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No synopsis for Crimewave.
For more about Crimewave and the Crimewave Blu-ray release, see Crimewave Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on April 30, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Brion James, Louise Lasser, Sheree J. Wilson, Edward R. Pressman, Richard Bright
Director: Sam Raimi
» See full cast & crew
Crimewave Blu-ray Review
"Put on your silly hat and you'll do fine".
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, April 30, 2013
Fans of Sam Raimi were waiting with bated breath for the release of the "new, improved" Evil Dead reboot, wondering if one of Raimi's signature pieces would be destroyed by inexperienced hands, this despite the fact that Raimi was one of the co-producers. Many if not most fans walked away from the remake heaving a huge sigh of relief, but for those who might want to take a look backward at a Raimi project that was wrested from his control and by many accounts suffered for it, there's no better example than the goofy 1985 film Crimewave. Crimewave has attained a certain cult status over the years not just due to Raimi's involvement, but also due to the fact that the film was co-written by none other than Ethan and Joel Coen (along with Raimi himself) and from ongoing reports, including from Raimi and co-star Bruce Campbell, about the almost ludicrous difficulties the film underwent during its development, filming and post production. Crimewave might in fact be held up as one of the prime cinematic examples of Murphy's Law, for certainly just about everything that could go wrong did, and despite its promising genealogy, the film ended up being released only in Kansas and Alaska (something that's perhaps more funny than anything in the movie itself) and then quickly disappeared, not even raising much of a ruckus in the nascent days of cable television. (Campbell famously quipped in his autobiography that Crimewave "wasn't released, it escaped".) Looking back now from the vantage point of some 25 years-plus, not to mention the rather impressive subsequent filmographies of Raimi and the Coen Brothers, it's hard not to see Crimewave as something of a disaster, but there are still glimmers of what might have been running through the film and it will probably forever remain an object of fascination (and, perhaps, ridicule) for fans of its famous creators.
Bruce Campbell is a wealth of information both in an interview as well as a commentary included on this new Blu-ray release. Aside from some pithy comments (the "silly hat" subhead above is his), he also exhibits his typically quirky and dry sense of humor, even as he discusses some fairly serious matters. What becomes obvious is that Crimewave was a trial by fire for Raimi and his cohorts that introduced them in one fell swoop to the world of "real" moviemaking after having winged it for the most part with The Evil Dead. Suddenly these Detroit boys were dealing with a lot of unions. (Campbell: "How does a Teamster tell a bedtime story? 'Once upon a time and a half'". Rim shot, please.) And they were also dealing with a lot of Hollywood executives, many of whom couldn't stand these "amateurs", as well as supposed Hollywood "stars" like Louise Lasser who turned out to be very difficult.
The basic plot of Crimewave revolves around about to die "mass murderer" Victor Ajax (Reed Birney), a nebbish who would obviously probably lose an arm wrestling event with a fly and couldn't kill anyone. As Victor is marched to the electric chair, he begins to recount the labyrinthine tale that has led to this sad state of affairs. The film frankly doesn't make a whole lot of sense, perhaps due to the interfering hands that meddled with it over the course of its filming (and especially in post), but the gist is that Victor, a guard at the Trend-Odegard Security Firm, inadvertently gets mixed up in a hired hit plot staged by Mr. Trend (Edward R. Pressman, the well known producer in his only acting appearance) against his partner Odegard (Hamid Dana) when Odegard attempts to sell the firm without Trend's knowledge to the scheming Renaldo (Bruce Campbell), who goes by the highly appropriate soubriquet "The Heel".
Along the way Vic gets involved with quasi-femme fatale Nancy (Sheree J. Wilson) as well as Trend's harridan wife (Louise Lasser), all the while being chased by the two hired hitmen Coddish and Crush (Brion James and Paul L. Smith). Raimi and the Coen Brothers obviously knew what they wanted to do here, a kind of no holds barred noir parody, but something went pretty badly awry somewhere along the way. While it's probably most convenient to blame the tinkering hands of brainless executives, both Raimi and the Coens were fairly new to the game and so it's perhaps fair to at least consider their inexperience part of the problem. A lot of the gags in the film fall flat, while others hit their marks. What's so interesting in the film is how much future Coen material is presaged here. The penitentiary where Vic is about to meet his fate is named Hudsucker, there's a kidnap plot that plays like a low rent version of the one in Fargo and the round robin series of incompetent murders recalls Blood Simple, which in fact the Coens had already finished by the time Crimewave began its laborious journey to ignominy. (The Coens as well as Frances McDormand show up in cameos for the eagle eyed viewer. This review won't spoil where they appear, but if you can't spot them, listen to Campbell's commentary for some clues.)
Campbell states "With The Evil Dead we learned how to succeed and with Crimewave we learned how to fail". Who's to say which lesson proved more valuable, especially in the often turgid waters of the film business? Crimewave is a mixed bag at best as a film, with brief flashes of real humor and a lot of forced material that just kind of lies there. But as an object lesson in the vagaries of showbiz, it's Exhibit A.
Crimewave Blu-ray, Video Quality
Crimewave is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Considering the tumultuous history of this film, the elements here are in surprisingly good shape, with no damage of any major import to report. While colors seems to have faded a bit, for the most part the image boasts a reasonably saturated palette and above average fine object detail. There are some issues with contrast, which is variable at times and which leads to some loss of shadow detail in the many dark sequences. Things are fairly soft looking throughout this presentation, most if not all of which can be traced to the original look of the film. Grain is quite evident and no aggressive digital tweaking seems to have been done to this release.
Crimewave Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Crimewave features a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track pumped out over two channels. Fidelity is just fine if obviously constrained. Dialogue is cleanly presented, sound effects are quite boisterous and the score (which includes some musical numbers) sounds fine.
Crimewave Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Crimewave Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Raimi, Campbell and Coen Brothers fans are among the most ferocious in the film world, and this trifecta has always been an object of more than passing interest for many of them. If the anticipation is perhaps greater than the realization, there's still enough goofy humor here to at least warrant a viewing or two. What really makes this release indispensable is the involvement of Campbell in the commentary and an interview. Both of those elements are stuffed to the gills with hilarity and arch reminiscences. The video quality here is fine if unspectacular and the audio is very good. Recommended.
Crimewave Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: May 14-21 - May 12, 2013
For the week of May 14th, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is bringing Cloud Atlas to Blu-ray. This feature, a joint collaboration between The Matrix creators Lana & Andy Wachowski and Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer, is a sprawling, ambitious take on David Mitchell's ...
• Shout Factory to Release Sam Raimi's Crimewave - February 5, 2013
Independent distributors Shout Factory have revealed that they are planning to release a combo pack edition of director Sam Raimi's Crimewave (1985), starring Louise Lasser, Brion James, and Paul L. Smith. Exact technical specs and supplemental features to be ...
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