• David Ullman

The Crow: 25th Anniversary of the Film

Twenty-five years ago today the film that's had the biggest impact on me, personally, was released in U.S. theaters. I don't know how it would hit me to see THE CROW for the first time as 39-year-old, but at age 14 it opened up a whole new world to me and set the course for the next eight years (conservatively) of my life.

I saw two screenings on opening weekend and both were raucous, sold-out shows with audiences spilling out of the seats and into the aisles to see Brandon Lee in the big-screen adaptation of James O'Barr's haunting comic book series. I remember at least two people the first night came with their face painted up like the main character. While cosplay is somewhat commonplace these days, in 1994 I'd never seen it before.


For those unfamiliar, the simple plot of THE CROW involves a murdered man returning from the grave to avenge his own death--as well as that of his fiancée. Lead by the titular black bird, he hunts down the members of the gang responsible and doles out revenge while wearing a sinister mime-like makeup.


The audience cheered throughout as each gang member met their grisly end, and at the end of the opening-night show one guy stood up and proclaimed, "The movie sucked! The comic is better. You can get it at..." I was not familiar with the comic. I'd come to see the final performance of actor Brandon Lee, who was killed during filming in an on-set accident. I was a fan of martial arts movies; and while THE CROW has plenty of fighting and action, it was much different than the typical kick-em-ups I was used to.


The movie, masterfully directed by Egyptian filmmaker Alex Proyas and spectacularly photographed by Dariusz Wolski, is a gothic nightmare with a remarkable look and a killer soundtrack. It was here where I discovered Nine Inch Nails, a band I obsess over to this day.


James O'Barr's comic book is a whole other thing. It is a stark, black-and-white, blood-soaked love letter wrapped in a revenge fantasy. It's full of violence and poetry and music. I read it in one sitting and was (rather easily) convinced by my friend, with whom I had been making movies on our parents' VHS camcorders, that we should re-adapt the book as our next project.


For the next four-years, that was my main focus--definitely an unusual way to spend one's time in high school. If you're curious about that project, you can learn more about it HERE. Studying the comic, I was lead to listen to Joy Division, The Cure, Iggy Pop, The Jim Carroll Band, The Misfits, Robyn Hitchcock, Black Flag, Big Black, and Trust Obey. I was also hipped to Arthur Rimbaud, Emily Dickinson, Dante, and Milton. If ever there is an annotated edition of THE CROW, the footnotes would be endless. It opened me up to all sorts of great art, literature, film, and music. And we're talking mid-nineties here, so looking into these things meant physically going to the library and record stores.


Thanks to the Alamo Drafthouse, I was able to see THE CROW on the big screen again this year. Honestly, I can't separate the film from the book from my own experience adapting it for the small screen. It's a movie that created its own genre and tapped into an audience who was not being catered to at the time. It spawned a franchise of CROW films, a TV-series, a whole catalog of merchandise, a line of novels, new comic books, and countless collectible statues it seems. Its influence on pop-culture in general is obvious, but its impact on me as an impressionable teenager from rural Ohio in 1994 was immeasurable. #thecrow #thecrowmovie #jamesobarrthecrow