In addition to my daily film watching regimen, I have been going through the episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” in chronological order which is going to take some time since there are nearly 400 episodes. Hitchcock was a great discoverer of new talent and a lot of young actors got their start on the show. I was surprised to see a very young and very good Charles Bronson in one of the episodes, playing a hardened criminal who tries to cheat an old lady out of her money and winds up being tricked himself. I realized that while I have seen many Clint Eastwood films, I have yet to see single one with Charles Bronson, a situation I thought had to be remedied sooner rather than later.
Death Wish was a huge hit and sparked something like 58 sequels, OK, actually 4, but at least one too many. It is certainly a good document of its times, and Bronson is perfectly cast as the initially reluctant vigilante, who goes on a business trip to Tuscon, Arizona after his wife is killed by burglars and comes back infused with the Wild West spirit. There is also the appropriately funky score by Herbie Hancock. But it is hard to say how much of its success was based on its being a good film and how much of it was due to the fact that it clearly touched a nerve with audiences who were, like Bronson’s character, dealing with rising crime rates in the ’70s. The writing is a bit ham-fisted at times and the non-Bronson acting live a bit to be desired, making me think the success had a lot to do with exploiting the newspaper headlines of the day. That social relevance of the first film was something that less relevant as the series continued and quickly became formulaic and crime rates started to go down. I do wonder if Bernard Goetz saw this film as a young man and was shaped by it.