Release Date(s)1982 (July 26, 2016)
Studio(s)Golan-Globus Productions/Filmways Pictures//MGM (Shout! Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C-
The original Death Wish was an unexpected hit in 1974, which came with it a bit of controversy tied to it due to the amount of sexual violence in it, as well as its portrayal of vigilantism in a favorable light. However, it only helped the film at the box office as it resonated with audiences who were feeling increasingly antagonistic towards the hostility around them and the police who they were beginning to distrust. The film also caused a major shift in Charles Bronson’s career, which ultimately lead to him not being able to shed his Paul Kersey persona, even in other films. With great reluctance, he and Michael Winner eventually reteamed for Death Wish II through Cannon Films in 1982.
After the events of the first film, in which New York citizen and architect Paul Kersey seeks gun-toting vengeance against the hoodlums who raped his wife and daughter and managed to get away with it in the process, Kersey relocates to Los Angeles to start his life over in Death Wish II. Sporting a new girlfriend on his arm and his recently-released from therapy daughter on the other, it isn’t long before history repeats itself and a group of thugs not only rape and kill his housekeeper, but also kidnap his daughter, leading to her eventual demise. Kersey hits the streets again to find them and kill them all, meanwhile trying to avoid the police in the process.
The Death Wish films have always operated on sort of a primordial level. While I personally believe they’re mostly mean-spirited in nature (which is due in no small part to the director, who seemed to have a misogynistic streak to him), they’re vicarious ventures that can result in disgust to some viewers. On the other hand, there’s something cathartic about watching someone go after those who have wronged them in such a brutal way. It’s part and parcel as to why there were no less than five films in the series, many imitators, and a remake of the original. Death Wish II was one of Michael Winner’s most controversial films due to the excessive rape scenes, but it wasn’t totally lost on the public who seemed to have an appetite for watching Bronson continue to clean up the streets.
As far as Shout! Factory’s transfer of the film, it seems to be from a previous master, as evidenced by Umbrella Entertainment’s release. Judging them side by side, they appear to be the same. The elements utilized are in fine condition with decent grain management from scene to scene and strong detail on display. The color palette isn’t all that vibrant, but again, it’s due to the grittiness of the film itself. While colors don’t really pop, skin tones are fairly natural. Black levels have some depth to them while overall brightness and contrast levels are acceptable. Shadow detail is sometimes lacking, but it’s also inherent in the original cinematography. No immediate signs of digital enhancements are present, however, minor damage is leftover, including mild speckling and telecine wobble. It’s also slightly more detail-oriented than Umbrella Entertainment release, but only by a hair. The audio is presented in the original English mono, via a DTS-HD track. Dialogue comes through clearly and audibly, while Jimmy Page’s over the top synth rock score has plenty of life to it. Sound effects do sound a little chunky and dated at times, but are well-rendered. It’s a solid presentation overall. There are also subtitles in English if necessary, as well as a few extras, including an audio commentary with author Paul Talbot; the original theatrical trailer; an animated still gallery; and a single TV spot. It’s worth noting that Umbrella Entertainment’s Region Free Blu-ray release of the film includes a number of additional extras, including multiple cuts of the film, an additional TV spot, and interviews with cast and crew.
Death Wish II’s state-side unrated Blu-ray debut is definitely a welcome arrival for its fans, who have only had the trimmed theatrical and TV versions to watch over the years. The extra material makes the film all that much more intense and brutal, but having it preserved is a good thing. While it’s a little light on the extras, the presentation of the film itself is excellent.
- Tim Salmons