• Vigilante (Blue Underground) 4k UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: December 15th, 2020.
    Director: William Lustig
    Cast: Robert Forster, Fred Williamson, Joe Spinell, Richard Bright, Don Blakely, Joseph Carberry, Willie Colon, Woody Strode, Carol Lynley, Rutanya Alda, Steve James
    Year: 1983
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    Vigilante – Movie Review:

    William Lustig’s second mainstream feature film, shot a few years after the success of Maniac (and more than a few years after his two XXX films under the alias Billy Bagg – The Violation Of Claudie and Hot Honey) follows a blue collar worked named Eddie Marino (Robert Forster in a role originally intended for Tony Musante) who works in Queens, New York where crime seems rampant. When his wife (Rutanya Alda) speaks up against a gang’s assault on a gas station attendant she is later assaulted while Eddie is at work. Their young son is murdered and she’s left fighting for her life in the hospital. When the cops (lead by Steve James) bring in the culprit, Eddie understandably speaks up at the sentencing, despite the best efforts of his attorney (Carol Lynley). Thanks to the work of a sleazy lawyer (Joe Spinell), the judge (Vincent Beck) lets him off and winds up giving Eddie a nice two month stint in the slammer where he’s almost raped but for the intervention of a kindly older prisoner (Woody Strode).

    This chain of events leads Eddie to talk to his friends, Nick (Fred Williamson), Quinn (Henry Judd Baker) and Burke (Richard Bright) about their vigilante activities. Having long since grown tired of the rampant crime in their neighborhood, Nick and his pals have been cruising the streets and taking the law into their own hands. Having now found himself a victim of the broken legal system, Eddie decides that their way is the only one that will work and so he takes up arms against those who murdered his son and sets out to exact the justice he knows he deserves.

    Shot on location throughout the industrial parts of Queens and Brooklyn, Vigilante does a great job of capturing the grit and grime of early eighties New York City and using it to its full advantage. Lustig (who has a brief cameo in the film – watch for him exiting the elevator in the court room) has made a film that puts you smack dab in the middle of a world where criminals are all too happy to prey on the innocent, where lawyers are on the take, where judges don’t care about justice and where a sorely understaffed and overworked police department can only do so much. By doing all of this, the film gives Eddie Marino every reason to want to join up with Nick and do something about the situation, because it forces us to realize that if they don’t do anything about it, nobody else will and that if that is the case the problem will only continue to get worse. The film makes no qualms about its political leanings, rallying behind its message that bullets solve problems better than lawyers do. It’s only too happy to exploit the popularity of the vigilante/revenge genre popular in the day it was made thanks to Death Wish and the various knock-offs it inspired.

    Performance wise, Forster is great in the lead. He’s completely sympathetic and very believable in his part and you wind up really feeling for him, particularly once he tries to get justice through the courts only to wind up in prison himself. Williamson plays his usual cocky, tough guy self and he does it well. His commanding screen presence makes his scenes a lot of fun and you couldn’t cast a better player than he to ‘take no shit.’ A fun supporting performance from the eternally sleazy Spinell as the defense attorney is memorable and solid turns from both Henry Judd Baker (he of Short Eyes fame) and Richard Bright (of The Godfather II) as Nick’s henchmen round out the cast nicely.

    Tightly paced, appropriately violent and full of early eighties atmosphere, Vigilante isn’t the deepest picture ever made but it sure is well cast and plenty entertaining. A great cast of actors really help this one rise above the crop of Death Wish imitations and stand on its own two feet, while Lustig’s knack for set pieces and gritty atmosphere ensure that the movie looks good and flows really well.

    Vigilante – Blu-ray Review:

    Vigilante arrives on UHD from Blue Underground on a 100GB disc in a 4k transfer of the original 35mm negative framed at 2.40.1 widescreen in an HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p with HDR and Dolby Vision enhancement. The last Blu-ray release looked pretty solid, but this reissue is a pretty massive improvement. Colors are vastly improved over that older release, which now looks rather flat by comparison with flesh tones appearing a tad yellowish by comparison. There does appear to be a bit of a teal push in some of the outdoor scenes, but it isn’t overpowering. There’s also considerably more noticeable depth to the film than we’ve ever seen on disc before, with those outdoor nighttime scenes showing much better shadow detail than before. Skin tones look perfect, black levels are spot on, and the image, thankfully, always looks like film, showing no problems with any visible edge enhancement or noise reduction ,retaining the natural film grain you’d want but showing no real print damage to speak of. The picture is also nice and clean, there’s no real print damage here at all, just the expected amount of natural looking film grain.

    New to this UHD release is a Dolby Atmos track in English that, like the other Blue Underground Atmos offerings on their UHD releases, stays pretty true to the movie’s mono roots while still managing to spread the score and occasional effects into the surround channels to nice effect. This happens not just in the more action intensive scenes, but in the quieter moments as well. Purists will, of course, prefer the mono option but this Atmos mix features excellent depth and some impressive range as well. There are no problems with any audible hiss or distortion. It’s perfectly balanced and it sounds great.

    Carried over from the Blu-ray release are English language options provided in 24-bit 5.1 DTS-HD and 16-bit 2.0 DTS-HD and Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks in German, Italian and French. As far as subtitles go, we get English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese options.

