16 April 2010

Death Wishes

The Death Wish franchise ranks right along side Eatswood's Dirty Harry series for sheer teeth-gnashing counterrevolutionary backlash. After years of social dialogue about rights and due process, the Seventies saw the advent of the rogue cop and vigilante archetypes as an answer to cries of rehabilitation and rights. If the legal system was more concerned with doing things according to procedure, these guys were willing to step outside the law to see justice done. No more cuddly talk about warrants and probable cause, time to meet Jesus, punk.

Early on the Death Wish series was remarkable for the sheer number of unknowns who made appearances in bit parts and later went on to bigger things. In the latter entries of course many of the bit parts were filled by TV actors and such, but there are still a lot of familiar faces in every installment right on back to number 1.

United States - 1994
Director - Alan Goldstien
Vidmark Entertainment, 1994, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 35 minutes
United States - 1987
Director - J. Lee Thompson
Media Home Entertainment, 1990, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 40 minutes
It's been years. I hardly even remember what happens in this one.

United States - 1985
Director - Michael Winner
MGM/UA Home Video, 1986, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 32 minutes

For several reasons this is my favorite film in the  series. It's the first film in the series that escalates the firepower to absurd extremes. Charles Bronson really revels in his use of a LAW rocket and refers to his Wildey in the first person. If the menacing goons in Death Wish 2 were a little silly, in DW3 they go totally over the top, starring Gavan O'Herlihy as the lead goon and Alex Winter as his second. For the longest time I confused O'Herlihy with Jake Busey, both are toothy and creepy looking, but definitely not the same.
To bring it back, what is fantastic, neigh unasailably brilliant about DW3 is that it recognizes the goofyness, the absurd extent to which it takes the already reactionary violence and trauma of the Death Wish series. DW3 is American exploitation at its finest, one of the keystones of tough-guy, post Vietnam-era sleaze, and Bronson grins and booby-traps his way through it with typical wrinkly grace. Thank you sir.

Death Wish 2
United States - 1982
Director - Michael Winner
When I bought my copy of Death Wish 2 it didn't come with a box, so I borrowed this Norwegian one from Cannon.org.uk. They have a whole Bronson Gallery you can check out here.

 Death Wish
United States - 1974
Director - Michael Winner

The classic DW image rendered in obnoxious colors. For some reason I like this better than the usual black and white version that is on my DVD. Maybe because it reminds me of the light from a bug zapper. Bet you didn't know it was based on a novel by Brian Garfield.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Danny Trejo aka Machete was also in Death Wish IV