Alex McDowell designed the next installment of the franchise – THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS. This production was one of those disorganized-but-well-intended sequels that began with no shooting script, which contributed to the final film’s story and performance failures. Too bad.
The film is really gorgeous, and McDowell contributed one of the most memorable Alternate-Los Angeles settings in this film. The orange street lights of LA, the smog, Dia de los Muertos, S&M club culture, motorcycles / driving culture, tattoo parlors, the LA River, the Long Beach docks, and Downtown Los Angeles all appear in and inspire the sets in this movie.
THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS, Dir. Tim Pope, 1996
“L.A. is the bane of designers’ existence, because everyone always refers to it as the touchstone of dark futuristic design. It was really important to me that we didn’t shoot L.A. in the rain. I think that would have just said [the old things] all over again…It’s a challenge; there’s never really been a film shot at night that doesn’t use water as an element for reflection. It’s a classic thing.” – McDowell
On broken glass:
“But when we were scouting downtown locations, a recurrent image to me was the broken glass all over the place. Early on, I decided that we could use broken glass to do the same thing as water, but it would have a far more potent narrative message. The Kristallnacht…so there’s those kind of overtones. And then there are earthquake overtones which…is the idea that the people are living in buildings they would never ordinarily be able to. The homeless have repopulated the city because the city’s falling apart, it’s been condemned, and everyone else has moved out.”
EXT. Dust Factory
On palette and lighting:
“…early on we decided on a palette that came from sodium light, and the idea that streetlight is the light of the city. There’s not exterior light; there’s never any moon. We’ve got this blanket of smog over the whole city; nothing penetrates it. Our logic in the broad stroke was that the street lights bounce into the smog and filter back down into the city…we added in an uncorrected fluorescent green for alleyways, and a sort of chocolate tungsten, an industrial color. And we started off very early on with the idea of an extreme palette, one that was very urban, but also very different from the first film. it was no monochromatic by any means.”
They even invented a whole graffiti style and alphabet for the film –
EXT. River Styx / Los Angeles River
EXT./ INT. Grey Gargoyle Tattoo Parlor
EXT. Peep Show
INT. S&M Club
Day of the Dead
INT. Barrio Church
INT. Judah’s Loft
Integrating the architecture of the Bullocks Wilshire Building and the S&M club elements –
All concept illustrations for THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS by Wil Rees.
Maybe I’ll get around to screen-capping this film one day. Lots and lots of beautiful sets and shots. McDowell was in the interesting and fortunate position of joining the production very early on – he, Tim Pope and David S. Goyer worked closely together to create the script.
I recommend this movie to anybody looking for an extremely stylized Los Angeles movie. And it has Iggy Pop in it! He was the basis for Fun Boy in the original James O’Barr comics, so it’s cool Iggy finally appeared in ONE of the Crow movies.
…and I have nothing to say about THE CROW: SALVATION or THE CROW: WICKED PRAYER or the terrible TNT THE CROW: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN TV series. Let’s pretend those things never happened. Please. Shield my eyes.
Scans by me, from The Crow: City of Angels: A Diary of the Film by Jeff Conner and Robert Zuckerman