July 24, 2014, - 8:54 am

40 Years Later, “Death Wish” Movie’s Message as Relevant as Ever

By Debbie Schlussel

Forty years ago today, on July 24, 1974, “Death Wish“–one of America’s most controversial and influential movies–was released. Its message–that retribution against criminals works and that armed citizens who fight back, lower the crime rate–is as relevant as ever.


Today, with powerful liberals, including billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and many Hollywood actors, trying to take away our Second Amendment rights, the message of “Death Wish” is evergreen. Detroit Police Chief James Craig gets it, as he has encouraged Detroit citizens to be armed, and the Detroit crime rate has gone down significantly with frequent reports of armed Detroiters fighting back and shooting intruders.

And “Death Wish” is relevant on the international scale, too, as Israel saw what years of doing nothing did to encourage HAMAS to continue its daily barrage of deadly rocket missiles and to ever increase their range and power. The only thing thugs–whether they are violent criminals on the U.S. streets or Islamic terrorists around the world–understand is a show of force in response to their attempted actions. As the trite saying goes, the best defense is a good offense, and the only way to have peace is to gird up and prepare for war. (Israelis get this, so it’s no coincidence that the “Death Wish” sequels were produced by the Israeli producing team Golan-Globus.)

Charles Bronson, one of my favorite actors, was a Polish-American rumored to be descended in part from the Muslim Tatars of Eastern Europe. Throughout his acting career, he had many great and classic roles. But he will forever be known for his “Death Wish” roles, for which Hollywood liberals (a redundant phrase) never forgave him and held a grudge against him. He and Michael Winner–the British Jew who directed “Death Wish” and two of its sequels–were for the rest of their lives held in contempt by Hollywood, mainstream liberal movie critics, and pop culture arbiters. And both of them are gone now. There are few people in the mainstream moviemaking biz willing to go out on a limb and make controversial movies with serious social commentary in favor of citizens fighting back against evil. There have been many “Death Wish” imitations and far too many gratuitously violent movies, but none like “Death Wish.” Not even close.

Five years ago, I wrote about the impact of “Death Wish,” and in honor of the movie’s 40th anniversary today, I’m re-runnning it below, since everything I wrote then applies and bears repeating now. As I noted then, I regard the movie fondly not just because of its message but because it was introduced to me by my dear late father, who was a fan as I am now.

Charles Bronson and Michael Winner, Rest In Peace. “Death Wish” lives on forever. Happy 40th Anniversary.

It was repeatedly panned by the critics. But movie-goers loved it. And thirty-five years later, it remains a cult classic.

Charles Bronson & His Wimpy, Liberal “Death Wish” Son-In-Law Debate Guns & Self-Defense . . .

Death Wish” celebrates 35 years, this summer. It was released in theaters on July 24, 1974, and was directed by Michael Winner and produced by the Dino De Laurentiis Company

I watched it again over the weekend, and it stands the test of time (though it’s funny to take Jeff Goldblum seriously as a murderous gang thug). In fact, now in the Obama administration–with police called “stupid” and impliedly racist by the President and our Second Amendment gun rights under attack–the movie is more relevant than ever.

Liberals hated “Death Wish,” because of its message that vengeance and vigilantism work. They hated that the hero of the movie is a liberal pacifist who realizes his way is the wrong way. And they hated Charles Bronson for the rest of his life–the rest of his acting career–for playing Paul Kersey, “Death Wish’s” sly, silent, and clever protagonist who shoots criminals after his wife is murdered and his daughter raped into a state of catatonia. They never forgave him for it. (Ironically, the role was meant for Steve McQueen, but he turned it down.) And Hollywood never forgave him, giving him few good roles after the fact (his role in the TV movie, “Raid on Entebbe” comes to mind as one of the good ones).

I first learned about “Death Wish,” from my father, who really liked the movie. It was 1984, I was in senior high, and, in New York, Bernhard Goetz had just shot violent subway thugs trying to rob him (and who were about to stab him with sharpened screwdrivers they had on them). My dad told me about the “Death Wish” movie (of which the Goetz story reminded him) and how the liberals hated that movie. It made my father–a liberal who became conservative when he served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam–a life-long Charles Bronson fan. And I became a Charles Bronson fan, too.

