Death Wish II / Death Wish 3 - Double Feature [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (3rd September 2017).
The Film

“Death Wish II” (1982) / “Death Wish 3” (1985)

Brian Garfield’s novel “Death Wish” about a man who becomes a vigilante after the murder of his wife and assault on his daughter was highly controversial when it was published in 1972. Two years later, producer Dino De Laurentis along with director Michael Winner and star Charles Bronson took the story to screen in “Death Wish”, which received middling to negative reviews for its portrayal of brutal violence and misogynist views. Although there were more appraisals in later years, audiences were much more positive in 1974 with a $22 million box office intake on a $3 million budget. It became a hit on television and early videotape, which eventually led to a sequel being made nearly a decade later.

The rights moved to Cannon Films, the notorious distributors of everything from exploitation pictures to arthouse features, and obviously “Death Wish II” fell in the former category. Charles Bronson reprises his role as Paul Kersey, who is continuing his work as an architect now relocated to California. Jill Ireland plays his new girlfriend, reporter Geri Nichols who understands his past struggles with the loss of his wife and taking care of his mentally traumatized daughter Carol (played by Robin Sherwood). But after an incident where some hoodlums steal Paul’s wallet and he assaults one of the gang members to try to get it back, the gang seeks revenge by going to his house to confront the man. In the process, Paul’s housekeeper Rosario (played by Silvana Gallardo) is gang raped and killed, Paul is knocked unconscious, and his daughter is kidnapped and later found dead. The culmination of events leads him to take the law into his own hands again with vigilante justice, finishing off each of the gang members while also keeping his night life secret from the police, his work, and from Geri.

“Death Wish II” was again highly controversial and this time critics were very harsh due to the film’s rape scenes. The rape scene of housekeeper Rosario was incredibly harsh with Winner doing multiple takes and making the actors give much more in masochistic senses, which led to some of the crew members leaving the project due to the uncomfortable and demanding instructions of the director. The actors too have stated that the scene was sickening to do. Besides the controversial issue of the rape scenes, what does not work for “Death Wish II” compared to the first film is the emotional attachment. Paul losing his wife and seeing his daughter survive the horror was enough to push him over the edge. In the sequel, even though it is an incredibly traumatic moment for the housekeeper, it does not have the emotional impact close to losing a wife or another family member. As for the death of the daughter she was not murdered by the gang members but instead fell to her death. True the gang members were inadvertently the cause of her death, and Paul in his mind sees the gang as the cause the audience knows otherwise and does not have the same reaction as when she was assaulted in the first film. As for positives when Paul goes into the underworld taking on the gang members as well as other thugs and saving lives in the process it is a very satisfying result. Like his architecture, he is well planned, well equipped, and well suited for vigilante justice.

“Death Wish II” was again negatively viewed by critics and did not capture the impact of the first film, though it was a minor hit earning $16 million in the United States on an $8 million budget. In the US the film was cut to obtain an R rating with trims made to the rape scenes and the death of Carol. Even with the trims made, the criticism was harsh saying that Winner went way overboard with the violent scenes. For the international markets the uncut director’s version was released. For television the film was unusually longer than the theatrical or director’s cuts. There were some additional scenes padded out while the violence and language was censored. For many years it was legendary that a Greek VHS version contained an even longer cut of the film and it turned out to be true. The Greek company was somehow given access to a workprint version of the film which included scenes unavailable anywhere else with the violence and language intact.

Three years later in “Death Wish 3”, the roman numeral changed to the Arabic numeral and was once again a Cannon Films production directed by Michael Winner and starring Charles Bronson. This time Paul goes back to his hometown of New York to meet his Korean War veteran friend Charley (played by Francis Drake). Unfortunately the timing could not be worse as Charley is attacked and killed in his own apartment just moments before Paul arrives. The police arrest him as a suspect in the case but police inspector Shriker (played by Ed Lauter) recognizes him as the famous New York vigilante from years ago. Rather than simply letting him go, he gives a special assignment to Paul to be the eyes and ears of the corrupt and dangerous neighborhood and basically letting him loose to gun down the criminals in the area. Caught in the middle of a gang warfare, Paul stays in Charley’s old apartment with the help of the old neighbor Bennett (played by Martin Balsam). Booby traps, handguns, machine guns, rocket launchers, and more are on full display in the insane third film in the series.

It seems that people who are part of Paul Kersey’s life are asking for a… death wish as every film has its victims and Paul is out for vengeance. The third movie stretches it further to the point that the audience has no idea who Charley and most likely is just not that important. People want to see Paul gun down loads of bad guys while helping the good people. If a few cars or buildings get destroyed along the way, that is not much of a problem. The third film is more like a cartoon with silly gang members, cartoonish violence, and overall absurdity on the highest level. It is highly entertaining but nothing of major substance is here. The film was on a slightly higher $10 million budget, but only grossed $16 million in the United States which was about the same as the second film.

Bronson would return in “Death Wish 4: The Crackdown” (1987) and “Death Wish 5: The Face of Death” (1994) but both films were major flops critically and financially. The first film is a bonafide classic, the second is a disturbing and flawed followup, while the third is balls-out crazy. Bronson may be phoning it in for most part but it is highly enjoyable seeing the man get revenge on inept thugs throughout the years.

This double feature set from Umbrella Entertainment presents both “Death Wish 2” and “Death Wish 3” together in uncut form, while also presenting the theatrical, television, and extended Greek VHS versions of the second film as well.

