• Mechanic, The (Twilight Time)

    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: June, 2014.
    Director: Michael Winner
    Cast: Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent, Jill Ireland, Keenan Wynne
    Year: 1972
    Purchase From Screen Archives Entertainment

    The Movie:

    The second collaboration between director Michael Winner and leading man Charles Bronson (made after their first work together, Chato’s Land, shot less than a year before), 1972’s The Mechanic is a minor masterpiece of modestly budgeted seventies action and suspense. The first fifteen minutes of the film follow a hitman named Arthur Bishop (Bronson) as he methodically researches his target. Bishop’s modus operandi is to make his hits look like accidents and he’s the best at what he does. When the assassination goes off without a hitch, he heads back to his home and it’s in these scenes that we realize how truly unhappy he is. While he’s got more money than he knows what to do with and enjoys the finer things in life like good wine and the company of a beautiful high class call girl (played by Bronson’s wife, Jill Ireland), there’s sadness and emptiness to his existence, the kind that not even the prescription pills he pops can fill.

    Things change for Arthur when he gets his next assignment – an acquaintance of his named ‘Big’ Harry McKenna (Keenan Wynne). Arthur doesn’t really want to kill Harry but he knows that he has to do what he has to do and after he takes the older man out in his own inimitable style, he winds up befriending, awkwardly at first, Harry’s twenty-something son Steve (Jan-Michael Vincent). They bond in strange ways. After Arthur gives Steve a ride home from his father’s funeral he accompanies him to a girlfriend’s house where the girl in question, Louise (Linda Ridgeway), slits her wrists in order to get Steve to prove her love to him. Arthur and Steve sit there, calm as can be, and watch her bleed out as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening. It’s here that Arthur sees that Steve has what it takes and before you know it, he’s taken the younger man on as his apprentice. After all, Arthur isn’t getting any younger. Of course, nothing is at it seems and soon enough their dynamic starts to shift.

    Tightly scripted and giving the principals just enough dialogue to work, The Mechanic is, in one word, efficient. Bronson excelled at playing men of few words and his role here suits his style quite well. Although there are scenes of extended dialogue between Bronson and Vincent as well as Bronson and Wynn, he plays his character as a guarded, private individual. Much of this is a requirement of his profession, of course, but just as much of it would seem to stem back to the sadness that follows him. When he meets Steve and they find their common ground, kindred spirits so to speak, it makes sense that he would take him on board and become a father figure to him. While it’s true that Arthur quite literally took Steve’s flesh and blood father from him in the first place, Bishop does this not out of guilt but out of a sense of camaraderie and companionship. This gives the teacher/student dynamic explored in earlier, similar films like Death Rides A Horse (where Lee Van Cleef plays teacher to John Philip Law’s student) its own unique identity.

    At the same time, this is an action film and so it requires a certain amount of excitement and tension to compliment the more dramatic aspects of the story. The film delivers here, with not only the incredibly tense, noirish opening scene but a couple of skillfully directed assassination sequences, a thrilling dirt bike chase through the Hollywood hills and an over the top but wholly enjoyable chase through rural Italy towards the end. Though the picture is rated PG, it heads into some fairly grim territory. The violence is never particularly explicit but it is fairly realistic and handled well. The influence of the insanely successful James Bond films made around the same time would seem to have made its way into the film in the way that some of these action scenes are handled, particularly that one that takes place in Italy where two men with pump action shot guns are able to take out a small army of men with machine guns but regardless of the film’s discarding of realism here, it works.

    Ultimately there are more action packed and explosive pictures than this out there, plenty of them as a matter of fact, but few films are able to capitalize on their lead’s natural presence the way The Mechanic does with Bronson. Vincent is very good here too, handsome and charming long before he’s fall into a bottle and ruin his career but Bronson’s work in this picture is nothing short of iconic.


    The Mechanic arrives on Blu-ray from Twilight Time in its original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The transfer on this Blu-ray disc leave the previous MGM DVD release (which looked fine for its time) in the dust. Detail is quite strong not just in those close ups of Bronson’s weathered face but in medium and long distance shots as well – you’ll notice this when Keenan Wynne is running along the coast. Colors are reproduced very nicely here, from the bright reds of Vincent’s car to the greens of the plants in Bronson’s pad, while black levels remain solid and strong. The bit rate on the disc is pretty high and there are no issues with compression artifacts to note while a natural looking amount of film grain would seem to indicate that the transfer is free of any overzealous noise reduction. There’s a bit of minor print damage here and there are one or two shots that look just a bit soft but overall this film translates to high definition very nicely.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD Mono track with optional closed captioning provided in English only. There’s decent depth here for an older single channel mix and the lossless mix helps to open up the film’s score quite nicely. Sound effects have decent bang to them and the explosions are more powerful than you might expect while dialogue remains clear, clean and easily discernable. There aren’t any issues with any audible hiss or distortion and all in all, things sound just fine.

    The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with the film’s cinematographer Richard H. Kline moderated by film historian Nick Redman, who fondly recalls seeing the movie first run when he was quite young. Kline discusses some of the technique behind his work on the picture, pointing out that the scenes that take place in Italy were not his work but elaborating on how some of the action and stunt sequences were put together. He also shares some stories about Winner and the others he worked with on this picture, discusses with Redman some of what works and doesn’t quite work so perfectly about the film and of course, his thoughts on the film’s infamous (and brilliant) finale.

    Aside from that, the disc also includes the film’s original theatrical trailer, an MGM 90th Anniversary promo spot, Jerry Fielding’s isolated score in DTS-HD, static menus and chapter selection. Inside the keepcase is a booklet of liner notes by Julie Kirgo that make some interesting points about the film and not some of the serious revisions that it went through before we got to the version that we see on this disc. It’s a good essay complimented by a selection of archival photographs and poster artwork.

    The Final Word:

    The Mechanic is a great movie, a lean exercise in tension, suspense and seventies tough guy posturing the way that only Bronson and Winner could do it. The performances are strong, the camerawork is excellent and the score compliments all of this beautifully. Twilight Time’s new Blu-ray release offers up a couple of decent extras but more importantly gives the film an impressive high definition presentation that really does justice to this fantastic picture.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      I love this movie but don't know if I love it enough to spend $30 for it.
    1. sukebanboy's Avatar
      sukebanboy -
      Come on Gary...It's Charlie B and Jan Michael V......It's worth at LEAST $30!!
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      Attachment 23422

      Has anybody seen this? I'm looking for a viable option and not dropping over $100 for this movie. Thanks.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Gary, the transfer looks almost the same. German has lossy audio, TT has lossless. German has only trailers for extras, TT has a very good commentary. Still, big price difference.

      Good comparison here: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film3/blu-r...ic_blu-ray.htm
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      Thanks, Ian. I'll probably grab it.