The Crow

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The Crow – 1994
82% on rotten tomatoes
Stars Brandon Lee
Is that Ernie Hudson?? (Ghostbusters; Winston)

The Crow may be the epitome of 90’s angst. Misunderstood guitarists. Tragic love story. Lots of eyeliner. Lone vigilante who can help everyone but himself. Real life tragedy. It has everything for the morose of heart.

Artistic Info

The director wanted to film the movie in black and white (coloring the flashbacks only) but due to restrictions had to settle for muted color scheme.

Music: Burn, by The Cure, written specifically for this movie. Even though it was a fan favorite, they did not often play it live, because they promptly forgot about it. The 90’s were a crazy time.

Parkour – not new, so shut it hipsters.

Production was riddled with accidents:

-A carpenter was burned by running his crane into live wires

-A grip truck caught fire

-A sculptor crashed his car through a plaster shop (may have been intentional)

-A crew member put a screwdriver through his hand

-Brandon Lee cut himself on breakaway glass (very hard to do)

-Brandon was killed by a mis-loaded blank (apparently there was a piece of bullet tip lodged in the gun from a previous firing, and then a blank was loaded on top of it.

The Curse

-What IS odd is that Bruce essentially played out his son’s death in Game of Death. He plays an actor who pretends to be the victim of a prop gun/real gun switcheroo.

-Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee’s father, similarly died in an on-set tragedy 20 years previously. ( There are quite a few coincidences:

-They were young: Bruce was 32, Brandon was 28

-They were both filming their fifth feature film at the time of their death, and both just before the release of their biggest films. Bruce died while filming Game of Death, but Enter the Dragon was about to be released (it should be noted that Bruce was born and died in the hour and year of the dragon (7-9 AM, 1940 was a Metal year, making him a metal dragon (metal dragon characterized by force and power)) (

-Bruce died in Hong Kong after taking medicine for a headache. Admittedly, it sounds like a weird thing to take for a headache (Equagesic), but he was at a colleague’s home going over a script, and accepted the medication from her. He had a severe allergic reaction to an ingredient in that painkiller, which caused a fatal cerebral edema.

-He may have been the victim of a hit by the Triads (Chinese gang)

-He may have been the victim of a hit by the Mafia (Italian gang)

-He died of a delayed reaction to a Dim Mak strike that he may have received earlier that week

-A mirror that was on the house meant to ward off evil had been blown off the day before Bruce died.

-There is some hullabaloo about a curse on Lee’s family that got his older brother in addition to himself and his son (ancient Chinese curse?)

-Being born in the hour and year of the dragon made him desirable to the Chinese Illuminati. Lee (supposedly) rejected their advances, and so they battled him in his dreams. I guess we’re calling this a curse. A badly written Critical Eye (ha) article (no author mentioned) posits that “The underlying characteristics of such a curse would invariably ensure entirely plausible explanations for its target’s demise, however sinister the intention, and would create the required circumstances for this to occur, that conveniently masquerade as unfortunate mishaps and accidents.”

What is the actual curse: “The Curse of the Dragon”

[The curse began retroactively in advance of a broken prophecy. Bruce Lee was prophesied to serve as a major player, and enforcer in the Li family dynasty from which his bloodline originates. The Li family rules over the Chinese, or Far Eastern Illuminati who joined forces with the main global, or Western Illuminati that is headquartered out of Europe. The link between the two Illuminati groups is the secret Order of the Dragon (secret, eh?), which worships Chinese Demons, some of which are considered earthly gods. Bruce, being born in the year and hour of the dragon, was a special individual with amazing talent. If allowed to live, he would have theoretically been the most powerful human on Earth who didn’t wield magic nor was supernatural in nature, and would like have become a Traveler, essentially a free agent in the fabric of the universe]. Naturally the illuminati did their best to recruit him, and when he failed to heed them, they called on the Triad to threaten him (to no avail). In the illuminati tradition (I guess), a person of such importance would be cursed rather than killed. A demon was called upon to haunt the child Bruce in his dreams (demons are not bound by time the way that mere mortals are) (I guess). Bruce did not succumb to the demon and kept fighting him in his dreams through to adulthood. Once demon realized that Bruce was destined to die shortly, he turned his attention to his son, Brandon (all this happened on an alternate plane in dream land, whilst everyone was sleeping – not sure how everyone knows this, but you know). Dream Bruce was enraged and attacked and finally destroyed the demon, which we assume is what ultimately caused his mortal death (I guess). Even though Bruce destroyed the demon, the curse had taken on a life of its own and continued for Brandon. “The curse works like fate in a way, causing a series of unfortunate coincidences that lead to things like bad drug interactions…and…[misfired guns].”

-There have been several movies made regarding the deaths of Bruce and/or Brandon, one of which was made the year before Brandon’s death and included and interviews with him.

-Unsolved Mysteries featured this tragedy in an episode. No word if there was an update.

Regardless of the supernatural or mundane circumstances surrounding these men’s death, they are tragic, and we lost an incredible amount of talent. There’s no telling what the martial arts movie genre would look like now if Bruce had continued making movies, and with Brandon’s career unfolding before him, we’ll never know if he would have made an incredible Marvel character.

The Comics

The Crow is a character developed by James O’Barr and first introduced in 1989. The literal crow is a supernatural spirit who brings people back from the dead in order to exact their vengeance, essentially turning them into vigilantes for a time. Eric Draven (a man who has no use for shirts) was killed, along with his fiance, on the eve of their wedding. The crow brings Eric back, and he becomes our new reluctant hero. Vengeance ensues.

Premise reminds me of the Dark Hunter novels.

