This film inspired three sequels, along with a reboot that is scheduled for this year. However, none of those film can top Proyas’ original. The brilliance of The Crow is found in Draven’s ability to bear witness to the atrocities of the past, and the way it keeps him trapped in the present, is what makes him such a compelling and tortured hero.

The Crow arrived on 4K Ultra HD on May 7th.

The Crow 30th Anniversary Edition

Bonus Features: Audio Commentary with director Alex Proyas; audio commentary by producer Jeff Most and screenwriter John Shirley; Shadow & Pain: Designing The Crow; sideshow collectibles: An interview with Edward R. Pressman; behind the scenes featurette; a profile on Jame O’Barr; extended scenes; deleted footage montage; trailer

Get Physical is a regular column featuring ramblings loosely inspired by the latest physical media releases.

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