Color, 1985, 90 mins. 36 secs.
Directed by Michael Winner
Starring Charles Bronson, Deborah Raffin, Ed Lauter, Martin Balsam, Gavin O'Herlihy, Kirk Taylor, Alex Winter
Scorpion Releasing (Blu-Ray) (US RA HD), MGM (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), Umbrella (Blu-ray & DVD) (Australia R0 HD/PA) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

One Death Wish 3of the crown jewels in the history of Cannon Films, Death Wish 3 Death Wish 3was the last in the Charles Bronson series to be helmed by the director who started it all, Michael Winner, who had scored an early hit for Golan and Globus with the grubby Death Wish II and delivered one of the studio's oddest films of the period with The Wicked Lady. Though Bronson would hang around Cannon for a while longer, Winner only made one more film for them, Appointment with Death, after which his theatrical career diminished quickly and he became more of a pop culture personality on British TV. In any case, this film marks a high point for both director and star at Cannon, an absurd and utterly enjoyable blast of action insanity that delivers a ridiculous amount of fun per minute and has justifiably earned a substantial cult following.

Returning via bus to New York City after being drummed out years earlier for his vigilante antics, former architect Paul Kersey (Bronson) shows up just in time to witness the death of an old war buddy in his Bronx apartment. Police Chief Shriker (Lauter) brings in Paul as a possible suspect in the slaying, which results in an overnight stay with the real gang leader responsible, Manny Fraker (O'Herlihy). With the punk quickly back out on the streets, Paul is given a blessing by the police to resume his extrajudicial quest for justice as long as he keeps Shriker informed about the local gang, which means Paul has to move into Charley's apartment building Death Wish 3to help protect its residents including another war vet, Bennett (Balsam), Death Wish 3from the increasingly violent gang members now out for more blood.

Greatly downplaying the sexual violence of the previous two films (there's still one assault scene involving Marina Sirtis, getting mistreated again after her wild whip scene in The Wicked Lady, that was wisely toned down slightly for the final cut), this one amps up the popcorn value by driving the violence level through the roof with bullets and rocket launchers employed in a protracted urban battle that can still make viewers' jaws drop. Winner was never the most subtle of directors, but something about this time period really inspired him to go over the top with this one coming hot on the heels of his outrageous thriller, Scream for Help, which would make a good "holy crap, what am I watching?" co-feature to this one. Adding to the film's surreal quality is the fact that, while some exteriors were shot in the real New York City, the neighborhood action scenes were actually filmed in London, which looks nothing like the real thing and gives the entire feature a truly bizarre atmosphere.

Since its theatrical release, this film has been readily available from MGM (or MGM/UA initially on VHS) in every major format including a standalone DVD release and various combos with its fellow series entries over the years. The first real special edition actually came from Australian label Umbrella Films with a DVD and then a Blu-ray, paired up with Death Wish 2 and sporting extras including a trailer, a TV spot, and a 101m1s reel of Interviews pertaining to both films with cast members Alex Winter, Robin Sherwood, screenwriter David Death Wish 3Engelbach and Todd Roberts, son of producer Bobby Death Wish 3Roberts. The disc also features "Action! II" (53m27s), a William Katt-narrated production for syndicating television covering the making of this film, Grace Quigley, Runaway Train, and House, including some EPK-style interview bits with Bronson and Winner.

In 2020, Scorpion Releasing gave the film its first U.S. special edition as a limited slipcover Blu-ray release featuring a fresh 2K scan from the 35mm interpositive. The visual improvement is very obvious thanks to improved contrast, deeper blacks, finer detail, and more visible info on all four sides of the frame. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track is fine and about on par with what we've had before, a pretty typical mid-'80s mix for a film that wasn't blessed with one of Cannon's aggressive Dolby Stereo tracks. The real selling point here for many will be the audio commentary by Paul Talbot, author of Bronson's Loose! The Making of the Death Wish Films and Bronson's Loose Again! On Set with Charles Bronson, whose extensive knowledge of the subject has produced stellar tracks in the past. He's up to his usual high standard here and delivers a thorough, lively dissection of the film, though like far, far too many other commentaries in recent years, it's clearly fallen afoul of MGM's capricious legal department with several long sections removed for some reason or another. (Most frustratingly, he's cut off abruptly after mentioning the fact that the score is credited to Death Wish 2's Jimmy Page with no further info provided.) Then actor Kirk "The Giggler" Taylor appears for a video interview (8m33s) talking about getting this film right after Streetwalkin' and his rapport with Winner, offering a nice perspective on what it was like to be on the set. The theatrical trailer is included along with bonus ones for The Mechanic, Death Before Dishonor, The Delta Force, and P.O.W.: The Escape.


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Reviewed on September 12, 2020