Friday, July 27, 2007

A review of THE CROW: STAIRWAY to HEAVEN set

With great pleasure I sat down and took in on DVD one of my favorite TV series of all time, THE CROW: STAIRWAY to HEAVEN. Released on region 1 DVD, Tuesday, July 24th, for the first time, THE CROW: STAIRWAY to HEAVEN (or STH as we fans like to call it), brought back a flood of memories for me.

I will start off with a technical look at the set and then go into my personal thoughts on the series as a whole and extras.

Packaging & Menus

Each of the 5 disks is housed in a thin plastic DVD case, which all slip into a protective outer cover that has Mark on the cover, with an overall series synopsis on the back along with special features listing. Each of the individual cases has a different picture from the series on the front with an episode listing, synopsis and air date on the back. The spine contains an easily readable title and disk number. When you open the individual cases the left-side contains a listing of each episode accompanied with a screenshot from the episode as well as the original air date. The disk is housed on the right-side of the case. Each disk has the cover art from their individual cases emblazoned on them.

The main menu for each disk is nicely done with an active background playing. The extras menu on disk 5 is easily navigated.

My overall thoughts on the packaging and menus is; “job well done”. There was a reservation by many, to include me, about the large TV Guide logo on the cover art. But after you get used to it being there, it really is not that distracting. The cover art keeps with the overall image theme that the series presented, which is appreciated. Too many times the cover art for these sets utilize images and a style that is in contrast to what the series itself represented. Not here, they kept the image themes that many of the promotional art for the series had.

Video Quality

I was surprised how well the show looks. Given that the series was not shot in HD and this is a standard transfer, the colors and overall clarity are a pleasant surprise. The day time scenes are especially sharp, though the night scenes are a little grainy at times, however there is hardly any aging that can be detected. Very nice transfer; a whole lot better than the VHS copy I have of the episodes that I taped when they originally aired 98-99.

Sound Quality

The sound is Dolby 2.0, it is good. Better than a mono track for sure, but if there is any aspect of the release that I wish more time and money could have been spent on it is the sound. Being an action series and one that music played a large part in, a Dolby 5.1 mix would have really been a welcomed addition. I hate to appear greedy in that respect, as I said the overall sound is good, but man how this could have really flourished with a Dolby 5.1 mix.


It is no secret to the fan base that knows me, I loved the series when it was on and watching the episodes again I was reminded why. The entire regularly featured cast did an excellent job and the guest stars from Donnie Most (Ralph Malph for you Happy Days fans) to Anthony Michael Hall, were a welcome addition. I can't say enough about Mark Dacascos. He had some hefty boots to fill and he did it with class, respect and furthered the character of Eric Draven. Each episode is presented in its entirety with all of the original score and soundtrack music in tact as well as the segments at the end which identified the groups who had songs featured in the episode (not all the episodes had this at the end, but those that originally did have that ported over here). This was a worry of mine that we wouldn’t get the original music and the synopsis for those bands. The series featured some really good music and it is great that the music was not replaced as can happen sometimes when rights are an issue.

In my opinion, the action in this series was some of the best on TV at the time. Mark Dacascos’ skill was put to tremendous use here. There are some kicks and moves that are absolutely mind blowing that I had forgotten about. Again, I hate to keep sounding like a Mark Dacascos fan boy, but to have someone of physical talent AND acting talent, it gave the series that extra something it would have lacked if someone of lesser physical or acting talent had been cast as Draven.

Beyond the action though, this series had a lot of heart and soul. That was a key element to making this either a success or failure. They could alter the mythos all they wanted to fit within the story they were telling, but had the series lacked any heart and soul, it would not have made it past 6 episodes. The overall theme of love and family, be it a dysfunctional family, still, a family none the less, were the key points of the series. The relationship that Mark Dacascos and Marc Gomes built between Draven and Albrecht is one of the highlights and what made the series worth watching.

