Crimewave is a 1985 film directed by Sam Raimi, an unusual slapstick mix of film noir, black comedy and several eras, starring Reed Birney, Paul L. Smith, Louise Lasser, Brion James, Bruce Campbell, and Sheree J. Wilson. It was his first studio film following the success of The Evil Dead. The film is also known as The XYZ Murders in some parts of the world, although it was first shown to a public in a sneak preview with the title Broken Hearts And Noses.

The Three Stooges inspired script was written by Raimi along with Joel and Ethan Coen (whom the director formerly met during post production of The Evil Dead) and contains a prison named Hudsucker. The brothers would go on to make the film The Hudsucker Proxy with Raimi and Campbell. The name also appears in their 1987 film Raising Arizona. Elements of Crimewave were also re-used by frequent Raimi collaborator Josh Becker for the movie Lunatics: A Love Story, as well as by Raimi himself in Spider-Man and its sequels. Much of the film's comedy derives from the combination of surprises with traditional, explicitly familiar gags.


The film's story concerns Victor Ajax (Reed Birney), a young technician in the employ of Trend-Odegard Security. Mr. Trend, co-owner of the company (Edward R. Pressman), has learned of a plan by his partner to sell the company to Renaldo "The Heel" (Bruce Campbell) and responds by hiring two exterminators who promise to "kill all sizes" (Brion James and Paul Smith) in order to eliminate Odegard and his plan. When Vic, who has been installing security cameras in Trend's apartment building, seems about to go back to the store, Trend distracts him with a lecture about "the grand design" and sends Vic on a quest to find his dream girl. The dream girl spontaneously materializes in the form of Nancy (Sheree J. Wilson), who responds minimally to Vic but is enamored of Renaldo. Victor and several residents of the building including Mrs. Trend (Louise Lasser, top-billed) run afoul of the killers and a seemingly random series of slapstick murders ensues, which is ultimately pinned on Victor. The movie is framed by Vic's journey to the electric chair for the crimes as Nancy, accompanied by several nuns, races to the scene in order to clear him.

Raimi's trademarks are here including his 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 (which has virtually a starring role) and younger brother Ted Raimi. Noted Hollywood producer Edward R. Pressman also plays a pivotal role.


The production of Crimewave was a fiasco. The film was financed by Embassy Pictures; Raimi, Campbell, and co-producer Rob Tapert had made The Evil Dead independently, with financing coming from hands-off investors, such as grocery store owners and dentists, who had no creative interest in the film. Bruce Campbell wrote in his autobiography If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor:

At the time, we had no idea how good of an experience Evil Dead was. Sure, we burned off four years of our lives and didn't pocket a cent, but we had total creative control. Jumping into the big time meant dealing with the excruciatingly specific and alternately vague demands of a studio — unlike Michigan dentists, Hollywood executives took an interest in everything.

From even before production began, the filmmakers had clashes with the studio. For example, the role of Victor Ajax in Crimewave had always been intended for Campbell; however, executives at the studio decided he wasn't right for the part, casting Reed Birney in his stead. Raimi instead gave Campbell the minor part of Renaldo "the Heel" (although he revised the script to give Renaldo a more substantial role).

Embassy also insisted on using name actors to sell the film. Including the actors' salaries, Raimi, Tapert and Campbell budgeted the film at $2.5 million (the amount greenlit by the studio), but they had not taken union fees and regulations into account, meaning that their budgeting and scheduling were unrealistic; in addition, they were talked into spending three times the allotted money for one shooting location. the shoot quickly both went over budget and over schedule. At that point the studio stepped in, with executives demanding cuts in the script, budget restrictions, layoffs, and their own supervision of the project. The studio also insisted on reviewing every batch of dailies, taking cast and crew members (including Campbell) to task for acting as extras in several scenes (a Raimi trademark known as "Shemping").

In postproduction, Embassy's self-imposed role in making Crimewave was even greater. Although Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell insisted that they had made the film as partners, the studio refused, because of the already ballooning costs, to pay for Campbell to stay in Los Angeles during postproduction (although they later compromised). They replaced Raimi's music composer, Joseph Lo Duca, with one of their own choosing, then did the same with the editor - curtailing Raimi's influence over the film's final cut.

Even without Embassy's interference, however, the production was plagued with difficulties. Campbell writes in If Chins Could Kill of having lead actress Louise Lasser, probably under the influence of cocaine, fire her makeup artist and insist on doing her own (very poorly); another actor trashed his hotel room in an attempt to exorcise a ghost from his light fixtures.

At one point, shooting was to take place at a bridge overlooking the Detroit River, which was frozen at the time. The script, however, called for clear and running water, meaning that the crew had to brave dangerously low temperatures and conditions to clear the ice; finally they blew up the ice with dynamite. At another time, the crew spent a week filming on a Detroit street after dark, directly under a nursing home, with huge wind machines blowing for long hours. One evening a glass bottle witha note in it crashed to the ground from an upper floor. Inside was a note that read, "The noise is keeping me awake all night long and I am getting sick. I am dying because of you.

John Cameron, second assistant director on the film, would later remark, "I see Crimewave as a real turning point in a certain way, because if you survived that experience, nothing in the business could ever be as hard again."


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