• Stone Killer, The

    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: May 9th, 2017.
    Director: Michael Winner
    Cast: Charles Bronson, Martin Balsam, Jack Colvin, Norman Fell, Paul Koslo
    Year: 1973
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Based on the novel by John Gardner, Michael Winner’s 1973 picture The Stone Killer stars Charles Bronson as a tough New York City cop named Lou Torrey. When the film opens, he’s chasing a liquor store robber through a tenement building. When the culprit opens fire on him, Torrey responds in kind and shoots him dead. Turns out that the culprit in question was seventeen years old and while it was clearly self-defense, this doesn’t look good, particularly as Torrey’s got a reputation for violent methods.

    To get some of the heat off of him, Torrey winds up being shipped off to Los Angeles for a spell. Here Torrey’s involvement in a drug bust soon finds him involved in a case wherein a mob boss named Al Vescari (Martin Balsam) hires a small army of unstable Vietnam veterans to wage war against rival mobsters as an act of revenge for an assault on his own family that took place forty years ago.

    The movie is memorable for a few reasons, not the least of which is a fantastic chase scene in which Bronson, in a car, goes after a killer on a motorcycle. This set piece takes them through various parts of Los Angeles, across and then down some railroad tracks and through some other locales and it’s fast, tense and dirty! This sequence shows just how good Winner could be at directing action set pieces when he wanted to, and it’s pretty exciting stuff. On top of that we get some quality shoot outs, including a tense one that takes place in a stairwell, a violent finish that takes us deep into a very industrial looking parking garage and some decent tough guy dialogue too.

    Bronson is in fine form here. As is typical of his performances, he plays Torrey as a man of few words. It works for his acting style, he was much more of a physical actor than a verbal one, and while he’s not asked to really emote all that much, he does the strong silent type better than almost anyone else has before or after. If his presence weren’t enough, the movie also has some interesting supporting players in it. While Martin Balsam isn’t necessarily the first guy you’d think of if casting a Sicilian mobster (he was or Russian Jewish heritage) he’s perfectly fine in the part and he has a solid screen presence. In addition to Balsam, we also get Norman Fell as one of Torrey’s superiors and a young John Ritter as a rookie cap – it’s kind of neat to see them here a few years before they’d both obviously be cast in Three’s Company. It’s also cool to see Jack Colvin, best known for playing Jack McGee in TV’s The Incredible Hulk series, as well as Paul Koslo, instantly recognizable from his turn as Dutch in The Omega Man, pop up in decent sized parts here too.

    Featuring some nice location photography in both New York City and Los Angeles and an excellent jazz-infused score composed by Roy Budd (who did scores for The Wild Geese and Get Carter to name only two), this third collaboration between Bronson and Winner (who has previously done Chato’s Land and then The Mechanic together) is one of their best – a movie where it all comes together and ninety minutes or so of rock solid entertainment.


    The Stone Killer arrives on Blu-ray from Twilight Time in its original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Detail is quite strong not just in those close ups of Bronson’s weathered face but in medium and long distance shots as well. Colors are reproduced very nicely here, from the bright reds of the blood in the aftermath of a shootout to some of the garish outfits worn by the hippies, 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. All in all, the image quality here is really solid.

    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.

    Extras start off with a brand new audio commentary courtesy of Bronson biographer Paul Talbot. If you want to know how The Stone Killer connects to Van Halen, Tod Browning’s Freaks and the Champagne Of Beers, Paul’s your man. He walks us through the film offering up a nice mix of trivia and analysis, discussing differences in plot and character development between the film and the book it was based on, sharing some information about the locations used in the film on both the east and west coasts of these United States and talking up the stunt work featured in the film and the two notable dummy deaths as well as some of the unorthodox camera angles and shot set ups that are used in the movie. Additionally, Talbot does a fine job of putting this picture in its proper context and placing it alongside other ‘tough cop’ movies made around the same time, noting similarities and differences that are quite interesting. He also makes some astute observations about Winner’s directing style, the film’s quirky score, box office results and their impact on Bronson and Winner’s careers, the different performances in the picture (especially Bronson’s) and quite a bit more. This track is well informed, genuinely interesting and occasionally quite humorous too. As such, it’s well worth listening to.

    The disc also includes the film’s original theatrical trailer, Roy Budd’s score as an isolated track in DTS-HD format, menus and chapter selection. Inside the clear Blu-ray case is an insert booklet from essayist Julie Kirgo that offers up some well thought out writing on the film’s appeal and Bronson’s work in the picture as well as some history notes on the picture’s origins.

    The Final Word:

    The Stone Killer is seriously solid vintage Bronson, a taut thriller with some great action scenes, a fine performance from its weathered tough guy leading man, a fine supporting cast, a great score and some strong direction from Winner. Twilight Time presents this unjustly maligned entry in the Bronson/Winner cannon on Blu-ray in excellent shape the an excellent audio commentary as its chief supplement.

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