Breakheart Pass (1976)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Breakheart Pass first was on the site on November 11, 2021. You can get the blu ray from Kino Lorber. It has a brand new 2K master, new audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson, and reversible cover art.

Based on the book Breakheart Pass by Alistair MacLean, this movie begins with a remote settlement in Eureka, California suffering from a diphtheria epidemic. An express train is dispatched toward the fort, filled with reinforcements and much-needed medical supplies. There are also some important civilians on board, like Nevada Governor Richard Fairchild (Richard Crenna) and his fiancée Marica (Jill Ireland), the daughter of Fort Humboldt’s commander.

Then, the train stops to let on United States Marshal Pearce (Ben Johnson) and his prisoner, John Deakin (Charles Bronson), a notorious outlaw with a price on his head.

The truth is that Deakin is really a Secret Service agent and that anyone who seemed on the side of the law is really using the epidemic as an excuse to send weapons to Native Americans to use against their fellow Americans. Anyone who isn’t part of the conspiracy is being killed one by one.

Beyond boasting other cast members like Sally Kirkland, Charles Durning and Ed Lauter. there’s ultra-heavy bad guy Robert Tessier and an insane fight on a train car in the snow that looks like one of the most dangerous scenes I’ve ever seen filmed. It was performed by stuntmen Howard Curtis (who was doubling Bronson) and Tony Brubaker (who was Archie Moore’s stand-in). It’s the last stunt directed by Yakima Canutt, who directed the chariot race in Ben-Hur and performed the stagecoach drop in Stagecoach that inspired the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones goes under the German truck. He also taught John Wayne how to fall off a horse, as well as inspired how the Duke acted on screen. The drawling, hesitant speech and the hip-rolling walk that made Wayne famous were all how Canutt actually behaved in real life. Along the way, Cannutt got hurt so many times that his injuries seem hyperbole: multiple broken ribs, breaking both legs at the ankles and even having his intestines split in half while doubling for Clark Gable in Boom Town.

In spite of all of those injuries, he lived to be ninety.

Directed by Tom Gries (The Rat Patrol TV series, Earth II), this film has another astounding practical effect. Those aren’t model train cars getting destroyed. They’re full-sized cars bought just to be run into each other.

Mr. Majestyk (1974)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This review originally appeared on the site on December 11, 2021. The Kino Lorber blu ray of this film has a gorgeous brand new 2K master, commentary by film historian Paul Talbot, the author of Bronson’s Loose*,  interviews with Director of Photography Richard H. Kline and Lee Purcell, TV commercials and a trailer. You can get it from Kino Lorber.

Directed by Richard Fleischer (CompulsionFantastic VoyageSoylent GreenMandingoThe Jazz Singer) and written by Elmore Leonard (Get ShortyOut of Sight), this film finds our pally Charles Bronson playing Vincent Majestyk, an ex-con, former U.S. Army Ranger instructor and current watermelon farmer who just wants to get his crop in on time.

Bobby Kopas (Paul Koslo, Vanishing Point) tries to get Majestyk to pay protection money and ends up on the end of his own shotgun. He turns the table on our hero by bringing assault charges against him and Majestyk goes to jail before he can harvest his crops, potentially ruining his finances. So he does what you or I would: when gangster Frank Renda’s (Al Lettieri, The Godfather) men try to busy him loose, he kidnaps the crook himself and holds him for hostage. All he wants is to pick his melons.

The rest of the film finds the two men continually going at one another. Well, to be fair, Majestyk is only concerned with melons, whether in the field or owned by his love interest Nancy Chavez (Linda Cristal, who was on the TV show The High Chaparral and in the TV movie The Dead Don’t Die). Every time Renda, Kopas or any of their underlings try to take him down, he just laughs and gets over on them. Hey — it’s Bronson, you know?

I also love Lee Purcell in this movie, playing the gangster’s moll who carries a Bible everywhere she goes.

You have to love the tagline for this film: “

They also tried: “Why are they saying it’s the one movie you should see this year? Ask anyone who’s seen it. Anyone.”

This came out the same month as Death Wish and to show what a star Bronson was, when The Man with the Golden Gun underperformed, Mr. Majestyk played as a supporting feature underneath that Bond picture. I mean, there’s even a Turkish remake of this movie, Karpuzcu, which shows you just how big Bronson’s appeal was worldwide.

*Check out our interview with Paul here.

WATCH THE SERIES: Death Wish (1974, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1994, 2018)

With The Cannon Canon celebrating Bronson Don’t Like May(onnaise) this month, I decided to watch some Bronson and bring back several of his films. Seeing as how I’ve done an entire Death Wish week before, why not just put them all in one review for easy reading?

Death Wish (1974): New York City in 1974 must have felt like the end of the world. Based on the 1972 novel by Brian Garfield, Death Wish was the answer. In fact, in many theaters, the audience stood up and cheered as Paul Kersey got his bloody revenge for the crims visited upon him and his family.

The film we’re about to discuss went through many twists and turns as it made its way to the screen. Originally, it ended with the vigilante hero confronting the thugs who attacked his family and them killing him, police detective Ochoa discovering his weapon and deciding to follow in his footsteps. And get this — the first choice to play the lead was Jack Lemmon, with Henry Fonda as Ochoa and Sidney Lumet directing.

