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Death Wish (1974) - Bu-ray Review

3 stars

“Give me your money or I’ll bust you up.”  It is this line that forever alters the decision-making of an architect driven to murder.

Morbidity goes mad in director Michael Winner’s Death Wish, a revenge flick from 1974 that made Charles Bronson a household name of full-throttled action and made most every critic in North America cringe at its total embracing of vigilantism.  Hollywood answered the critics with a sequel.  And audiences ate it up.  Over the next twenty years, Bronson appeared in four sequels as Paul Kersey, vigilante extraordinaire and part-time architect whose life is forever altered by the violence inflicted upon his family.

The original movie; however, is based on an anti-vigilante themed novel by Brian Garfield but pay all that no mind.  The movie –debuting on Blu-Ray this week for its 40th anniversary - keeps it quick and gritty and, as violence was on the rise in the middle of 1970’s, echoes what a lot of Americans felt about taking the law into their own hands to make sure they are protected from thugs, crack heads, and rapists alike.

The Big Apple is a cesspool of crime and filth.  With violent murders on the rise, Paul (Bronson) and his wife Joanna (Hope Lange) return from their vacation in Hawaii and are greeted with hooligans in grocery stores and a city powerless to control the rising threat.  Some people want to put the criminals in concentration camps.  Others think more police officers will do the trick.

When Joanna and her daughter Carol Toby (Kathleen Tolan) are attacked by thugs in their apartment, the police offer no help.  His daughter is left a mute and he has no hope in finding the responsible people.  Things get worse when Joanna dies because of her wounds at the hands of a young Jeff Goldblum (in his film debut) and Kersey, fed up with the police and their protocol, takes matters into his own hands and searches for those responsible in the streets.

Written by Wendell Mayers, Death Wish is a tough movie to sit through due to its portrayal of a rather bleak world.  There literally is no hope throughout the movie (until Kersey discovers a gun club) and the ravaging crime is everywhere.   That being acknowledged, witnessing Kersey get his groove back is worth the punch to the gut.  Bronson is no great actor but he delivers the best kind of ass-kicking to any thug who dares stop him in the street.  From New York to Tucson, Kersey’s path to justice is slow but worth it.

In just one hour, Kersey goes from bleeding hear liberal to avenging angel and his world is never the same again.  He once never touched guns and now, with no wife and a mute daughter, it his bed companion.  Death Wish is not perfect but its uneasiness serves it well.  It’s pretty cheesy in areas when the public is involved.  And the pressure – put on him from NYPD Lt. Frank Ochoa (Vincent Gardenia) – never seems believable.  No matter, Kersey now has a thing for the type of killing he does and, with no end in sight, his peaceful way of life is forever altered.

Having a bad day?  Try some Paul Kelsey-approved therapy with 1974’s uber-violent Death Wish and enjoy the target practice.

Death Wish (1974) - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
93 mins
Director
: Michael Winner
Writer
: Wendell Mayes
Cast:
Charles Bronson, Hope Lange, Vincent Gardenia
Genre
: Action | Crime
Tagline:
Vigilante, city style -- Judge, Jury, and Executioner
Memorable Movie Quote: "I mean, if we're not pioneers, what have we become? What do you call people who, when they're faced with a condition or fear, do nothing about it, they just run and hide?"
Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:

Release Date:
July 24, 1974
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 4, 2014

Synopsis: A New York City architect becomes a one-man vigilante squad after his wife is murdered by street punks in which he randomly goes out and kills would-be muggers on the mean streets after dark.

Death Wish (1974) - Bu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 4, 2014
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono; Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono; French: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

This 1:78:1 framed, AVC/MPEG-4 encoded 1080p transfer arrives on Blu-ray with decent results. For a film 40 years old, the results presented here will please fans as I can’t recall the film ever looking THIS good. This transfer isn’t a home run in the slightest sense; however, it still looks okay. Most notable is the film’s clarity. Sequences that once lacked detail and definition now are improved. The film’s palette tends to focus on more of the softer side of the color spectrum, with grays and blues dominating. There’s also a slight layer of film grain, one that accentuates the age of the film…in a good manner.  Arriving with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, I was glad to see Paramount didn’t unnecessarily throw a 5.1 track at this, randomly adding in odd effects. With that said, the film’s sound design, dating 40 years, has always been limited.  It’s only slightly improved here.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • What’s a 40th Anniversary celebration without a commentary track?  This one.

Special Features:

This release includes the original trailer and that’s it.  So much for an anniversary party…

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