(Film review taken from original DVD review)
In 1994, director Alex Proyas made a stunning debut with "The Crow", which is really one of the best comic book adaptations to film I've seen. The picture is stunning in the way it presents a universe of dark alleys and stunning visuals. The unfortunate part though, is that the film's star (Brandon Lee) was accidently killed during the production. Lee's performance is nothing short of outstanding and he was obviously a performer that had a bright future ahead of him.
Lee stars as Eric Draven, a young guitar player who was killed along with his wife before their wedding by a group of criminals. Although he died, he is brought back to the world to have his revenge on the the group of criminals who caused his death. Joined by a crow, he begins going after the gang, one by one.
The film's world of dark streets and moody visuals is nothing that hasn't been done before, or after for that matter( "Strange Days" ), but "The Crow" is almost stunning in the detail of the look that it tries to accomplish. Performances are especially good for a film like this, with Lee's performance being especially intense. All in all a very enjoyable thriller with impressive production design.
VIDEO: Although not quite problem-free, Dimension's new anamorphic transfer of "The Crow" is a great deal more enjoyable than the original non-anamorphic presentation. Sharpness and detail are noticably improved, and the image looks consistently more well-defined, even in the darkest of scenes (of which there are quite a few in a film like this one).
Problems are generally related to some minor wear throughout the film. Print flaws pop up in the form of a couple of minor marks and speckles, although I've seen worse from films of similar age (I've seen worse from films from a couple years ago, actually). Scenes occasionally seem lightly grainy as well, although none of these problems really caused a distraction.
This certainly isn't a very colorful film - most of the picture boasts fairly dark colors, but they look accurate throughout the film, with no problems that I noticed. Overall, fans should be pleased with this new anamorphic transfer that brings out the details of the world of the "Crow" that weren't quite as well-defined on the original release.
SOUND: "The Crow" is presented here in both DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. I've now listened to the sound presentations for all three "Crow" films and they all have their ups and downs. The second and third films focus a bit too much on the hard rock/metal soundtrack, but occasionally do deliver on more intense effects.
This first film, although now 7 years old, provides a pretty excellent sound experience that, although I may be alone on this opinion, is a bit more enjoyable and entertaining than the other two films and rivals some new action films. The blaring rock soundtrack often seems better integrated in this film, and the particular songs selected often fit very well for the scenes rather than just seeming like random metal songs to fill the soundtrack. Songs occasionally also are part of the environment - in a club, from a car, etc, which is always more interesting than simply having them blare from all sides. Although I liked the scores for the other "Crow" pictures (I thought Marco Beltrami's effort for the third picture was especially interesting), but Grame Revell's gothic sounding score here still stands out as the most haunting and often powerful.
And also, the first film, in my opinion, has more action and intense scenes than the two sequels - which often open up the film's sound nicely. These well-staged action sequences use the surrounds well and occasionally provide a helping of very solid bass. Although the overall sound quality isn't quite as smooth or crisp sounding as the presentations for the following films, I still liked how all of the elements were presented here a bit more. Surrounds are very nicely used and occasionally highly active and agressive, especially during scenes like the assault in chapter 14.
Dialogue seemed clear and easily understood, not sounding thin or sharp. In terms of the differences between the two audio versions that are included, I thought that the DTS version offered greater clarity and detail to the more intense action sequences in the film, some of which sounded slightly thinner in comparison on the Dolby Digital version. The differences weren't major, but they did provide a more enjoyable experience.
The sound designer for the film was David McMoyler, who has also worked on the recent "Vertical Limit" and was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the sound for "The Mask Of Zorro". It's an excellent effort that really offers an entertaining audio experience.
MENUS:: Menus are similar to the menus for the other two "Crow" films, where an animated clip opens up to the reveal the main menu, which has scenes and the score in the background.
Commentary: This is a commentary from producer Jeff Most and screenwriter John Shirley. Although press releases and some stores have promoted that director Alex Proyas was supposed to join this commentary, he has understandably decided not to participate. This is a more conventional audio commentary than the tracks that you find on the other two "Crow" pictures where many different people who played different roles in the productions offered their opinions and viewpoints. Still, this is an interesting track that gives a good deal of production information and stories about the making of the film, as well as the attempt to create the look and feel of the picture.
The film was also adapted from the comic book, so the two occasionally discuss the differences between the comic and the final film. There are some pauses of silence between the comments, but the two (who seem to be recorded together) do provide a very consistent discussion. I didn't quite find it as interesting as the tracks that were included on the second and third films, but fans of the film will likely find that it does provide a respectable amount of details about the process of making the movie.
Second Disc: Although the audio commentary is, of course, located on the first disc with the film itself, the rest of the extras are located on the second disc.
Making Of: This is a 16 1/2 minute documentary that, like the documentary features that were included on the discs for the other films, offers a good deal of information about the inspirations for the look and feel of the picture and here, a discussion of the differences between the film and comic, as well.
Extended Sequences: Three extended sequences are presented - "the Arcade Bombing", "The Fun Boy Fight" and "Shoot Out At Top Dollar's".
Original Poster Concepts: A feature that was also on the special edition for the second film, I feel similarly about the group of posters offered here. Although I like the final poster that was used for the film, some of these are really great, as well.
Deleted Scenes Montage: About 5 1/2 minutes worth of deleted clips and scenes are put together here. Some are slightly interesting, but most are just very short clips.
Profile Of James O'Barr: A very emotional and fascinating interview with James O'Barr, who was the creator of the comic book that the movies were based upon. O'Barr discusses the rough childhood and events that have taken place during his life, as well as how he started with the "Crow" series. During the interview, there are pictures of some of his work inserted and, after a while, we watch as he works on some pictures while discussing his thoughts about his career. The interview is definitely worth watching.
Also: Production design stills as well as storyboards for "The Skull Cowboy Scenes", "The Arcade Bombing", "Fun Boy's Last Stand", "The Liquor Store Robbery", and "Shoot Out At Top Dollars".
DVD-ROM: Weblink, screenplay viewer, trivia game and enhanced playback track, which offers behind-the-scenes information and other text on the movie while its playing.
Final Thoughts: The original film still stands out easily as the best of the three (and soon to be four) "Crow" pictures, made even better by a phenomenal performance by Brandon Lee, whose death while filming was and is still a tragedy. It's also a fine first effort by director Alex Proyas, who went on to make the also excellent "Dark City". "The Crow" was certainly a film that deserved a special edition in the first place and it's good to see that Dimension has done a fine job on this two-disc edition, which offers improved audio/video quality and a group of solid extras.
I'd probably recommend simply going for this 2-DVD set for the original than the full box set of the Special Editions for all the films, unless you're a fan of the sequels. The original still really stands out as a great picture, and in my opinion, the sequels (especially the second film) aren't nearly as well-done.
Note: Although some chain stores were able to get this disc in during the week of 3/20, most stores did not have it and the great majority of online stores didn't and most still don't have it in stock (or have the sequels in stock and not the original). Hopefully shipments will be arriving in stores (and online) soon, because it's a great 2-DVD set that's worth seeking out.
The Film *** 1/2
Video 89/B+ = (356/400 possible points)
Audio: 92/A = (368/400 possible points)
Extras: 85/B = (255/300 possible points)
Menus: 85/B = (170/200 possible points)
Value: 87/B = (261/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: *** 1/2
DVD GRADE: B