AV Maniacs Book Of The Month Club: Bronson's Loose! The Making Of Death Wish Films by Paul Talbot
In 1974, Michael Winner directed a film called Death Wish, starring Charles Bronson and based on the novel by Brian Garfield. The film was a smash hit, spawning four sequels and going on to be considered a classic within the action genre. It remains the film for which Charles Bronson is best remembered for, and now author and filmmaker Paul Talbot (known to many a movie buff for his writing in Video Watchdog) has finally given the series its due. With the publication of Bronson's Loose! The Making Of The Death Wish Films, Talbot examines what makes the five films in the series so popular and gives us a fascinating history lesson in the studios and the filmmakers responsible for the series.
The book follows the series in chronological order. We begin with a script that no one wanted to touch until Dino DeLaurentis stepped in, at which point Death Wish found a home at Paramount Studios. The movie was a blockbuster and it launched Bronson to stardom in North America (he'd always been popular in Europe). The film divided audiences and critics alike, with its no nonsense approach to vigilante justice and its unflinching portrayal of street violence courtesy of eccentric direction Michael Winner. The first chapter of Talbot's book fills us in not only on the history and genesis of the first and most famous film in the series but also in the controversy that arouse when it became so popular. From there, we learn of the sequels that came, some better than others. Death Wish II is covered in a lot of detail, with Bronson teaming up once more, this time setting Kersey in Los Angeles instead of inner city New York. The notorious rape scene for which the film is best remembered is covered and through some interviews with the people who made the movie we learn about how people felt about it then and now. Winner in particular proves to be an interesting interview subject. He comes across as quite eccentric and more than a little egotistical, not only when discussing the first two films but also when discussing the third. Death Wish III is a fan favorite and while it plays out more like black comedy/comic book adventure movie than a serious study in vigilantism, Talbot treats it with just as much respect and doesn't flinch on the details.
As Bronson got older he did slow down a little and we come to get a feeling for the man behind the stone faced visage we all know and love. Throughout the book we hear of how people remember Bronson. Obviously, since he passed away, he wasn't able to be interviewed for the book but through quotes and interviews with those who were fortunate enough to work with the man Talbot pieces together a very interesting portrait of a man who sometimes didn't sound to be all that too far removed from some of the characters that he played in his films. We learn of the different relationships that he had with Michael Winner versus J. Lee Thompson, how he was a very private man and would usually rather spend time with his family than meeting or greeting fans or interacting with his co-stars. He seems to have been quiet and quite private - just like you'd expect him to be.
Of course, Talbot covers the making of Death Wish 4 - The Crackdown and Death Wish V: The Face Of Death as well. While the two later films aren't as popular as the first three entries, they're covered just as thoroughly and the story behind the last two films in the franchise prove to be just as interesting as the three films that came first. Talbot has tracked down a few of the supporting cast members to get their take on the material and two piece together a nice picture of how these movies were put together. We learn of the rather unusual history of Cannon Films and what happened to them and how their impending financial problems affected the series, and where the rights to the franchise eventually ended up after some long and strange legal issues. Talbot wraps everything up with a concise index featuring full credits for all five of the films as well as a discography containing some invaluable soundtrack information.
While the book isn't a flat our Bronson biography (why isn't there a Bronson biography??), it is a well written and informative look at a five film franchise that has remained popular throughout the years. Talbot writes thoroughly enough to nail a whole lot of facts - did you know there was a Death Wish III video game? - but doesn't go so high brow as to alienate or bore his readers. There's a sense of humor to some of the writing that makes it lots of fun to read and anyone remotely interested in Bronson and the Death Wish films has be excuse not to add this one to their collection. The layout might not be as sexy as some of the books from Fab Press and at 161 pages it is a quick read, but it is literally packed with information about the movie and its star. The book is illustrated in black and white with one sheets, posters, promotional pictures, video release cover art and more and while sometimes this does throw off the formatting a little bit, this is a case where the content more than makes up for it. Highly recommended.
Bronson's Loose has been published by iUniverse with a suggested retail price of $15.95. The book can be ordered from Amazon here, and for more information please refer to the iUniverse website here!
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