Finally, United Artists picked the gritty action veteran Michael Winner to direct. Several studios rejected the film due to its subject matter and the difficulty of casting the lead. Winner wanted Bronson, who he’d worked with in the past, but the actor’s agent hated the message of the film and Bronson felt that the book was about a weak man, someone he would not be playing on film.

Death Wish turned Bronson, who was 53 at the time of its release, into a major star known worldwide. It’s a movie made exactly for its time. Despite its lurid subject matter and dangerous acceptance of its hero’s actions, it’s still a great exploitation film that actually explores the why behind its hero’s actions instead of just setting him loose upon people.

Paul Kersey (Bronson) starts the movie in Hawaii with his wife Joanna. When they return home to the squalid streets of New York City, it’s only days before three thugs — including Jeff Goldblum! — invade their apartment, raping their daughter Carol and bearing Joanna so badly that she dies.  Beyond Goldblum in this early role, keep an eye open for Christopher Guest and Olympia Dukakis as cops, as well as Sonia Manzano (Maria from Sesame Street, who was dating director Winner at the time and suggested that Herbie Hancock do the score) and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington from TV’s Welcome Back, Kotter) in supporting roles.

As he recovers from his wife’s death, Paul is mugged. He fights back and chases off his attacker and finds new strength from the battle. An architect by trade, Paul heads to Tucson where he helps Ames Jainchill with his residential development project. After work one night, he goes to a gun club with Ames, where we learn how good of a shot Paul is. Turns out he was a conscientious objector and combat medic who was taught marksmanship by his father, but promised his mother he’d never pick up another gun after his dad was killed in a hunting accident. On the way back home, Paul discovers that Ames has given him a gun as a gift.

Now back home, Paul learns from his son-in-law that his daughter is still catatonic and would be better off in a mental hospital. That night, when walking, Paul is mugged again but he has the gun with him. He fights back and kills the mugger, but even that action causes him to grow physically sick. But soon, he’s prowling the mean streets and looking for a fight.

Before long, NYPD detective Lt. Frank Ochoa (Vincent Gardenia) begins investigating the vigilante killings and quickly narrows down his suspect list to Paul. As the manhunt gets closer and closer, Paul finally is caught after passing out from blood loss after a shootout. Instead of arresting him, the NYPD wants the case quietly solved, so they send him off to Chicago. The minute he arrives, he helps a woman who was almost mugged and stares at the criminals with a smile, his fingers in the shape of a gun.

There’s a story which may be apocryphal, but when Michael Winner told Bronson what this film would be about — a man who goes out and shoots muggers — Bronson replied, “I’d like to do that.” Winner said, “The film?” And Bronson replied, “No. Shoot muggers.”

After viewing the film, author Brian Garfield hated how the film advocated vigilantism, so he wrote a sequel called Death Sentence that was made into a movie in 2007 starring Kevin Bacon. No word on whether or not he hated that movie too, as it only keeps a little of the book.

Compared to the heights of mayhem that this series will descend to, this is a retrained meditation of a man facing an increasingly violent world. Stay tuned. Paul Kersey is just getting started.

Death Wish II (1982): Paul Kersey can’t catch a break. Seriously, in this sequel, he goes through the Trials of Job all over again. You think he went through some bad stuff in the first movie? Michael Winner is just getting started putting our vigilante hero through hell on earth.

Paul has taken his daughter Jordan and moved to Los Angeles, where he’s found love again with radio reporter Geri Nichols (Bronson’s wife, Jill Ireland). However, horror and pain is never far from Kersey, so one day at a fair, some punks steal his wallet. He chases one of them down named Jiver down and teaches him a lesson. The gang — Nirvana, Punkcut, Stomper and Cutter (Laurence Fishburne) — find his address in his wallet and pay a visit to his house. They rape his housekeeper Rosario, beat Paul into la la land and steal his daughter (this time played by Robin Sherwood from Tourist Trap). After raping her, she goes even deeper into her depression and jumps out a window, falling to her death and getting impaled like she’s Nikos Karamanlis or Niko Tanopoulos.

Of course, Paul doesn’t need help from the cops. He only needs one thing: to give in to the rage within, to become the vigilante once more. Det. Frank Ochoa is back to chase him one more time, as he’s the only one who can track him.

Soon, Paul is wiping out the gang one by one, his own personal safety and relationship with Geri be damned. This is the first time we discover that Kersey is able to do magical things like make fake IDs with just a Xerox machine and talk his way into anywhere and out of anything. By the end of this film, he’s gone from a man whose life has been destroyed to a walking angel of death willing to do whatever it takes to kill everyone that’s crossed him.

To be as authentic as possible, this movie was shot in the sleaziest parts of Los Angeles, such as the abandoned and crumbling Hollywood Hotel location. Many of the film’s extras were local color who were either hired to play a bit part or just walked over to the set, such as drug addicts, drag queens, Hare Krishnas and bikers. Even crazier, Bronson’s alcoholic brother was a frequent set visitor, constantly asking for money. Bronson wanted to be careful not to give him too much cash so that he wouldn’t be mugged, but that brother was soon found dead, stabbed in the ass.

My favorite part of this was the score, composed by Jimmy Page in his first post-Led Zeppelin musical appearance here by creating the film’s soundtrack. It’s almost surreal to hear his signature guitar tone over Bronson killing rapists.

