Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Stone Killer (1973) review


 
THE STONE KILLER 1973

Charles Bronson (Lt. Lou Torrey), Martin Balsam (Al Vescari), Jack Colvin (Lionel Jumper), Paul Koslo (Alfred Langley), Norman Fell (Captain Les Daniels), David Sheiner (Guido Lorenz), Stuart Margolin (Mr. Lawrence)

Directed by Michael Winner

The Short Version: Charles Bronson's on a Winning streak with his third film for director Michael Winner. Now in 'Tough Cop' mode, Bronson makes your day in a film that punches the clock as a quasi DIRTY HARRY (1971), while working overtime as a Mafia thriller. It's a convoluted, if violent tale of mob vengeance that crams a multitude of themes and cultural variance into a 95 minute running time. Nowhere near as linear or as orthodox as Siegel's iconic 'angry cop' classic, it's still incredibly stylish and raw all at the same time. THE STONE KILLER is bloody, occasionally grotesque in its violence, and features more variance in locations than Pam Grier's costume changes in FOXY BROWN (1974). As a bonus, there's some superb dummy deaths for mannequin masochists.


New York detective Lou Torrey is transferred to LA after a chase with a teenage criminal ends in the boy's death. Once there he immediately finds himself embroiled in a hot case after arresting a former hitman named Armitage. Learning he's wanted for murder back in New York, Torrey is then assigned to extradite him back to the Big Apple. Upon his arrival, Armitage is inexplicably gunned down outside the airport. Before he was snuffed out, Armitage loosed his lips on a future hit of some significance. This bit of info leads Torrey into a complex conspiracy involving Vietnam vets and a mobsters revenge for a 42 year old vendetta known as The Night of the Sicilian Vespers.


Bronson gets Dirty in this violent cop thriller from soon-to-be DEATH WISH director, Michael Winner. Interestingly, the controversial British filmmaker had just done a Wild West version of DEATH WISH with Bronson laying down Indian law in CHATO'S LAND (1972). While that was a warm-up for the iconic, modern-day vigilante favorite, Winner next turned Bronson into a hitman with THE MECHANIC (1972).

Following up his tale of an assassin and his young apprentice, Winner does an immersive, if convoluted, imitation of Siegel's DIRTY HARRY (1971). But whereas the Eastwood classic is far more linear in its narrative, Winner's film requires your undivided attention. This is one of those movies where you want to make your snacks BEFORE you sit down to watch it. 


Based on John Gardner's book, 'A Complete State of Death', this cinematic adaptation begins on very familiar ground, with Bronson uttering Callahanian dialog while his superiors rub his excessive style the wrong way. In the book (what few details I've gathered about it), Torrey's first name is Derek, and comes from Scotland Yard. The storyline is a bit different and sleazier than its celluloid counterpart.


The plot literally thickens after ten minutes when new characters are introduced--some of whom are quickly killed off in hails of machine gun fire. At the thirty, we've got Vietnam vets, flamboyant hitmen (like MR. MAJESTYK's Paul Koslo), and Bronson as the chisel-faced cop trying to put the pieces together... just like the viewer will be doing if you're not paying close attention. And if that weren't enough, there's a hippie commune and black panthers added to the mix. Soon after, it becomes clear the heart of the film lies in a 42 year old Sicilian vendetta for a massacre that occurred in April of 1931.


With an epic number of characters to contend with, Gerald Wilson's script is a little too ambitious for a 95 minute movie. It feels a bit thin in places, especially considering it's crowded with every crime trope and social strata of the time period. Some of these feel arbitrary, and do nothing to make the film less confusing for anyone that may have ADD.


The picture, enterprising in scope as it is, could've used a bit more meat on the bones. For example, the film touches on the damage done to those who have returned from the war. The usage of 'Nam vets is integral to the storyline, but we get little insight into these men; and not much more as to why Vescari chooses them for his revenge other than referring to them as 'Stone Killers', or outsiders.

Delving into Mafia traditions and how they've regressed over the years, a little more elaboration into Vescari's disenchantment with changing syndicate customs would've given that character more weight. Played by Martin Balsam, the film revolves around his deep-seated vendetta; yet secondary villains tend to dominate the film with Balsam's Vescari popping in on occasion to remind you who the real bad guy is. One of his character's best moments is inside a church where a lies during a confessional; this leading into an ambiguous ending.


Balsam played another mob boss that same year in Alberto De Martino's outstanding IL CONSIGLIORI (COUNSELOR AT CRIME); one of many THE GODFATHER-inspired movies coming out of Italy at that time. Two years earlier, Balsam was essaying the role of a jaded policeman in Damiano Damiani's genre classic CONFESSIONS OF A POLICE CAPTAIN (1971). In 1985, Balsam would turn up in another Bronson movie, DEATH WISH 3; in that film, the two men have a grand rapport between them. Surprisingly, neither men share a scene in THE STONE KILLER.


