A scene from THE CROW: SALVATION

Yesterday’s trailer for the long-awaited reboot/reimagining/remake/all-new adaptation of The Crow sent me careening down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. Of course I am well familiar with Alex Proyas’ 1994 original (I must’ve gone through three or four copies of that soundtrack over the years), and I remember seeing The Crow: City of Angels a few years later, but I realized that I knew next to nothing about the other two films in the franchise: The Crow: Salvation and The Crow: Wicked Prayer.

My research indicates that I did not miss anything by skipping these films, but in the process of reading up on these (by most accounts) dreadful sequels, I stumbled upon a bit of information that I’d either long since forgotten or never learned in the first place: all the way back in 1997, the same year I both obtained a driver’s license and crashed a car for the first time, Rob Zombie was hired to make his directorial debut with a film called The Crow: 2037.

Like many of you, I have a complicated relationship with Zombie. I love that Rob Zombie is out there, being Rob Zombie, doing Rob Zombie-esque things (even if, yes, those things include “making a Munsters movie that I turned off after 10 minutes”), compulsively singing “Nnnnyeaaah” on his albums and slathering greasepaint all over the characters in his films. The world needs a guy like Rob Zombie and I’m happy we have him, even when I’m, say, less than impressed with some of his creative output. As such, I was there on opening night for House of 1,000 Corpses, and I was blindsided to learn that that 2003 film was almost not his first.

The Crow: 2037 would have arrived in the wake of the underperforming The Crow: City of Angels, the soundtrack of which featured Zombie’s cover of “I’m Your Boogie Man.” Zombie also directed the music video for that track, and the good people at the Edward R. Pressman Film Corp. were impressed enough by his directorial flair that they offered to let him helm The Crow 3.

“I’ve always wanted to make films,” said Zombie at the time. “With everything I’ve ever done, I always approach it from a very visual point of view. So making a movie as high-concept as The Crow was an obvious choice.”

What Zombie came up with was the script for The Crow: 2037. As its title implies, this was to be a futuristic take on the property, and told the story of a young boy and his mother who get murdered by a Satanic priest on Halloween. Per the rules of Crow lore, the boy is resurrected one year later, though he remains oblivious to his past for another 27 years. In the interim, he becomes a bounty hunter, and – wouldn’t ya know it? – this profession puts him “on a collision course with his now all-powerful killer.”

So, what happened? Though producers Edward R. Pressman and Jeff Most were originally onboard with Zombie’s take on the material, the honeymoon did not last. In 2001, Zombie told Cinefantastique:

“I did write (The Crow 3), and I was supposed to direct it, and I worked on it for 18 months or so. The producers and the people behind it were so schizophrenic with what that wanted that I just bailed, because I could see that it was going nowhere fast. They changed their minds every day about what they wanted. I had wasted enough time, and gave up. I would never get back in that situation again.”

And so, The Crow: 2037 was scuttled entirely. In its place came The Crow: Salvation (RT score: 18%). Zombie, meanwhile, would go on to make House of 1,000 Corpses as his debut feature (that production also saw Zombie butting heads with the powers-that-be, in that case Universal execs), and The Crow: 2037 became another fascinating coulda-been in Zombie’s filmography, alongside his proposed remake of The Blob and his long-gestating Groucho Marx biopic. Looking back on Zombie’s career, it’s hard not to wonder how its trajectory might have been altered had he made The Crow: 2037 first.

As for the Crow franchise, well, it’s been a long, hard road getting another one made. A full decade was spent trying to get a new Crow movie off the ground, with a variety of filmmakers, screenwriters, and actors tossing their hat into the ring (remember when Corin Hardy was gonna direct a version of The Crow starring Jason Momoa? How could we ever forget?). One after another, these announced projects failed to materialize … until Rupert Sanders, screenwriters Zach Baylin and Will Schneider, and Bill Skarsgård came along.

Sanders’ The Crow arrives in theaters on June 7th. Rob Zombie is currently doing Rob Zombie shit somewhere, don’t worry about it.

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