USA, 1981, Peter Hunt

Charles Bronson (RIP) is my favourite action star of all time. His stone face and dry delivery made for one of the most badass everyman action heroes going around. Whether it be war classics, westerns or sleazy 1980’s crime vehicles, Bronson was badass through and through. Even in that scene where he cries in The Great Escape – still badass. Today I had the pleasure of watching a true Bronson classic from 1981, Death Hunt. When I say, pleasure, I mean the movie was a pleasure, the DVD from Beyond Home Entertainment that I watched, unfortunately, was not. It came in a triple pack with two other classics, Mr Majestyk and The Mechanic, for the very cheap price of 9 bucks AUD. A bargain, I thought. but I guess it is that old case of “pay peanuts, get monkeys”, because when I put the Death Hunt DVD in my Pioneer DVD player that plays everything, and I mean everything (from burnt discs to files, to things I didn’t even know were playable), it did not even register as a DVD. After a few ejects and re-tries I decided to try it in my laptop. It worked, but not without also ejecting and re-inserting. So then I tried it in my blu-ray player. Success! Worked the first time and it worked fairly well. The print was adequate, well not quite but I want to keep the whinging minimal and I was content to ignore the occasional moments of jerkiness during scenes where the camera would pan. But what was unforgivable was that in the final moments of the movie, literally the last chapter on the DVD, it froze. Lee Marvin is approaching Charles Bronson to meet for their final face off and the bloody thing freezes. I go through all the usual steps when a DVD freezes, still can’t get past the wide shot of Marvin crossing through the snowy clearing. Finally I put the DVD in my laptop and watch the finale in glorious miniature screen, not-HD with tinny laptop speaker sound. And still with small skips in the moments of Marvin crossing that damn clearing. But I got to see the finale and that’s what matters I guess. It was a fitting finale to a great movie. Would’ve been great to watch those final moments on the big screen with the good sound, but whatever. Let’s leave that unpleasantness behind anyhow and I’ll tell you a bit about the movie.

Charles Bronson plays Albert Johnson, a man who really likes dogs. People: not so much. In the opening moments Johnson comes across and illegal dog fight and ends it, buying the losing, near death dog off its owner, an unpleasant man called Hazel. Hazel feels the dog is worth more than what he sold it to Johnson for and decides he wants to make Johnson’s life hell. Johnson, a gruff recluse, nurses the poor dog back to health, just in time for Hazel and his gang of criminal pals to come by his house. A gun fight between Johnson and the gang ensues, they kill his dog, he kills one of their men. And that’s when the law steps in. Disgruntled lawman, Sgt Edgar Millen, played by Lee Marvin, goes out with a posse of misfits (including Hazel’s gang) to try and arrest Johnson. Yet another shootout erupts and we find Millen chasing Johnson across the snowy wilderness.

Death Hunt features a slew of gory deaths and exciting action sequences as well as some really beautiful scenery. Charles Bronson gets far less screen time than his pursuer played by Lee Marvin, but that adds nicely to the enigmatic character he is playing, as does his typically stern performance. There are some very cool stunts, some explosions, plenty of gun play, all that stuff I love. Oh and Carl Weathers, the smiling muscleman himself, of Rocky, Predator and Action Jackson fame, plays Lee Marvin’s best pal and fellow lawman. It is a real treat to see this unlikely pair as an on screen team as they play off each others quirks.

Finally, below is the trailer. Apparently there is a blu-ray out. Hopefully it is better than this abortion of a DVD I got. Enjoy.