They say that a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged. And “Death Wish’s” Paul Kersey was exactly that. A liberal, upper class New York City architect, Kersey goes to fancy parties, and he wants to make affordable housing for the poor in prime New York real estate. He was a conscientious objector in the Korean War because he’s against guns like his mother was. He wants to have sex with his wife on the Maui beach out in the open in the middle of the day (instead of their hotel room), but the wife tells him they’re too civilized. When he returns from Hawaii and his colleague at work tells him about the acceleration of the New York City murder rate, he responds,

My heart bleeds a little for the underprivileged.

And he is serious.

But then–once his loved ones become victims and casualties of violent crime–he changes. And he changes the world in which he lives.

Once Paul Kersey starts attacking muggers, the mugging rate in the City is reduced by more than half. He inspires others to respond with vigor to would-be attackers. An old Black woman attacks muggers with a hat pin, and they run away. Men on a construction site beat a thug senseless. The district attorney doesn’t want Kersey arrested because he knows that prosecuting this folk hero won’t go over well.

Even some of the liberals at the fancy Manhattan penthouse parties that Kersey attends adjust their attitudes. It’s there that my favorite dialogue in the movie takes place:

Man: I’ll tell you one thing: the guy’s a racist. You notice he kills more Blacks than Whites.

Woman: Oh, for Pete’s sake, Harry. More Blacks are muggers than Whites. What do you want to do–increase the proportion of White muggers, so we’ll have racial equality among muggers?

And the movie pointedly exposes the problems with New York’s gun control laws (Bronson sneaks his gun, a gift from a client in Tucson). Thirty-five years later, sadly, those laws haven’t changed.

The only part of “Death Wish” I didn’t like is the rape and beating scene at the beginning of the movie, in which the thugs attack Paul Kersey’s wife and daughter in Kersey’s apartment. That scene was brutal and disturbing, and it remains so today. But it was necessary to set the tone of the rest of the movie, and why criminals needed to be shot and killed.

Some of “Death Wish” would be different, given today’s technology. There were no cellphones then, universal video cameras all over the place, and DNA tests that could quickly match Kersey’s blood.

But the message is still evergreen. The police won’t be able to protect you from crime in most cases. Not being seers, they can’t. They’re reactive and arrive just ahead of the body bags. The only person who can protect you is yourself–along with a cold, gleaming gun, loaded and ready.

And sometimes vengeance and retribution is not just warranted. It’s desperately necessary.

My favorite scene in the movie is the ending, shown in the trailer above, when Kersey, forced by police to move to Chicago, mimes a gun shooting at criminals he sees there. The vigilante hasn’t stopped his crime-fighting. He’s just moved it to a new locale.

Sadly, Charles Bronson isn’t around anymore. But I’ll bet he’s in Heaven, thinking as I am:

Happy 35th, “Death Wish.” It’s not about bloodlust. It’s about justice.

If you haven’t seen “Death Wish” in a while, go rent it. The fashions and technology have changed since then, but everything else in it is relevant and resonates.

Criminals must know that they will face justice. And they rarely do in the courts. If you are an American and don’t have a gun, go out and buy one and learn how to use it.

Without the Second Amendment, all of the others are worthless. That’s the real message of “Death Wish.”

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28 Responses

Loved Bronson

Laura S. on July 24, 2014 at 9:30 am

M. Bloomberg, aside from the issue of gun control as noted in the link below, performed a great service to the Jewish state by his recent visit to Ben Gurion airport.


FS on July 24, 2014 at 9:31 am

the more things change, the more they stay the same…it’s nice to reminisce about a feel good movie

HK on July 24, 2014 at 10:11 am

Death Wish is a great movie, one of my favorites.

