THE CROW: Seminal 90s Classic Hits 4K [30th Anniversary]

Paramount Pictures


Goth didn’t quite exist in my suburban town in 1994, when The Crow took 14 year old me by storm.

If it had existed, I would have been pretty tempted to be a goth kid. This is evidenced by the fact that for Halloween, I went as The Crow not once, but twice. There’s only so many Halloweens one can experience on this earth, and there’s only so many characters or costumes you’d put on more than once. So what I’m trying to say is that The Crow is indelibly linked to my coming of age. And that can cut in a couple of different directions. 

On the one hand, The Crow, for better or for worse, is simply a part of me. It’s a not insignificant piece of my identity that came at a crucial time of self discovery.

On the other hand, art that spoke to you when you were 14 can sometimes be the most cringe worthy of all things upon adult reflection. 

The Crow exists somewhere in the middle for me. Comic creator James O’Barr did spend almost a decade of his life creating the deeply personal work out of a place of mourning the loss of the young love of his life. And it’s a therapeutic work he created to emerge from his own trauma and depression. I will always respect that authenticity. And of course the film is this singular pre/early goth vision crafted by an incredible team of artists, and starring Brandon Lee, who tragically died on set after being shot by what was supposed to be a blank round. All of these things lend an air of grounding, realistic tragedy to this bleeding-heart, mythological tale. Yet it is so stylized and unsubtle, so music-video-like in its visuals, so wholly embracing of the teen angst aesthetic and comic book trappings, that it falls short of feeling like a true dramatic work.

I revisit it surprisingly often as the years go on, and the advent of a new 4K UHD disc felt like the right time to once again “fire it up” and see where I land this time around.


I sometimes take an earnest “fuck The Crow” stance. Without this film, perhaps Brandon Lee would still be with us, after all. I adore all of his other action cinema output, not to mention revere his father as well. The tragic loss of Brandon Lee haunts this film forever, and in the end I’d say The Crow just wasn’t worth it, overall, if one could somehow trade the life of Brandon Lee for the existence of this film. But that’s not how life works. And when I do revisit it, I see the meteoric star Brandon Lee giving the breakout performance of his life that forever (if tragically) cements him in legend. I see just another movie that was swinging for the fences and nailing an artistic vision that would be eternally aped and referenced from that point on. I see what attracted Brandon Lee to the project in the first place, and I respect and appreciate that we’ll always have this piece of grimy romantic revenge.

Paramount Pictures

The tragic tale of Eric (Lee) and Shelley (Sofia Shinas), meant to wed on Halloween night, but instead murdered by a marauding crew of gangsters on “Devil’s Night” in Detroit, is one inextricable from its music. Eric himself was the lead guitarist in a rock band and over the course of two nights (the next Devil’s Night after their passing), when the crow who led him to the land of the dead brings him back to set the wrongs of their deaths right via bloody revenge, Eric finds time to crush a few angry rooftop guitar solos. In the film itself a club is central to the goings on and several of the artists featured prominently in the (equally seminal) soundtrack perform on screen amidst all the gangster machinations of the crew that killed Eric and Shelley. O’Barr modeled many of his drawings off of 70s/80s icons like Iggy Pop and David Bowie. It’s a property and film forever linked to pop culture and the music that made it.

Filmmaker Alex Proyas imbued The Crow with much of its stylistic sensibilities and he famously went even further down that gothic road later with 1998’s Dark City, which was perhaps the culmination of the vibe The Crow birthed. And beyond the music, Proyas infused the film with wonderful comic book iconography like our hero running across rooftops as he stalks his prey, taking swan dives off of buildings simply to bounce right up and dance off into the moonlight, and several cool-as-hell R-rated action sequences that hint at the martial arts and physical capabilities of Brandon Lee (even if films like Rapid Fire and Showdown In Little Tokyo do an even better job of that). 

Paramount Pictures

What hit me most upon this revisit is that perhaps The Crow simply reflects back at you whatever you project upon it. I’ve seen the film dozens of times and it’s not something that makes me cry. It’s tragic, but it doesn’t feel personal. Yet I’ve had a rough couple of months personally, and the empathy and kindness that the semi-orphaned teen Sarah (Rochelle Davis) displays, and the loyalty and humanity that Ernie Hudson’s sympathetic cop character Albrecht demonstrates, hit me this time around and I did find a tear or two running down my cheek. The iconography and score (Graeme Revell) just hit me like a time machine and made me feel at home in my teen angst. 

Neither masterpiece nor cringe, The Crow lives eternal as a work of abject earnesty.

The Package

The visuals are The Crow. And while I am rarely the best person to assess what the “upgrade” really looks like from a technical or process point of view, I’d say the 4K UHD presentation looks pretty fantastic. It maintains grain while offering deep blacks (important for The Crow) and incredible sharpness. 

You’ve also got 2 commentary tracks (my old Blu-ray only had Proyas, but I don’t believe the producer commentary featured here is “new” either), a great 30 minute interview with James O’Barr in his basement that has been on past releases but which I adore as a vulnerable and earnest insight into an artist. The most significant new entry here beyond the 4K restoration is the documentary “Shadows & Pain”, which is essentially an extended interview with production designer Alex McDowell. It’s a sturdy home video package, though it’s worth noting that you only get a single 4K UHD disc here, so no Blu-ray here. There are a couple of versions being released with identical scan and bonus features, but different packaging. This review is of the Steelbook edition.

Paramount Pictures

(From the press release)

Shadows & Pain: Designing The Crow – NEW!
Angels All Fire: Birth of the Legend
On Hallowed Ground: The Outer Realm
Twisted Wreckage: The Inside Spaces
Sideshow Collectibles: An Interview with Edward R. Pressman – NEW TO DISC!
Audio Commentary with Director Alex Proyas                                                      
Audio Commentary by Producer Jeff Most and Screenwriter John Shirley      
Behind the Scenes Featurette                                                        
A Profile on James O’Barr                                                                                         
Extended Scenes:                                                                                                          
The Arcade Bombing                                                                                     
The Funboy Fight                                                                                            
The Shootout at Top Dollar’s                                                                        
Deleted Footage Montage                                                                         

 The Crow hits 4K UHD Steelbook May 7th, 2024 from Paramount Pictures.      

And I’m Out.

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