You can get this on UHD from Vinegar Syndrome.

Death Wish 3 (1985): Paul Kersey is back in New York City, despite being kicked out at the end of the first Death Wish. His Korean War buddy Charley has invited him to ask for help as his East New York apartment building has been under attack by a gang. Paul gets there just in time for his friend to die in his arms and the police arrest him for the murder. Inspector Richard Shriker recognizes him as the vigilante from back in the first movie, so he throws him into a holding cell with the leader of the gang, Manny Fraker (Gavan O’Herlihy, son of Halloween 3: Season of the Witch bad guy par excellence Dan O’Herlihy). After a fistfight ensues, the villain gets released before Paul. If you think that’s the end of all of this, you haven’t been reading our website this week.

Shriker offers our hero a deal: kill all the punks you want, but inform him of any activity so that he can get a big bust and make the news. With that, we’re off and to the races in what is not only the craziest of the Death Wish movies, but perhaps the most bonkers movie you’ll ever see.

Paul moves into his dead friend’s apartment and into a warzone. He makes friends with the other tenants, including World War II vet Bennett Cross (Martin Balsam from Psycho), a kindly old Jewish couple named Mr. and Mrs. Kaprov, a young Hispanic couple named Rodriguez and Maria (a pre-Star Trek: The Next Generation Marina Sirtis who in real life is a Greek girl born in London). There’s even a young kid who continually walks into the path of gunfire. Obviously, this is a neighborhood made for Paul Kersey. It is, as my wife pointed out, Sesame Street where people die horribly.

Paul uses a car as bait for the gang, killing two who break into it. And he saves Maria twice, but the third time, the gang takes her and she soon dies in the hospital, not knowing the most important rule of Death Wish: if you are a woman, stay away from Paul Kersey.

That’s when Paul orders a .475 caliber Wildey Magnum, a gun that has the same muzzle velocity as a .44 Magnum at 1000 yards. This big bore handgun, as Danny Vermin once said, “shoots through schools.” He traps The Giggler by putting his new camera where he knows the criminal can steal it, then he blows him into another dimension with his gigantic handcannon. “I can’t believe they got The Giggler, man,” laments the punk rock gang.

Why this gun?  Well, it was Bronson’s personal handgun in real life. According to the gun’s inventor and the film’s technical consultant, Wildey Moore, sales for the Wildey Magnum increase whenever this film airs on TV.

You know who else didn’t get that memo about dating Paul? Public defender Kathryn Davis (Deborah Raffin, The Sentinel), who dates our hero long enough for him to joke that he likes opera and for mohawked punk gang leader Manny to shove the car she is waiting for Paul in toward oncoming traffic, where it explodes in a giant fireball.

Shriker decides that enough is enough and he puts Paul into protective custody. But after the gang blows up Bennett’s taxi garage, the old man tries to use the ancient Browning .30 machine gun that Charley brought back from the war. Sadly, the ancient detective from Psycho is no Roadblock from G.I. Joe and he’s quickly beaten into near death by the gang. Paul is allowed to visit him at the hospital and quickly makes a break to defend his new friends once and for all.

There’s another big machine gun, so Paul and Rodriguez use it to kill every single gangbanger they can before they run out of ammo, just as their neighbors finally come to arms to help them. What follows is what can only be described as sheer orgasmic violence, as hundreds of stunts all happen at the same time. Grenades are thrown from motorcycles. Handgun blasts send people flying through glass windows. Fire is everywhere. And there’s Paul Kersey, walking cooly and doing what he does best: killing punk rock criminals of all colors, races and creeds, including a very young Alex Winter.

Finally, Manny almost kills Paul, but he’s saved by Shriker, who is wounded by the punker but succeeds in shooting him. Kersey calls for an ambulance just as Manny rises, showing his bulletproof vest. In a moment that will live in my mind forever, Paul shoots him dead in the chest with an M72 LAW rocket and sends him flying through the side of the building as his girlfriend (Barbie Wilde, the female Cenobite from Hellraiser) screams in pain, their psychic link obviously broken like Cyclops and Jean Grey on the dark side of the moon. The gang realizes they’re beaten as the cops show up in force, with Kersey simply walking away.

Death Wish 3 is many things, but none of them are subtle. It’s a sledgehammer blow to your sensibilities, a veritable tour of depravity and sadism. It’s also entertaining as hell. Bronson hated  Don Jakoby’s (Invaders from MarsLifeforce and a frequent collaborator of Dan O’Bannon, with whom he wrote an unproduced script called Pinocchio the Robot that would have featured Lee Marvin as Geppetto!) script and the fact that they turned Paul Kersey into Rambo, but he got $1.5 million for starring in this movie. Frequent rewrites led to Jakoby taking his name off the film and he’s listed as Michael Edmonds.

All told, 74 people die in Death Wish 3, as detailed in this completely amazing article. They are stabbed, shot, run over, set on fire and more. They fall from tall buildings. They are thrown from tall buildings. And there’s a gang that combines all races and creeds — except old people — including white supremacists, punk rockers and lovers of reggae. It is the rainbow coalition of death. There was also a video game that lives up to the violence on screen.

The film also includes a rape scene with the victim played by Sandy Grizzle, who was the girlfriend of director Michael Winner. After they broke up, she reported to London tabloids that this was part of him treating her as a sex slave. Winner sued the News of the World tabloid and won.

Before you scoff at this notion, keep in mind that Winner spent six days filming the rape scene in Death Wish 2, a movie that took from May to July of 1981 to shoot. Also, following the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein in 2017, Winner was accused by three women of demanding they expose their breasts to him. Seeing as how he’s not around to refute the charges, let’s just move on.

Beyond these rumors, Winner was the kind of special individual that almost died from eating dinner — twice. He got the bacterial infection vibrio vulnificus from eating an oyster in Barbados, nearly losing his leg and his life. Then, years later, he’d almost die from food poisoning after eating steak tartare four days in a row. He died in 2013 at the age of 77.

Let’s ignore the gossip on Michael Winner and concentrate on how awesome Death Wish 3 is. Because wow, they literally can’t, don’t — and some folks would say probably shouldn’t — make them like this anymore.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987): Where do you go after the utter lunacy that is Death Wish 3? Well, you replace Michael Winner with J. Lee Thompson, who was the director for The Guns of Navarone, the original Cape Fear, the slashtastic Happy Birthday to Me and The Reincarnation of Peter Proud amongst many other films. He’d already worked with Bronson on 10 to MidnightMurphy’s Law and The Evil That Men Do and would also direct Bronson in Messenger of Death and Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects after this movie wrapped. In fact, counting St. Ives, The White Buffalo and Caboblanco, they’d work on seven movies together.

Paul Kersey hasn’t learned anything from the last three movies. He has a new girlfriend, Karen Sheldon (Kay Lenz, The Initiation of SarahHouse) with a teenage daughter named Erica (Dana Barron, the original Audrey from National Lampoon’s Vacation) that you shouldn’t get to know all that well. That’s because — surprise! — she overdoses thanks to her boyfriend and her getting into crack cocaine and doing it an arcade. If you’re shocked that a Death Wish movie would prey upon the worst fears of America’s middle class, then you may have watched the last three films too.

Paul loved that girl like his own daughter, probably because she wanted to be an architect like him and also possibly because he hasn’t yet learned that the moment that he says something like that, tragedy is right around the corner. Honestly, the main message of the Death Wish films is that God hates Paul Kersey, will not allow him to die and will wait until he finds happiness again before visiting upon him great suffering, only for the cycle to repeat.

The night she died, Paul saw Erica smoke a joint with her boyfriend and was already suspecting the young dude, so he follows him back to the arcade the next night. That boyfriend confronts Jojo and Jesse (Tim Russ, Commander Tuvok himself!), two of the dealers who sold them the crack cocaine, and threatens to go to the police. This being a Death Wish film, they kill him pretty much in public. That murder unlocks the ability for Paul to start killing again, so he shoots Jojo and launches his body on to the top of bumper cars, where he’s electrocuted. No one dies in a Death Wish movie without a flourish.

Meanwhile, Paul gets a call from tabloid publisher Nathan White (John P. Ryan from It’s Alive), who knows that he’s the vigilante. His daughter had also become addicted to drugs and died, so he knows what Paul is going through. The storyline becomes pretty much like The Punisher’s first mini-series where The Trust paid for him to wipe out crime, as White funds Paul’s one man war against drugs while his girlfriend starts writing an expose on the two rival gangs in town.

To cut down the budget in this movie, when Paul and Nathan meet in the movie theater, that’s Cannon’s screening room.

One of those gangs is led by Ed Zacharias (Perry Lopez, Creature from the Black Lagoon) and the other is commanded by Jack and Tony Romero. Two LAPD officers, Sid Reiner and Phil Nozaki are also on the case, trying to figure out who killed the drug dealers at the arcade.

This is the first Death Wish film where Paul feels more like an urban James Bond than a fed up war vet. Trust me, he gets even more gadgets in the next one. Here, he uses his skills as a master of disguise — he has none — to dress as a waiter and serve a party at Zacharias’ house. The birthday cake is…man, let me just show you the birthday cake.

After witnessing the drug lord kill one of his guys who stole some cocaine, he’s ordered to help carry out the body. Soon, he’s killing all of that drug dealer’s men, including three guys in an Italian restaurant with a bomb shaped like a wine bottle. Look for a really young Danny Trejo in this scene!

After all that mayhem, Paul also starts wiping out the Romero gang one by one, including breaking onto a drug front and blowing it up with a bomb. Yet Nozaki ends up being on the take for Zacharias and tries to kill our hero and you know how well that works out. Now Paul looks like a cop killer, too.

In the stuntman piece de resistance of this one, the two drug lords are lured into an oil field shootout where Paul kills Zacharius with a high-powered rifle, instigating the fireworks. Nathan comes out to congratulate Paul, but sets him up with a car bomb. It turns out that the Nathan that Paul has met is a third drug lord (!) who set him up to take out all the competition. Then, two fake cops arrest Paul and take him downtown, but they’re really just trying to kill our hero. Again, you know how well that works.

The film ends with Detective Reiner searching for Paul out of revenge for his partner’s murder, the third drug lord kidnapping Paul’s woman and everything coming together in a parking lot and a roller rink where Paul uses an M16 with an equipped M203 grenade launcher to unleash holy hell.