Hopewell on July 24, 2014 at 10:52 am

Great post Debbie. Once again you take me home with this one. I love Bronson as he was kick ass in Death Wish. I still have this movie and the second one on VHS and recently got the pack of all of the Death Wish movies on DVD. They just don’t make actors like him, Eastwood, and Heston anymore. Yes I know Eastwood is still alive but he’s pushing 90 so who do we have left putzes like Redford, Clooney and Penn. Please those dweebs couldn’t stand in the same room as Bronson. They along with the rest of the Hollyweirdos wouldn’t have to stones to make a movie like Death Wish nowadays. They would rather make knock offs like The Brave One with uber liberal LGBT fruitcake Jodie Foster. I think that I might just pull out the tape and watch Bronson take out the trash tonight.

Ken b on July 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

I don’t think they could make Death Wish today.

donnied on July 24, 2014 at 11:01 am

    They could absolutely do a re-make today – with Will Smith in Bronson’s role and white Tea Party and Right-To-Lifers as the thugs getting blown away.

    DS_ROCKS! on July 24, 2014 at 11:38 am

      LOL – maybe they could.
      It’d be a slight stretch to portray the tea party as urban street thugs but I guess they could do some vigilante racial hate crime angle.
      Probably easier just to do a Django Unchained sequel.

      donnied on July 24, 2014 at 12:53 pm

“. . . and why criminals needed to be shot and killed.”

In the immortal words of the great Jewish sportscaster, Marv Albert, . . .


By the way, Jesus said he came to confirm the Law of Moses, not do away with it. So, for the What Would Jesus Do crowd and those who would posture along the lines of a moral equivalency . . .

Jesus would not disagree with Debbie’s statement above. He was a law abiding Jew, and understood full well the difficulties of life down here, and not having the full measure of The Holy Spirit as He did. He didn’t EXCUSE WILLFUL sin, but He wouldn’t tell people to just keep getting shot and robbed until the law abiding citizenry is all dead.

It’s so ridiculous the people who say you should just stand there and get robbed or shot. Then all the employees in every supermarket, hardware store, car dealership, farms, you name it, would all be dead, every store in the country would be closed, and there would only be muggers and armed robbers left.

People need to think before they put words in Jesus mouth, about what he would have us do about our social problems these days. The scriptures say God is not the author of confusion. Every store in America closed, and every farm just laying around dormant is pretty confused.

But I digest.

Also, as a disclaimer, I did not do a search in the archives for anything about Marv Albert. I always thought Casey Kasem was a good guy, for no reason other than his work on American Top 40, and “he seemed like a nice guy.” The smile, the Hollywood Teeth and all that. That’s before I discovered Debbie’s web site. So, my apologies in advance if it turns out Marv Albert is a self-hating Jewish HAMASnik. I don’t really care about the thing with him wearing his ex-girlfriend’s panties to model them for her.

Great post by Kenb, and . . .


Alfredo from Puerto Rico on July 24, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Thank you, thank you. Have a safe ride home and don’t forget to tip your waitress!

    DS_ROCKS! on July 24, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Death Wish would not be made the same way today because PC reigns supreme in Hollywood and elsewhere. They made a “remake” of the movie in 2007 – The Brave One – with Jodie Foster as a lefty radio host who is mugged and her boyfriend killed. It is a pretty good movie and the scenes where she offs the goons and thugs is very satisfying.

Hollywood is a despicable cesspool. I just watched again “The Godfather.” The scene with the movie producer waking up covered in blood with his horse’s head keeping him company is still satisfying to this day.

Concerned Citizen on July 24, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Wonder why McQueen turned down the role. From what I know of him, he was not what you would call a liberal by any means. Also, did any of Bronson’s fellow acting talent in this movie suffer any job discrimination the way he did?

Charles Rector on July 24, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Don’t know but I’d guess you don’t need to be a liberal to know what’s good for your career

    donnied on July 24, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    “did any of Bronson’s fellow acting talent in this movie suffer any job discrimination the way he did”

    Jeff Goldblum – a fellow Pittsburgher native – didn’t seem to suffer any in his ensuing career.

