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The Skeptical Samurai’s Guide to the Movies: The Crow

Posted in Critical Thinking, science, Skeptical Samurai's Guide to the Movies, skepticism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2011 by theskepticalsamurai

Time for another instalment of…

The Skeptical Samurai’s Guide to the Movies!

This week’s movie: The Crow

This is one of my favourite movies of all time.

I am not going to dissect the entire movie (as this is not the type of movie that really lends itself to Fact vs. Fiction treatment!), but
instead i am going to focus one particular aspect of this film.  Specifically, the tragic death of Brandon Lee.

Brandon Lee was born Feb 1st/1965 and died tragically Mar 31/1993.  Brandon was accidently shot while filming a scene for the film “The Crow”.  As a result of the bizarre circumstances surrounding his death, as one might expect, a variety of different claims began to surface regarding his death.  In honour of Brandon Lee, let’s take a skeptical look at some of the claims surrounding the late actor’s death.

Claim:  “The Crow” was released without the approval of Brandon Lee’s family

Reality: I remember when the trailer for this movie 1st came out.  I was so excited!  Shortly after the trailer was released, i began hearing “rumors” that the lead actor had actually been tragically killed while filming a stunt and the movie was being released ithout the consent of the fallen actor’s family.  You see kids, back in the day, prior to the proliferation of the internet, one did not have immediate access to info.  When a story “broke” sometimes you would not hear about it until days or even weeks later and when you finally did get the info it could be difficult to verify it.  Sadly, the “rumor” that Brandon had tragically died turned out to be true.  However, the second part of the “rumor”,  that the movie was being release without his family’s consent, could not have been further from the truth.  The director and production crew actually contemplated not even releasing the movie.  In addition to fears that releasing the movie would be in “bad taste”, the issue of how to market a movie in which the lead actor was deceased (and had died while making the film) was also major concern.  However, because Brandon had been so proud of the film, the Lee family felt strongly that “The Crow” should be released.  Both Eliza (Brandon’s fiancé) and the rest of Brandon’s family wanted the movie released as a final tribute to Brandon.

Claim: Brandon’s death was no accident.  Instead, it was the result of a “curse”
passed onto him by his late father, Bruce Lee.

Reality: Legend has it that Bruce Lee had some sort of “curse” on him.  Those who propagate this myth are not clear regarding who put the curse on the Lee family, how it affected the Lee family, or how it was passed on from Bruce to his son, Brandon.  All that seems to be said with any certainty is that the curse killed Bruce, the curse was passed onto his son Brandon, and ultimately it killed him as well. Let us look at the notion of a family “curse” a little bit closer shall we.  Those of you who regularly read the blog will most likely know what i have to say about the possibility of a “curse”.  For the uninformed, it is quite simple actually, there is no such thing as a curse.  The possibility of a cruse defies our current understandings of the natural world.  In order for a curse to exist, there would have to be extraordinary amount evidence refuting most (if not all) of what we currently know about the natural world.  But, for the sake of arguement, let us put the above aside and assume that a “curse” is a real possibility, and let us assume that the “Lee family curse” is a reality.  Contrary to popular belief, Bruce Lee was actually born into a rather well off family.

At the age of 18, for circumstances i will explore/expand upon in an upcoming blog post about the film Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Bruce (real name, Lee Jun-fan) moved to the United States.  Despite moving to America with only $100 in his pocket, as a result of hard work and perseverance Lee managed to get a university education (although he never graduated), run a successful martial arts club, become a fixture in the California martial arts community, and eventually become a television and film star.  With that information in mind, the notion of a curse seems rather silly.  I mean aren’t curses supposed to be bad!  We should all be so fortunate to have such a “curse” in our lives!

Those that propagate the myth of a “Lee family curse” will quickly dismiss the above and information, claiming that both Bruce and Brandon died under mysterious circumstances and this is more than enough to prove the existence of a curse.  Sounds compelling at first, but upon further investigation, the circumstances surrounding the death of both Bruce and Brandon Lee are far from super natural.  In regards to Bruce, our best evidence tells us that Bruce died as a result of an adverse reaction to an over the counter medication, which lead to cerebral edema (swelling of the brain) and ultimately lead to his untimely death.  No super-natural explanation is required to explain Bruce’s death, a little bit of logic and reason tells us that Bruce died tragically as a result of a extremely adverse reaction to an over the counter medication. Unlikely and rare, yes, but impossible, far from it.