“I know pain at the molecular level…it pulls at my atoms…sings to me in an alphabet of fear…I am the boiling man…come to break the bones of your sins, meat puppet.”

The Painted-On Smile

The Crow’s face paint features an exaggerated smile and a lot of black concealing the eyes. We’ve also seen this style on The Joker, whose appearance is based on the character of Gwynplaine in a 1928 movie version of Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs (this is debated, but if you look at a picture of the Gwynplaine from this movie, it’s pretty obvious). It’s frigging sad. A boy is brutally disfigured by a jerk of a king so that he can “laugh forever at his fool of a father.” Said father had been killed by the king because he’d refused to kiss his hand. Presumably there was no love lost for the king, and apparently with good reason. While the comic books have the origin of Joker’s appearance as the result of toxic chemical exposure, The Dark Knight’s joker teased us about a maybe more sinister mishap, which might be a modern callback to The Man Who Laughs.

The painted-on smile gives us a concrete contradiction in a character made of contradictions. The Joker has a cheesy, almost simplistic sense of humor, but proves deadly serious in his intentions; he is the opposite of batman in every way except his passion. The Crow is dead, yet alive; a force for good, though using evil means. He looks at the comedy/tragedy masks before selecting the comedy to paint on his face, the contradiction apparent in the tragedy of his life. <side note: the masks themselves may have had a practical purpose and served as a useful exaggeration so that the audience farther away knew what the character on stage was feeling> The vigilante in general is a contradiction – they seek to rid the world of evil by donning evil themselves.

The face paint is reminiscent of the jester, which is likely the origin of the harlequin

Symbolism of The Jester: (Beatrice K. Otto)

The jester has a unique and versatile role. Most depictions of the jester in literature are as a grandly theatrical entertainer. Especially in Medieval and Renaissance literature, the jester is often one of the only characters capable of speaking truth without consequences, because they use they do so within within the safety net of mockery and humor. There is a lot of discussion about the truthiness of jesters and the function it serves. Using humor may also make their statements more palatable than outright honesty. Some say that king and nobility would have considered them valuable counsel because they are lower status and likely without political machinations driving their ambitions. This may be the most important quality of the jester – he is one of the masses. He voices the perceptions and frustrations of those living under the consequences of the court’s actions and decisions.

The jester shows up in The Man Who Laughs. Because of his disfigurement, Gwynplaine becomes a carnival side show, and yada yada yada, eventually a court jester discovers the truth of his noble lineage (wooooooow, truth) and convinces the queen to restore him. Not for altruistic reasons, but to win favor with the queen and to keep Gwynplaine and his lover apart. The truth is not always helpful.

The Jester as an archetype in modern media (Alex Hurst (

Early psychiatrist Carl Jung developed 12 archetypes used in fiction. The jester, as Hurst states, “is at peace with the paradoxes of the world. He uses humor to illuminate hypocrisy, and also level the playing field between those of power and those without.” She states that The Jester “invites others to partake in a creating a self-deprecating form of satire.” The Jester will pick at asinine conventions and unnecessary pomp and ceremony.

The jester is generally wrapped up in the journey itself and does not care much about the greater problem of the story. We see this in The Crow when Eric crashes Top Dollar’s cocaine and gun party, saying that he’s only there for Skank. He’s not trying to solve all of the problems in Detroit, only the ones that brought him to this path.

All of Jung’s achetypes have a shadow (this a negative of the archetype; it does not boil down to good vs bad – that would be too reductive a way to look at it). The defining characteristics of the Jester are embracing fun and games, wit and humor, and living in the moment. However, for the shadow jester, these can be displayed with cynicism and bitter irony. Eric Draven cracks jokes while he’s breaking bones, he uses a playful symmetry in how he disposes of his victims, but it’s not humor in earnest.

Other examples of jesters as an archetype in fiction:

Beetlejuice, Genie (in aladdin), the Weasley twins, C3P0, Merry and Pippin, Gambit, Jim Carrey (all of his characters), Fat Amy, Harley Quinn, Jack Sparrow, Leslie Chow (The Hangover), and of course The Joker and The Crow firmly represent the Shadow Jester. Some of these can also fall into other archetypal categories as well (especially shadow jesters, which can often fall in with the Outlaws).

The major uniting factor between the medieval and modern jesters, and the good and the bad jesters, is the ability to strip away the veneer of placation that we construct over truths, whether they’re ugly or just ridiculous. Jesters will bring those truths out in the light and force us to examine them.

Crow v. Raven

Raven is larger and more solitary, preferring to travel in pairs; wedge-shaped tail; make a croaking sound; bigger bills. Crow is smaller and travels in larger flocks; fan-shaped tail; makes a cawing sound. Ravens aren’t typically found in the southeast. Both birds are part of the Corvidae family, known as the most intelligent of the birds, and of animals in general. They have demonstrated  self-awareness, tool-making, and their brain-to-body mass ratio is the same as great apes and cetaceans and very close to humans. Their diet is extremely varied – they can eat just about anything, including carrion.

Scroll to the sound files; hours of fun, guys:

Mythology: The rhyme you hear Shelly reciting (one for sorrow, two for joy, etc.) is the divination rhyme, used for counting gatherings of crows or magpies (magpies being less common in the US). (the number of birds is supposed to tell your future). There is a lot of variation in the lyrics, as with most folklore. One common version goes thusly:

One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret, never to be told
Eight for a wish
Nine for a kiss
Ten for a bird, you must not miss.

Since Eric is followed by the single crow, I think it’s safe to say it’s “one for sorrow”.

Favorite Quote: “CAW” – Supernatural crow

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

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