    DS_ROCKS! on July 24, 2014 at 2:10 pm

“Charles Bronson, one of my favorite actors, descended in part from the Muslim Tatars of Eastern Europe”

-It’s a popular web rumor but there seems to be no evidence for it. Charles was from a typical coal-mining Eastern European Catholic family in Pennsylvania. The U.S. didn’t really let Muslim immigrants in at the time.

BTW, Bronson’s first wife, Harriett Tendler, was Jewish.

Bee on July 24, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Debbie said he “descended in part.” That doesn’t mean that the Bronson household in America hung a sign out on the front porch that said they were Muslims. With regard to my Puerto Rican half, I am descended in part from Austrians in the court of King Frederick, who traced their ancestry to German Masons.

And I understand my grandfather, who died in 1943, was a proponent of the Aryan master race crap. But I don’t paste swastikas on my laptop. I am “descended in part” from certain peoples. As we all are. Debbie’s statement was correct.

Alfredo from Puerto Rico on July 24, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    The point was, that there’s no evidence that Charles Bronson had Tatar or Muslim ancestors. It’s a web rumor.

    Bee on July 25, 2014 at 2:31 am

My favorites were Death Wish 1 and 3.

DW3 showed an amazing gun, the Wildley Firearms .475 Magnum, which Bronson ‘hotloads'(custom loads with higher firepower) and when questioned about it, he says,
“Only the best for our Creeps.”
(btw, for those interested to try it, this is a very powerful gun with a lot of recoil, and is best used with both hands).

Another of my favorite Bronson movies is one not so well known,

“The Evil that Men Do”, where Bronson gets a Nazi doctor hiding out in South America (supposed to be Mengele, and had an opening scene where Mossad operatives were doing surveillance to track him down, and spoke in Hebrew).

It has a nice twist in how this bad guy dies in the end,
(too much of a spoiler to give it away), and also, rare in Bronson movies, he actually has prospects for a ‘happy retirement’ in the end.

exdemexlib on July 24, 2014 at 2:39 pm


Thanks for the reminder concerning this great movie. Bronson and Winner were discussing the topic of their next collaboration and Winner asked Bronson what he would like to do. Bronson replied that he would like to shoot muggers. The rest is history. Another great Bronson movie is The Mechanic. Check it out. BTW Bronson is the only actor who was in both the Magnificent Seven and the Dirty Dozen. Both pictures were huge hits in the 60’s. Finally check out the Great Escape. Bronson portrays a tunnel digging expert trying to assist allied POWs break out of a German POW camp in WWII.

Peter on July 24, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Good movie. I like Bronson in Borderline even more.

nadie on July 24, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Charles Bronson was an underrated actor during his life. His career was long and his roles many(credited and uncredited).

Worry01 on July 25, 2014 at 2:48 am

Charles Bronson and his beautiful wife, Jill Ireland…..class acts in a business with very little class. May they both rest in peace….and remembrance.

Victoryman on July 25, 2014 at 8:35 am

Years ago I was in a public park with my kids playing ball. Some thugs in the park were dealing drugs blatantly. After repeated calls to the police that never bothered to show up, I sent my kids home and called my wife and told her to bring me my camera. I started filming them and it spooked some of them away. But a couple of them made threatening gestures at me and would approach me and ask me what I thought I was doing. “My response was nothing illegal what about you?” Yes, I had a concealed carry permit and was carrying that day, but thank God, the camera was the only weapon I needed that day. But for awhile it looked hairy. After awhile they left, the police never did show up. That night I introduced my kids to that very movie, death wish. Not to show my kids how bad I was, ( I was very afraid) but to show them how important it is to fight for our rights and to stand up for whats right.
Bronson was great in the Dirty Dozen as well!

john on July 25, 2014 at 11:53 am

This article picqued my curiosity, so I saw this movie on Netflix. Yes, this film is a time capsule of the 1970s, with oversized IBM computers, bell bottoms trousers, pay phones, and a funky soundtrack (music composed by jazz great Herbbie Hancock)–but the message is one that is still relevant today. I had heard that Hollywood was planning a remake of “Death Wish,” but I don’t see how it could top the original or even its sequels, especially with the absurd political “correctness.” Perhaps the remake will have the criminals fighting back this time, like in the following ridiculous but true story:

