The Quick and the Dead
During the 1990s, there was a brief moment when directors around the world collectively decided they were going to make westerns popular again. From Tombstone to Unforgiven, nostalgic filmmakers longed for the days of opera shootouts and sweaty protagonists, but that didn’t mean audiences agreed with them. With few exceptions, it seemed like the world had actually moved on from the glory days of Leone and Ford.
The biggest shame is that there were some legitimately exciting cowboy movies made back then that would have been incredibly successful had they been released in another era. My favorite of those duds was Sam Raimi’s tragically under-seen western The Quick and the Dead, a 1995 Sharon Stone vehicle that deserves to be reassessed not just as a satirical pastiche, but as a true example of a classic western. .
In the four years since Total Recall, Stone has established herself as a Hollywood titan and has even begun to influence behind-the-scenes decisions on some of her films. Among those more personal projects was Sony’s The Quick and the Dead, a spec script by Simon Moore inspired by Sergio Leone’s westerns. Telling the story of The Lady (Stone), the film follows a mysterious female gunslinger who arrives in Redemption City and enters a shooting contest that pits her against deadly killers. As the competition continues, it becomes clear that prize money isn’t the only thing The Lady is looking for.
One of twelve other Westerns that were filmed in 1994, production on The Quick and the Dead did not go smoothly. The team had to deal with costume shortages and shortcuts on all fronts, which made the film a little less “epic” than expected. Sony even demanded that Moore’s original script be rewritten during filming in order to achieve a more palpable runtime, further sabotaging the film.
Of course, the real tragedy here is how the finished film ended up giving a lukewarm response despite all the behind-the-scenes challenges. While it’s commonly accepted that Raimi’s almost cartoonishly exaggerated levels of action have likely alienated the general public, I think it’s pretty clear that a general sense of genre fatigue and the fact that the main character is a woman also have something to do with the reception of the film.
SO WHY IS IT WORTH WATCHING IT?
Sharon Stone was instrumental in making the film in the first place, signing on as co-producer and personally endorsing Raimi as director due to his successful genre-blending in Army of Darkness. She also insisted on casting Russell Crowe and Leonardo Dicaprio, going so far as to pay the latter’s salary out of her own pocket.
This commitment to having the best possible crew both in front of and behind the cameras meant that the film ended up with one of the most recognizable ensemble casts of the 90s and some serious talent in the visual department to back them up. . Uniquely talented comedians like Gene Hackman and Mark Boone Junior share the screen as memorable cowboy archetypes while frequent Michael Mann collaborator Dante Spinotti frames the action beautifully – all accompanied by the one of Alan Silvestri’s most exciting scores.
Of course, the real star of the show here is Raimi himself, with his penchant for creative camera setups, making it one of the most stylish westerns of all time. The frequent shootouts give the director a stage to show off some of the most impressive visual trickery of his career, with a sizable effects budget allowing for incredibly creative shootouts. Of course, none of this is very realistic, but Raimi fans aren’t here for the realism, they’re here to watch a shot from the ball’s perspective!
WHAT MAKES IT ADJACENT TO HORROR?
With a cast featuring the ever-memorable Keith David (who you might recognize from John Carpenter’s They Live, or even the recent Nope), Lance Henriksen (Aliens and Pumpkinhead) and a pre-Saw Tobin Bell, Raimi indicates enough Clearly you can remove a director from the horror genre, but you can’t remove the horror from the director. Hell, even Bruce Campbell shot a scene for the movie, though it didn’t end up being part of the final cut.
However, it’s not the sheer genre royalty of presence that makes The Quick and the Dead a horror-adjacent image, but the way the film chooses to shrug it off. Raimi choreographs some of the most incredibly violent shootouts since the days of Sam Peckinpah, with bullets creatively finding their targets and leaving behind transparent wounds in a menagerie of blood and gunpowder.
From Sergeant. From Cantrell’s shocking demise to that explosive finale, many people die in many gruesome ways in this movie. Things never quite reach the Evil Dead levels of schlocky gore, but Raimi still made the most of his R rating here, elevating the film’s homicidal tendencies to almost comedic levels of absurdity. That being said, Evil Dead fans are sure to appreciate Raimi’s inimitable brand of dark humor during the film’s comedic moments, with the director honing the same kind of physical three-man comedy that originally transformed Bruce Campbell. into an icon.
Like other westerns of its era, Raimi and Stone’s daring little experiment didn’t exactly succeed in resurrecting the genre for a new generation, but it’s still an undeniably fun throwback with plenty of over-the-top kills that, I think, will be appreciated by horror fans. After all, what could be more horrible than having to live in the days of sweaty horses and addictions?
The importance of a balanced media diet isn’t underestimated, and since gory and gross entertainment isn’t exclusive to the horror genre, we’ve created Horror Adjacent – a recurring column in which we recommend films not horrific that horror fans might appreciate. .