- About TFT
Friday Thing Archive
- Politics
- Media
- Culture and Society
- War On Terror
- People
- Places
- World
- Popped Clogs
- Music
- Books
- Film
- Etc
Help And Info
- Contact Details
- Advertising
- Jobs
- Privacy Policy
- XML Feed

Home > Popped Clogs

Popped Clog: Charles Bronson

Charles Bronson - Russian, Lithuanian, father, husband, husband, husband, actor - has died. He was 81.

Robin Ince flicks through his filmography.

2 September 2003

Charles Bronson was a film star, kind of - renowned around the world after Death Wish and yet pretty much every one of his films from that point onwards was increasingly awful and formulaic. He was famous for his monosyllabic face of granite, though as he aged, the rock face increasingly turned into a scowling piece of grey marshmallow. His face may have softened, but his ruthless dealing out of hot lead justice never slowed down, even as increasing infirmity struck at his body and mind.

Was Charles Bronson a good actor? - well he never seemed to do much, but then he was never required to do very much. In the occasional film he might allow the odd yelp, maybe even tear, to register the death of his family or rape of his daughter, but once he’d been given his motivation he got on with what the public wanted to see, brutal vengeance.

Bronson’s early films have titles that pretty much speak for themselves, When Hell Broke Lose, Showdown at Boot Hill, Riding Shotgun - you get the gist. Films that promised much with their lurid poster art and grisly taglines, but seldom rewarded the viewer with more than the odd B movie thrill. Roger Corman, the man who seems to have given every Hollywood Bigshot their first big break (including Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Martin Scorsese, and let’s not forget Robert De Niro in Bloody Mama) and taught them how to make a movie in three days with a backlot and a bunch of stock footage, rewarded Bronson with a starring role in Machine Gun Kelly ('Without his gun he was naked yellow').

He hit paydirt with The Magnificent Seven, directed by John Sturges, who then went on to direct The Great Escape, with Bronson as a man who loved to tunnel, but also was a touch on the claustrophobic (probably the craziest freak out Bronson ever put on celluloid). He might have been mainly rigid in both of those, but at least he wasn't a great big scene stealing preener like the hugely overrated Steve McQueen ('Oh look at me playing with my hat... oh look at me playing with my baseball' YAWN). Bronson also had a near starring role in The Dirty Dozen, in which a bunch of rapists and murderers get trained to go mental at the Nazis and in the marvelous Sergio Leone classic Once Upon A Time In The West (how can Mr Nice Guy Henry Fonda turn so nasty?).

Bronson then got Loinclothed up for his first Michael Winner film, Chato’s Land, where he gets justifiably worked into a lather and kills people in the west. That led onto The Mechanic with Airwolf’s Jan Michael Vincent and then the film that shot him onto the stratosphere, Death Wish.

Death Wish may have made him bankable and pushed his wages way up, but it also led to a parade of increasingly dull films, many helmed by J Lee Thompson, director of Guns of Navarone and Cape Fear, but sadly his later films were less notable.

Did Bronson get offered anything more interesting than the supposedly moral but bloodlusting avenger? Was he a man who knew his limitations? Did he privately laugh at the terrible tatty movies he made in the eighties whilst looking at his bank balance?

In the eighties Bronson became wedded to the Cannon film group, run by Golan and Globus, who, riding high on the Lemon Popsicle series of Israeli Sex Comedies (for many teenage boys their first vicarious thrill of what a 13 year old thinks of as pornography) tried to takeover the film industry - buying up hundreds of cinemas and filling them with Chuck Norris. The fruitful collaboration led to Messenger of Death, Death Wish 4 and Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects. Sadly, I have not seen Kinjite, but it is about a Japanese businessman who molests a vice cop’s daughter (Yup, the cop is Bronson) and then the Vice cop is put in charge of finding the Japanese businessman’s missing daughter - a moral minefield, but I'm sure it was dealt with the taste and depravity one would expect from Cannon, Bronson and J Lee Thompson. In his last few years Bronson slowed down, with just a Death Wish 5 and a trilogy of Family of Cops to his name. The final in the series of family of Cops sadly shows a man who may well be in the early throws of Alzheimer’s.

Not exactly a great actor, an Eastwood for people who prefer a little less emotion from their hard nosed cop, Bronson is never the less a peculiar icon of the seventies and a man who decided he knew his place, and that place was shooting evil motherfuckers in the face.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

Subscribe to The Friday Thing for free

Bad words ahead The Friday Thing is a weekly email comment sheet. Casting a cynical eye over the week's events, it is rarely fair and never balanced.

A selection of articles from each week's issue appear online, but to enjoy the full Thing, delivered by email every Friday - as well as access to almost five years of back issues - you'll need to subscribe. It's absolutely free.

"Razor-sharp comment and gossip." - The Sunday Times

"Hilariously cynical..To describe it as 'irreverent' is to do the newsletter an injustice." - The Observer

"Sharp, intelligent, opinionated, uncompromising and very, very funny. Just like 'Private Eye' used to be." - Alec McKelland

"Wicked" - Channel 4

"Ace" - Time Out

"'We rise once again in advocacy of The Friday Thing. We realize that some of you may be unwilling to spend [your money] on plain-text comment, but you're only depriving yourself." - The Minor Fall, The Major Lift

"Subscribing to this at the beginning of the year was undoubtedly one of the better decisions I've made. Superlative, and utterly marvellous. I look forward to Fridays now, because I can't wait for the next issue. Fucking fucking brilliant." - Meish.org

"Featuring writers from The Observer, Smack The Pony and The 11 O'Clock Show... will continue to attract new subscribers sight unseen" - NeedToKnow

"The Friday Thing is so good it's stopping me from doing a bunk of a Friday afternoon." - Annie Blinkhorn (The Erotic Review)

"So now" - The Evening Standard

"Damn it, you rule. May you never, ever back down." - Paul Mayze

"Ace" - PopJustice

"Snarky" - Online Journalism Review

"Can you please stop making me laugh out loud... I'm supposed to be working, you know!" - Tamsin Tyrwhitt

"Your coverage of stuff as it spills is right on the money." - Mike Woods

"Popbitch with A-Levels." - Tim Footman

"In an inbox full of trite work-related nonsense, TFT shines from under its subject heading like the sun out of Angus Deayton's arse." - Nikki Hunt

"A first rate email. It's become an integral part of my week, and my life would be empty and meaningless without it (well, *more* empty and meaningless anyway)." - Mark Pugh

"Genius, absolute bit of class. And you can quote me on that." - Lee Neville

"If you're hipper than hell, this is what you read." - MarketingSherpa

"The most entertaining email I've had all week. Great tone." - Matthew Prior

"A massive and engrossing wit injection." - idiotica.co.uk

"I wouldn't know satire if it bit me on the arse. But I did like the Naomi Campbell joke." - Matt Kelly (The Mirror)

"Has had an understandably high profile among people who know about these things." - Guy Clapperton (Guardian Online)

"Satirical sideswipes at the burning issues of the day." - Radio 5 Live

"Puerile and worthless... Truly fabulous... Do read the whole thing." - Stephen Pollard

© The Friday Thing 2001-2008 - All Rights Reserved