Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Shout Factorized: CRIMEWAVE Blu-ray ""

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Shout Factorized: CRIMEWAVE Blu-ray

If you had told me last year that I'd be holding a Blu-ray of Sam Raimi's film CRIMEWAVE in my hand at some point I'd never have believed you. Since it had only ever been on VHS in the U.S. prior to this, I just never saw it coming. Anyway, so we all know Raimi is a big big fan of The Three Stooges right? Well this movie shows that influence in spades in than it's almost like a live-action cartoon and even goes so far as to use a lot of the original Stooges sound effects in the process. The story is a pretty simple death row flashback scenario about an innocent man recounting how he ended up about to be executed. 
It's really neat to see the classic Raimi flourishes on a higher budget - cameras whipping and flying about, peering down from ceilings/up from floors, wonderful and exaggerated use of sound effects  and so forth. The whole production feels like a bit of a dress rehearsal in some ways for the Coen's and HUDSUCKER PROXY. The Coens were co-writers with Raimi here and even included 'Hudsucker State Penitentiary' as a big locale in this movie.
I guess Bruce Campbell was originally intended to play the lead instead of Reed Birney(which I would have preferred), but it is fun having him play the obnoxious and hilarious cad here for sure. He nails that.
And veteran character actor Brion James has played some creepy, weasely dudes in his day, but his performance here is probably the weasely-est. He is really channeling something vermin-like here as he's taken on a high pitched voice and really seems quite committed(or ready to have himself committed). Additionally, it's quite an antiquated wonder to view a film as crazy as this made with all practical effects. In a movie as dynamic and physical as this, the practical effects really do make it more impactful and often funnier. Raimi really does a lot of enjoyable stuff here. Between some wild stunts and clever transitions(my favorite one cuts from the two leads in a dance contest to pay for their meal at an upscale restaurant to the kitchen with them stuck doing dishes) the film has its charms. It's kinda Raimi's flawed Noir take on AIRPLANE!
The biggest problems with the film lie in the fact that it's a little too broad and dopey(which I don't mind actually) and that not much really happens in it outside of many elaborate set pieces and visual gags. That being said, it still has this remarkable Raimi vibrancy and energy that make it nonetheless likable. It's certainly an interesting calling card film for Raimi and his sensibilities. Not sure how much it directly or indirectly advanced his career, but within it you can really feel the voice a very talented, ambitious filmmaker speaking quite loudly. Also, the transfer here is quite nice. I'm pleased to see an obscurity like this looking as good as it does.

The Bruce Campbell commentary track Shout Factory included here is a fun time. Just as you'd expect from the great Bruce. He was a producer on the film so he has a whole lot of insights into many aspects of the production of the film(casting, locations, set design, camera moves, stunts etc). He has lots of good stories about the various actors involved and the sometimes problematic experience they had filming in Detroit. The Bruce Campbell interview(about 15 mins) also included here is a nice concise little story of trials of making the film. He really sums it up by saying how much they learned from the failure of this feature. He says, "EVIL DEAD taught us how to succeed and CRIMEWAVE taught us how to fail."

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