Guy Sues Pizzeria He Tried to Rob
Nigel Sykes wants $260K after getting beat up by employees
By Arden Dier, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2014 9:53 AM CDT

(Newser) – Nigel Sykes’ attempted robbery of a Delaware pizzeria failed miserably—but he’d still like to get some cash out of the whole to-do. Armed with a gun, Sykes, 23, busted into the back door of Newport’s Seasons Pizza in 2010 but eventually got tackled by employees. In a federal civil complaint, filed without an attorney, Sykes admits, “I committed a robbery at Seasons Pizza” but now alleges that the workers “unnecessary” roughed him up during that robbery, the News Journal reports. He wants $260,000 from the pizzeria, its employees, and Delaware State Police for his troubles.

Though NBC Philadelphia reports similar complaints from Sykes have been thrown out in the past, a judge has so far allowed this latest suit—which Newport’s police chief calls “a joke”—to move forward. Sykes’ self-written suit alleges the pizzeria’s employees forced his gun from his hand, then “participated in punching, kicking and pouring hot soup over my body” while “I was unarmed and defenseless.” Sykes, who’s serving a 15-year sentence for robbery and attempted robbery, also argues he was knocked unconscious and awoke to two police officers using stun guns on him.

Ralph Adamo on July 25, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Many Lipka Tatars, originally Muslim, voluntarily embraced Catholicism while under Polish-Lithuanian rule. Even the Muslim Lipkas were not at all like their jihadist Crimean brethren. So it’s possible; many famous Poles are of Lipka ancestry, such as novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz and chemist Osman Achmatowicz.

temujin on July 25, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Bronson. Superb actor and good man.

Occam's Tool on July 25, 2014 at 5:29 pm

This article on “Death Wish” piqued my curiosity, so I watched the movie on Netflix yesterday. Like Debbie says, it’s a 1970s time capsule, but its message is relevant today. I’ve heard rumors that Hollywood is planning to remake the movie, but I don’t see how it’s possible to write a a decent script today on this subject, given the political “correctness” sickness that pervades all media. So, I’m perfectly fine with the bell bottoms, ubiquitous pay phones, a room full of massive IBM mainframe computers with punch card noises, 70’s hairstyles, and a funky music soundtrack (composed by jazz great Herbie Hancock). Bonson’s acting is great and the direction by Michael Winner is sound.

Here’s some interesting trivia regarding this movie. As noted, the movie features a very young Jeff Goldblum as one of the criminals at the beginning. But near the end of the movie, a young police officer is played by Christopher Guest–who is, perhaps, less famous than Goldblum, but has written, directed, and acted in a number of high quality comedies, e.g., “This is Spinal Tap,” “Best in Show,” and “For Your Consideration,” among others.

And most of you film fans probably know that Charles Bronson was married to Jill Ireland and they often performed together. But what you might not have known is that Ireland was director Michael Winner’s boyfriend years before she met Bronson and her first husband, David McCallum–and even before Winner became a successful director. Ireland was in love with Winner, but he wasn’t ready to get married, so Ireland hooked up with McCallum. But later, during the making of “The Great Escape” (which featured McCallum and Bronson), she met Bronson, fell in love with him, divorced McCallum and married Bronson. When Ireland was about to marry Bronson, she asked Winner to never mention their previous real relationship because Bronson was just as volatile in life as he was on screen. Winner did so, and only broke the trust after both Bronson and Ireland had passed on.

Finally, in related news, in one of those news stories that’s so ridiculous that it just has to be true, an armed man tries to rob a pizzeria, but ends up having his gun taken away from and getting beaten up by the pizzeria’s employees. When the police arrive, they also tasered the would-be robber. So the would-be robber sues the employees and the police. The guy had filed such suits before, but this time it seems a nimrod judge actually sees “merits” to his case.

Ralph Adamo on July 25, 2014 at 9:54 pm

He was a great interpreter too!


Ryan on August 1, 2014 at 7:12 pm

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