Schlock Corridor

I idly wondered if the best bit from Sam Raimi’s CRIMEWAVE (his second film, following THE EVIL DEAD, co-written with the Coens) was on YouTube. Of course it was.

A strangely beautiful bit of live-action cartooning.

CRIMEWAVE was the victim of consistent and egregious studio interference — they refused to allow Bruce Campbell to play the lead, despite his modest EVIL DEAD cult status (their replacement choice is a complete no-name) and messed with the score and sound effects. What with Raimi mixing Three Stooges slapstick with Hong Kong action cinema camerawork, the result is a rather deafening bit of chaos: I know from experience that an extra cook or two can turn something from “lively” into “irritating” in short order. But a few bits are beautiful. I wish Raimi had brought some more of his style to the SPIDERMAN franchise, which was one of the better superhero things while it lasted but seemed to have been through some kind of extravagance removal program.

9 Responses to “Schlock Corridor”

  1. I vividly recall the awful disappointment of finally tracking down a VHS rental copy of this, after being blown away by The Evil Dead… oof.
    However, I revisited Raimi’s Darkman recently, which I loved on first release, and it still works tremendously well – the combo of comic-book-handsome leading man Liam Neeson, full-blooded horror in the origin story and a genuinely quite moving Hunchback of Notre Dame/Beauty and the Beast quality to the storytelling add up to what I would almost call a perfect comic-book movie.

  2. It certainly holds up better than Tim Burton’s Batman. I found bits of it problematic: Raimi’s wholesale rejection of tonal consistency produces infelicities as well as startling moments of pleasure.

    Once you accept that large parts of Crimewave are irredeemably terrible, the good bits become easier to appreciate, and there are some very good bits, including the restaurant brawl and most of the stuff with Brion James and Paul “Bluto” Smith. Bruce Campbell’s demise is hysterical.

    “I wanted it to be the Ultimate Film of Entertainment,” said Raimi, which it’s not, but traces of his vision remain.

  3. I watched the lowest-quality bootleg I could find of Raimi’s WITHIN THE WOODS last night. From what I could see through tape static and digital murk, it was a worthy, full-on practice run for EVIL DEAD – more fun than CRIMEWAVE (although I did love Brion James in that) at a hundredth the cost. Would be fun to see the version Anchor Bay reportedly restored before finding out they couldn’t get the music rights sorted out.

  4. Oh hey, are you at the film festival this week? Just saw the Mubi entry… looks like Alex de la Iglesia’s post-fascist clown film is playing.

  5. The Anchor Bay restoration needs to be leaked onto the internet — if you can’t exploit something commercially, give it away at the back door!

    Yes, I’ll be doing the Film Fest… tomorrow I’m discussing The New Cinephilia, in an event where I hope to learn what that is. And next Thursday they’re repeating my short Cry for Bobo.

    I’m hoping to review The Last Circus for Mubi.

  6. I liked Crimewave a lot when I saw it on TV a few times back in the ’80s, but I haven’t seen it since then so I actually don’t remember much about it. Partly it was the presence of Brion James, I’m sure, because I was a huge Blade Runner fan. On the other hand I hated Darkman the one time I saw it, because I couldn’t hang with the shifting tones. I should try it again. Maybe it’s another case where the horror aspects knocked me out of the movie. That’s always been a problem for me, most recently with Black Swan. On the other hand, cartoons I like.

  7. Crimewave has horror aspects too, notably in the really neat suspense moment in the clip where she’s listening at the door. Darkman brings on the violence right away, so it was maybe the comedy and pathos that made the mix uncomfortable for me. But I do recall laughing hard at the one-legged gunman joke at the start.

  8. Love Raimi’s playful gag with the Mayor’s last-minute entrance as the hero is about to be executed; “Am I too late!? Good, I didn’t want to miss this.”

    Love Raimi & Jonathan Ross in their episode of The Incredibly Strange Film Show.

    Didn’t love discovering that Raimi had made donations to the Bush/Cheney Presidential campaigns of 2000 & 2004.

  9. Yeah, that’s a great sick joke.

    Raimi & Ross: “Do you have blood banks in England?” “No.” “But you have a liver pool.”

    Raimi as neo-con… I guess that makes sense, given the end of the first Spiderman which betrays his outsider status.

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