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Death Wish (1974)

 -  Crime | Drama | Thriller  -  24 July 1974 (USA)
7.0
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 21,097 users  
Reviews: 181 user | 75 critic

A New York City architect becomes a one-man vigilante squad after his wife is murdered by street punks in which he randomly goes out and kills would-be muggers on the mean streets after dark.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Steven Keats ...
William Redfield ...
...
Stephen Elliott ...
Kathleen Tolan ...
...
Fred J. Scollay ...
District Attorney (as Fred Scollay)
Chris Gampel ...
...
Edward Grover ...
Lt. Briggs (as Ed Grover)
...
Freak #1
Christopher Logan ...
Freak #2
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Storyline

Open-minded architect Paul Kersey returns to New York City from vacationing with his wife, feeling on top of the world. At the office, his cynical coworker gives him the welcome-back with a warning on the rising crime rate. But Paul, a bleeding-heart liberal, thinks of crime as being caused by poverty. However his coworker's ranting proves to be more than true when Paul's wife is killed and his daughter is raped in his own apartment. The police have no reliable leads and his overly sensitive son-in-law only exacerbates Paul's feeling of hopelessness. He is now facing the reality that the police can't be everywhere at once. Out of sympathy his boss gives him an assignment in sunny Arizona where Paul gets a taste of the Old West ideals. He returns to New York with a compromised view on muggers... Written by Don Hoffman

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

new york | gun | architect | police | arizona | See more »

Taglines:

Vigilante, city style -- Judge, Jury, and Executioner See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

24 July 1974 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Sidewalk Vigilante  »

Box Office

Budget:

$3,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Filming during production was so cold, that crew members complained of the water of their eyes freezing. These weather conditions forced them to wear face masks. See more »

Goofs

When Paul and son-in-law looks out the in-house window at the hospital we see them through the glass. In the reflection there's a barely visible large black square. When the camera dollies left the square follows, indicating that the square is there to disguise an all too recognizable camera silhouette. See more »

Quotes

Paul Kersey: Any chance of catching these men?
Lt. Briggs: There's a chance, sure.
Paul Kersey: Just a chance?
Lt. Briggs: I'd be less than honest if I gave you more hope, Mr. Kersey. In the city, that's the way it is.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Actresses Olympia Dukakis ('Cop at the Precinct') and Marcia Jean Kurtz as Marcia Jean-Kurtz ('Woman at Airport') get credited in opening credits only. There's no mention of them in the closing credits. See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Dead End (1985) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Thought-provoking 70's agit-prop that can be hard to watch
8 July 2002 | by (Bothell, Washington, Land of Rain) – See all my reviews

I recently watched "Death Wish" for the first time ever on video, having only seen edited-for-TV versions in the past. Before seeing the uncut versions, I thought the film was just an entertainingly intelligent little bit of slicked-up exploitation. Basically another take on the Dirty Harry formula--what if a peace-loving regular guy became a Dirty Harry? Even as a kid I could see that the simplistic political/social theory the film served up would only work in the self-contained, fictional world the filmmakers had created. But, that's art--a lie that tries to show truth. Well, I wouldn't say "DW" shows truth, but it does raise questions people often don't want to face. I also thought that the way Bronson's character made the transition from bleeding heart peacenik to fascist vigilante was very well written and well-played. And I don't think the story is as cut-and-dried as it seems on the surface. Near the end, Bronson's actions even seem to have driven him a bit mad, loosening his grip on reality (evidenced when he confronts the last thug and starts vacantly spouting Western cliches like they're both in "Gunfight at the OK Corral").

But (and as they say, this is a BIG BUT) I can't enjoy the uncut film because the murder of Kersey's wife and the viscous rape of his daughter is simply too repulsive to watch. Murder and rape are indeed repulsive, but for the melodrama to work, do I need to be subjected to such a graphic, in-my-face portrayal of the violence and humiliation? One that is presented like a porno snuff film?

This raises an interesting question: If violence is going to be used in a drama, should it be graphically represented to be as repulsive and foul as it really is? Or should we be spared the details?

Think about it: if all violence on TV and movies were as disgustingly graphic as in this film, violence might start to disappear from pop culture--we just wouldn't be able to take it. Instead, we as a society are constantly drowned in sanitized, videogame violence. The violent acts depicted in movies and on TV these days has no more effect on us than when a cartoon mouse drops a cartoon brick on a cartoon cat's head. Kill someone and them make a joke about it. So, even though violent acts are depicted everywhere in our popular culture, none of it seems real, thus disconnecting us from the consequences of real-life violence.

So, if we can say nothing else, we can say that the violence in "Death Wish" is "effective". It does seem real. It is repulsive.

Hence, the dichotomy: Even though I can intellectually defend the use of graphic violence in "Death Wish", that same depiction keeps me from enjoying the film. I simply can't watch it. I keep thinking: Is this representation of rape actually exciting some of the film's viewers? I feel complicit watching it. Dirty.

So, does that make the film a success, or trash? Is that strong a reaction a mark of art, or exploitation? I don't know. And I must say that this I do not ask these questions only because this is a exploitation film. I've had the same thoughts about Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange."


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