The Stone Killer (1973)
By: James Gillett on May 27, 2010  | 
Sony | Region 2 & 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 1.0 | 91 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Michael Winner
Starring: Charles Bronson, Martin Balsam, Jack Colvin, Paul Koslo
Screenplay: Gerald Wilson
Country: USA
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In 1973, after a couple of successful parings such as the excellent The Mechanic and Chato's Land, star Charles Bronson and Director Michael Winner teamed up again for The Stone Killer. While it wasn't to be the film that would define their collaboration or career's, (that would no doubt be the following year's massively successful Death Wish) The Stone Killer would further develop Bronson's tough guy persona while allowing Winner to direct more of the kind of pulpy fair that was increasingly popular at the time. In short, it delivered the kind of entertainment that would soon be Bronson's trademark, with an unmistakably 70's flavour and panache.

Here, Bronson plays police detective Lou Torrey, a take no prisoners New York cop who wouldn't hesitate to shoot a perp down or smack around a suspect to crack a case. The Stone Killer is very much a post-Dirty Harry genre flick, and Bronson's Torrey reflects that in spades. He's everything a cliché movie cop should be: At odds with his superiors, mostly working alone and willing to do whatever it takes, rules be dammed. It's a good thing too, because after a man in his custody is shot down in broad daylight, he finds himself up to his neck in a conspiracy involving a Mafia hit squad, with only an incompetent partner to help him out as he puts the pieces together.

Happily, it all makes for some pleasing entertainment for fans of Bronson's 70's oeuvre. The story, playing in the detective mould with some fine action set pieces thrown in, moves along at a good clip, delivering bloody shoot outs, one particularly impressive old-school car chase through city streets and plenty of Bronson hard-ass antics for fans to enjoy. In fact, more than most of the era's other Bronson efforts, The Stone Killer truly captures that unmistakable 70's feel. A touch of synth score early on, some very 70's fashions, black militant references and even a rather odd visit to a hippy commune pop up. It brings a grin, but in spite of all that The Stone Killer still manages to avoid feeling overly dated, mostly due to Winner's solid direction and a bunch of well drawn side characters that lend the film some grounding.

Negatives are few. Naturally, it's somewhat derivative, but not really any less entertaining for it. It's based on the pulpy novel A Complete State of Death by John Gardner, and as a result is far more plot focused than it tends to present itself. Actually, if there's a fault here it's that the film tends to cram a whole lot into its brisk 91 minute running time, to the point where a couple plot points feel rushed as it unfolds and jumps around multiple locations such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even the Mohave Desert for a tense raid on a desert hideout. By the time the action packed climax comes around however, it's hard to care; The Stone Killer delivers more often than not, and fans are likely to get just what they're after.
The film is presented at its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. It looks good, really good actually. A little grain pops up here and there, but not frequently, and it's never overpowering or unnatural. Generally, it's a pleasingly clean and sharp image for a film of its age.
Just a Mono 2.0 track, but since it's true the film's theatrical presentation's sound mix, and comes through quite well, it's perfectly acceptable.
Extra Features
None, which is unfortunate, but honestly I'm simply too overjoyed that Sony finally released this to complain.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
The Stone Killer is a solid bit of early 70's Bronson fair. While it's no Death Wish, fans of the great man's films, and certainly 70's cop flicks in general, will find plenty to enjoy. If you consider yourself a diehard Bronson fan, this film very much belongs in your collection.

As for the disc, this release from Sony UK, while being bare bones in regards to extras, is a quality one. If you've been looking to own The Stone Killer or simply see it for the first time, buy with confidence.

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