‘Doctor Strange 2’ Director Sam Raimi Made an Awesome Western ‘The Quick and the Dead’ You Should Totally Watch
When Marvel attached Sam Raimi to direct Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it was great news for several reasons. One is just a new Sam Raimi movie. He hasn’t made one since Oz, the Great and Powerful in 2013. Two is Raimi returning to the comic book world of his Spider-Man movies, and the superhero world of his original creation Darkman. One of his lesser known movies, The Quick and the Dead, opened February 10, 1995 so the Doctor Strange 2 news is the perfect reason to celebrate its 25th anniversary.
Sharon Stone plays a Woman with No Name who rides into the town of Redemption in time for their quick draw contest. Gene Hackman plays evil Sheriff Herod just three years after Unforgiven. Russell Crowe plays a preacher forced to compete and Leonardo DiCaprio plays a young gunslinger among many memorable town characters. It was Raimi’s first movie after Army of Darkness.
Hopefully Sam Raimi will give ‘Doctor Strange 2’ his ‘Quick and the Dead’ style
The gunfights in The Quick and the Dead are all in the angles, which was Raimi’s style from Evil Dead and Darkman too. He zooms in on guns, on eyes, on the town clock to draw out the moment of a single gunshot. He’ll tilt the camera like the spirit’s POV in Evil Dead to capture the off kilter vibe of Redemption.
The style extends beyond the gunfights too. Herod throws a glass at Cort (Crowe) and the camera follows the glass through the air (sort of like the eyeball in Evil Dead 2 and later in Drag Me to Hell). A closeup on Stone also reveals Hackman in the background, which if you don’t know cinematography that requires a lot of work to achieve
Doctor Strange already established some style for the dimension bending powers of Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his opponents. It will be cool to see Raimi fit his own quirks into the aesthetic. They seem a good match already. Raimi won’t have to tilt the camera. His hero can just tilt the universe.
‘The Quick and the Dead’ told a story with each gunfight
Each gunfight has a different narrative. It wasn’t just exchanging shots. There’s a long history of westerns before The Quick and the Dead that all found ways to make a western standoff interesting. The contest rules specify one shot at the top of the hour, so the story found ways to give each draw its own story.
The Kid (DiCaprio) let’s his opponent live, shooting him in the arm and the leg. Herod only gives Cort one bullet so he has to make his shot count. Herod messes with Ace (Lance Henriksen) by shooting his left and right hand, then finishes him off.
Lady (Stone) has a few single shot exchanges but shows mercy later, until her ungrateful opponent forces her hand. Spotted Horse (Jonothon Gill) survives and Cort needs another bullet or he’s done for.
Doctor Strange battles can be much more drawn out than a gunfight so there’s a lot more room for Raimi to play with their powers. You already saw what he could do with Spider-Man or Evil Dead but if you want to see how he can draw our excitement in simple shooting contests, see The Quick and the Dead.
‘The Quick and the Dead’ is full of memorable characters. So is ‘Doctor Strange.’
There are a lot of competitors in the quick draw contest and each one is a memorable character. For those that aren’t main characters like Lady, Herod, Cort and The Kid, each one has a gimmick that makes them stand out.
Ace is into card tricks and he’s more of a showman than an effective gunslinger. Spotted Horse is big on Native American legend, and he’s empowered to survive bullets. It may not be deep Native American history but it shows him more respect than the old Hollywood westerns did.
Sgt. Cantrell (Keith David) is a professional the town hired to defeat Herod. See how that works out for them. Escaped convict Scars (Mark Boone Junior) has nothing better to do and The Kid baits the Swede (Sven-Ole Thorsen) into entering.
Given that each of their big moments boils down to a single gunshot, it is important that their character stands out before the inevitable. Given the above the line cast, you’d be foolish to bet on any of the riff raff.
Doctor Strange 2 will have a wealth of memorable comic book characters on which to draw. So did the Spider-Man movies, which Raimi made after The Quick and the Dead. Whether original or adapted, Raimi has consistently displayed a keen eye for memorable characters.
Sharon Stone was ahead of her time
Stone co-produced The Quick and the Dead at the height of her fame. Basic Instinct made her a movie star in 1992. She followed up with roles in Sliver and Intersection, sort of what she was expected to do in the erotic thriller genre (although she played the nice wife in the latter). Her next role would be her Oscar nominated turn in Casino. She wanted to play the action hero and she insisted on Raimi and DiCaprio before they were stars (according to the book The Unseen Force: The Films of Sam Raimi by John Kenneth Muir). She already saw their brilliance.
The mysterious stranger riding into town to serve justice was Clint Eastwood’s stock in trade. The Quick and the Dead eventually gives Lady more specific backstory than The Man with No Name ever had, but it’s still awesome to see the genre play out with a woman. Lady doesn’t take to being mistaken for a “whore,” not that sex work isn’t perfectly respectable trade. Her witty retorts to men win the gender politics with double entendre.
Rape was always a factor in westerns, at least once the MPAA code allows films to go there. Eastwood dealt with rape in The Outlaw Josey Wales and perpetrated one in High Planes Drifter. It was treated at best as a fact of life in the 1800s and st worst as a lark. Lady got to take a stand against the town rapist.
More western fun with Sam Raimi
Alan Silvestri does a killer Ennio Morricone homage to spaghetti western with whip snaps. It would definitely fit in a Sergio Leone movie.
By the ‘90s, if Hollywood made a western, it became an ultra serious look back at our country’s past or the genre itself. Kevin Costner loved his serious long westerns like Dances with Wolves and later Open Range. Eastwood did the deconstruction of his own trademark genre in Unforgiven. Later westerns like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and the Coen Brothers’ True Grit remake took westerns seriously.
Westerns were significant to the movie business and to America’s frontier but they were also fun popcorn entertainment. The Quick and the Dead was devoted to having fun in the genre. Stone is badass, DiCaprio and Crowe were movie stars in the making, Hackman was magnificently evil, the whole cast made their mark and Raimi showed he could energize any genre with his unique style.