Note the Blu-ray is a region ALL disc which can be played back on any Blu-ray player worldwide, and the DVD is a region 0 NTSC disc which can be played back on any Blu-ray and DVD player worldwide

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents both “Death Wish II” and “Death Wish 3” in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec, in the original theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio on the Blu-ray disc. “Death Wish II” looks quite good with accurate looking colors, very little damage, and being properly framed. “Death Wish 3” looks minutely weaker but colors look fair and damage is minor. Night scenes look quite good, and there is very little to complain about. Good transfers for the films are presented on the first disc.

In addition, the second disc contains the three alternate versions of “Death Wish II” on a DVD in the NTSC format. The US theatrical version is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The Greek VHS version and TV version are presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio without anamorphic enhancement. The theatrical version starts with the later MGM logo and comes from a fairly good DVD source. Colors are fair and damage is minor, but does look less than stellar compared to the uncut version on the Blu-ray. The Greek VHS version comes from a fairly poor source. Colors are extremely faded, detail is very limited, pixilation issues are all over the place, and basically looks like watching a multigeneration VHS dub. The television version also comes from an analog source but looks better than the Greek version. The picture looks clearer than the Greek release but still lacks true depth and colors look quite drab.

The runtimes are as follows:
- “Death Wish II” uncut international version - 91:55
- “Death Wish 3” - 90:35
- “Death Wish II” US theatrical version - 89:48
- “Death Wish II” Greek VHS version - 94:33
- “Death Wish II” Television version - 93:57

Audio

English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
For both films on Blu-ray and DVD come with the original mono in Dolby Digital. It is disappointing that the Blu-ray does not offer lossless audio (even though a DTS-HD Master Audio logo is on the cover), but the films sound fairly good on the Blu-ray. The sound has been remastered with fair levels on the dialogue and the music - for both films composed by the legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page - though frankly are not memorable. As for the DVD, the theatrical cut sounds on par with the Blu-ray release with good audio balance. The Greek VHS cut sounds a little washed out but is intelligible. The TV cut sounds the worst with everyone sounding muffled throughout.

There are optional English HoH subtitles available on the Blu-ray for both films in a white font. On the DVD the Greek VHS cut has burned-in Greek subtitles while the other versions have no subtitles. There is a subtitle track available on the television cut, but that will be explained more in the extras section.

Extras

DISC ONE (Blu-ray)

Notes on the uncut version of "Death Wish II" by Paul Talbot
5 text pages written by “Death Wish” expert Paul Talbot on the controversy and differences in the uncut and cut version of the second film. The text pages always appear when selecting the film to play.
in English

"Action! II" TV documentary (53:27)
This vintage television documentary narrated by actor William Katt features behind the scenes footage, interviews, and more from a variety of Cannon Films production at the time, including “Death Wish 3”, “Grace Quigley”, “Runaway Train”, “Invasion USA”, and “House”.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Cast & Crew Interviews" (100:00)
These interviews were originally conducted for the documentary "Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films". From the involvement in the films, the controversies, behind the scenes trivia and memories of the misogynistic director, there are a lot of things revealed. The interviewees are as follows:
- David Engelbach (writer, Death Wish II) (12:54)
- Robin Sherwood (actress, Death Wish II) (26:05)
- Todd Roberts (producer's son, Death Wish II) (35:07)
- Alex Winter (actor, Death Wish 3) (25:51)


"Death Wish II" Theatrical Trailer (1:57)
The original theatrical trailer is presented from a fairly good source.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Death Wish 3" Theatrical Trailer (1:37)
A cropped trailer is presented in a less than stellar transfer.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Death Wish II" TV Spot 1 (0:28)
This video sourced TV spot does look weak.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Death Wish II" TV Spot 2 (0:23)
A Sacramento, California local TV spot that is unfortunately missing the first few seconds
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Death Wish 3" TV Spot (0:29)
Another weak video sourced TV spot.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Easter Egg: "Death Wish 3: Extended and Deleted Scenes" (6:07)
The following scenes appear on an Australian VHS released by Hoyts / Polygram in the late 1980s. This version was heavily edited to reduce language and violence, but contains several scenes which are extended, alternate takes or not in the theatrical cut.It is suspected that this version was a TV edit which somehow found its way onto the rental market.
From the prison scene. Paul and Bennett’s meeting, and a few more scenes are presented from a VHS tape source. To access it, highlight the extras, scroll down to the “Death Wish 3” theatrical trailer, click left and a VHS tape will appear, press enter to view the scenes.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles


DISC TWO (DVD)

Liner Notes by Paul Talbot
- Theatrical cut (5 text pages)
- Greek VHS cut (4 text pages)
- Television cut (1 text page)

Paul Talbot also gives text information on each of the differing versions of the film.
in English

Optional English subtitle track noting differences in the television cut
Paul Talbot again gives information alongside the TV cut, noting the differences in the TV cut.
in English

“Death Wish II” has very good extras, but sadly this disc does not port over the audio commentary found on the US Shout! Factory release.
“Death Wish 3” had few extras on the non-Australian release so this disc is the clear winner in the extras front.

Packaging

The cover mistakenly states the audio on the films are in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo and the region is B/4. Correctly the audio on all versions of the films are in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and both discs are region free.
The inside artwork features the original posters for both films.

Overall

“Death Wish II” and “Death Wish 3” are true guilty pleasures as absurd and violent as they are, with Bronson giving satisfaction to blowing people away. Umbrella Entertainment went all out with giving extensive extras and digging to find many exclusive extras both vintage and new. The lossy audio track is one glaring negative point but the set comes as highly recommended.

The Film: C- Video: B Audio: B- Extras: A- Overall: B

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.