Review: The Stone Killer

Blu-ray and DVD: The Stone Killer (1973)

Director Michael Winner once again teams up with Charles Bronson to deliver an action movie so testosterone fuelled that you’ll have grown a full beard before the end credits roll…even you ladies!

Adapted from the John Gardner novel “A Complete State of Death’, Bronson stars as Lt. Lou Torrey; a no-nonsense New York cop who is forced to hand in his gun and badge after shooting a 17 year old boy at the climax of a pursuit. He is hired by the L.A.P.D. and gets involved in a Mafia plot which intends to use Vietnam veterans as assassins to avenge a 42 year old feud.

Thematically it underplays the sense of confusion and lack of purpose that Vietnam veterans were feeling upon their return to the U.S.A. at the time, in favour of high octane action scenes and a plot that constantly flip flops between the lives of the Mafia bosses, those working for them and the cops in pursuit.

The Stone Killer has some exhilarating car chases which rank up there with some of the best, and I guarantee you’ll be skipping back at certain points to see how the hell some stunt performers got out of the way in time from those speeding vehicles (watch out for how the wheels buckle on Bronson’s car in one particular chase where he drives over a railway track…that must have hurt whoever was driving!).

Bronson gives his usual stoic and enigmatic performance, evoking memories of Dirty Harry (released 2 years previously) as a cop who shoots first and asks questions later, all the while bucking against the legal system which he believes is constraining his actions. As I mentioned in my review of Hard Times, Bronson, despite being in his 50’s at this time, is physically imposing and has a 1000 yard stare that would make most people back down.

An impressive cast which includes Martin Balsam, Jack Colvin, and Paul Koslo (who tells some great stories in one of the fantastic special features) all give great performances, which are supported by the cinematography of Richard Moore who keeps the proceedings looking suitably gritty. This grittiness is only temporarily put on hold during some of the (many) death scenes when some of the actors ‘over-egg the pudding’ in their death throes and it becomes almost farcical in a couple of them. This and the usual ‘unconvincing blood’ in no way detract through from what is otherwise a down and dirty detective movie.

While not as high profile as other Winner/Bronson collaborations such as The Mechanic and the Death Wish series of movies, The Stone Killer is definitely not to be dismissed as inferior to any of them. The twisting plot may confuse at times and a 2nd viewing is recommended to pick up on the nuances of what may have been missed the 1st time, but during its entire running time you are engaged and engrossed in the proceedings unravelling before you.

PowerHouse Films and their Indicator series of releases are to be applauded once again for not only bringing to peoples attention movies that they may otherwise not have seen, but also for presenting them with exceptional visuals and audio and accompanied by an always fascinating set of special features.

Have a razor ready for when that 5 o’clock shadow will inevitably begin to appear about 20 minutes in, and then sit back and enjoy the ride…just make sure to have your seatbelt fastened tight as Lou Torrey sure as hell drives like a maniac!

The Stone Killer will be available to buy from 26th June, 2017.

    • High Definition remaster
    • Original mono audio
    • Audio commentary by journalist and critic Nick Pinkerton
    • Mr. Blonde: Paul Koslo on ‘The Stone Killer’ (2017, 17 mins): the colourful character actor discusses his work on the film and relationship with star Charles Bronson
    • The John Player Lecture with Michael Winner (1970, 64 mins): audio recording of an interview with the director conducted by Margaret Hinxman at the National Film Theatre, London
    • Isolated score: experience Roy Budd’s original soundtrack music
    • Original theatrical trailer
    • Image gallery: on-set and production photography, and material from the personal collection of Michael Winner
    • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
    • Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Paul Talbot, author of Bronson’s Loose! The Making of the ‘Death Wish’ Films and Bronson’s Loose Again! On the Set with Charles Bronson, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and historic articles on the film
    • UK Blu-ray premiere
    • Limited Dual Format Edition of 3,000 copies

Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by PowerHouse Films.