Scream & Shout – Crimewave

Welcome to Scream & Shout, the new column that focuses on Blu-ray releases from Shout! Factory and its genre arm, Scream Factory.  I will more than likely be doing only two of these columns every month (to help keep the cost of buying new Blu-rays at bay) as I go through Shout and Scream Factory’s high-definition catalogue and shed a little light on what they have to offer.  I’ve been continually impressed with the dedication they give to their releases and the films they choose to release so I wanted to go through their offerings and give them a watch. Some of the movies I may have seen and others I may be discovering for the first time, but either way, I’m looking forward to having fun with their catalogue.

crimewave still 1

Synopsis:

A businessman hires two inept “exterminators” to kill his business partner in a burglar-alarm company, but his dim-witted wife witnesses the crime and becomes their next target, along with the nerd framed for the murder.

The Movie:

Crimewave is a movie that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell often refer to as a big failure.  It was their first studio movie after creating The Evil Dead and they were trying to create something a little different than that film.  Raimi enlisted the Coen Brothers to help co-write the film which ultimately ended up aiming for a more comedic tone.   The movie was a financial and critical failure and only really received any legitimate theatrical distribution in foreign markets.  It made an appearance in the U.S. home video market but faded into the recess of forgotten cinema for some time until the new Blu-ray release.

I’d seen Crimewave numerous years ago when I discovered it on the VHS format.  I didn’t know what to think of it initially but, as a fan of Sam Raimi, I held onto the VHS in case I wanted to give it a shot again but it wasn’t until this new Blu-ray release that I watched it and actually enjoyed the movie for what it is.  Crimewave ends up being pretty flawed but if you go into the movie with your silly hat on (as Campbell mentions in his interview on the Blu-ray) then you might be able to have some fun with it.

Crimewave feels like Sam Raimi’s attempt at making a live-action noir cartoon.  The cinematography is full of bright magentas, greens and blues that play into the cartoon look of it all.  The score of the movie gives it a Looney Tunes vibe and underscores the darker elements of the movie allowing the movie to always feel light-hearted.  All the characters, actions and dialogue are over the top and cartoonish.  There is a scene where Bruce Campbell’s “the heel” character is flirting with a blonde and as they exchange words/glances there are bullet sounds accenting their exchange.  It makes their flirting all the more silly and heightens the reality for which the movie exists in.  The two main villains, played by Brion James and Paul L. Smith, snicker with high-pitched voices and burly grumbling, with Smith’s dialogue being entirely replaced in ADR to give him a more animated character feel.

The movie is full of sequences that all work well separately but aren’t quite cohesive as a whole. It is fun to see what Raimi was trying for and seeing what worked and what didn’t.  Surprisingly, he succeeds in creating some cool set pieces, fun visuals and a genuinely exciting car chase.  I really enjoyed the section of the movie where Paul Smith’s character attacks Louise Lasser’s character.  It’s full of fun visual gags and Three Stooges-inspired humor.  There is also a sequence where Smith is chasing Lasser through multiple, multicolored security door displays as she performs a bit of a one-note dance routine as she closes the doors and he smashes through them.  The final car chase scene was highly enjoyable and featured some pretty cool stunts and camera tricks interjected with the cartoonish humor of movie.  The car chase also features a Raimi trademark, the Delta ’88 car he’s used in so many of his films over the years since The Evil Dead.  (Also, keep an eye out for Ted Raimi in the movie.  If you blink, you might just miss him in his very brief appearance as a waiter.)

Crimewave may not be for everyone but if you are willing to approach it with your “silly hat” on, I think you can find some amusement here.  It’s especially interesting for Raimi and Campbell fans to see a movie of theirs that didn’t quite find its footing.  I liked watching it to see what did and didn’t work and, even with its flaws, I found enjoyment in Raimi’s experiment in creating a real life cartoon.  The movie also serves as a great example of what can go wrong with a Hollywood production, making it a very interesting piece of cinema history that has been mostly long forgotten.  I hope that people discover Crimewave through this new release and that it continues to grow its cult following.

Crimewave blu art

The Blu-ray:

Shout! Factory’s Crimewave release is a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack with interior artwork (a simple design feature that I wish more companies would provide).  The video transfer on the Blu-ray looks pretty damn good and will probably be the best that Crimewave will ever look.  The heightened colors of the cinematography are presented with great saturation and the amount of detail you see in the image is excellent.  Fans of the movie should be pleased with the results.

It’d be easy to release Crimewave as a bare bones release but Shout! and Red Shirt Pictures don’t sit on their laurels and provide fans of the film some very satisfactory bonus features. Three video interviews, The Crimewave Meter with Bruce Campbell (15 mins.), Made in Detroit with Edward Pressman (8 mins.) and Leading Man with Reed Birney (16 mins.), are all interesting pieces with some great anecdotes and tidbits that go into some of the details of the troubled production.  There is also a very brief alternate title sequence that shows one of the film’s many titles as well as a photo gallery and trailer for the film.  The meat and potatoes of the bonus features though comes in the form of an audio commentary with Bruce Campbell.  This is easily the best feature and has Campbell going into great detail over the various gags, troubled actors, practical stunts/effects and studio troubles experienced on set.  It’s a must listen for anyone interested in the history of the movie or Raimi and Campbell’s careers.

I’m very pleased with Shout’s release of Crimewave and am so happy that there was such an effort in bringing the movie to high-definition with attention paid to giving fans insight into the troubled production from those involved on the movie.  It’s a great release and I’m proud to have this Blu-ray sitting on my shelf.

Crimewave is currently available on Amazon and through Shout! Factory’s website.

by Ben McBride

Follow Ben on @monsterpopcorn

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