Only the drug lord survives, holding Karen. She tried to escape and gets shot numerous times with a MAC 10 submachine gun. He tries to kill Paul but he’s out of bullets. Paul may be, but he still has a grenade, which he uses to blow the villain up real good.

The film closes with Reiner coming and ordering Paul to surrender and threatening to kill him if he walks away. “Do whatever you have to,” says the old gunfighter as he walks into the sunset.

For all the mayhem and madness throughout this film — keep in mind our hero just used an explosive device to decimate another bad guy just seconds before — this is a poignant ending. But of course, Paul — whether he wanted to use the new last name Kimble he came up with in this film or Kersey — would be back one more time.

Bronson made $4 million for this movie and in my opinion, he should have asked for more.

Death Wish 5: The Face of Death (1994): You think Paul Kersey has learned his lesson about love and loss? No way, pal. Now back in New York City in the witness protection program and going by Paul Stewart, he’s keeping a low profile by going to fashion shows with his super hot girlfriend (Lesley-Anne Down) who also has a young daughter named Chelsea who is surely doomed. Come on, everyone. We’ve made it this far. We may as well watch Death Wish 5: The Face of Death.

It turns out that Olivia has been paying protection money to her evil mobster ex-husband Tommy O’Shea, who is Michael Parks! Paul confronts the guy at the fashion show, but one of the villain’s goons shows him his revolver. He tries to do the right thing and brings in a District Attorney.

Paul again proves he has no short or long-term memory by proposing to Olivia, who doesn’t understand what we all have accepted: God hates Paul Kersey like He has never hated another of His creations. Excusing herself to the powder room to piddle in absolute joy after being asked to be the life partner of a man who has personally murdered thousands of scumwads, one of Tommy’s men named Flakes (Robert Joy, Lizard from The Hills Have Eyes and, as my wife would exclaim loudly, Jim from Desperately Seeking Susan) shoves her face so hard into a mirror that she’s disfigured for life. Even surgery won’t fix her face. Such is the life of a woman who gets involved with Paul Kersey.

After meeting two cops, Mickey King (Windom Earle from Twin Peaks!) and Janice Omori, the female cop dies in the very next scene. She must have gotten a little too close to Paul. In the hospital, King tells Kersey not to go back to his old ways. King tells him that he’s been on this case for 16 years. “16 years? That’s a long time to be failing,” replies Kersey.

Even after getting out of the hospital, Olivia still has to deal with the life she’s chosen as more henchmen come after Paul, shooting her in the back and finally ending her suffering. Well, it turns out that Tommy runs all of the police and has taken his daughter back, so Paul goes full on 007 by killing one goon with poisoned canoli and another with a remote-controlled soccer ball! At this point, this film has gone from boring to right where I want it to be.

What follows is exactly what we want to see: a slasher movie with the righteous Paul going old man nutzoid on every crook there is left, shooting them into sewing machines, slashing their faces with broken bottles and shotgun blasting them into acid baths. At the end, he walks away with his dead fiancee’s daughter, yelling to the cop who couldn’t keep up, “Hey Lieutenant, if you need any help, give me a call.”

After the last three movies coming from Cannon Films, which was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, this one comes from Menahem Golan’s new 21st Century Film Corporation. They were having trouble making money and figured that a new Death Wish was going to be a sure-fire hit. Incredibly, for reasons no one is sure about, Bronson and Golan weren’t speaking during the filming, so they’d only communicate through Allan A. Goldstein.

Sadly, the film failed at the box office (but it did fine on home video). Golan planned to continue the film series without Bronson (!) and was planing Death Wish 6: The New Vigilante before 21st Century Film Corporation went bankrupt. This would be Bronson’s last theatrical film, as he was 71 years old as this was being filmed.

Death Wish (2018): Written by Joe Carnahan (writer and director of Smokin’ Aces and the movie version of The A-Team, as well as a member of the Creative Council of Represent.Us, a nonpartisan anti-corruption organization) and directed by Eli Roth (Cabin FeverThe Green Inferno), Death Wish was a movie delayed several times by the rampant mass shootings in our country. It arrives at a time when the debate over guns has reached a fever pitch. That said, one viewing of The Killing of America, made way back in 1982, shows that that argument has been going on almost the entire way back to the original Death Wish series.

Do we need another Death Wish? After all, there were five different movies already. Is there something new that the film can speak to? This one attempts to, with numerous blips of info from various media sources as diverse as Chicago DJ Mancow, memes and the site mediatakeout to hip hop’s Sway in the Morning.

Paul Kersey (Willis) and his wife (Elisabeth Shue) are getting ready to say goodbye to their daughter Jordan before she goes to college. After lunch at a restaurant, a valet looks up their home address on their car after hearing they’ll all be out that night. However, Paul gets called into his job as a trauma surgeon — instead of an architect — leaving his family alone at home. This being Death Wish, I’m certain we can all guess what happens next.

Police Detective Kevin Raines (Dean Norris, Starship Troopers) and Detective Leonore Jackson are the cops in charge of the case, but they aren’t getting anywhere. Jordan remains in a coma while Paul grieves for his dead wife, including trying to stop a mugging which ends up with him being beaten. He debates buying a gun but realizes he’ll have to register it and be videotaped (the film wavers here between gun ownership being too easy and providing the right info).

