The Quick and the Dead (1995 film)
|The Quick and the Dead|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sam Raimi|
|Produced by||Joshua Donen
|Written by||Simon Moore
Joss Whedon (uncredited)
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
|Edited by||Pietro Scalia|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Box office||$18.6 million|
The Quick and the Dead is a 1995 American western film directed by Sam Raimi, and starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio. 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 Columbia Pictures, and was released in the US on February 10, 1995 to a dismal box office performance, receiving lukewarm reviews from critics.
This was Russell Crowe's first American film debut. This 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 Book of Common Prayer and its version of the Apostles' Creed, describing the final judgement. 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.
An unnamed gunslinger, referred to as The Lady, enters the Old West town of Redemption circa 1881 where she enters a single elimination gunfighting contest held by Redemption's ruthless leader, John Herod, a former outlaw. She meets Cort, a former Herod henchman turned reverend, whom Herod captures and forces to enter the contest; and Fee, also known as "The Kid," a brash young gun shop owner who hopes to impress Herod, whom he believes to be his father, by winning the contest. Though now a preacher, Cort is an amazingly fast and talented gunfighter, and the only man that Herod truly respects and fears. Herod covers this by treating Cort cruelly, denying him water, beating him and keeping him chained to an old fountain.
In the first round of duels, The Kid defeats a Swedish quick-draw champion, while Herod kills braggart Ace Hanlon, who had taken credit for some of Herod's own accomplishments. The Lady defeats an old enemy she left shackled to a wagon, while Cort defeats one of Herod's men who thought he was getting an easy kill. Herod later learns that the townspeople have secretly hired a bounty hunter, Clay Cantrell, to enter the contest and kill him. The next day, Herod declares that all remaining duels must be to the death, then kills Cantrell when the two face off against one another. Herod angrily informs the townspeople that since they had enough money to hire Cantrell, he will raise their taxes. Later that day, during a rainstorm, the Lady duels and guns down a competitor who has sexually abused the bartender's young daughter.
Flashbacks reveal that The Lady's true name is Ellen, and she had grown up in Redemption, where her father was the town's Marshal. One day Herod and his men invaded the town, killed all the deputies and tied her father to the gallows. Herod gave Ellen a gun and offered to let her shoot the rope and free him. However, she missed and killed her father instead. Seeking revenge, she has come to Redemption with the intent of killing Herod. However, an uncomfortable dinner date with Herod leaves Ellen unsure about whether or not she can go through with it and she attempts to flee. She then reunites with the town's local doctor, Wallace, who was also her father's best friend. The old man convinces her to return to Redemption and free the town from Herod.
With Ellen, Cort, Herod and The Kid left as the four remaining contestants, Kid challenges Herod to a duel to win his respect. Although Herod and the Kid both injure each other with bullet wounds, Kid's wounds prove fatal and he dies in Ellen's arms. Herod is saddened by the Kid's death, but does not publicly acknowledge the Kid as his son. When Ellen and Cort are forced to face each other, they refuse to open fire and Cort only shoots Ellen after Herod threatens to kill them both. Cort furiously challenges Herod to a duel the next day, but seconds before their duel, Ellen suddenly reappears after using the Kid's stolen dynamite to blow up Herod's illegitimate business establishments. She and Cort had faked her death with help from Wallace and a blind salesman.
In the confusion, Cort dispatches Herod's men while Ellen goes on to fight Herod. Although Herod outdraws and shoots Ellen in the arm, she shoots him in the chest and finishes him once and for all with a well-aimed gunshot to the eye. With Herod gone and the law restored, Cort becomes the new Marshal of the town as Ellen rides off into the sunrise.
- Sharon Stone as Ellen ("The Lady")
- Gene Hackman as John Herod
- Russell Crowe as Cort
- Leonardo DiCaprio as Fee "The Kid" Herod
- Pat Hingle as Horace
- Kevin Conway as Eugene Dred
- Keith David as Sgt. Clay Cantrell
- Lance Henriksen as Ace Hanlon
- Mark Boone Junior as Scars
- Tobin Bell as Dog Kelly
- Raynor Scheine as Ratsy
- Olivia Burnette as Katie
- Roberts Blossom as Doc Wallace
- Gary Sinise as The Marshal
- Sven-Ole Thorsen as Swede Gutzon
- Scott Spiegel as Gold Teeth Ma
- Woody Strode as Charlie Moonlight
- Jonothon Gill as Spotted Horse
- Lennie Loftin as Flat Nose Foy
- Josef Rainer as Virgil Sparks
- Stacy Linn Ramsower as Young Ellen
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. The names of the lead villain (Herod) and the town (Redemption) were intentional allusions to the Bible. 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.
Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased Moore's script in May 1993 and approached Sharon Stone to star in the lead role in July 1993. 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 (1993). 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." Moore was also enthusiastic over Raimi's hiring, based on his previous work with the Evil Dead film series.
When Sony began fast tracking development 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". 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".
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." Raimi found Crowe to be "bold and challenging. He reminds me of what we imagine the American cowboy to have been like." On working with Raimi, Crowe later described the director as "sort of like the fourth Stooge".
Sony Pictures was dubious over Stone's choice of Crowe because he was not a famous actor in the mid-1990s. To cast Gene Hackman in the role of Herod, TriStar Pictures changed the shooting location from Durango, Mexico to Tucson, Arizona. Sam Rockwell auditioned for The Kid, a role which ended up going to Leonardo DiCaprio. Sony was also dubious over DiCaprio's casting. As a result, Stone decided to pay for the actor's salary herself.
Filming was originally set to begin in October 1993, but was delayed because Crowe was busy on another film in Australia. Principal photography for The Quick and the Dead lasted from November 21, 1993 to February 27, 1994. Locations included Old Tucson Studios in Arizona and Mescal, 40 miles southeast of Tucson. Production was briefly halted at times over weather problems. Thell Reed, who was hired as the gun coach and weapons master, worked with the cast through over three months of training. 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." Such detail, including the nickel plating and ivory handles on Ellen's Colt Peacemakers, was accurate to the time period.
The town of Redemption was designed by Patrizia von Brandenstein, known for her work on Amadeus (1984) and The Untouchables (1987). Raimi's first choice as the visual effects supervisor was William Mesa, his collaborator on Darkman (1991) and Army of Darkness (1993). Instead, Sony chose The Computer Film Company to created the VFX sequences. Pick-up scenes took place through November - December 1994. This included an extended duel between Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman.
Stone had a love scene removed from the final cut of The Quick and the Dead before the film's release in the United States. The actress/co-producer thought the scene did not fit in with the picture's established reality. 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. 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.
|The Quick and the Dead: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Film score by Alan Silvestri|
|Released||February 14, 1995|
|The Quick and the Dead: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|3.||"Couldn't Tell Us Apart"||1:17|
|5.||"Ellen's First Round"||1:10|
|6.||"Lady's the Winner"||0:47|
|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|
|14.||"The Law's Come Back to Town"||0:49|
|15.||"The Quick and the Dead (End Credits)"||3:30|
The Quick and the Dead was released in the U.S. on February 10, 1995 in 2,158 theaters, earning $6,515,861 in its opening weekend. The film eventually grossed $18,636,537 in revenue and was declared to be a box office bomb. However, writer Simon Moore acknowledged that the film performed modestly in Europe.
The Quick and the Dead's dismal box office performance can be attributed to competition from Billy Madison, The Brady Bunch Movie, Just Cause and Heavyweights. 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." TriStar Pictures also showed The Quick and the Dead as an "out-of-competition" film at the May 1995 Cannes Film Festival. Additionally, Stone was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Actress, but lost to Angela Bassett in Strange Days. A novelization written by Jack Curtis was published by HarperCollins in September 1995. The Region 1 DVD release came in September 1998.
The Quick and the Dead received mixed to positive reviews from film critics. Based on 40 reviews, Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 55%, with an average rating of 6.2/10. Metacritic calculated an average score of 49/100, based on 21 reviews.
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." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times criticized the film for being overtly cliché, but praised Raimi's direction and Dante Spinotti's cinematography. 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."
|"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|
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." 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."
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- Janet Maslin (1995-02-10). "The Quick and the Dead". The New York Times.
- Roger Ebert (1995-02-10). "The Quick and the Dead". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-03-11.
- Jonathan Rosenbaum. "The Quick and the Dead". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2009-03-11.
- Peter Travers (1995-03-09). "The Quick and the Dead". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
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