Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: Death Hunt - 1981

Death Hunt
Director: Peter R. Hunt

Johnson, an unsocial Trapper interrupts a dogfight and buys one of –almost dead – dogs against the owners will. He claims that the animal could render him more that the measly $200 but Johnson feels sorry for the dog and insists on the deal. The former dog owner complaint at the sheriff’s office but the sheriff tells him that he won’t do anything about it. Frustrated the dog owner leaves but soon starts the rumor that Johnson is in fact “the mad trapper” knows for killing fellow trappers and stealing their gold teath. The sheriff now has no other choice than to bring Johnson in. He goes to his lone cabin but Johnson won’t hear of it. He’d rather die than to give in. Knowing where the accusations might end he flees and the hunt for him begins.

Studio S Entertainment released this in Sweden a couple of years ago and I think that many of my fellow Swedes might have caught their first glimpse at it for that reason. Not the most dedicated Bronson- or cult film fans of course but the general public. But on the other hand the general public might have no interest in this. I on the other hand find it very satisfying!

The first time I saw it was in my youth when my friends and I rented all the Bronson movies we could find. I’ve liked it since then but it was a long time since I saw it prior to the review. It never occurred to me that it was so similar to First Blood! In both movies a person with extreme survival skills are haunted, the audience sympathies lies with the hunted person as he has done nothing wrong really, he only wants to be left alone. There is also mutual respect between the hunter and the hunted in both movies. The environment is different of course; this takes place in a winter landscape and First Blood in the jungle like forest where John Rambo fights of his hunters.

Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson are the perfect cast in this film. They both seen to be just the part they are playing and the complete each other perfectly. Charles Bronson is the lone trapper who a suspected killer and Lee Marvin is the police official who’d rather not go after the trapper at all. But he must do so since it’s required by his job. There you have another similarity, the political one. When things escalates and the police can’t catch the fugitive the general public in both movies makes things worse looking for the reward money. It becomes more or less a movie where the money is more important than justice and right or wrong. But on the other hand, this is everyday life in reality – the universe outside the movie. It’s the perfect reflection of the real world really.

The trapper must do what he must to survive, which means that he seems more and more guilty to the crime that he did not commit. It’s kind of a frightening thought! People die because they just couldn’t leave him alone. The police know better but the general public don’t, they are short minded and only in it for the money, the reward. Do you recognize it from somewhere around you? The general masses don’t think, they just react on instinct no matter what the consequences are!

This is based on true events which indeed make it more frightening. I’m not surprised really, I just hope that mankind will learn somewhere along the line and evolves beyond the narrow minded thinking in the future. The hunt is an honest one until the general masses are blinded by the reward. It becomes a… death hunt!


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review: 10 to Midnight - 1983

10 to Midnight
Director: J. Lee Thompson

Bronson plays this typical cop that is more or less married to his job. He has a daughter but according to her he’s never been a good father. He has always put the police work ahead of his family but on the other hand he has been decorated with countless of honorable medals. Now he’s in charge of this murder investigation where a former friend of his daughter has been murdered. It’s his job to tell the parents and there are absolutely no way he can keep his emotions out of this one, something that’s essential for good police work!

I never really thought about it that way before but this was not more than a few years old when I first saw it on an rental VHS. It never seemed to be a somewhat new film but rather something from the seventies. A flick from around the same time many of the golden Bronson flick were made. But as I said, now I realized that it’s actually from the 80s!

Bronson does not play an alcoholic cop yet. He would do that many times later but I guess this film was made just before those flicks. Here he’s actually a good cop who wants his man bad, so bad that he doesn’t hesitate to fabricate some evidence. To complicate this further he has a partner that’s not as old in the business and lacks some of the experience needed to compete with Bronsons character. This partner thinks it’s wrong to plant this evidence even if the perpetrator is guilty of horrible crimes!

To make a long story short, the trial gets cancelled and the killer is set free. Now the real struggle begins. Bronsons character starts to stalk the killer in order to make him do mistakes. The killer then sets after Bronsons daughter in order to kill her like the rest of his victims. Now the game’s a foot. Bronson never thought it would go to that and it out to stop the killer once and for all now. The time for planted evidence is now over!