What makes the set a must purchase is having all 22 episodes laid out, commercial free, in their correct order. Being a syndicated show, a lot of markets would get the show out of order and or the times would be changed up from week to week and fans would miss episodes. Now you can sit down and follow the character arc of all the principles in the series.


Episode Commentary

We get a great commentary on "The Soul Can't Rest" and "Souled Out".
The commentary is THE most important and entertaining extra on the set. Bryce Zabel (creator, exec producer & writer) along with series star Mark Dacascos (Eric Draven/Crow) sit down and give fans a lively discussion over the first two episodes. Their participation adds a huge amount of legitimacy to this release.

The first thing you come away from the commentary with is how much of a classy, appreciative person that Mark Dacascos is. On several occasions he singles out the fans and thanks us for our loyalty to the show. When he is praised by Bryce he is humble and you just know that this guy is genuine and we could not have had a better person to carry the mantle of Eric Draven. Bryce is to be praised for his candor and his appreciation of the fans too, as with Mark, we fans could not have asked for a better, more dedicated person to take the mythos as seriously and carefully as Bryce did. All in all, the commentary, a long with just having the 22 episodes a lone is worth the purchase of this set.

Gag Reel - 10mins

I have watched many gag reels over the years and I have to say, my love for the series aside, this has to be one of the funniest and well thought out reels I have seen. Clocking in at a robust 10mins, we get a lot of great footage of the cast and crew in their not so glorious moments. We even get let in on the inside joke of the "love doctor", Marc Gomes. This was great to watch.

Production Dailies - 5min each

We are presented with 3 production dailies, one each from "Death Wish”, "Dead to Rights" and "A Gathering Storm". These show us the blocking and acting out of a scene from each episode as well as the multiple shots which are captured to create one scene. For the technical aficionados out there, a must watch. Or, for an extras junky like me, a great chance to see folks you enjoy working.

Original Score - range from 1min to 5mins

We get 7 selected pieces from the Peter Manning Robinson score. These are a very nice edition to the DVD, especially given that no official soundtrack is available for the series.

Inside Kung Fu Magazine Articles - 7 & 8 pages respectively

These are articles taken directly from Kung Fu magazine articles printed in Feb 1999 and Jun 2002. They are in Adobe Acrobat format (accessed via DVD-Rom) and are a great read for the Mark Dacascos fans.
He made the cover both times and those are presented here as well.

Pilot and Episode Scripts

We are given all of the scripts for the show on Adobe Acrobat, accessed via DVD-rom. These are a great read for the hardcore fan that wants to see how the shows were originally script. Something I found interesting was how the scripts were formatted different than movie scripts. They have 4 headers on each page: Continuity, Title No, Start/Stop and Title/Dialogue. The entire dialog is on the far right side of the pages, with all the other information on the left and middle. Call me a geek, but I just found these very interesting to read through.

Series "bible" & episode descriptions

We have access to the extensive "bible" created for the series that details how Bryce and Co. were setting out to do the series. This is a very interesting read for those that have not already seen this on Bryce's blog. Both the bible and episode descriptions are available in easily printable Adobe Acrobat format accessed via the DVD-rom.

Mark Dacascos Biography

This is a two screen mini-biography on Mark. Quite honestly, this is pretty much a throwaway feature. The Kung-Fun articles give you much more information on Mark and though the effort is appreciated here, none the less, nothing much to "crow" about with this feature.

Images – 17 photos

We are given 17 photos from the production of the series. Most of these have been seen before, so it isn’t a bad inclusion here, but more of the same.

Crossword Puzzles

Via the DVD-rom, you can access a crossword puzzle inspired by the series as well as 12 other themed crossword puzzles. These seem to be a standard feature on “TV Guide Presents” releases. The STH themed puzzle has about 10 or so questions specific to the series, the rest are a hodge podge of TV series and movie questions. The other 12 puzzles are a mixture of TV and movie questions. All in all, a nice feature, though basically for the crossword puzzle fan out there that just happens to be a TV and movie buff. Puzzles are available in printable Adobe Acrobat format.

