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The Crow: Collector's Series

Eric Draven (Brandon Lee), who is unjustly murdered along with his fiancée Shelly (Sofia Shinas), returns to our earthly realm as "The Crow" one year later, concerned only with finding his killers and extracting vengeance. Invincible as long as his spiritual guide, a crow, is kept safe, one by one he hunts down his prey, armed only with brute force and pithy dialogue. While 1994's The Crow is an entertaining film, it's perhaps best known for the macabre on-set death of its leading man, Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee). And though other actors occasionally have died during filming (Robert Walker's unrelated passing while doing Strangers on a Train ; Vic Morrow's helicopter accident in Twilight Zone: The Movie), Lee was horribly, ironically killed while filming his death scene. As his father died under mysterious circumstances as well, The Crow was guaranteed box-office receipts from curiosity-seekers alone (the picture cost a mere $6 million, grossing $50 million in the U.S. and $90 million worldwide). It also spawned two sequels. But as a film, The Crow offers little new to the vengeance tale — the same concept, in different garb, can be seen in 1972's surreal High Plains Drifter. Director Alex Proyas tries to spice things up this time around by making the movie a dark, moody affair, but the film ends up looking like a poorly lit music video with the requisite hyperactive cutting and a Goth-pop soundtrack (featuring The Cure and Nine Inch Nails). These criticisms aside, The Crow benefits from sustained, well-developed tension, as well as enjoyable bad-guy performances from Michael Wincott, David Patrick Kelley, Bai Ling, and Tony Todd. Furthermore, Lee had a star-caliber charisma that never was fully realized. And strangely, because his death resonates throughout the picture, his performance is that much more fixating — not to mention trying to spot all of the digital trickery that allowed the project to be completed. The two-disc The Crow: Collector's Series is Buena Vista's second DVD release of the film, improving on the 1997 version with a new anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), audio in DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1, and a (dull) audio commentary by one of the producers and one of the writers. Disc Two features a "making-of" short; extended and deleted scenes (some cut to guarantee an R-rating); an interview with James O'Barr, the creator of The Crow comic-book series; and a still gallery featuring poster concepts, production designs, and storyboards (including one for a cut sequence involving a character named The Skull Cowboy, played by Michael Berryman). The original trailers and TV spots are not included, perhaps because they point up the presence of Brandon Lee, while this SE is packaged to help sell the sequels (all three are available in a set). But you can skip the subsequent Crow movies — this is the only one worth having. Dual-DVD keep-case.

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