I’ve seen this movie rubricated as a slasher many times over the last few years. I never understood why since my memory of it didn’t allow me such details. After today I understand why it could have got such an epithet, but I still don’t agree with it. It’s true that the killer kills his victims with a knife and that he does it in the nude but it’s still a thriller and a crime movie, not a horror flick and a slasher!

According to my experience I also think that this is a somewhat overrated movie to many people. It a good solid movie to be sure, but I don’t think it’s such a masterpiece that som of my fellow critics seems to think. Still, with Bronson you can’t go wrong!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Review: Death Wish - 1974

Death Wish
Director: Michael Winner

When Paul Kerseys wife and daughter gets attacked in their home, the wife killed and the daughter raped and left mentally disturbed, he takes the law into his own hands and become a one man vigilante army. He tests himself, where are his limits, can he actually withstand a mugger armed with a knife or a gun? At first he has grave problems with the violence but after a while he arms himself with a gun and goes out to provoke the scum of New York to attack him. He then shoots them down without mercy!

I first saw this years ago during the raids to my local video stores that I mentioned in an earlier review. This must be one of the best know film with Charles Bronson and most defiantly THE vigilante film! As I recall it  I didn’t think it was such a big of a deal back then but when I saw it again yesterday, the first time in fifteen or twenty years I realized how much to the point it really is. It’s not the violence that makes the movie, not the action. But rather the cover up. When Paul Kersey (Bronson) has shot several victims the police finds out who he is, mind you it’s done by some pretty far fetched methods, and the try to cover it up. They don’t want him to be arrested and definitely not killed. They don’t want a martyr.

Because if they catch him they will trigger even more vigilantes to start defending themselves i.e. killing bad guys, commit murder. The police must uphold the law but on the other hand, he gets rid of some of the scum that the police will never catch and the crime rate goes down during his reign of the dark night streets. Instead they try to force him to stop and get out of New York. A bit like an old western and there’s even a comment about it in the dialog. Kersey asks if he should be gone before sundown. Brilliant line really.

The acting is really nice and the direction is swell. I can’t say that it needs any improvement on those matters. It does feel a little bit dated though and it might have past it’s expiring date when it comes to the story. There are some many films which are more explicit nowadays and the political satire may have become obsolete, I don’t know. But on the other hand, the debate of gun control is still a pretty big issue as I understand it so maybe it’s still pretty accurate after all. In this film the scale turns from pacifism to quite the opposite when the need arise. It’s all about revenge and how people might think in a situation like that. I don’t think any of us would think rational if this happened to us. Yet this is what Paul Kersey seems to do. His plan is thought through, at least up to a point and he doesn’t panic once he got the hang of it.

It might not have the most fantastic story of all the Charles Bronson movies but it’s pretty realistic and if you look fast you’ll see Jeff Goldblum as a bad guy in the very beginning of the film. I can’t say that he’s fantastic or anything but this was his debut. That ought to count for something I think.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Review: Mr. Majestyk - 1974

Mr. Majestyk
Director: Richard Fleischer

The only thing Mr. Majestyk really cares about is his melons. The only thing on his mind is to harvest them and do it in his own righteous way. He doesn’t like it when other try to force him to hire help or when they oppress the Mexican minorities. He communicates his opinions to the local thugs i.e. with violence. This in turn means that he’s now has an assault charge to sort out with the police. They claim that he’s beaten a man with a rifle but the truth is that it in fact was the guy own rifle and that it only seconds earlier was pointed at Mr. Majestyk! The police doesn’t believe him of course and he’s soon on a prison transport together with a infamous thug and contract killer. The transport krasches but Mr. Majestyk doesn’t help the gangster, instead he plans to get him taken in by the police again. After all, the most impostant thing is to harvest the melons…. This makes the thug hate him at such a level that he will stop at nothing to get him killed! But Mr. Majestyk is not an easy target…

