The Quick and the Dead (1995 film)
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. 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.
|The Quick and the Dead|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sam Raimi|
|Produced by||Joshua Donen|
|Written by||Simon Moore|
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
|Edited by||Pietro Scalia|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures |
20/20 Vision (UK)
|Box office||$18.6 million (US)|
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 US 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.
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, where she enters a single elimination quick-draw contest held by Redemption's ruthless mayor and former outlaw, John Herod. She encounters the Blind Shoeshine Boy and a repulsive escaped convict named Scars, whose proposition she harshly rebuffs. 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. While there she meets Cort, a former Herod henchman turned preacher whom Herod has captured and forced to enter the contest. The Lady saves Cort's life by shooting through the rope with which Herod's men try to hang him, then drunkenly spends the 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 accomplishments. 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 that he cannot shoot his way out of town. Even though Cort has renounced violence, he draws on his exceptional skill as a gunfighter 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 understand that he is in charge of everything. During a rainstorm that evening The Lady faces off with Eugene Dred after he rapes the saloon owner's young daughter. She shoots him in the genitals but spares his life and returns to the bar, but 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 narrowly beats Spotted Horse after having to beg for a second bullet. The Lady is found at a nearby cemetery by Doc Wallace, who tells her that he recognizes her and knows why she is there. During flashbacks, it is revealed that the Lady's real name is Ellen, and 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. Doc Wallace 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. The Lady 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 kills The Kid while suffering a wound to the neck. When Cort and Ellen face off, Cort begs her to kill him, then draws and fires on her. Doc Wallace declares Ellen dead; Cort angrily demands to fight Herod immediately, but settles for dawn of the next day. Ratsy, one of Herod's henchmen, beats Cort severely that night and breaks his right hand.
The next morning, Herod angrily dismisses Ratsy from his service upon seeing Cort's injury, then kills him with a rifle as he tries to flee. He offers to fight Cort left-handed, but tells 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 Wallace, and a bottle of red ink procured from the Blind Boy and having used The Kid's stash of dynamite. Cort kills Herod's men, and Ellen faces off against Herod, revealing her identity by throwing her father's badge at his feet. Herod wounds Ellen, but she shoots him through the chest, 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.
- 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 (final film role)
- Bruce Campbell as Wedding Shemp
- Jerry Swindall as The Blind Boy
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 (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." 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 hesitant about DiCaprio's casting. As a result, Stone decided to pay DiCaprio'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 create 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|
|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 at the US box office and was declared to be a box office bomb. Writer Simon Moore noted that the film performed modestly in Europe.
The Quick and the Dead' faced competition at the box office 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 reviews from film critics. Based on 41 reviews, Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 56%, with an average rating of 5.9/10. 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."
Although having a mixed critical reception on release, The Quick and the Dead has received praise from both critics and fans alike, and has gained a cult following. In retrospect, Scott Hallam from Dread Central said: "Raimi showed just how versatile he could be as a director upon the release of The Quick and the Dead. Because after directing Evil Dead 2, Darkman and Army of Darkness, what would be the next logical step but a western starring Sharon Stone as a female gunslinger? Somehow, the movie actually kicked ass, and Raimi could add another genre to his directorial cap. Filled with an outstanding cast in addition to Stone, which included Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio starring and Lance Henriksen, Tobin Bell and Gary Sinise in smaller roles, The Quick and the Dead definitely had the acting talent to succeed. Unfortunately, due to heavy competition at the box office and any number of other reasons, it struggled to find viewers, even with Stone’s performance being praised by critics. Although it will never be hailed as the greatest Sam Raimi film, The Quick and the Dead showed the versatility of the director and his fearlessness to dive into any project at all."
Jay Royston from What Culture praised the movie and considered it one of Raimi's finest movies: "This didn't really hit the right note at the box office despite its high power cast, but 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."
Bill Gibron from Pop Matters also praised the movie: "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."
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