Natalie Wood's last movie, Brainstorm, had a big opening weekend, despite bad reviews; which only proves that nothing boosts the box office like a star's demise during principal photography, a truth privately acknowledged in Hollywood, despite PR protestations to the contrary. Audiences crave that final frisson, to see the fallen idol trapped in the eternal celluloid contradiction alive but dead, present but absent. Its immortality of a sort, yet clearly morbid too. You may be paying tribute (ha]) but you're also anxious to see how the movie plugs the gaps caused by the star's premature demise. When Jean Harlow passed on during the making of Saratoga, MGM grabbed a stand-in and filmed her from behind; easily spotted. But you really have to concentrate to tell who's Vic Morrow and who isnt in The Twilight Zone: The Movie (and is the helicopter explosion we watch the very one that killed him and two children on the set?). Sometimes films must be completely re-shot (Yul Brynner subbed for Tryone Power in Solomon and Sheba) or even abandoned: the rushes for River Phoenix's Dark Blood are in a vault somewhere. Occasionally, though, producers get lucky. The publicity surrounding The Crow has made the late Brandon Lee (right) the star he always wanted to be, and given the picture (about a murdered man returning from the grave) a first-week take of dollars 16,625,309. It's doubtful whether such a sum would have been achieved if Lee hadn't expired during production from gun-shot wounds, victim of a botched stunt an accident which echoes the mysterious death of his father, Bruce. Would it be cynical to suggest that punters are shelling out to see where Lee quite literally ends and special effects take over?

(Photograph omitted)