Many, many years ago, before it became old-fashioned to rent movies in physical stores, my local stores was raided by me and my friends in order to get all the films staring or co-staring Charles Bronson. Everything was of interest so after a while there was nothing left to see. I would like to say that I saw millions of Bronsons films during this period but thirty or forty is more truthful! About the same time I also saw Swamp Thing or possible it’s sequel Return of the Swamp Thing where a you girl, possible Heather Locklear, was threatened by some bad guys. She told them that the police was on their way, The CIA, FBI and… CHARLES BRONSON!! He was also the ultimate weapon in a radio sketch during that time. It was a comedy radio show called Sextio Sekunda Minuter where the Russian and American leaders brags about their weapons. They tried to scare each other with their fantastic arsenals. They threatened each other with double nuclear bombs and all kind of exaggerated weaponry until the American leader won the argument by claiming he would send in CHARLES BRONSON!

The reputation he had was about his own personal being, not the characters he portrayed in the movies. This release has a couple of great quotes I’d like to add to that conclusion. For instance, Don’t Fuck with Bronson. It says a lot about this actor. I wonder if it would be just to call him  the king of the revenge movies? I think you could say that! Loads of movies with a talent that forgives the sole impression on his face. You can’t fail!

This is a really tough film and Charles Bronson makes it even tougher. It’s rumored that Clint Eastwood initially was to play the leading part but I don’t think that would have been as good and tough as this is. Clint is tough to be sure, but not as tough as Brosnon! The storyline is pretty stupid. But that’s to be expected from a revenge film like this. They’re almost always the same. That the thug would be so stupid and proud that he would seek revenge at all costs is absurd. It’s also far fetched that Mr.Majestyk should be so manipulative that he could outsmart the whole organization of criminals.

But essentially I have no problem with that. We want our hero to succeed and we really don’t care what character his in. When Bronson did these movies, hi did them with himself as a main character. I mean that it’s BRONSON we like to see, we don’t really care what his characters name is and if he grow melons for a living or not. Charles Bronson IS the ultimate weapon!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Review: Violent City - 1970

Violent City
Aka: The Family
Director: Sergio Sollima

Carles Bronson is the contract killer Jeff Heston. He has been deceived and left to die in his own blood. But he survives and craves revenge! He tracks down those he considers to be guilty of the treason against him. He also encounters Weber, portrayed by Telly Savalas, who wants Heston to be part of his criminal organization. Heston declines the offer but no one turns down such an offer from Weber and lives to tell about it. The plot thickens and soon he’s entangled in a series of events where the plans architect is kept a secret.

It was a long time since I saw a film with one of my favorite actors Charles Bronson in a leading role. Instantly I realize that I’ve missed seeing he films and that I need to re-watch the films I’ve already seen over the years and also to see more of those that I haven’t seen before. There´s a car chase scene that´s typical for the seventies and it’s very nicely shot! The cinematography makes it kind of exciting. It has the European feel to it and I love it. The next scene makes me think of classic western shoot out and I love it!

Charles Bronson was one of the big names in European film during the seventies and it’s such a pleasure to see him act together with his wife Jill Ireland which he frequently did! There’s real chemistry between them that cannot be faked. Something that bothers me a bit is that some of the scenes are only available in Italian. I guess the English sound has been deleted years ago during some editing or censorship. I guess it’s better to have them in Italian than not at all of course! Especially since the absence of these scenes would mean that the film would be a total disaster and impossible to understand. In other words, it’s annoying but essentially to make some sense out of the storyline.  

I think that Telly Savalas does a great job here too. His mafia boss character is magnificent! When Heston (Bronson) starts to get tormented by his own conscious, remorse and sentiment Weber (Savalas) equals this out with the attitude of someone in a powerful position. There’s some doubt about which one of them that’s really behind the plans. Who is a pawn and who’s really in charge of the events? Perhaps this is a little too obvious but since the score is written by Morricone – who cares?

As a whole this might not be a masterpiece but as a fan of Bronson flicks I like it! You get what’s expected from Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas, Jill Ireland is as beautiful as usual and that can’t make any film worse. She even shows us a bit of skin in a couple of scenes. That can’t be a bad thing!