A patient drops a Glock 17 while Paul tries to save his life and thanks to online videos, Paul learns how to use it. Soon, he’s stopping carjackings and killing drug dealers and has been dubbed the Grim Reaper by the media.

When Paul recognizes his stolen watch on a man’s wrist, he uses that man’s phone to get closer to the men who destroyed his family. One by one, he eliminates them before realizing that his actions have brought his family — daughter Jordan, who has emerged from her coma, and brother Frank (Vincent D’Onofrio) — into the killer’s sights.

Paul then uses his legally purchased weapons to defend his home, the police come after its all over and our hero easily explains that he’s not the Grim Reaper. Free of consequence, he’s able to take his daughter to college in New York City. There, he sees a mugging and stares right at the criminals, making the same finger pistol mannerism that Bronson used at the end of the first Death Wish. Interestingly enough, this is an inversion of the original film’s ending, where Kersey moves from New York City to Chicago.

Seeing as how director Eli Roth loves exploitation films, there are plenty of references, such as Paul telling a criminal that he’s torturing that he’s about. to put them into “the most pain a human can endure before going into cardiac arrest,” a fact discovered by scientists of Unit 731 and chronicled by the movie Men Behind the Sun. That scene also uses the Sorcery song “Sacrifice,” which comes from the film Stunt Rock (Sorcery also played the band Headmistress in Rocktober Blood). And a trivia note just for my wife: the last movie that Elisabeth Shue and Vincent D’Onofrio appeared in together was Adventures in Babysitting, which also takes place in Chicago.

This isn’t a bad film. But there’s no real reason for it to exist as it says nothing new other than being a serviceable action film. It’s been criticized as alt right and racist, but I think any Death Wish film is going to be branded the same way. I thought it was pretty even in its depiction and had plenty of different voices throughout.

Want to know more about Death Wish?

Death Kiss: This 2018 film features Bronson clone Robert Bronzi.

A breakdown of cover versions of Death Wish: From two Turkish remakes to an adult version, there have been plenty of Death Wish ripoffs.

Cellat: The Turkish Death Wish somehow gets parts of the second movie into their story years before it was filmed.

I recommend both books by Paul Talbot, Bronson’s Loose: The Making of the Death Wish Films and Bronson’s Loose Again: On the Set with Charles Bronson. You can also read our interview with him.

For more info on all things Cannon, get Austin Trunick’s The Cannon Film Guide Volume 1: 1980-1984.

You can also check out these episodes of The Cannon Canon:

Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo (1974)

I have no idea what category to place Madelaine: Anatomy of a Nightmare of a nightmare into and that’s great. It resists buckets, it avoids categories, it detests convention.

Madeleine (Camille Keaton) is a young American woman who is vacationing for the summer at one of the many homes of her much older, much richer an much Frencher husband Dr. Franz Shuman (Silvano Tranquilli, So Sweet, So Dead). Every night, she dreams the same dream, one of women with multiple colored hair chasing her through the woods and demanding to live through her, which may be a manifestation of the miscarriage she’s just suffered. Then, they lead her to the wrecked car with her husband’s charred body inside and then the coven throws the a child’s coffin into the inferno.

Franz permits his wife to do whatever she wishes, including bringing home a college student named Thomas (Pier Maria Rossi) home to seduce (while he watches, his eye inside the eye of a portrait of his son Luis, who is played by Riccardo Salvino). She mentions that Franz studies both psychology and the occult; Franz mentions that she’s probably schitzophrenic, to which she adds that she feels as if someone else controls her.

Thomas confesses that he has a girlfriend and can no longer see Madeleine. She coldly invites im to a gathering at their home to celebrate Luis returning from America. Thomas’s girlfriend Mary (Paola Senatore, Eaten Alive!Emanuelle in America) who proceeds to gets drunk, strip in front of the assembled guests and writhe like a possessed animal. Both Mary and Franz take turns seducing her, followed by Thomas discovering Franz just as he’s finished. In response, he walks into the swimming pool and drowns.

In response, Madeleine leaves Franz and meets with her other lover Antonio (Gualtiero Rispoli) and their canoodling is interrupted by her husband, who makes her confess her many affairs, causing Antonio to abandon her and Franz to shoot her.

If a giallo/possession/art/ghost/demonic movie can have a Wizard of Oz twist, why not? Luis, Thomas and Franz are all watching over Madeleine in a hospital. Luis is truly her husband, Mary was her nurse and Franz and Thomas are the psychiatrists who have been trying to help her.

Se’s left with crystal clear therapy, their Night Killer-level weird therapy session seemingly fixing her mental illness. As she leaves with Luis, she literally breaks the credits by loudly proclaiming that Franz is her husband.

Directed and written by Roberto Mauri and featuring gorgeous cinematography by Carlo Carlini (Enter the DevilStreet LawAutopsy), it’s easy to see why this was Keaton’s favorite of the six films that she made in Italy. I may have a weakness for movies where women go mad, but this is a wonderful example of that story, told well, looking gorgeous and filled with moments of unexplained strangeness, such as when the butler sees something at the edge of the estate, recoils in horror and wanders back to the house.

Vinegar Syndrome included this movie in the box set Camille Keaton In Italy along with Tragic Ceremony and Sex of the Witch.

