A look back: original ads, reviews and articles on
Charles Bronson's personal Neighborhood Watch program
New York City in the '70s was indeed a mess, full of crime, poor leadership and low quality of life. Some great movies emerged through the turmoil however such as "Taxi Driver," "The Warriors," "Mean Streets," The Taking of Pelham 123," "Saturday Night Fever" and others. Even the comedy "Law and Disorder" from 1974 depicted a grimy, sleazy New York where citizens had enough and were fighting back.
Always on the list of the greatest New York City films and usually right near the top is the 1974 Charles Bronson classic "Death Wish." Often called an "urban fantasy," perhaps the film struck a chord because this was a fantasy that could become reality. (More on that a little later.) Popular macho screen star Bronson as Paul Kersey portrayed the pissed off but composed citizen who has had enough to perfection, after his wife was killed and daughter assaulted by a trio of home invaders (who, of course, included a young and hungry Jeff Goldblum).
Jughead, a Turbo AC and Juan Epstein's cousin plotting their crime.
Relaxing after a job well done.
The movie was controversial right off the bat, and of course had to have begun somewhere. Here are a couple of book reviews for "Death Wish." Notice how one reviewer who doesn't like the premise of the book much felt inclined to even give the ending away. Notice some of the differences from the film, such as Paul's different last name, and occupation. (Click articles to read in larger mode.)
A few brief "Death Wish" news pieces from 1973. Notice how in the first, it says Faye Dunaway is in the movie, most likely in the role of Kersey's wife, which eventually went to Hope Lange. And new actor Raymond Serra, despite the news that he landed a part in the film, didn't appear in "Death Wish" after all (unless his scene was cut), not even in a uncredited role, like many of the other actors in the movie.
"Death Wish" premieres and of course is an instant hit. (Click for larger versions.)
While many ads initially touted quotes from reviewers, later on many ads would simply state of Kersey, "Vigilante, city style - judge, jury, and executioner."
As much as the public loved the film, of course you have movie critics, many who also loved it, and many who didn't think too much of it, often going negative on the premise.
Back at home, the New York Daily News gave the film three stars (only three?), and the always controversial himself Rex Reed gives a lengthy write-up. As much as he likes the film, did he have to give the ending away two days after release? Click for larger versions to read.
Some more articles.
Some more reviews and general articles on the controversial film. The "Closeup" from the Philadelphia Inquirer is particularly interesting because it basically is saying the movie is racist. The short blurb ever states "He's white. The muggers are black." Anyone who has seen the film knows that Paul Kersey is definitely an equal opportunity vigilante, clearly shooting muggers who obviously were not black. This even harkens to a party scene in the film, where a white man claims the vigilante is racist because he kills more black muggers than white ones.
Some more articles, including a fascinating Bronson interview, plus a 1976 interview with the author of the Death Wish novel and what he feels about the film. Click for larger!
Some fun ads -- the Gopher is playing "Cold Sweat" from four years earlier, but you can still catch the new Bronson in "Death Wish" at other movie houses. The Chief has special prices for the younger ones, only $1.00 for a child, just in case you want to take the family out for a Bronson evening. At the Edina, you get one Bronson, but at the nearby Mann you get two! And the McMorran Place Theatre seems to have a disclaimer just in case anyone watches the movie and gets any bright ideas. They also have a $1.00 kiddie rate for some vigilante fun.
Some more interesting articles. The third is in three parts, click on each part for the large version.
Countless people witnessed their "vigilante" fantasy in "Death Wish," but the fantasy became reality when perhaps the city's most infamous vigilante, Bernhard Goetz, shot four teens on a subway train as they attempted to mug him on December 22, 1984. Goetz, a victim of a mugging prior, still resonates with the citizens of NYC nearly forty years later. From the New York Daily News, this is the very first newspaper cover and very first article on "The Subway Gunman," who would dominate covers, headlines and the national psyche for a long time to come.
Thanks very much for reading this look at "Death Wish," we'll be doing many more films and actors soon, always showing rare newspaper stories and movie ads, because the best reading is reading as it happened. - SF77
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