It's another ominous night on Death Row, and Vic Ajax (Reed Birney) is next in line for execution, even though he loudly protests his innocence. As he walks to the electric chair he tells his story to anyone who will listen, but his pleas come to nothing as he is strapped in. There is one ray of hope however, a car full of nuns speeding towards the prison - will they reach it in time? As the guards wait for the midnight hour to pull the switch on him, Vic relates his tale of woe, of how he was a guard for a security business which had two partners, one who planned to sell the premises to be turned into a night club. And so the seeds of treachery were sown, treachery that would lead to the murders Vic is accused of...
Crimewave is the film director Sam Raimi followed the notorious Evil Dead with, a collaboration with the brothers Joel Coen and Ethan Coen who worked on the script with him, and considering the heights all these filmmakers reached, should in theory be full of interest. That said, it is a film that was disowned by all three men because of the interference they suffered from the studio backing the production, and they were deeply unsatisfied with the end result. You may not be, though, as while it isn't consistently funny the invention here undeniably holds the attention.
Taking place in a weird amalgam of the nineteen-forties and nineteen-eighties, where the characters go to nightclubs and dance to big band music but there are security cameras in the buildings, the humour is obviously indebted to The Three Stooges, but more than that there looks to have been a brave try at fashioning a live action Tex Avery cartoon, complete with silly sound effects. There's an abundance of slapstick violence in that vein, and in the middle of all this a romance attempts to make itself heard where the hapless Vic, reading a book entitled "How To Talk To Girls" meets the classy Nancy (Sheree J. Wilson) and is immediately smitten.
I say "meets", what happens is she is bumped onto the ground by a pest exterminator truck while crossing the road, and Vic rushes to her aid, but not before being bumped to the ground himself by the driver of the truck, Crush (Paul L. Smith), for calling him a maniac. Crush is, of course, a maniac, and he and his partner in crime Coddish (Brion James) are hired by one of the heads of the security agency to kill off the other head of the security agency. So that night, when the unfortunate fellow is alone in the office, they strike and electrocute him with a complicated device that arcs electricity. But this is seen from across the street by the wife (Louise Lasser) of the security head who put the contract out on him.
Meanwhile Vic has gone to a nightclub to see if he can win another chance with Nancy, who is having a hard time with her boyfriend (Bruce Campbell, not in the film enough), a self-confessed heel. The exuberance of the direction works in Crimewave's favour, and there's a real energy built up after the awkwardness of the earlier scenes when Crush and Coddish begin their night of mayhem. But it's probably better on a scene-by-scene basis, as inspired bits such as Crush dragging the carpet towards him to get at the wife, or smashing through a series of doors in a chase sequence, don't hang together, making the film resemble a sketch comedy. Nevertheless, in light of what came after in Raimi's career you can see what he was getting at better than audiences did when this was first released. Music by Arlon Ober. Keep watching the credits.
Precociously talented American director with a penchant for horror/fantasy and inventive camerawork. Raimi made a huge impact with his debut film The Evil Dead at the tender age of 22, a gory, often breathtaking horror romp made on a tiny budget with a variety of friends from his hometown of Detroit. Follow-up Crimewave was a comic misfire, but Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness were supremely entertaining, while tragic superhero yarn Darkman was Raimi's first time wielding a big budget.
Raimi showed a more serious side with the baseball drama For Love of the Game, thriller A Simple Plan and supernatural chiller The Gift, before directing one of 2002's biggest grossing films, Spider-Man. Spider-Man 2 was released in summer 2004, with Spider-Man 3 following two years later. He then returned to outright horror with the thrill ride Drag Me to Hell, and hit Wizard of Oz prequel Oz the Great and Powerful after that. On the small screen, Raimi co-created American Gothic and the hugely popular Hercules and Xena series. Bruce Campbell usually pops up in his films, as does his trusty Oldsmobile car.