After the colossal success of The Evil Dead, director Sam Raimi teamed up with the Coen brothers (fresh from Blood Simple) to make his next film, Crimewave, an unusual mixture of screwball comedy, film noir and B-movie homage.
Raimi’s film tells the bizarre story of a security-system installer, Vic (Reed Birney), who finds himself in the electric chair when he falls in love with Nancy (Sheree J Wilson), a femme fatale on the run from two bumbling exterminators ‘of all sizes’ (Paul L Smith, Popeye, and Brion James, Blade Runner).
A notoriously troubled production which flopped upon its original release, Crimewave can now be enjoyed as a riotously entertaining showcase for Raimi and the Coens, which also benefits from a highly amusing performance from cult-horror star Bruce Campbell.
Indicator presents Sam Raimi’s follow-up to The Evil Dead, Crimewave (aka Broken Hearts and Noses, aka The XYZ Murders), on Blu-ray in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc. The disc presents both the 87-minute international version (with different opening title options) and the 82-minute theatrical cut. It appears the masters for both versions were supplied by StudioCanal. The disc is locked to region B.
In both cases we’re almost certainly dealing with older masters, but there are some good attributes to be found. First off, I was pleasantly surprised by how sharp and detailed the film looks. I would guess this is coming from an interpositive or another later generation print, but the image rarely comes off looking soft or dupey. Even the many optical effects found within the film look pretty solid. Grain is present, but it has a rougher, clumpy look. Though this aspect isn't as clean as I would have liked, it doesn't negatively impact the image. Digital artifacts are otherwise not a real concern.
Colours look really strong. The film has some bright pops of pink, red, blue, green, and more, and they’re saturated perfectly. Black levels are also strong, looking deep and rich a good majority of the time. Restoration work has obviously been done but there are still a number of specs and marks littered throughout. It’s not all that heavy, though.
A newer scan and restoration would definitely help, but as it is this presentation does a wonderful job translating the film’s ambitious visuals to the format.
(I couldn’t detect any real difference quality-wise between the two international and American cuts. Seamless branching has not been used between these two versions, though it has been utilized when presenting the alternate title cards that come with the international version. The title card for the alternate The XYZ Murders looks to come from a standard-definition source. All screen grabs below come from the international version of the film.)
Both versions of the film come with a 1.0 DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack. The film has an incredibly active soundtrack and it’s rarely quiet. Though there are things that sound off and out of place, almost certainly by design (like Paul L. Smith’s dubbed voice), range is wide, and fidelity is strong. There’s screaming, explosions, zaps, plenty of Three Stooges-like sound effects, and so on, and all of it sounds clean and clear, with no distortion or noise. The only thing really holding this track back is that it’s trapped to a single-channel, but it manages to be dynamic and still offer a few surprises.
Though the film’s reputation is “lackluster” to say the least (even the filmmakers hate it), as Raimi’s second film it has its cult following and Indicator gives the film a lot of love, which should more than please said following.
A lot of the features are carry-overs from Shout! Factory’s North American edition, and things start off with their audio commentary featuring actor/producer Bruce Campbell and filmmaker Michael Felsher, the latter acting more as moderator. My understanding is that Campbell had been promising a commentary for this film for a long while (apparently going back to the LaserDisc days) and based on what he shares here I can easily see why. The production—their first “Hollywood” one following the success of the very independent The Evil Dead—was a nightmare from the get-go, where Campbell was removed as the lead, indicating that Raimi and crew were going to have next-to-no control. There were issues with the actors, from Smith not being as outgoing as he had advertised to Brion James having what could only be called a complete mental break, and then executives did not get Raimi and company’s humour, which led to heavy interference, ruining several interesting shots and sequences, which Campbell gets into at the appropriate times during the track.
It’s a funny track and Campbell's very forthcoming about his feelings, but I want to stress that he never comes of angry or bitter. Sure, Campbell thinks the film is a disaster and the experience of making it was dreadful, but he obviously took it as a learning experience, and one that he’s grateful for. On top of pointing out all of the film’s (many) weaknesses, Campbell also makes sure to point out its strengths, including a number of performances. For example, while he does have negative things to say about Smith and James on a few things, he still admires that they did go all in and get the Looney-Tune vibe of the film. He also praises a lot of the film’s camerawork and a number of sequences.
