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The Quick and the Dead (1995 film)

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The Quick and the Dead
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySam Raimi
Written bySimon Moore
Produced by
CinematographyDante Spinotti
Edited byPietro Scalia
Music byAlan Silvestri
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • February 10, 1995 (1995-02-10) (United States)
Running time
108 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[2]
Budget$35 million[3]
Box office$18.6 million (US)[4]

$28 million (Europe)

$46.6 million (total)

The Quick and the Dead is a 1995 American revisionist Western film directed by Sam Raimi, and starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio. The screenplay was written by Simon Moore but includes contributions from Joss Whedon.[5] The story focuses on "The Lady" (Stone), a gunfighter who rides into the frontier town of Redemption, controlled by John Herod (Hackman). The Lady joins a deadly dueling competition in an attempt to exact revenge for her father's death.

Simon Moore's script was purchased by Sony Pictures Entertainment in May 1993, and actress Sharon Stone signed on as both star and co-producer. Development was fast tracked after director Sam Raimi's hiring, and principal photography began in Old Tucson Studios in Arizona on November 21, 1993. The film was distributed by TriStar Pictures and was released in the United States on February 10, 1995, to a dismal box office performance, receiving mixed reviews from critics. In later years, however, the film has earned critical praise especially for the performances, direction, cinematography and musical score, with some critics noting it as underrated in Raimi's catalog.[6]

This was Russell Crowe's American film debut and was Woody Strode's final performance (the film is dedicated to him), as well as the last theatrical release of Roberts Blossom who died in 2011. The phrase "the quick and the dead" is from the Second Epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:1) in various Bible versions, including the King James Bible, describing the final judgment. The plot of this film bears no resemblance to that of the 1987 film of the same name, which was based on a western novel by Louis L'Amour.


In 1881, a female gunslinger, known only as "The Lady", arrives in the Old West town of Redemption, encountering a Blind Shoeshine Boy and a repulsive escaped convict named Scars, whose proposition she harshly rebuffs.

The town is ruled by a ruthless outlaw named John Herod, who hosts a fast-draw single elimination tournament for anyone brave enough to enter. At a sign-up meeting in the town saloon that night, the rules are explained: any contestant may challenge any other, no challenge can be refused, every contestant must fight once per day, and a fight continues until one contestant either yields or dies. The Lady announces her participation, insisting that she is only interested because of the large cash prize.

During the sign-up, Herod's henchmen arrive with Cort, a preacher 'recruited' for the event and a former member of their gang with exceptional speed and gunfighting skill. He refuses to participate, having forsworn violence after his conversion; however, Herod's men mock him as a coward and attempt to hang him. The Lady saves Cort's life by shooting through the rope, but he grimly remarks that it might be better if she had let him die. She then spends a drunken night with "The Kid", a brash young man who runs a gun store and hopes to impress Herod. Believing Herod to be his father, The Kid hopes to earn his respect by entering and winning the tournament.

In the first round of duels, The Kid defeats a Swedish quick-draw champion while Herod kills a braggart named Ace Hanlon, who had taken credit for some of Herod's own exploits. The Lady defeats Dog Kelly, an enemy she had previously left shackled to a wagon. Since Cort has no money, Herod buys him a cheap, rusty gun and declares that he can only have one bullet at a time, so as to prevent him from shooting his way out of town. Even though Cort has renounced violence, he cannot suppress his muscle memory; he draws in spite of himself and wins his first-round duel.

Before the second round begins, Herod meets with Clay Cantrell, a professional gunfighter hired by the townspeople to kill him. Before they duel, Herod changes the rules and proclaims that all contests are now to the death. After killing Cantrell, Herod angrily addresses the townspeople and informs them that he will continue to raise his taxes on them until they learn to respect his absolute authority. During a rainstorm that evening, The Lady faces off with Eugene Dred after he rapes the saloon owner's young daughter. The Lady shoots him in the genitals but spares his life and returns to the bar. However, Dred ambushes her and she is ultimately forced to kill him.

