Kersey uses the alias "Paul Kimble" in this film. He also used the pseudonymous surname of "Kimble" in Death Wish II (1982) and in Death Wish 3 (1985). (Though according to the book 'Bronson's Loose' by Paul Tablot, Death Wish 4 was intended as a direct sequel to Death Wish II, in the end the only reference to Death Wish II occurs in Kersey's reuse of the name Kimble as an alias, the references of his vigilantism after the death of his daughter, and his residence in Los Angeles.)
The studio, Cannon, wanted a more muscular sounding score for the action scenes and decided to re-use much of the music from their past action efforts Missing in Action (1984) and Invasion U.S.A. (1985).
Gail Morgan Hickman re-wrote the entire script while filming. Charles Bronson constantly had problems with the dialog and he requested further rewrites of certain items of dialogue and action scenes. Hickman recalled going through several rewrites on a daily basis.
This movie utilizes a storyline similar to that used in the classic Akira Kurosawa film Yojimbo (1961). 'RetroJunk' writes that Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey "methodically eliminates gang members, first from one side and then the other, until one gang's paranoia about the other gang causes the two competitors to engage in a major confrontation that impacts both groups."
Media Home Entertainment released the film on video in April 1988, having agreed with Cannon to a 2 million dollars advance. Over 100,000 cassettes were sold to rental stores. It was the best selling entry of the series in the video market.
The release of this movie represented the shortest window between 'Death Wish' movie sequels. It was only about two years after Death Wish 3 (1985) whereas the third picture followed about three years after Death Wish II (1982) which had followed the original Death Wish (1974) after about eight years. Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994) was then not made for about another seven years.
An earlier draft had Paul living in LA with a new girlfriend. She was subsequently murdered by crooks. Paul, fighting the urge to return to his vigilante ways, captures the crooks and hands them over to the police, but when the crooks walk on a technicality, Paul becomes the vigilante once more, and hunts them down. One by one. Cannon felt this take on the series was too cerebral and didn't feature enough action. Ultimately, a more conventional storyline was chosen.
Gail Morgan Hickman wrote three different script for the film. The first featured Paul Kersey struggling with a crisis of conscience and trying to reconnect with Geri Nichols from Death Wish II (1982). It was rejected because Jill Ireland faced her own struggle with breast cancer and was unwilling to reprise her role. The second had Kersey going after an international terrorist, and was rejected due to another upcoming film, Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987). The final script had the premise of Kersey playing two gangs against each other. Hickman was influenced by the use of this premise in the films Yojimbo (1961) and A Fistful of Dollars (1964).
Gail Morgan Hickman toyed with the idea of giving Kersey a surrogate son called Eric, to avoid repetition in having the character lose another daughter. He changed his mind and turned Eric to Erica, because he felt that the death of a girl would be a stronger echo to the original loss in Kersey's life. Hickman was also the father of a daughter and could better understand the trauma of losing a girl.
First 'Death Wish' movie to have a subtitle as part of its film title. The next and final sequel also had one: Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994). An intended but unfilmed sixth movie was also to have a subtitle: 'Death Wish 6: The New Vigilante'. The first three movies did not have a title subtitle.
This movie was the second of two pictures starring Charles Bronson that were released during 1987. This film was first released in the USA in November of that year whilst Bronson's Assassination (1987) was released stateside earlier, at the beginning in January.
Cannon Films announced the film in 1986, estimating that it would be ready for release by Spring 1987. However, the film company was by this point facing financial problems. Its greatest box office hit was still Missing in Action (1984) with 38 million dollars domestic gross. Cannon had lost money through box office flops such as Pirates (1986). Consequently, they tightened the budgets of upcoming films to under 5 million dollars per film.
Principal photography for Death Wish 4 was originally scheduled to begin on 5 January 1987. However, the start was delayed to an unspecified date in March 1987. Filming did not begin in March, either. The delay was due to a stipulation in a line of credit agreement which prohibited the Cannon Group, Inc. from having more than two movies in principal photography at the same time. Warner Communications Inc. had guaranteed a $25 million line of credit for the financially troubled Cannon Group in December 1986.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The only 'Death Wish' sequel in which Paul Kersey does not revert to vigilantism due to an act of violence against a loved one. Erica (Kersey's girlfriend's daughter whose death motivates him to renew his sudden justice) died of a crack overdose from narcotics taken completely willingly. Technically, she did not get murdered and certainly did not get raped.