It’s an excellent track, funny and informative, and I must express my surprise at how much he can recall after 30 years. It’s also a hell of an act to follow, one I certainly wouldn’t want to attempt to follow, but Arrow Video producer and Sam Raimi expert James Flower is easily up to the task in his new track, recorded exclusively for this edition. Flower’s track builds off of Campbell’s (which he recommends viewers listen to prior to his) with the specific goal of explaining what Raimi had originally intended with the film, getting into the compromises he had to make, and why the end product didn’t turn out as expected. He does all of this by referencing the original script (or one of the earlier versions, at least), writings around the film, and interviews with cast and crew members. He even references extra features found on other DVD/Blu-ray releases for various films. Though Campbell covers this a bit in his track, the original vision for Crimewave was closer to what would eventually be Evil Dead II, at least in tone, but the producers wanted something more palatable and straight-forward for audiences, leading to constant interference all the way through to the editing process. Though Flower does acknowledge the film is “profoundly compromised” and not all that good, he still offers defenses around certain sequences and the film’s visuals, while also explaining how he feels the failure of this film led to the career paths Raimi and the Coens would take. It’s an exceptionally done, passionate, and well-researched track, notably lacking anything I would call filler, while also avoiding repeating much of what Campbell covers in his track.
This release also ports over interviews from the Shout! edition, including Bruce Campbell’s 15-minute addendum to his commentary. He seems to use this time to offer a more general overview of the film’s production and problems, expanding on things he mentioned in the track or talking about things he missed, like the film’s editing and the lessons he learned. Actor Reed Birney also pops up for 16-minutes to talk about the production from his perspective. He was aware of issues (and how he replaced Campbell) and repeats stories told by Campbell—like Brion James’ hotel incident—but he actually has fond memories around the experience. Edward Pressman also talks for 8-minutes in how he came to work with Raimi and Campbell on the film, goes over the budget limitations, and talks a little about his performance.
Kim Newman then records a new 10-minute appreciation for this release, sharing a story around how he was asked personally by The Rank Organization (the distributor of the film) to screen the film, despite them banning him from anything around their films due to an article he had written years before. Humourously, they realized he would be about the only person who would write something positive about Crimewave. Rob Deering also offers his own 7-minute appreciation for the film, calling it a bridge of sorts between the two Evil Dead films.
Indicator then presents around 11-minutes’ worth of on-set video footage, which looks to be around a lunch break during the filming of a shot for the film’s closing chase. There is also the U.S. trailer, the the U.S. home video trailer (which features Smith’s actual voice), and the French trailer, which has footage from a deleted sequence, mentioned by Flowers in his track. There is also an image gallery featuring production photos, lobby cards, advertisements, home video art, and more. There is also a gallery presenting a version of the film’s script, two pages per frame.
You also have a few options to view the film. The international cut is the primary version, but you have the option to watch it with the Crimewave title, the Broken Hearts and Noses title, or The XYZ Murders title, the last one looking to come from a standard-definition source. You can also watch the American version of the film, which runs about 5-minutes shorter. The cuts appear to be mostly trims, but Flower gets into all of this during his commentary (I'll be honest and say they didn't stick out to me). As a note, the commentaries only play with the international cut, and Campbell’s commentary plays with the Broken Hearts and Noses title.
Indicator also includes one of their typically great booklets, this one starting off with a great essay around the film and its production problems written by Amanda Reyes. In a couple of especially nice additions, the booklet also features excerpts around the film from Bruce Campbell’s autobiography If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, along with written notes from James Flower around the changes that occurred to the film between script and release (which he also covers in the commentary). “Crimewave Revisited” presents excerpts from interviews with members of the cast and crew where the film was mentioned, including with Birney, Raimi, and Brion James (admitting he was out of his mind on drugs). And as they usually do, Indicator includes excerpts from the critical responses around the film at the time, which aren’t great, but the technical skill of Raimi was at least recognized.
In the end this is an incredibly satisfying collection of supplements and it’s a case where the supplementary material is both more interesting and better than the film. The material covers the film’s production, adds an academic angle, offers multiple versions, and more. The only thing missing are deleted scenes, which I would have to assume are all lost (outside of what is preserved in the included trailers). This material should make Raimi fans giddy.
Despite an older master the presentation still looks quite good (all things considered) but it’s the supplementary material that make this edition a must for Sam Raimi fans.