The next day, Cort is slated to fight Spotted Horse, a Native American who claims he "cannot be killed by a bullet". The Lady, still upset over killing Dred the night before, saddles up and rides out of town before Cort's fight. Cort outdraws Spotted Horse but fails to kill him with his first bullet and is forced to plead for a second one before fatally shooting him a second time. The Lady is found at a nearby cemetery by Doc Wallace who tells her that he recognizes her and knows why she is there.

Flashbacks reveal that the Lady's real name is Ellen. Her father used to be the Marshal in Redemption until Herod invaded, killed all the deputies, and had him strung up. Herod gave Ellen a pistol and three shots to try and break the rope her father was hanging from but she accidentally killed him on the first attempt. Doc then tells her that Herod's men dug up her father's body, burned it, and smashed his tombstone. He hands Ellen her father's old badge and begs her to come back and help rid the town of Herod as she and Cort are now Redemption's only hope.

Ellen rides back to town and accosts Cort, securing his help in ridding the town of Herod. Ellen directly challenges Herod but is sickened to hear that he has already accepted a fight against The Kid. Ellen and Cort are the only other fighters left and are ordered by Herod to face off, threatened with execution if neither of them draws on the other. The Kid turns down Herod's suggestion to withdraw from the contest; during their duel, Herod fatally wounds The Kid while suffering a wound to the neck, and refuses to take the dying Kid's outstretched hand. Herod then states it was never proven that he was the Kid's father.

When Cort and Ellen face off, Cort begs her to kill him, then draws and fires on her. Doc declares Ellen dead; Cort angrily demands to fight Herod immediately, but settles for dawn of the next day. That night, one of Herod's henchmen beats Cort severely and breaks his right hand. However, the next morning Herod rebukes the henchman, dismisses him from employment, and then kills him for disobeying his orders to leave Cort untouched. Herod confesses that he is truly afraid of Cort, which is why he engineered his abduction and entry into the tournament; as a matter of honor, he offers to fight Cort left-handed, but still instructs his henchmen to kill Cort if he wins.

At the moment Herod draws, several buildings explode, including Herod's house and the clock tower. Ellen emerges from the smoke and flames, having faked her death with help from Cort, Doc, and a bottle of red ink procured from the Blind Boy. Cort kills Herod's remaining henchmen while Ellen faces off against Herod, revealing her identity by throwing her father's badge at his feet. Herod wounds Ellen but she fatally shoots him through the heart, stunning him, and finishes him off with a bullet to the eye. Tossing the badge to Cort, she says, "The law's come back to town.", then saddles up and rides away.


Gene Hackman portrayed John Herod, the film's main antagonist



Writer Simon Moore finished his spec script for The Quick and the Dead in late 1992, writing it as a homage to the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone, particularly the Dollars Trilogy starring Clint Eastwood. The writer decided the lead character should be a female. "When you introduce women into that kind of world, something very interesting happens and you have an interesting dynamic straight away," Moore commented.[7] The names of the lead villain (Herod) and the town (Redemption) were intentional allusions to the Bible.[7] Moore considered directing his own script as an independent film and shooting The Quick and the Dead on a $3–4 million budget in either Spain or Italy.[7]

Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased Moore's script in May 1993 and approached Sharon Stone to star in the lead role in July 1993.[7] Because Stone also signed on as co-producer, she had approval over the choice of director. Sam Raimi was hired to direct because Stone was impressed with his work on Army of Darkness (1992). The actress told the producers that if Raimi did not direct the film, she would not star in it. Although she had mixed emotions on Raimi's previous work, she believed that the director still had yet to showcase his talents, feeling that The Quick and the Dead would be a perfect opportunity to "stretch the limits of his technical and creative ability."[8] Moore was also enthusiastic over Raimi's hiring, based on his previous work with the Evil Dead film series.[7]

