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Monday, September 14, 2020

‘The Crow: Stairway to Heaven’ Was a Better Follow-Up Than the Movie Sequels [TV Terrors]

Horror and science fiction have always been a part of the television canvas, and constant attempts have been made over the years to produce classic entertainment. Some have fallen by the wayside, while others became mainstream phenomena. With “TV Terrors,” we take a look back at the many genre efforts from the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, exploring some shows that became cult classics, and others that sank into obscurity.

This month we revisit the short-lived small screen adaptation of “The Crow.”

  • Aired from 1998 – 1999
  • Aired in Syndication

Brandon Lee suffered an untimely death after an on-set accident on March 31st, 1993 while filming “The Crow.” This year, Lee would have celebrated his 55th birthday, and perhaps an illustrious film career. After the success of “The Crow” and the mark it left on Lee’s fans and fans of the original graphic novel (it’s easily one of my top five favorite films of all time), the studios tried and failed to duplicate its success three times. 

“The Crow: Stairway to Heaven” was a close call for success thanks to many aspects, including the episodic nature of the Crow concept, the clout of the original film, and the casting of Mark Dacascos in the title role. The charismatic Dacascos gained something of a resurgence taking over for Lee as Eric Draven, the slain Rockstar who returns from the dead. With “Stairway to Heaven,” the series isn’t a sequel so much as it is a complete retelling of the original graphic novel that takes notes from the movie.

The series (shot primarily in Canada) begins on a very rocky note as it compresses everything from the 1994 movie into forty-four minutes, except pretty much all of it is PG-13 and fit for general audiences. This time Eric isn’t seeking revenge so much as redemption, trying to bring down Top Dollar and his gang and figure out who set the murders of he and Shelly in motion. The writers cleverly keep in line with the original graphic novel, as Eric is warned consistently by spirit guide “Skull Cowboy” that if he pursues his mission of vengeance he could be denied entry into the afterlife. 

Here, Eric fails to find peace in the afterlife with Shelly, now having to confront certain obstacles that could ensure his soul being redeemed. Draven needs to find personal redemption and investigate who initiated their brutal murders before he can move on to the afterlife. Fans of the movie might find the pilot pretty tough to sit through, as it’s basically a crib note remake that goes over the crucial story elements from the movie, sans the Gothic tone, vicious violence, and menace. It lays the groundwork for the whole series, including turning Albrecht (Mark Gomes) into more of an adversary for Draven, while Sarah (Katie Stuart) often works with Draven to help him foil mysteries.

Dacascos plays Eric Draven with a more somber attitude; he’s a lost soul who only becomes vicious when magically conjuring up the Crow make up. Dacascos implements a lot of his martial arts skills, allowing Eric to look very fluid when fighting his foes. His performance overall helps compensate for the show’s lack of style and straight forward editing that brings the audience from point A to point B. Dacascos is able to undercut much of that with his gravitas and clear enthusiasm for the role, and Mark Gomes is also quite good as Albrecht. As for Stuart, her acting is distractingly awful to the point where Sarah becomes an absolute nuisance.

But “Stairway to Heaven’s” biggest downfall is its mood, as it lacks a lot of the nuance and Gothic overtones throughout the series run that we should have had from the first episode. The series can watch like a crime procedural with a supernatural or horror bent, as there’s a lot of running around the city picking up clues and questioning people, along with chase scenes. 

To its credit, “Stairway to Heaven” does examine many corners of the Crow mythology, giving Eric something to fear. For example, in the second episode, a possessive mobster manages to utilize the energy of the Crow (through a—uh–snake) to make him superhuman, as well as find a weakness to Eric’s powers. Eric also meets the mysterious Skull Cowboy (Kadeem Hardison), and conjures the incarnation of a past Crow, a Native American warrior named Blackfeather who came back from the dead to avenge his death. There are even explorations into the repercussions of Eric coming back and lingering in the living realm, messing with the idea and concept of mortality. There are also more Crow subjects introduced as in episode eleven where the Crow accidentally brings back the soul of a vicious serial killer who decides to murder everyone that testified against him. One of his targets is Albrecht.

Worth noting, Bobbie Phillips has a great two episode stint as Hannah aka Talon, a new Crow who sets out to find her own murderers with Eric’s help.

Despite the flaws, “Stairway to Heaven” did fairly well in the ratings, and garnered good reviews. Sadly, after twenty two episodes it was cancelled when Polygram was sold to Universal Studios. Universal opted not to continue the series, and promised a TV movie to wrap up the series’ loose ends. Which, of course, fans never actually saw materialize. From there, “Stairway to Heaven” kept its considerable popularity airing for years on the Syfy Channel and (the now defunct) Chiller.

I’d be hard pressed to call “Stairway to Heaven” a great series, but Dacascos’ spirited turn as Eric Draven is what fuels the series. And the writers did at least use the format to dabble with new ideas, and delve into the mythology of the Crow and ideas of death. They sure as hell did so much more creatively and thematically than the theatrical sequels, as the studios just tried to repeat the formula over and over without even trying to think outside the box.

Is It On DVD/Blu-ray/Streaming? The 2007 “Complete Series” DVD can still be purchased for an obscenely high price, and can also be purchased as a Region 2 import; also for a terribly high price. Episodes can also still be found online in good quality, and can be streamed on a few platforms including the NBC and Syfy apps. Hopefully we can we get a physical re-release somewhere down the road (minus that hideous “TV Guide” logo featured on the Region 1 DVD cover).



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3631746/crow-stairway-heaven-better-follow-movie-sequels-tv-terrors/

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