Death Wish (1974) Poster

(1974)

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  • When three punks kill his wife and rape his daughter, New York development engineer (architect) Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) is given an assignment in Tucson, Arizona so that he can unwind and get a taste of new scenery. While there, Paul sees a mock gunfight at an Old West show in a reconstructed frontier town used as a movie set. His client, gun enthusiast Ames Jainchill (Stuart Margolin), takes him to a gun club and is duly impressed when Paul hits the bulls-eye on his first shot. When it comes time for Paul to return to NY, Ames slips him a little going-away present, a nickel-plated .32 Colt Police Positive revolver. Inspired by the vigilante justice he witnessed at the Old West show, Paul takes to the streets with his gun to do the job that the NY police aren't doing, much to the public's delight that someone is finally taking a stand against crime. Meanwhile, NYPD Lieutenant Frank Ochoa (Vincent Gardenia) tries to find the man who is doing the police department's job for them. Edit

  • The film is loosely based on the 1972 novel Death Wish by American author Brian Garfield. The novel was adapted for the movie by Hollywood screenwriter Wendell Mayes. Death Wish inspired four sequels—Death Wish II (1982) (1982), Death Wish 3 (1985) (1985), Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987) (1987), and Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994) (1994). There is also a remake, Death Wish (2018) (2017). Edit

  • No actual cause of death is given in the movie, but Joanna Kersey (Hope Lange) was hit in the head a few times, at least once with a baton, so it's reasonable to conclude that she suffered serious skull or brain trauma, possibly a subdural or epidural hematoma. Edit

  • Carol (Kathleen Tolan) had no reason to suspect that the person knocking on the door was anyone other than the delivery boy from D'Agostino's, where they had just purchased groceries and requested that they be delivered. She might have been a bit startled when she looked through the peephole to see an eye staring back at her, but her response was probably more like "What a jerk" than to suspect he was anyone but the delivery boy. Edit

  • At first, Ochoa only has Paul's name as one on a list of 14 men who live within walking distance of D'Agostino's, are war veterans, and had someone in their family recently murdered. Although Paul comes up clean when they run a background check on him, Ochoa has him followed anyway. On a day when Paul is not at home, Ochoa breaks into the apartment, where he finds some bloody gauze in the bathroom waste basket. Ochoa has Paul's blood compared to the blood found on the knife used on him in the subway, and it matches. Now Ochoa's suspicions are confirmed. However, the district attorney tells him that he doesn't want the vigilante arrested, lest the public make a martyr out of him. He wants Ochoa merely to scare him off and get him to move to another city. Edit

  • Ochoa telephones Paul anonymously and tells him that he's under police surveillance. Paul now knows that he's a suspect and that he's being watched. Ochoa then has the police rough Paul up a wee bit but release him when they find he's not carrying a gun. Edit

  • While Ochoa watches the front of his apartment building, Paul sneaks out the back and takes a cab to his office where he has stashed his gun. When Ochoa sees no activity in the apartment, he drives to Paul's office, only to find out from the guard that Paul just left. Paul goes walking along the West Side highway and is almost immediately accosted by three muggers. He shoots and kills two of them, but the third one manages to shoot Paul in the leg, then gets away after Paul collapses on the ground. When Ochoa gets a report that there's been shooting along the West Side highway, he hurries over to find that Paul has already been taken to the hospital. However, the patrolman who was first to arrive on the scene found Paul's gun. He gives it to Ochoa, and Ochoa tells him not to report it. Ochoa then goes to the hospital where Paul is getting a blood transfusion in the holding area. He makes Paul a deal. In return for throwing his gun in the river, he wants Paul to transfer to another office and get out of New York. "By sundown?", Paul replies, a slight smirk on his face. Ochoa goes out to face the reporters and inform them that Paul Kersey is not the vigilante, that the vigilante is still on the streets. In the final scene, Paul arrives at Union Station in Chicago. While being greeted by a company representative, he notices a woman being harassed by three punks. Paul excuses himself in order to help the woman pick up her packages. As the three punks run away, they look back to see Paul pointing his hand like a gun at them, a big smile on his face. Edit

  • No. The three punks who killed Paul's wife and raped his daughter get off scot-free and are not seen again in the movie. Bear in mind, however, that the focus of the story is not on how a man finds and kills the punks who attacked his family but on how a man could go from being a normal, law-abiding person to taking the law into his own hands and turning into a killer himself. Edit

  • Those who have both read the book and seen the movie point out that there is a major difference between the book and the movie. The film implies that taking the law into your own hands is acceptable if you find yourself let down by the justice system (as Paul Kersey does). However, the book takes a different point of view. At first, the reader is on Paul's side; by the end of the book, the reader views him with little to no sympathy. Paul switches place with the criminals he hunts, and the criminals become the victims. The book also focuses more on the transition that causes Paul to turn from a peace-loving, bleeding-heart liberal into a violent and vengeful vigilante. There is a sequel novel, called Death Sentence (1975), also by Brian Garfield, that continues Paul's ventures after moving to Chicago. Some minor differences between the two include Paul's last name being Benjamin in the novel and Paul being an accountant in the book instead of an architect. Ochoa, a relatively minor character in the book who only gets a passing mention, becomes a major character in the film adaptation. Edit

  • In 2000, Paramount released a VHS (rated 18 by the BBFC [British Board of Film Classification]) in the UK which missed out on roughly 30 seconds of footage. The scenes which were cut out included sequences of Carol being abused. All later VHS versions as well as all later DVD releases in the UK are uncensored. Edit

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