Well folks, after being sick for going on two weeks now, I’m baaaaaaaack with another round of EXPLOITATION ALLEY!! This week’s movie is a classic revenge film starring by far one of the most badass human beings of all time: Charles effin Bronson. Yes, folks, I am talking about the great, often imitated but never duplicated 1974 vigilante epic:, DEATH WISH!!!

Loosely based on Brian Garfiel’s novel (the sequel to his book DEATH WISH was also loosely made into James Wan’s 2007 DEATH SENTENCE) DEATH WISH revolves around Paul Kersey, played by Bronson of course. After a vacation getaway with his wife Joanna to Hawaii, Kersey returns to his job as an architect, and one day while he is at work, a group of thugs (one of which is Jeff Goldblum in his first role) spy Joanna, and their daughter Carol grocery shopping. Thugs usually do thuggish things, so obviously those baddies are up to no good, and they see Joanna and Paul’s address on their groceries, which were going to be delivered.
The thugs rush into the apartment and attack Joanna and Carol and demand some cash, and after only being given under ten bucks, the thugs rape Carol and severely beat Joanna. Joanna’s husband and probably the un-manliest guy around Jack calls Paul and tells him that the girls are in the hospital, and Paul drives there, soon being told that his daughter, though emotionally devastated by what happened is ok and that his wife has died. The police inform Paul that the likelihood of catching the thugs is pretty small, and Paul is left to pick up the pieces.
Paul then, after a business vacation to Arizona, is taken shooting by a client and as a going away gift, the client gives him a .32 revolver. Though Paul is against guns initially, what happened to his wife and his daughter, now slipped into catatonia, triggers something in Paul, and when a mugger attempts to rob Paul, he pulls out his .32 and shoots the mugger to death. Paul hurries home and vomits due his actions, but when three thugs attempt to rob an elderly woman then next night, Paul shoots them as well (one of them being Denzel Washington in an early role).
From there on, Paul pretty much decides to shoot anyone who tries to mess with him, and though it’s somewhat of a far-fetched idea (well, actually these days, I guess it’s not too out there), it’s a thoroughly entertaining movie. Towards the last half, the police slowly start getting closer to fingering Paul as the vigilante but that doesn’t stop Paul from taking out thugs left and right. He eventually evens gets stabbed in the shoulder before shooting another baddie and then hospitalized during another shootout, so things begin to close in on him, but the ending is one of my all-time favorites. When faced with whether to arrest Paul, which is the detective on the case’s preference, the D.A. pretty much just tells him to set Paul loose on another city, which in my opinion perfectly sets up DEATH WISH 2 (which is equally fun, and pretty dark at times), and How does Paul begin his stay in a new city? With this:
If you haven’t seen DEATH WISH, or haven’t been exposed to Charles Bronson’s other films like my personal favorite 10 TO MIDNIGHT (another Bronson classic that is pretty much a slasher film) , THE MECHANIC or THE GREAT ESCAPE, I’d really recommend having a Bronson night and discovering one of the last real Hollywood tough guys. His roles were the ones that stood the test of time action-wise and he relied on acting to make badass movies, not just wirework and explosions like today’s tough guys. Until next time folks, have a good one!


  1. And of course, DEATH WISH and THE SENTINEL were both helmed by Michael Winner.  A director of true distinction in the exploitation genre.

    1. The Mechanic, The Senitel, Death Wish, the list goes on, Winner made some kick ass movies, I’m a huge fan. I’d make this whole column about him if I could hahaha. 
      ps- Phil, I dig your stuff man!

      1. Thanks for the praise, and right back at you as I’m a fan of yours.  Please feel free to comment on articles you find of interest on Death Ensemble, as feedback is always welcome.

        One more thing.  If you haven’t seen it, check out SCORPIO.  It’s on the Netflix Instant.  It’s an espionage thriller that Winner directed, starring Burt Lancaster.  It’s got those lurid Winner touches, and a great chase scene.

  2. The man and legend. I recently learned even more of his fascinating background through a book his first wife Harriett wrote, called “Charlie&Me.”

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