Stars – Charles Bronson, Lisa Eilbacher, Andrew Stevens, Geoffrey Lewis, Wilford Brimley.
Director – J. Lee Thompson
Released by Twilight Time
Limited edition of 3,000 Units
Available at Screenarchives.com
Reviewed by Steven Ruskin
For a man whose screen persona is so clearly recognized Charles Bronson has had several distinct periods to his acting career. There were the early years with a slew of roles in TV shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and films like House of Wax (1953), Crime Wave (1954) and The Big House U.S.A. (1955). He established himself as a tough guy who looked like he could really fight. His supporting roles in the major hits The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963) elevated him to star status. He made several excellent films in the seventies built around his stoic man of action working with director Michael Winner including The Mechanic (1972) and the iconic Death Wish (1974). Walter Hill’s Hard Times (1975) set during the Depression showed a little bit more to his character. However Bronson made action films. His stock in trade was his formidable macho character and that ever present mustache which he had steadfastly refused to shave off for any role. In his later years at the twilight of his career he made a lot of films for Cannon. These were the Cannon years. Expectations were lowered but the man still delivered that strong dependable presence to his audience. In Death Wish 3 when the nice old man from the neighborhood Martin Balsam got put in the hospital by the local gang, Bronson went back to his apartment, picked up his old Army weapons and let loose hell on those bastards. It may have been a trite formula by that point but it was still a helluva lot of fun.
This time out though they changed up the formula. This was a slasher movie and a real sleazy one at that. Sure we knew going in that Bronson would be a cop going after the guy but his crimes were portrayed in a lot seedier way. This creepy guy, Warren tries to pick up two girls at a movie theater. He makes sure they know it too, then he sneaks out of a bathroom window. Warren follows a hot girl he knows from his office job. When she and her boyfriend drive off in his van to secluded part of the forest to have sex he also strips down. He rips open the van door wearing only a pair of gloves. He kills the guy and then chases the naked girl through the woods. He eventually corners her and as she begs him to stop he rips into her with a big knife. Apparently Lizzie Borden also took her clothes off before her famous ax murders to avoid getting any incriminating blood on her. Since Warren was such a creep around the office suspicion falls on him but his well constructed alibi holds up. Geoffrey Lewis as his attorney tells him that the fake insanity defensive is always there for him in case. Just says voices made you do it and you’re only get a few years in the loony bin then be free.
Andrew Stevens is the young detective assigned to the grizzled and experienced Bronson. Lisa Eilbacher is on hand as his estranged daughter who is a nurse. Just as she begins to start a relationship with her dad again it is clear that the serial killer is going after her, too. He wipes out several of her roommates who worked at the hospital with her. All of the murders feature abundant nudity and knife play. Don’t forget that Warren is also naked when he commits these crimes. Bronson plants some evidence on the creep but when that fails he dishes out his own version of street justice. Director J. Lee Thompson despite being the guy who helmed the original Cape Fear with Robert Mitchum seemed to do just an okay job when working with Bronson. They made three other films together. None of them are stand outs. There is the theme of whether criminals are being too protected by the system but the first Dirty Harry picture covered that point of view much more clearly, and entertainingly.
Ultimately what prevents this film from being one of Bronson’s top tier flicks is the uneasy mash up of styles and the pedestrian style with which it is directed. You don’t need to have the most creative or innovative team on hand for these films, but you do need more energy and enthusiasm. We do get some scenes back at the detective squad but they lack the camaraderie and rapport that would make them come alive. Most of the cast are good actors they just look to be operating in second gear for this one. If you like Bronson it is absolutely worthy seeing. To me it feels more like a trashy slasher film with Bronson shoe horned into it rather than a true or even typical Charles Bronson film.
Video – 1.85:1
The film looks fine here. It is not a stand out picture but that is the way it looks to have been filmed.
Audio – 1.0 DTS-HD with subtitles offered in English SDH
All dialogue is clear and easy to follow. Music and effects sit easily in the mono mix.
Extras – Twilight Time’s signature isolated score and effects track, Commentary with producer Pancho Kohner, casting director John Crowther, and film historian David Del Valle, Original theatrical trailer, Radio spots
On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic:
Blu-Ray – Good / Excellent
Movie – Good