Much like his father, Brandon’s death was not the result of some sort of super-natural curse.  Instead it was the result of another set of tragic circumstances.  The reports change slightly depending on which account you read, but essentially what happened is as follows: In an attempt to make a close-up shot of a revolver seem more real, dummy rounds are typically used to filled the cylinder of the gun.  As seen in the following picture:

When looking at the business end of a revolver one can easily see whether or not there are actually rounds in the cylinder.  Using an unloaded gun could easily be spotted by viewer and could arguably ruin an otherwise realistic scene.  That where dummy rounds come in.  Dummy rounds are used to load the revolver for close-ups to give that “real life” look.  These types of rounds contain a bullet, but no actually charge (which is required to actually fire/propel the bullet forward).  Unbeknowst to anyone on the set that day, the bullet from the dummy round broke off and became logged in the barrel of the revolver.  Fast forward to later in the day, the same gun is loaded with blanks, which contained a charge without a bullet.  I think you can see where this is going.  During a scene, involving a stunt where the character Eric Draven (played by Brandon Lee) was shot, the revolver was pointed at Brandon and the trigger was pulled.  Because the gun, had a bullet in the barrel with a blank with a charge in the cylinder, when the trigger was pulled, it ignited the charge which then propelled the broken bullet from the dummy round forward, ultimately killing Brandon.  Similar to his father, the notion of a Lee family curse sounds compelling at first, but upon further investigation both Bruce and Brandon’s deaths were the result of tragic circumstances.

Claim:  The scene in which Brandon Lee was fatally shot was left in the final cut of the movie.

Reality:  False.

Contrary to popular belief, the above clip is NOT the scenein which Brandon was fatally shot.

Instead, Brandon was killed while filming a scene that involved the assault of his character’s fiancé and the “death” of his character.  In the scene, Eric Draven walks into his apartment to find his fiancé being assaulted.  The original script/scene involved one of the thugs (specifically a character called Funboy) shooting Lee’s character in the stomach through the bag of groceries that he was carrying.  Re-watch the movie, the above scene will not be found in the film.  The scene was shot as described above, and footage of Brandon being shot and fatally wounded did exist, but for obvious reasons this footage was not used in the final cut of the movie.  In fact, again for obvious reasons, the director and production crew felt that it was in bad taste to “re-shoot” the same
scene, and instead re-wrote it and re-shot it.  The scene was changed to have a different thug (specifically a character by the name of Tin Tin) kill Eric Draven by fatally wounding him with a knife.

So what happened to the original footage?

This is less clear.  Some sources indicate that the footage was immediately destroyed.  Others indicate that the footage was seized
by local police (who were conducting an investigation to rule out the possibility of foul play) and remains as evidence.  Others maintain that the footage was viewed as evidence, and after ruling out foul play, was destroyed.  In reality the truth most likely somewhere in the middle and without having access to police records/evidence (which for obvious reasons we cannot) this question may go unanswered.

Claim: Michael Massee,

the actor who played “FunBoy”, was never heard from again after the movie was released.

Reality: False.

I remember hearing all sorts of stories regarding what happened to Massee and many rumors still persist to this day.  Some say he went insane.  Others say that he took his own life.  These accounts could not be further from the truth.  Massee was understandably devastated over the death of Brandon Lee.  While he was not actually responsible for Brandon’s death (as previously discussed, Brandon’s death was the result of a set of tragic circumstances and was ruled an accident by law enforcement) it was ultimately him who pulled the trigger on the faulty prop.  He took a year off from acting and essentially, in his own words “did nothing”.
Coming to terms with what happened he got back to acting and remains a regular in television and film to this day.

This has been the skeptical samurai

Working to serve…

Through the process of inquiry…