Unlike Eastwood's Callahan, Bronson's Torrey has a somewhat better grasp on his temper. Often phlegmatic, quick-witted, and a bit philosophical, Torrey is a multi-faceted personality. Bronson himself is more or less interchangeable from his other Winner roles, yet the 1970s provided him with a far greater selection of differing roles than the 1980s did.

Despite being made so soon after Siegel's movie, Winner's pseudo-duplicate feels less like DIRTY HARRY than later Bronson coppers like the grandiosely sleazy 10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983) and MURPHY'S LAW (1986).

Prior to this movie, Bronson starred in THE VALACHI PAPERS (1972), another De Laurentiis production based on a novel, and a film that was specifically about the code of the Mob. It's recommended as well.


The action sequences are well done if few and far between during the first seventy minutes; after that, things pick up considerably, culminating in an eye-opening, vicious denouement packed with blood squibs and bodies spiraling from high altitudes. If you're a connoisseur of dummy deaths, THE STONE KILLER has some of the finest examples of mannequin abuse in all of cinema history.


Additionally, one of the film's greatest assets is the variety in locations. There's a new one seemingly every couple of minutes. Winner and his crew revel in the grime and chipped paint of urban cityscapes; the colorful, cramped environs of local dives; and even the open isolation of the desert. As complicated as the narrative can be at times, it's multitude of settings gives the picture an ambitious scope.

On a minor note, if you're a fan of the comedy series THREE'S COMPANY, two of that programs stars are in this movie--a young John Ritter and Norman Fell.

Fans of Charles Bronson and 70s crime pictures are the prime targets of THE STONE KILLER. Next to the films it emulates like DIRTY HARRY (1971), THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971) and THE GODFATHER (1972), it's fairly obscure; and that's a shame, as it's just as stylish and well-made as those movies, if a little too ambitious for its own good.

This review is representative of the Twilight Time bluray. Specs and Extras: 1080p 1.85:1; region A; isolated music track; audio commentary with Bronson biographer Paul Talbot; original theatrical trailer. Limited to 3,000.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Assorted Bits and Pieces: Hudson Horror Show XV in Poughkeepsie, NY




Welcome to prime time, bitches, it's Hudson Horror Show 15!
The Hudson Valley’s only 12 hour cult film festival, Hudson Horror Show #15, will take place on Saturday May 20th, 2017 at the South Hills Cinema 8 in Poughkeepsie, NY.  Tickets are just $38.00 in advance and going fast and only available HERE. We’ll show six movies, all off rare 35mm film prints.  

Just added to our lineup is an ultra rare screening of Frank Henenlotter’s FRANKENHOOKER!  The director of the BASKET CASE trilogy helmed this 1990 horror comedy which features as many laughs as it does thrills and stars the always hysterical James Lorinz from STREET TRASH (1987) as well as 1988 Penthouse Pet of the Year Patty Mullen.

Our buds at the world’s best home video label Vinegar Syndrome are proud to present a rare 35mm screening of SLAUGHTERHOUSE (1987)!  This late 80’s slasher is grimy and gruesome, but still so much fun.  Just missing the slasher craze by a few years, if you’ve never seen this flick before, now is your chance to see it on the big screen.

We’ll of course have the HUDSON HORROR MYSTERY MOVIE and no, this one is not a horror movie.  But just because it’s not a horror movie, doesn’t mean it’s not filled with violence and buckets of gore.  Want to see what we are playing?  You’ll have to buy a ticket and come see for yourself! 

The maniacal Jordan G from the B Movie Film Vault is out of the asylum once again and this time is sponsoring a 30th anniversary screening of THE HIDDEN (1987)!  The sci-fi horror cult classic is a true rollercoaster ride and only Jordan is crazy enough to bring it to you.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, you still get nibbled to death by the frenzy that is PIRANHA!  Joe Dante’s 1978 classic is one of the most requested titles by you, the Hudson Horror audience.  With a cast that includes Kevin McCarthy, Barbara Steele and that guy Dick Miller, PIRANHA is a movie that you will just eat up!

Lastly, but not least, we are equally looking forward to a 30th anniversary screening of one A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)!  One of the most popular entries in the famed franchise, we’ll be laughing along to Freddy’s dated puns almost as much as we are rockin’ to Dokken!

As usual, lobbies at the theater will be packed to the gills with vendors selling t-shirts, DVD’s, toys, posters and so much more.  Tickets are not needed to shop the vendor’s area, but you will need a ticket to watch the movies.  We do run the same movies at the same time in two different theater rooms, theater room#1 and theater room #6.  But theater room #6 is already sold out; we have limited tickets left for theater room #1, so grab your tickets now!  Special thanks to Dana Zheng for the kickass poster design.  Check out her work HERE and HERE.

Again, tickets are on sale now at HUDSON HORROR SHOW.COM. Get them before they're gone! And we'll see you on May 20th in Poughkeepsie for Hudson Horror Show 15!
 
Related Posts with Thumbnails

ShareThis

copyright 2013. All text is the property of coolasscinema.com and should not be reproduced in whole, or in part, without permission from the author. All images, unless otherwise noted, are the property of their respective copyright owners.