The Coen Brothers Wrote A Movie Directed By Sam Raimi...And You Probably Haven't Seen It

Sam Raimi has directed some of the most popular movies of all time, from "The Evil Dead" to "Spider-Man." The Coen Brothers are known for classics like "The Big Lebowski" and "Inside Llewyn Davis." They worked together on a script for a film, and it's very likely you've never seen it.

That film is 1985's "Crimewave," which was a dreadful failure, only bringing in $3,571 in its opening weekend domestic box office and $5,101 worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. The movie is a slapstick horror comedy about a man working at an alarm company who accidentally finds out that hitmen are trying to kill his boss. The tagline: "Extermination is not just a business. It's a way of life."

Raimi directed the film, the Coen Brothers wrote it, and somehow it was a complete disaster. Here's how it turned out — and why this just might be the first time you're hearing about it.

Bruce Campbell Is a Given, But Who Else Was in the Cast?

Reed Birney ("Mass") stars as Vic Ajax, a low-level employee of security firm Trend-Odegard. Firm partner Ernest Trend is played by Edward R. Pressman, who would go on to produce films like "The Crow" and "American Psycho."

Trend hires goofball exterminators Arthur Coddish (Brion James, "Blade Runner") and Faron Crush (Paul L. Smith, the Beast Rabban in 1984's "Dune") to kill his partner Donald Odegard (Hamid Dana). Vic is in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets blamed for the murder. His friend Nancy (Sheree J. Wilson, "Walker, Texas Ranger") tries to prove his innocence. Bruce Campbell appears as the villain Renaldo "The Heel." Topping it all off, there are even uncredited cameos from the Coen Brothers.

As Campbell recalled in his 2002 autobiography "If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor," Joel Coen had been an assistant editor on Raimi's "The Evil Dead," during which time Campbell befriended the brothers. He had Raimi check out the script for their debut feature, "Blood Simple." Raimi was impressed, and brought them in to help fix up the script he'd written for the film called "The XYZ Murders."

This script started to get noticed, and Norman Lear's Embassy Pictures, known for horror films like "The Howling," took on the film. It was Embassy's decision to change the title to "Crimewave."

What Went Wrong with Crimewave?

As chronicled by GeekyTyrant, the production of "Crimewave" was a comedy of errors from the beginning. The studio didn't like Campbell in the lead role, so he was cast as Renaldo. Louise Lasser fired her makeup artist several days into the production and decided to do her own makeup. Some days she didn't come out of her trailer.

Brion James trashed his hotel room, according to Campbell's autobiography, and production had to pay for the damage. James apparently thought the room was haunted by the ghost of his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend. Stunts injured actors and did damage to a Detroit overpass. Locations ended up costing way more than the very young and green Raimi expected, since he'd paid peanuts for his "Evil Dead" locations. 

Raimi's original budget was $2.5 million, but that didn't include things like union fees or safety regulations. When "Crimewave" went way over budget, the studio asked for cuts and oversight. They insisted in reviewing all the dailies. The studio replaced Raimi's composer, Joseph LoDuca, and took over the edit from Raimi. According to Campbell's book, Raimi said, "It was really wrong. It was such a horrible, horrible, horrible, depressing scene."

Embassy Pictures didn't want to release the finished product, but because of a contract with HBO to show it in theaters before the cable network, it ran in only seven theaters in Kansas and Alaska. It wasn't reviewed well when it was reviewed at all. Time Out said, "Despite its ambition and a Coen Brothers script credit, Raimi's second film was a disappointment after his astonishing debut 'The Evil Dead.'"

These days, the film is available on DVD and Blu-ray – if you're feeling brave.