Esecutore oltre la legge (1974)

Someone Is Bleeding is also known in France as Les seins de glace or Icy Breasts, the name that is streaming under. It’s a French/Italian giallo directed and written by Georges Lautner, who based it on the book by Richard Matheson.

Peggy (Mireille Darc, Goddard’s Weekend) can’t get away from François Rollin (Claude Brasseur, Godard’s Bande à part), who pursues her in a way that may have been romantic in 1974 but is illegal in 2022. Eventually, he wears her down and she reveals that she’s divorced, yet the truth is much more complicated: her husband died under very strange circumstances and her lawyer Marc (Alain Delon, whose life was literally a giallo, as his bodyguard Stevan Marković was found murdered covered in a garbage pile near Paris. The ensuing investigation revealed secret sex parties involving celebrities and government officials, including future French Prime Minister Georges Pompidou) got her released due to temporary insanity.

For someone normal and not in a giallo, this would be the time to run. But even after learning about her past and her drug addiction, he keeps wanting her even more, which is pretty much me in my twenties, always being handed red flags, throwing them over my shoulder and getting in deeper.

Everybody loves Peggy, but everybody is blinded by her. Only Marc solves things, taking a page out of Of Mice and Men, which I had never thought would end up being in a giallo yet here we are.

You can watch this on Tubi.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 20: Sweet Movie (1974)

In The 50 Worst Films of All Time–and How They Got That Way by Harry Medved and Randy Dreyfuss, this movie is destroyed. And yet it also ruined lives, with actress Anna Prucnal — just for being in this movie — finding herself exiled from her native Poland for seven years even being denied a visa to see her dying mother. Her role was added to the movie after the original protagonist Miss Canada (Carole Laure, Strange Shadows in an Empty Room) quit the film, saying “I admire Dusan very much but after he signed me to the movie, he asked me to do things no human being could do. I had to refuse. I could not do these things as a person, let alone an actress. I don’t mean sex scenes, to them I have no objection if the script is right. I mean much worse things than that.”

Director Dušan Makavejev was a member of the Black Wave of filmmaking creating some of the most interesting films of Yugoslav cinema in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism, which is all about Wilhelm Reich, who was interested in the energy of the orgasm.

Miss Canada has won the award of being “most virgin” and given to a milk industry tycoon (John Vernon, how did he end up in this!?!) who treats her brutally, so she tried to leave and is taken away by the family bodyguard, who uses her for his own needs, then packs her in a suitcase for Paris, where she falls in love with singer El Macho, until nuns frighten them into sexual paralysis. She finally ends up in a commune where members are literally reborn, puking, urinating and defecating around one another before she ends up in a chocolate commercial that feels way too close to the roman, yellow and brown showers that we’ve just watched. I mean, if you watched it. I wouldn’t blame you if you looked away.

At the same time, Anna Planeta (Prucnal) and her candy-filled, Karl Marx decorated boat floats through Amsterdam, as the sailor Potemkin gets on board and falls for her. She keeps telling him that she will kill him, but love makes you blind, so in the midst of making love, she follows through. She may have also murdered and definitely abused numerous children — whose bodies line the canal which plays alongside footage of the remains of the Polish Katyn Massacre victims — and is arrested just as the children come back to life.

Francis Ford Coppola liked Makavejev’s directing so much that he wanted him to be the one to create Apocalypse Now. He picked this movie instead, a brutal punch to the stomach of anyone expecting the title of this movie to be lived up to.

In case you’re wondering what you’re getting into, Pier Paolo Pasolini dubbed the Italian dialogue.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 20: Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)

Sam Peckinpah said, “For me, Hollywood no longer exists. It’s past history. I’ve decided to stay in Mexico because I believe I can make my pictures with greater freedom from here.”

With the exception of a few key people, Peckinpah made this movie with a Mexican crew, including camerman Alex Phillips, Jr., who hared wide-angle lenses, loved zooms and who created a multiple camera setup that allowed Peckinpah to basically edit the film in his head as he shot.

It also allowed him lots of creative freedom and to capture the bleak world that he wanted. Shooting at a bar called the Tlaquepaque, he said out loud that this place was real. It was — the owner had once killed a woman on the premises and bribed the right people to make it go away.

And the results, sure, they ended up in the Medved co-authored The Fifty Worst Movies of All Time, but Roger Ebert said, “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is Sam Peckinpah making movies flat out, giving us a desperate character he clearly loves, and asking us to somehow see past the horror and the blood to the sad poem he’s trying to write about the human condition.”

Who is Garcia? He was once the man selected to be the successor for El Jefe (Emilio Fernández), but he messed up when he knocked up the boss’ daughter Teresa, putting a million dollar bounty on his head. Two months pass before two hit men, Sappensly (Robert Webber) and Quill (Gig Young), walk into the saloon where Bennie (Warren Oates) plays piano.

He claimns he doesn’t know who Garcia is yet he surely does. He’s the man who his lover Elita (Isela Vega) cheated on him with. He confronts her as to the man’s whereabouts and learns that he died in an accident. Easy money — he gets $10,000 for Garcia’s head, plus a $200 advance for expenses, and takes Elita along with him to dig the grave. On the way, he proposes to her, telling her that she can retire and they can live in peace, but we know that can never happen as the moment they get there, they’re attacked by bikers (Kris Kristofferson and Donnie Fritts) who nearly assault her before Bernie comes to and dispatches them both. As he starts digging the grave, against the protests of Elita, he’s knocked out. He wakes up buried alive with his girl dead by his side, the body of Garcia already missing its head. Oates took mushrooms before this scene, so he’s really living this experience.

