Many films have storied histories. Some more than most but getting people to talk about their experiences while still balancing the ode of what the film is is a tricky progression “Cursed Films”, as a series, both talks to some of the intensity without becoming sensational. As with certain stories, there are some that are more pertinent or accessible that others but this series does it with a cinematic flair while bringing in archival elements.
“The Crow” [Episode 4] This shoot was infamous because it resulted in the death of Brandon Lee during a shootout sequence when blanks were being used. The shoot is laid out and is storied either way with a hurricane destroying most of the sets in North Carolina before production started. A team member backed into a power pole. All this before the ill fated incident. By having Brandon’s make up artist speak on camera among others, one gets that direct connection to someone on set that was helping it along and emotionally affected personally by the incident. Using this approach in many ways makes the series feel more organic. People become friends in this situation and the showing of make up tests in Polaroids really brings it home. One of the producers also speaks as well as an actor whose scenes in the movie were ultimately cut and one gets a sense of why it needed to be finished but also reasons not to. The make up artist talking and showing footage of the stunt player wearing a death mask of Lee to finish the film is both eerie and sad. There is a specific recollection of Bruce Lee even done with a film clip which was similar to what happened on “The Crow” but in a fictionalized scenario (but its similarity is quite impactful). There is also a display of what happened in the gun and why it malfunctioned. The sense of it plays well and gives a much clearer view of what happened. A-
“Twilight Zone: The Movie” [Episode 5] This tome is a little bit trickier and perhaps more mired in legal trouble behind the scenes (at the time) even though John Landis was cleared of manslaughter in the eventual lawsuit. The sequence in question was a segment of the film done in Valencia with the star of Landis’ segment: Vic Morrow in which the actor and two kids perished during a Vietnam sequence. A helicopter collapsed during an explosion and crashed on top of them. The story is told for the most part by the production designer on the film whose career both began and ended with this. It is heartbreaking but (like some elements of “The Crow”) completely attributed to human error in a way, though this one seemed projected by hubris in many ways more than cost cutting (which was part of the problem on the previous movies highlghted). Landis seemed to like things big as his film “The Blues Brothers” seemed to show. The footage from the night is shown in its full brutality in VHS footage which is both hazy yet very clear as to what is happening. It is a horrible accident but doesn’t look to be malicious intent. It simply was overdoing it. The explosions were too big. The episode also talks about the fact that a shortcut was made in casting the children because of wanting to shoot at night (it seems) and get the best shot. That is what set it in motion. There is not alot of ancillary padding though elsewhere in the episode though. Lloyd Kaufman is used as a reflcton which in many ways might not have been the right call since it tends to belittle the story a little bit. Having maybe another director (like George Miller who had his own challenges on “Mad Max: Fury Road” would have been better). There is a cut away to some tech people in present day working on explosions but that angle is not fully formed in terms of why exactly the helicopter had problems. In that way certain ideas of this episode are incomplete. C
By Tim Wassberg