A new Charles Bronson book and a slew of DVD releases seem to indicate the cult of the macho movie tough-guy is ever-growing. Twelve years after his death, the actor’s legacy shows no signs of fading.
Bronson’s Loose Again! On the Set with Charles Bronson was released last month by BearManor Media. Author Paul Talbot’s exhaustive, definitive document of Charles Bronson’s work from the mid ‘70s through the ‘80s follows his previous volume Bronson’s Loose!: The Making of the Death Wish Films which specifically covered the Death Wish franchise.
Bronson’s Loose Again! indicates that the cult of Bronson initially took hold in Europe and Asia, while he was still largely unknown in the United States. According to the book, Bronson had passed on three Spaghetti Westerns which ended up making Clint Eastwood a huge star. It was then that Bronson finally agreed to appear in the European films Farewell, Friend (1968), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and Rider on the Rain (1970). These three films were virtually ignored upon initial release in America, but made Bronson a huge megastar throughout the rest of the world.
He became one of the highest paid actors in the world by the time he went on to shoot Violent City (1970), Cold Sweat (1970) and Red Sun (1971).
The Bronson phenomenon was so huge in Japan that his face alone could sell a movie—or anything else, for that matter.
From Bronson’s Loose Again!:
Red Sun unspooled in one Tokyo theater for nine months and broke the house record set by the recent reissue of Gone with the Wind (1939)—which had played for a mere four months. Nearby, a massive billboard displayed a lone image: a painting of Bronson’s cracked, mustached face. There was no text, just the visual promise that the latest movie with the nation’s favorite star could be seen locally. In 1971 Bronson collected $100,000 for four days work shooting (in Colorado) a series of TV ads for a new cologne from the Japanese firm Mandom. These clever spots by director Nobuhiko Ohbayashi (who went on to do the 1977 cult horror film Hausu) perfectly captured the rugged Bronson mystique. A few weeks after the first commercial’s broadcast, Mandom’s product was the best-selling cologne in Japan. A rival company decided to not even bother airing its own Bronson-less ad.
The hyper-masculine Mandom ad must be seen to be believed:
Bronson didn’t really break through in the United States until Death Wish was released in 1974. The controversial vigilante film cemented his stardom both in the United States and abroad. The squinty-eyed, gun-weilding, middle-aged man with the weather-beaten features became an unlikely archetype for American badassery.
Strangely, the one person unaffected by the cult of Bronson seemed to be Bronson himself. Bronson, quoted from Talbot’s book:
“I’m not a fan of myself. I wouldn’t go to see me. I don’t like the way I look and talk. I like the way I walk, but I don’t like the way I stand. I hate the way I stand. There’s something about the way I stand. I’m embarrassed at myself. I’m not embarrassed at what I’m doing. I’m just embarrassed at myself.”
Audiences didn’t seem to have a problem with the way he looked or talked or stood—then or now: Six of Bronson’s films have gotten recent Blu-Ray reissues on boutique labels: 10 to Midnight, Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects, Mr. Majestyk, Messenger of Death, The White Buffalo, Breakheart Pass... and two more titles are set to be released soon: Assassination, and Murphy’s Law.
We wrote about 10 To Midnight back in October here at Dangerous Minds, calling it the weirdest, “most fucked-up, underrated, ‘80s slasher horror movie.” It’s a MUST-WATCH for either fans of Bronson’s “cop not playing by the rules” antics or fans of homocidal maniacs in a proto-American Psycho vein.
If you’re unfamiliar with Bronson’s canon of work, or have any lingering doubts about him being the ultimate movie badass, after the jump, I invite you to bask in the testosterone of the brilliant “Ultimate Charles Bronson Movie Trailer” supercut. It’s a thing of glory…