    New to this release is an audio commentary with Film Historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson. It's a very conversational track, like a lot of their work together, and they cover a lot of ground noting how great Williamson's speech is at the beginning of them film and then going on to discuss Lustig's own Magnum company, the quality of the Chattaway soundtrack for the movie and how it's a shame that it's never been released, real life crimes that have some parallels to the film and how real life crimes have had a tendency to influence feature films as well as lots of details about the different actors that populate the picture including Williamson, Forster and the supporting players. They also cover the film's release history, the message of the film, director William Lustig's life and career, Joe Spinell's appearance in the film, the quality of Forster's performance, Woody Strode's cameo, the frequent use of very dark cinematography and plenty more.

    Blue Underground has carried over the two existing commentary tracks for this release as wel, the first with Lustig in which he is joined by Williamson, Forster and Frank Pece, and the second in which he teams up with co-producer Anthony W. Garroni. Both tracks are pretty interesting, as they touch on Lustig’s American and Italian influences in regards to the inspiration for this picture as well as the cast, the location shooting, the stunts and more.

    There are also a few new featurettes starting with the twenty-five-minute Blue Collar Death Wish which is made up of interviews with writer Richard Vetere, actress Rutanya Alda, associate producer/first A.D./actor Randy Jurgensen, director William Lustig, Frank Pesce and Robert Forster. There's talk here about how Lustig came to Vetere to write the script, the influence of the crime wave and drug problems that were hitting New York at the time influenced things, how cathartic it was for Vetere to write the script, Lustig's influence on the screenplay, Jurgensen's own work as a police officer and hsi connections to The French Connection and how he came to work with Lustig, shooting the action reel to use to raise money for the film, casting the film, how much everyone loved working with Forster, how Willie Colon had a seconed life as the 'Salsa King Of New York,' Spinell's ability to smoke weed in front of cops during the shoot, some of the challenges of doing an independent low budget shoot with no permits, shooting the car chase in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, the film's theatrical premiere and plenty more. It's pretty interesting stuff.

    The second new featurette on the disc is Urban Western, an interview with Composer Jay Chattaway that lasts for twenty-five-minutes. Here he covers the influence of getting to see Henry Mancini conduct live in his younger days and then later befriending him, getting his start writing music for navy training films, working his way up the ladder in the industry, connecting with Bill Lustig and composing the score for Maniac and the use of Dolby technology for that picture and then working with him on Vigilante. He talks about the importance of the psychology of the film and the score, how Lustig would give him so much freedom on their work together, suggestions that Lustig made during their work together on the movie, the influence of Leone's western scores on his work, using almost a full orchestra for the score and more.

    Rounding out the extras are seven different theatrical trailers, four TV spots, a radio spot, a promotional reel, some poster and still galleries, menus and chapter selection options.

    As to the physical extras, as this is a combo pack release we also get a standard Blu-ray edition of the movie taken from the same new restoration. Additionally, inside the clear keepcase is a full color collectible booklet with new essay by Michael Gingold entitled ‘Doing Justice To Vigilante’ as well as credits for the feature, a chapter listing and a nice dedication to the late Robert Forster, who passed away in 2019. We also get some very cool reversible cover sleeve art and, for the first pressing, a limited edition 3-D lenticular slipcover.

    Vigilante – The Final Word:

    Gritty, fast paced, exciting and really well acted from a terrific cast, Vigilante is a great slice of early eighties action movie fun and Blue Underground’s UHD debut continues their trend of terrific 4k transfers that, when combined with a nice selection of extras old and new, makes this an excellent package for fans of the film.

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

    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Didn't even realize this was coming out. Bring on Night of the Juggler, next!
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      Don't want to be a pedant, but 'Eddie Romero' made me laugh!
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Oops. Would have been a very different movie! Fixed it.
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      I would like to watch more Robert Forster movies from this era.
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alison Jane View Post
      I would like to watch more Robert Forster movies from this era.
      Check out WALKING THE EDGE (1985). It's Robert Forster, Joes Spinell and Nancy Kwan (and A. Martinez!). Robert Forster plays a taxi driver who helps Nancy Kwan get revenge on a gang for murdering her husband. It has a very similar feel to VIGILANTE.

      Not a revenge film but ALIGATOR (1980) is a lot of fun. Giant aligator terrorizes the city and Bob Forster and Henry Silva try to stop it. Michael V. Gazzo plays the police chief and Sydney Lassick and Mike Mazurki show up.
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      Oh, also not a revenge film but STUNTS (1977) is a really awesome movie. Bob Forster is part of a team of stunt men working on a film who start getting knocked off one by one.
    1. Jack J's Avatar
      Jack J -
      Farck! I just bought the old bluray a couple months back.

      Anyhoo, it's a great film. It's not my fave film or anything but for some reason I've got it on exrental vhs, dvd and bluray. And I caught a 35mm screening at Jack Stevenson's cinema a couple of years ago.

      Here's an ad-mat from its original run in Denmark. At first they retitled it "Knofedt til hårde hunde" and later it was just "Shotgun". The vhs and dvd went back to the original title, VIGILANTE.

      Attachment 25973