Arguing with the head, which has been packed in a sack with dry ice, Bennie leads a death march across Mexico, with everyone in his way dying, death always at his side, waiting for him, as he begins to realize that the head means nothing at all to him or anyone else. The money was meaningless. The revenge doesn’t matter. Yet he must follow through.

Warren Oates copied Peckinpah to play his part, right down to borrowing a pair of sunglasses from the director. And this was the only time that the maverick creator ever got final cut on one of his movies. The twosome also bonded over cocaine, which only added to the air of paranoia and doom that fills every single second of this movie.

I can see why some would dislike and even hate this movie, but for me, it just plain sings. The song may be abrasive, it may be filled with anger, but it’s a song nonetheless.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 11: Moonchild (1974)

Moonchild was an Aleister Crowley book about white magicians, led by Simon Iff, and a group of black magicians fighting over an unborn child. That book also contained a series of magic rituals that would incarnate an archetypal divine feminine named Babalon. If that sounds familiar to the more occult-minded out there, it led to the Babalon Working, a series of rituals by scientist and occultist Jack Parsons and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard that may have led to Babalon appearing in the form of Marjorie Cameron and the next stage of the working, which was an attempt to conceive a moonchild through sex magic.

Crowley replied to this by saying, “Apparently Parsons or Hubbard or somebody is trying to produce a Moonchild. I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these goats.”

I wonder if he would have enjoyed this movie, in which the student (Mark Travis) seeks to perfect his artistic ability. This brings him to a hotel where Mr. Walker (John Carradine) introduces him to a series of men and women who will battle for his soul, including the holy man known as Maitre D’ (Victor Buono), the manager (Pat Renella), an alchemist (William Challee, Zachariah) and the temptations of that man’s daughter (Janet Landgard, The Swimmer).

This started as a film school project, yet somehow director and writer Alan Gadney got the location and talent to make a near-professional film. For a first project, it was quite the endeavor and the idea of trying to answer the big questions of existence within a movie can be a herculean journey for even the most experienced creator. For a first timer?

Somehow, this art film was sold as horror — having Carradine will do that — and I’m certain that audiences were baffled.

It also starts with an Edgar Cayce quote, so it’s very early 70s dawn of new age. Aww.

You can watch this on Tubi.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Plaisir à trois (1974)

How to Seduce a Virgin is another Jess Franco trip into De Sade, as Countess Martine de Bressac (Alice Arno) emerges from a sanitarium — 18 months after castrating a lover — with no intention of giving up on the left hand path, soon discovering a young woman who she wants to destroy just because she can.

Yes, The Philosophy In the Boudoir inspired many of Franco’s movies and this one, well, this one goes all the way. All the way to remake Eugenie, which had been a success for Franco before and the theory, one thinks, could have been to make a more horror-themed version of the same story.

Martine’s husband Charles (Robert Woods) soon joins her in the basement of bodies preserved at the exact moment of death and shows him the girl they must corrupt, Cécile (Tania Busselier).

Despite the warnings of the gardener Malou (Alfred Baillou), Cécile soon joins into the sexual games of the Bressacs, including the embrace of the mute girl Adele (Lina Romay) who lives with them. Yet the game has changed, as Adele, Cécile and the Count end up draining the Countess of her life, leaving her as one more exhibition in the terrifying hidden room and as they leave behind their home, only Malou is left to stare at the cold eyes of the lost lady that he has served so many decades.

The original ending predated Maniac by several years, as the preserved corpses came back to life and attacked the Countess. There’s also a moment where Cécile is drugged and wakes up to become a mannequin which is the kind of weirdness that I keep watching Jess Franco’s filmography for.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: La noche de los asesinos (1974)

Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe*in the credits and Edgar Wallace in an interview Franco gave — well, we can say that for any krimini or giallo, hmm? — Night of the Skull has Jess Franco making a mystery movie that doesn’t go fully into his usual perverted take on, well, everything. But there’s still plenty of love in this.

No zooms, no wild moving camera, no plot that seems made up when the camera starts rolling, not even much nudity — but Lina Romay does get whipped and ends up dating someone who may be her brother, so yes, this is a Jess Franco movie.

Lord Marian (Angel Menendez) is reading from the Book of Apocalypse — again, not a real book, which is a Franco trademark as much as stolen diamonds and sex scenes — when he’s attacked by a hooded menace and buried alive in mud, only his hands emerging and reaching for the heavens. Everyone thinks that his secret daughter Rita (Romay), so has been used as a servant and the whipping target of his second wife Cecilia (Maribel Hidalgo, Santo vs. Doctor Death) before the will states that she gets everything.

There’s also another will and another family and everyone starts getting murdered by the masked killer, all in ways that reference the end of all things as well as the four elements. And hey — it’s set in Louisiana, which is crazy because Scotland Yard has jurisdiction there, which makes as much sense as anything Franco usually writes.

*The Cat and the Canary, which isn’t by Poe but is a play by John Willard that became a 1927 silent movie and a 1939 Bob Hope-starring remake.