Because I Could Not Stop For Death, He Kindly Stopped For Me…

Last night while flipping through channels I stumbled upon “Crow: City of Angels.” After I realized it wasn’t the original, but before I flipped over to the Food Network, I was reminded of the disappointment I originally felt upon seeing it in the theater in 1996. What a complete waste of celluloid.

brandon leeIn spite of all its flaws I still love the original film. We’ve seen demonic spirits returning from the grave to exact vengeance countless times in film, but the first Crow showed us that sometimes that spirit is justified in its revenge. The gothic beauty of the film still moves me, and Brandon Lee’s performance, especially in the scene where he says, “They’re all dead”¦they just don’t know it yet,” gives me goose bumps every time I watch it. I still listen to the soundtrack–such an awesome blend of melancholy rock and industrial/techno heavy metal. It captures the mood of the film perfectly.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the story of Brandon Lee’s accidental death while filming the movie. During one particular scene an actor fired a gun at Brandon Lee, which unbeknownst to anyone on the set contained a live round. Brandon immediately dropped to the floor, and the director along with the stunt team rushed to his side, and to their abject horror discovered a bloody bullet wound. Brandon slipped unconscious on the set and was pronounced dead four hours later at a nearby hospital. In a horrible stroke of irony this accident occurred mere weeks before his wedding, seemingly mirroring the events of the film.

I don’t think I told you anything new with that little summary of events. Almost anyone who’s seen the film knows that particular story, but few people know the story behind the graphic novel on which the film is based.

At seventeen a young James O’Barr had fallen in love and proposed marriage to a girl named Bethany. Having grown up in an orphanage and experienced a very roughjames obarr childhood, Bethany represented goodness and hope in young James’s tumultuous life. While walking down a sidewalk in Detroit a drunk driver struck Bethany with his vehicle. He dragged her body through several yards before stopping. The police called her father, who in turn called James. He arrived at the hospital with her family only to learn the doctors had already pronounced her dead.

James enlisted in the Marines hoping that a disciplined life would ease his pain. It didn’t. After receiving a discharge from the military James turned to drugs and alcohol, and he eventually became convinced that he would only find solace by killing the man who had struck his fiancé. James discovered the man had died from natural causes, and again he went in search of a way to ease his heartache.

In time James would use his experiences to write “The Crow;” an independent comic book filled with vengeful poetry, haunting imagery, and dark rock lyrics. After the modest success of the graphic novel James received offers from Hollywood producers wanting to turn his comic into a movie. Filming began and through the course of the shoot James became very close friends with actor Brandon Lee. Then, as we all know, Brandon was killed on the set. After the accident James has said in interviews that he wished he’d never written the dammed thing in the first place.

crow comicI was a fan of the graphic novel before the movie, and during the spring of 1994 I met James at the Dallas Fantasy Faire comic book convention. He was doing book signings all over the country to promote the movie, but as the graphic novel had only been a modest success, and the film had yet to be released, his line of fans was practically non-existent.

I’ll never forget meeting that man. I don’t believe I’ve ever met a more withdrawn human being in my life. He seemed utterly unapproachable in spite of the lack of fans surrounding him. He sat at an eight-foot long table all alone, chain-smoking, and staring at the table or his hands the entire time. He dutifully signed my book and posters without ever looking up, and he simply refused to be drawn into any type of conversation. It wasn’t that he was just a rude person. He even drew me an original sketch of the Crow, something many artists will not do. No, it was more like he was present in body but not in spirit. I sensed a disconnect of some kind, and I can only imagine the pain he felt knowing that he had an obligation to promote a film that had killed his friend. A film, by the way, which was based on a graphic novel he wrote as a way to excise the pain he felt after the death of his fiancé.

So much death…

Many other artists, and even James himself, have attempted to delve back into the Crow mythos and expand the stories through books, comics, and films. Don’t waste your time with any of them. They all fall flat. In my mind the original film and the original graphic novel occupy a space all their own. They’re sublime; simultaneously beautiful and horrifying. I know you’ve seen the movie, but you should also read the comic.

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Comments

  1. Anniina says:

    Great post! Nice use of Emily Dickinson too.

    I have two questions: 1) can I bribe you to do Alexander Pope for me? I can’t afford that beer cooler tractor thingy you want, but I could afford a case of beer 😉 and 2) Thinking about grad school possibly. How would you suggest studying for the GRE in English?

  2. hypermark says:

    Send me an email with the specifics of what you need. I’m sure I can help.

    Hmm. You know, this may sound really bad, but I didn’t really study for the GRE. When I took the test it had been about six year since I’d had a college level math course, so I new I was gonna tank that portion of it. I looked at a test prep book to familiarize myself with the layout of the test and that’s about it.

    Just an aside, but I took the LSAT the same way and scored a little higher than the LSAT average. Not great, but not terrible either. A friend of mine took it the next year and he spent a load of money on a Princeton Review prep course. Not to mention countless hours studying and attending courses. When he told me his score my heart just dropped. After he told me his I didn’t have the heart to tell him mine. Especially since he knew how I blew it off.

    So don’t take test advice from me. I pass’em…but only through dumb luck.

  3. Flood says:

    Anniinna: Probably things that you allready do will help. the reading and the writing help a lot. especially if you take the time to make yourself write a cohesive 750-1000 word essay. I don’t remember how long the time limit is, but find out and make yourself stick to that limit. You can also find a list of the most used words and you can have an advantage.

    They say the math is easier than on the SAT, but I can’t quarentee that. You can pick up a book and see the basci principles, and if you can do some work. . .

    Otherwise I would agree with Mark: walk in, take it, walk out, smile.

  4. Cyn says:

    thanks for the background on that movie. had no idea! what an incredibly sad story. and yeah…i loved the first Crow movie too…anything after sucked.

  5. […] way cool bit about Brandon Lee and more […]

  6. hypermark says:

    Thanks Cyn…and thanks for the linkback too. Be sure to check out the graphic novel. It’s a bit different from the movie, but no less emotional.

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