VHS Vednesday: Crimewave
CRIMEWAVE (1985). Directed by Sam Raimi. Starring Reed Birney, Brion James, and Paul L. Smith.
The second feature from director Sam Raimi, the outlandish screwball comedy Crimewave has been disowned by the filmmaker due to interference from the producers. However, the actual film is quite enjoyable, even if it isn't exactly what Raimi intended it to be.
The first bone of contention between Raimi and the producers was the casting of the lead role; while Raimi wanted his old friend and Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell as the hero, the producers insisted on casting Reed Birney. Much as I love Bruce Campbell, I think the producers had the right idea...Campbell, who exudes confidence without even trying, would have been miscast as the luckless, put-upon schnook. To make up for his losing the lead role, Raimi gave Campbell a scene-stealing supporting part as a smarmy, womanizing cad, which he pulls off with panache.
The story, co-written by Raimi and Joel & Ethan Coen (that's right, those Coen Brothers), concerns Vic Ajax (Birney), a nebbishy employee of a burglar-alarm company who gets mixed up in murder when one of his bosses (producer Edward R. Pressman) hires a pair of "exterminators" to kill his partner. When the two hitmen, rodent-like Coddish (Brion James) and hulking Crush (Paul L. Smith), inadvertantly kill their employer as well ("We'll tell him it's a two-for-one special"), Vic soon finds himself blamed for the murder (as well as numerous others that follow). Vic must fight to save his life, prove his innocence, and win the love of his dream girl (Sheree J. Wilson)--though he doesn't do an especially good job on any of the three counts.
Perhaps the most blatant of Raimi's tributes to The Three Stooges (right down to a cameo by Stooge supporting player Emil Sitka), Crimewave revels in its broad slapstick antics, enlivened by Raimi's flamboyant visual sense. While the creator may not be satisfied with it, I certainly was.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
Louise Lasser, probably the biggest "name" in the cast at the time, is given surprisingly little opportunity to demonstrate her considerable comedic talents; her biggest scene, in which she flees from Crush through a succession of rooms, is more focused on the Rube-Goldberg mechanics of the chase than on any aspect her performance. However, perhaps the ultimate "leaving it off the resume" appearance goes to young Frances McDormand, in an unspeaking bit part as one of a trio of nuns.
Labels: vhs vednesday