Features and Columns · Movies

The Movie That Almost Killed Sam Raimi’s Career

As Bruce Campbell himself puts it: ‘Crimewave’ wasn’t released. It escaped.
Crimewave
Embassy Pictures
By  · Published on October 4th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on the disaster that is 1985’s Crimewave.


Sam Raimi‘s 1981 film The Evil Dead is a tremendous success story. Shot in the backwater of Tennessee for a paltry budget of $375,000, it would go on to screen at the Cannes Film Festival and secure a reputation as one of the most successful independent features ever made. It also paved the way for Raimi’s big studio follow-up.

Enter: 1985’s Crimewave, one of the most disastrous productions in Hollywood history.

If there was ever an argument for filmmakers gradually working their way through the industry, it’s Crimewave, a multi-million dollar movie made by a twenty-something whose experience with the business was shooting a cheap horror flick with his pals in the woods. The production turned Detroit into a demolition derby. It is a miracle that no one died.

Conceived as an Alfred Hitchcock thriller by way of the Three Stooges, Crimewave tells of a hit gone wrong and the hapless security firm employee (Reed Birney) caught in the middle of the murderous mess. If that sounds like a Coen Brothers set-up, you’ll never guess who wrote the script (it was the Coen Brothers).

Crimewave went horrendously over budget due to the inexperience of Raimi, who didn’t factor in bureaucratic details like union fees, indoor heating, and safety precautions. While it’s easy to point fingers at a meddling studio in instances like this, Embassy Pictures was in a wildly tough spot: the way Crimewave was made put the livelihood and lives of the people involved at risk.

The only thing more miraculous than nobody getting seriously injured was that the talent involved managed to escape with their reputations relatively unscathed. Well, except for Embassy, which went bankrupt.

A parable of investing in the talent of a young creative with one success under their belt, here’s a video essay detailing the miraculous disaster of Crimewave:

Watch “The Disaster That Almost Ruined Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and The Coen Brothers”:


Who made this?

This video on the disaster that was Crimewave comes to us from In Praise of Shadows, a video essay channel run by Zane Whitener and based in Asheville, North Carolina. The channel focuses on horror, history, and retrospectives. You can subscribe to the In Praise of Shadows YouTube channel here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).