When Sony began fast tracking development of The Quick and the Dead, the studio commissioned a series of rewrites from Moore. The writer was eventually dismissed and replaced with John Sayles, who, according to Moore, took Sony's orders of "making more of an American Old West film."[3] Moore was rehired with filming to begin in three weeks because Sayles' script was approaching a 2.5 hour runtime. When rewriting the shooting script, Moore simply omitted Sayles' work without Sony noticing. A week before shooting, Sony considered the script good so that Moore described the rewrites "a completely fucking pointless exercise."[3]


Russell Crowe originally auditioned for a different role in the film before Sharon Stone asked that the actor try for the lead male role. "When I saw Romper Stomper (1992), I thought Russell was not only charismatic, attractive and talented but also fearless," Stone reasoned. "And I find fearlessness very attractive. I was convinced I wouldn't scare him."[9] Raimi found Crowe to be "bold and challenging. He reminds me of what we imagine the American cowboy to have been like."[9] On working with Raimi, Crowe later described the director as "sort of like the fourth Stooge."[7]

Director Sam Raimi

Sony Pictures was dubious over Stone's choice of Crowe because he was not a famous actor in the mid-1990s.[7] To cast Gene Hackman in the role of Herod, TriStar Pictures changed the shooting location from Durango, Mexico to Tucson, Arizona.[10] Matt Damon was offered the role of Fee 'The Kid' Herod but declined.[11] Sam Rockwell auditioned for The Kid, a role which ended up going to Leonardo DiCaprio.[12] Sony was also hesitant about DiCaprio's casting. As a result, Stone paid DiCaprio's salary herself.[7]

Filming was originally set to begin in October 1993,[13] but was delayed because Crowe was busy on another film in Australia.[7] Principal photography for The Quick and the Dead lasted from November 21, 1993 to February 27, 1994.[13][14] Locations included Old Tucson Studios in Arizona[7] and Mescal, 40 miles southeast of Tucson.[3] Production was briefly halted at times over weather problems.[15] Thell Reed, who was hired as the gun coach and weapons master,[7] worked with the cast through over three months of training.[3] To age Cort's Colt 1851 Navy Revolver and the other guns used, Reed experimented with simple measures. "I took them out by my swimming pool and dipped them in chlorine water to let them rust," he explained. "They looked rusty and old, but were brand new guns."[15] Such detail, including the nickel plating and ivory handles on Ellen's Colt Peacemakers, was accurate to the time period.[15]

The town of Redemption was designed by Patrizia von Brandenstein, known for her work on Amadeus (1984) and The Untouchables (1987).[3] Raimi's first choice as the visual effects supervisor was William Mesa, his collaborator on Darkman (1990) and Army of Darkness (1992). Instead, Sony chose The Computer Film Company to create the VFX sequences.[7] Pick-up scenes took place through November - December 1994. This included an extended duel between Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman.[16]

Stone had a love scene with Crowe removed from the final cut of The Quick and the Dead before the film's release in the United States.[17] The actress/co-producer thought the scene did not fit in with the picture's established reality.[3] It was restored for the home cinema releases of the film.


The original motion picture soundtrack for The Quick and the Dead, was released by the Varèse Sarabande music label on February 14, 1995.[18] The score for the film was composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri and mixed by Dennis Sands. Kenneth Karman and Thomas Drescher edited the film's music.[19]

The Quick and the Dead: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by
ReleasedFebruary 14, 1995
LabelVarèse Sarabande
The Quick and the Dead: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
2."Gunfight Montage"1:41
3."Couldn't Tell Us Apart"1:17
4."John Herod"1:21
5."Ellen's First Round"1:10
6."Lady's the Winner"0:47
7."Dinner Tonight"2:11
8."Cort's Story"1:02
9."Ellen vs. Dred"1:10
10."Kid vs. Herod"4:17
11."I Don't Wanna Die"2:00
12."The Big Day"2:27
13."Ellen Returns"3:54
14."The Law's Come Back to Town"0:49
15."The Quick and the Dead (End Credits)"3:30
Total length:31:01


