DVD REVIEW: THE CROW: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN – THE COMPLETE SERIES / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: VARIOUS / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: MARK DACASCOS, MARC GOMES, SABINE KARSENTI, KATIE STUART / RELEASED: OCTOBER 6TH
This late ‘90s TV series is finally released on DVD after initially airing in the UK on The Sci-Fi Channel (as it was) at the turn of the millennium. Over 22 episodes, we’re given an expanded story centred on Eric Draven (Dacascos). After he and girlfriend Shelly (Karsenti) are murdered, Draven returns from the grave a year later in order to gain revenge. As the series progresses, the story becomes more about redemption and helping others who have been wronged, all whilst Draven looks for a way to be reunited with his soul mate. Often assisting him are well-meaning cop Albrecht (Gomes) and tough street kid Sarah (Stuart).
Just to throw it out there: no, this isn’t up to the standard of the classic Brandon Lee-starring movie… but it really isn’t that bad, either. With the first two episodes essentially retelling a lot of that 1994 movie, including use of some of its score, the series then goes off on its own path. Given how this version of The Crow was aimed at a TV audience, there are obvious differences to any of the four movies that we’ve seen over the years. In fairness, there are some moments that are more tied to James O’Barr’s original novel than the Lee-starrer, but then there are confines that the show has to work within in terms of language, violence, and certain adult themes. The show doesn’t suffer for those and it actually adapts rather well to these limitations.
Often more spiritual than some of the Crow movies that you may have seen, this series still amps up the action but relies more on well-choreographed sequences to make up for a lack of being able to use extreme violence and bloodshed. Central to all of this is Mark Dacascos as Eric Draven. The martial artist-turned-actor steps up to the plate remarkably well in the role made famous by the sadly-deceased Lee, bringing a likeable charm to his wronged former rock star and revelling in the sarcastic quips that he gets to spit out; acting as tragic lover, big brother, partner, and a hand of justice at various points. Whilst some of the dialogue and action is a little cheesy at times, Dacascos often does enough to wind it in just enough to make it enjoyable.
Away from the central lead, the show has some decent SFX for the time, even if they may look a little dated these days, and the supporting performances from the likes of Gomes, Karsenti and young Katie Stuart are all solid and delivered in line with the tone of the show. As a show, there’s really a bit of everything here, including some continuing threads throughout the series and regular villain-of-the-week types to go up against Draven, with character development and continuity used wisely.
We’re huge fans of Brandon Lee’s movie, but if viewed through neutral eyes, Stairway to Heaven is a good series that was annoyingly cut short and left on a cliff-hanger. Despite some obvious dating, helped non-by the aspect ratio and video quality of the release, the show stands up reasonably well and is a worthy addition to the collection of any fans of The Crow.
Extras: Audio commentary on selected episodes / Gag reel / Production dailies / stills gallery and series description / Original score / Cast and crew biographies / Collectors’ Series guide booklet