Release Date(s)1982 (December 15, 2020)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: A
After his first film Maniac drew an enormous amount of controversy, William Lustig’s follow-up, Vigilante (aka Street Gang), was a milder but no less gritty story that came and went in March of 1983 (initially premiering at the Cannes Film Festival the year prior). Essentially Death Wish with Italian influences, the film was shot on location in around various areas of New York and highlights the down-to-earth working man having to deal with tragedy and fighting back against those who’ve wronged him. A promotional reel, which features Fred Williamson delivering an impassioned speech about taking back the streets, was shot and shown to potential investors, eventually winding up in the final film. Even so, it did not have a large budget, but wound up with an interesting cast, including the aforementioned Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, Robert Forster (who took the role when Lustig backed out of casting The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’s Tony Musante over creative differences), Rutanya Alda, Woody Strode, Carol Lynley, Willie Colon, Joe Spinell, and Frank Pesce. The final product is effective entertainment that wasn’t a success upon release, but is now seen as one of William Lustig’s best efforts.
The streets of New York are a haven for crime and corruption, the likes of which have never been seen before. People are afraid to go out at night as multiple robberies, rapes, and homicides are occuring daily. Family man Eddie (Forster) works at a factory with Nick (Williamson), Burke (Richard Bright), and Ramon (Joseph Carberry), soon discovering that they are secret vigilantes, hitting the streets during off hours and hunting down criminal lowlifes, including a small time drug pusher (Pesce). One day Eddie’s wife Vickie (Rutanya Alda) has an altercation with a gang of criminals, lead by Rico (Colon), hunting her down and viciously assaulting her and their young son. Though Nick offers Eddie a spot on his team, he instead ventures to have Rico prosecuted with the help of a sympathetic attorney (Lynley), but becomes enraged when the crooked Judge Sinclair (Vincent Beck) and Rico’s lawyer Eisenberg (Spinell) are bribed and allow Rico to go free. Sent to jail for contempt for thirty days after attacking the judge and later befriending a man in prison named Rake (Strode), Eddie is eventually set loose and immediately joins Nick’s team, hell-bent on hunting down the entire gang and carrying out his revenge.
Vigilante was shot photochemically on 35 mm film, using Panavision cameras and anamorphic lenses, and was finished on film with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The Ultra HD presentation is sourced from a native 4K 16-bit scan and restoration of the original camera negative and was graded for HDR (Dolby Vision and HDR10 options are available). The results are stunning. Clarity and detail are impeccable in every frame, even darker areas where inherent crush during night scenes still manages to reveal subtle nuances in the original photography. A nearly flawless grain structure is in place with deep, inky blacks and excellent contrast. The color palette offers an array of city-bound hues, from the reds, greens, and blues of clothing, cars, and graffiti, to the browns, tans, and greys of buildings, sidewalks, and pavement. Skin tones are perfect and the level of detail seen in close-ups and medium shots is sharp and precise. The HDR pass really brings out the depth in the image, capturing the look of early 1980s 35 mm with bravado. It’s highly organic and natural in appearance, but also stable and clean—and doubtful that it could ever look any better. Outstanding.
The audio is presented in English Dolby Atmos (7.1 TrueHD compatible), English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, and French, Italian, and German 2.0 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The Atmos track is restrained, adding height and additional movement without totally reworking the original sound design. A random moment of a subway train passing by offscreen moves naturally from speaker to speaker, while ambient activity, particularly in elevators, on city streets, and in the courtroom, adds further dimension. Puncuated moments of gunfire and explosions fill the surrounding speakers dutifully, as does Jay Chattaway’s fabulous hard rock, synth-driven score. Dialogue exchanges are also clear and precise. The 5.1 and 2.0 options are also ideal, but the Atmos track is the cream of the crop.
Also included is a Blu-ray of the film in 1080p utilizing the same 4K restoration. Both discs feature the following extras, all in HD:
- Audio Commentary with William Lustig and Andrew Garroni
- Audio Commentary with William Lustig, Fred Williamson, Frank Pesce, and Robert Forster
- Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson
- Blue Collar Death Wish (24:42)
- Urban Western (25:08)
- US Trailer (1:40)
- International Trailer (1:52)
- British Trailer #1 (1:54)
- British Trailer #2 (2:13)
- German Trailer (1:49)
- Italian Trailer (3:22)
- French Trailer (1:48)
- TV Spot #1 (0:32)
- TV Spot #2 (0:33)
- TV Spot #3 (0:32)
- TV Spot #4 (0:12)
- Radio Spot (0:34)
- Promotional Reel (3:14)
- Poster & Still Gallery #1 (111 in all – 111:06)
- Poster & Still Gallery #2 (34 in all – 3:51)
The first audio commentary with co-producer/director William Lustig and co-producer Andrew Garroni is mostly a technical discussion about how the film was made, specifically covering the ins and outs of making a film with very little budget and how it’s accomplished. Both men also speak highly of many members of the cast and crew, occasionally sharing stories about on and off set troubles, and other fascinating trivialities. The second audio commentary with William Lustig and actors Robert Forster, Fred Williamson, and Frank Pesce is more of a lighthearted discussion between the four as they discuss their experiences making the film together. The third and newest audio commentary features film historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson discussing the film and the era it was made in, particularly in comparison with other similar films being released at the time with sometimes more and sometimes less aggressive content.
Blue Collar Death Wish is a new making-of featurette from Samuelson Studios containing interviews with writer Richard Vetere, associate producer/first assistant director/actor Randy Jurgensen, actors Rutanya Alda, Frank Pesce, Robert Forster, and director William Lustig. Urban Western features an intervew with composer Jay Chattaway who discusses his history, his career, and his work with Lustig. The Promotional Reel is unofficially the first footage shot for the film, which was originally made to generate interest in foreign pre-sales, and was later worked into the final film. The first still gallery contains a total of 111 stills featuring posters, newspaper clippings, lobby cards, behind-the-scenes photos, and premiere photos. The second still gallery, which dates back to the 1995 Laserdisc release, features a total of 34 stills, many similar to others in the previous gallery, but also a few unique behind-the-scenes photos. Also included is a 20-page insert booklet featuring cast and crew information, various stills, Doing Justice to Vigilante by Michael Gingold, a Robert Forster dedication, and a chapter selection. All of this is housed in a clear amaray case with reversible artwork, one side with new artwork and the other with the original poster art. This sits inside a Limited Edition lenticular slipcover. Unfortunately, a soundtrack CD of Jay Chattaway’s score could not be made available with this release like previous Blue Underground titles since the original master tapes are currently lost. More’s the pity.
All of Blue Underground’s UHD releases are must-owns for genre fans, and Vigilante is no exception, breathing new life into the film for a further appreciation of it. This release bests all previous home video editions with a stellar A/V presentation and a satisying extras package. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons