{2jtab: Movie Review}

Death Hunt (1981) - Blu-ray Review


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4 stars

Loosely based on the real life Canadian manhunt for `Mad Trapper' Albert Johnson, director Peter Hunt (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) proves once again to be stellar behind the camera as Death Hunt belongs in its own genre.  Is it completely action-filled?  No.  Dramathon?  Not entirely.  It’s recognized as an action film but when its two main characters do what they do out of a sense of duty and not revenge, you know you are dealing with a different beast; one that puts the concept of honor before a simple-minded game of cat and mouse.

Hunt’s film is an adventure-minded macho man’s meat grinder across the Yukon landscape with a steely-eyed Lee Marvin in hot pursuit of a near-silent Charles Bronson. Co-starring Carl Weathers, Death Hunt sounds like it’s just your typical brainless 80s slugfest complete with two mainstream stars.  Fortunately, it is smarter than its title suggests and both begins and ends in the spirit of mythmaking.

Written by Michael Grais and Mark Victor, it is the story of Albert Johnson (Bronson) who – after busting up an organized dog fight In the Yukon Territory of 1931 – rescues the more wounded of the two dogs: a white German Shepherd.  He insults, beats up, and pays a vicious trapper named Hazel (Ed Lauter) for his dog and then walks away.

Insulted and with his pride hurt, Hazel claims his dog was stolen.  He and his gang of friends take matters into their own hands and brutally have their asses handed to them.  Bruised and bleeding, they take their issues to Sergeant Edgar Millen (Marvin).  Smart enough to know they are lying, he takes tracker named Sundog Brown (Weathers), and a new constable named Alvin Adams (Andrew Stevens) along with him as he travels to Johnson’s cabin.

Hell follows when one of the trappers gets an itchy trigger finger and opens fire while Millen is talking to Johnson.  When an officer is killed, Millen has to bring Johnson in.  Of course, it’s a harder job than either man could have guessed…especially when they respect each other.

I am of the mind that suggests that anything Lee Marvin is in is worth watching - including his one scene here with Angie Dickinson in a small part as a love interest. But Death Hunt – with its 700 rounds of ammunition, stunning frozen wilderness locations, and its body-littered manhunt – is worth watching for more than just Marvin’s pissed-off performance.   This is Rambo before there was a First Blood.  Hunt, who cut his teeth editing early 007 pictures, directs another tightyly-wound action flick.

Bronson steals the heart with the concern he has over nursing the wounded dog back to health.  Some of you have probably never him be so sincere on film; so emotional.  And, after the dumb and drunk locals kill the harbored dog in one of their ambushes that go wrong, the snapping that occurs inside Bronson as he rises from the ashes (literally) with sawed-off shotguns in both hands is seriously good cinema.

Death Hunt is a double-barrelled blast of heroics completely free of sloppy one-liners and any hint of homoeroticism.  While it strays from the real story (as these types of films commonly do), the film offers a delicious buffet of one-upped action beats and enough burned out misanthropy to fill and feed an old folks home.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Death Hunt (1981) - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: R.
97 mins.
: Peter R. Hunt
Writer: Michael Grais, Mark Victor
Cast: Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Andrew Stevens
Genre: Action | Crime | Thriller
Tagline: The Saga Of Two Rivals Who Clash As Enemies And Triumph As Heroes.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Well, I just figure any man who risks his neck to save a dog's life isn't going to kill someone for gold teeth."
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Official Site:
Release Date: May 22, 1981
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
August 20, 2013

Synopsis: Canada 1931: The unsociable trapper Johnson lives for himself in the ice-cold mountains near the Yukon river. During a visit in the town he witnesses a dog-fight. He interrupts the game and buys one of the dogs - almost dead already - for $200 against the owner's will. When the owner Hasel complains to Mountie Sergeant Millen, he refuses to take action. But then the loathing breeder and his friends accuse Johnson of murder. So Millen, although sympathetic, has to try to take him under arrest - but Johnson defends his freedom in every way possible.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Death Hunt (1981) - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars

Blu-ray Experience
4 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - August 10, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: None
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

Shout! Factory presents a crisp 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC transfer that doesn’t look its age.  With no video noise or noticeable defects, this is a surprisingly strong image that looks even more filmic in HD.  Colors are strong throughout and there is great facial detail in both Marvin and Bronson.  Their age is showing; the lines are deeper; and the rage so much deeper in 1080p.  The location is both eerie and inspiring and captured here is crisp glory.  Black levels are deep.  And edges are strong.  The audio provided is only English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with no subtitles so don’t expect a miracle of sound to explode from the disc.



  • Fans of the film get two audio commentaries by the cast and the writers.  This is good stuff – especially because Lee Marvin is the official MC - that provides more information about the filming and writing of this classic film.

Special Features:

Well, you get two commentaries and an interview with the producer of the film.  Big deal, right?  Well, he happens to be the producer of The Godfather so listen up!

  • Interview with Producer Albert Ruddy (10 min)

{2jtab: Trailer}