Box office[edit]

The Quick and the Dead was released in the U.S. and Canada on February 10, 1995 in 2,158 theaters, earning $6,515,861 in its opening weekend, placing second at the US box office behind Billy Madison by $124,000. It placed number one at the box office for the week.[20] The film eventually grossed $18,636,537 at the US and Canadian box office.[4] Writer Simon Moore noted that the film performed modestly in Europe.[3] The movie grossed $28 million outside the United States and Canada, for a worldwide gross of $47 million.

Director Sam Raimi later blamed himself and his visual style for the film's failure. "I was very confused after I made that movie. For a number of years I thought, I'm like a dinosaur. I couldn't change with the material."[3] TriStar Pictures also showed The Quick and the Dead as an "out-of-competition" film at the May 1995 Cannes Film Festival.[21] Additionally, Stone was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Actress, but lost to Angela Bassett in Strange Days.[22] A novelization written by Jack Curtis was published by HarperCollins in September 1995.[23] The Region 1 DVD release came in September 1998.[24]

Critical reception[edit]

The Quick and the Dead received mixed reviews from film critics. Based on 41 reviews, Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 59%, with an average rating of 6.01/10. The site's consensus states: "The Quick and the Dead isn't quite the draw that its intriguing premise and pedigree suggest, but fans of nontraditional Westerns should have some rootin' tootin' fun."[25] Metacritic calculated an average score of 49/100, based on 21 reviews.[26]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised Stone's performance and Raimi's directing. "Stone's presence nicely underscores the genre-bending tactics of Raimi, the cult filmmaker now doing his best to reinvent the B movie in a spirit of self-referential glee."[27] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times criticized the film for being overtly cliché, but praised Raimi's direction and Dante Spinotti's cinematography.[28] Critic and Raimi biographer Bill Warren wrote that the film "is a very conscious (though not self-conscious) attempt to recreate some of the themes, style and appeal of Sergio Leone's majestically operatic Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s, especially the Man with No Name trilogy that starred Clint Eastwood. It's brisker, more romantic and somehow more American than Leone's movies."[8]

"The cinematographer, Dante Spinotti (The Last of the Mohicans) makes the material look terrific. The lowering skies around the isolated town make it look ripe for vengeance of biblical proportions, and there are quiet satirical touches, as when a man stands in a saloon door and his shadow seems about 6 miles long."
—Roger Ebert, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times[28]

Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader observed that "Raimi tries to do a Sergio Leone, and though The Quick and the Dead is highly enjoyable in spots, it doesn't come across as very convincing, perhaps because nothing can turn Sharon Stone into Charles Bronson."[29] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone felt that "The Quick and the Dead plays like a crazed compilation of highlights from famous westerns. Raimi finds the right look but misses the heartbeat. You leave the film dazed instead of dazzled, as if an expert marksman had drawn his gun only to shoot himself in the foot."[30]


Critical reassessment[edit]