My overall thoughts on the extras is that they add a very nice icing to the cake. That said, it would have been nice to see a new “making of” segment done, but the commentary from Mark and Bryce pretty much covers everything that would have been included in that. I would have loved to hear commentary from Mark Gomes and Katie Stewart (Albrecht and Sarah) on some of the other episodes. Outside of those two omissions, I am very pleased with what we are given here.

Final Thoughts

This is probably my all-time favorite series ever. To finally have it on region 1 DVD is great. I would like to say “thanks” to Joe Amodei and Tim Maggiani for everything they did to make this a better than average release. They could have just put this out with the episodes and a few throwaway extras. But they listened to what we had to say about what would make this a worthwhile release for fans of the show. Getting the involvement of Bryce and Mark was paramount in making this a must have for fans.

Oh by the way......Mark and Bryce elude to the possibility of there being a true finale show/movie done for the series. It all depends on how this set does. I can't think of anything better than this release leading to us fans getting the true end to the series we were robbed of when the series was prematurely let go by Universal. Fans of the show, this is our time to let our voices be heard by purchasing this set and showing them the fan base is still alive and strong for the series. Who knows, as they mention in the commentary, we could get another season if the response is VERY good :)

You can purchase your set through Amazon here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

STH details, Comic Con 2007 and a contest!

Hey everyone, do not forget, Bryce Zabel and Mark Dacascos will appear at San Diego Comic Con on Friday July 27th between 2 and 4 pm in the autograph section of the convention. This is perfect timing because the box set for STH comes out Tuesday, July 24th (next week!!). You can purchase a copy of the set and then take it to the convention and get it signed by Mark and Bryce.

To go a long with the release of STH on DVD, Arts Alliance America and Bryce Zabel have provided some nice items for a contest that is running. Details are still being worked out. The prize list has been finalized and is listed below.

So you are asking “How do I enter?”. Easy, by being a member of the Crowfans forum and/or being a member of the Yahoo groups mailing list. There will be 11 winners of some very nice items. The prize list includes:

3 Autographed DVD Box Sets & The Crow: Stairway To Heaven soundtracks
1 DVD Box Set & The Crow: Stairway To Heaven soundtrack
1 The Crow: Stairway To Heaven soundtrack
4 DVD Box Sets
2 Emmy Nomination Video

As I said, contest details are being worked out, so as soon as the site is made available by Frank, we will give you all the details.

Here is the final list of DVD extras that will be included in the 5-disk set:

Commentary with Bryce and Mark on the first 2 episodes - “The Soul Can’t Rest” and “Souled Out”, gag reel, Production Dailies from: “A Gathering Storm”, “Death Wish” and “Dead to Rights”, script & original episode descriptions for ALL 22 episodes, Photo Gallery, Mark Dacascos Filmography, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven Original Score by Peter Manning Robinson and reprints from Kung Fu Magazine story about Mark and The Crow.

The majority of the extras will be included on the 5th disk a long with the final two episodes of the series. The commentary track with Bryce and Mark will be on the 1st disk.

THE CROW: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN complete series is available July 24th. You can pre-order the set from Amazon.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Proyas is "sinking" his teeth into a new film

(photo originally posted on Darkhorizons)

Garth over at DarkHorizons ran this story today:

Alex Proyas ("The Crow," "I, Robot") will direct "Dracula Year Zero," Universal's origins tale about Vlad the Impaler and one of several films about the Romanian royal who inspired Bram Stoker's vampire tale.

Scribes Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless tell Variety that the goal was to show Vlad when he was still vital and to explore the fact that he's considered a hero in Romania for fending off the Turks.

The aim was too play off the horror and the sympathy you have for a character that "sells his soul to the Devil to save his kingdom and family." Michael De Luca produces.