Although having a mixed critical reception upon release, The Quick and the Dead has received praise from both critics and fans alike. Tom Reimann of Collider considers the film as one of Raimi's best movies: "The movie is so unabashedly bonkers that it’s impossible not to have a good time."[31] Scott Hallam of Dread Central praised Raimi's directing and versatility in multiple genres of film and the cast.[32] Jay Royston of praised the film and considered it one of Raimi's finest movies by saying, "...I have to put it in the top 3 Raimi movies, maybe because it is so unlike other Raimi films yet combines all three of the best qualities of a director already mentioned; working with actors, innovating camera shots and telling a good story visually."[33] Bill Gibron of PopMatters said, "This was the geek breaking point for many a certified Raimaniac. First off, it was a Western in the days when the genre was more or less struggling for life. In addition, it starred a yet to be hot Leonardo DiCaprio, a question mark named Russell Crowe, and the sexually inert Sharon Stone. About the only thing it had going for it was Raimi's manic direction, and even that seemed…showy. Still, in retrospect, this is a good film, undermined by forces outside itself."[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Quick and the Dead". British Board of Film Classification. March 8, 1995. Archived from the original on August 5, 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  2. ^ "The Quick and the Dead". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on January 8, 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i John Kenneth Muir (2004). The Unseen Force: The Films of Sam Raimi. New York City: Applause: Theatre & Cinema Books. pp. 180–189. ISBN 1-55783-607-8.
  4. ^ a b "The Quick and the Dead". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 2011-08-27. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  5. ^ "Sam Raimi Explains Why Spider-Man 4 Didn't Happen". Spinoff Online. Archived from the original on 2014-08-21. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2019-05-03. Retrieved 2019-05-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Muir, pp. 171-179
  8. ^ a b Bill Warren (2000). "Blood Still in the Veins". The Evil Dead Companion. London: Titan Books. pp. 162–179. ISBN 0-312-27501-3.
  9. ^ a b Jamie Diamond (1995-03-26). "Straight Out of Australia, to L.A.". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Army Archerd (1993-08-16). "Douglas wows 'Greedy' cast, crew". Variety. Archived from the original on 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Rebecca Murray; Fred Topel. "Sam Rockwell Talks About Confessions of a Dangerous Mind". Archived from the original on 2009-02-27. Retrieved 2009-03-07.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ a b Army Archerd (1993-10-13). "Lemmon enjoying fruitful outings". Variety. Archived from the original on 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
  14. ^ Army Archerd (1994-02-25). "Friends stunned, saddened by Shore's death". Variety. Archived from the original on 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
  15. ^ a b c Muir, pp.190-197
  16. ^ Army Archerd (1994-12-20). "H'w'd pumped for sequel to 'Gump'". Variety. Archived from the original on 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
  17. ^ "Winnie Mandela Caught in New Flap". Eugene Register-Guard. 1995-02-12. Retrieved 2011-02-19.
  18. ^ "The Quick and the Dead Soundtrack". Archived from the original on 2021-07-01. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  19. ^ "The Quick and the Dead (1995)". Yahoo! Movies. Archived from the original on 2010-06-24. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  20. ^ "Variety domestic box office". Variety. February 20, 1995. p. 10.
  21. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Quick and the Dead". Archived from the original on 2011-08-22. Retrieved 2009-09-08.
  22. ^ "Past Saturn Awards". Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. Archived from the original on 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2009-03-09.
  23. ^ Curtis, Jack; Moore, Simon (1995). The Quick and the Dead (Paperback). ISBN 0006496512.
  24. ^ The Quick and the Dead (1995). ISBN 0767817710.
  25. ^ "The Quick and the Dead (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 2020-09-15. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  26. ^ "The Quick and the Dead (1995): Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2009-03-11.
  27. ^ Janet Maslin (1995-02-10). "The Quick and the Dead". The New York Times.
  28. ^ a b Roger Ebert (1995-02-10). "The Quick and the Dead". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2009-03-11.
  29. ^ Jonathan Rosenbaum. "The Quick and the Dead". Chicago Reader. Archived from the original on 2013-04-07. Retrieved 2009-03-11.
  30. ^ Peter Travers (1995-03-09). "The Quick and the Dead". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2011-01-18. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
  31. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2020-07-27. Retrieved 2020-07-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  32. ^ Hallam, Scott (February 18, 2014). "The Top 9 Sam Raimi Films – Horror and Otherwise". Dread Central. Archived from the original on September 22, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
  33. ^ Royston, Jay (March 7, 2013). "Sam Raimi: Ranking His Movies From Worst To Best". Archived from the original on March 29, 2019. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
  34. ^ Gibron, Bill (March 12, 2013). "Sam Raimi: Ranking His Movies From Worst To Best". PopMatters. Archived from the original on July 11, 2019. Retrieved October 26, 2019.

External links[edit]