The Stone Killer [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (22nd July 2017).
The Film

“The Stone Killer” (1973)

Torrey (played by Charles Bronson) is a detective that does not play by the rules. Fast at pulling the trigger as well as beating his suspects to confess, the third killing of a suspect in a month’s span leads to him being transferred from New York to Los Angeles. While out in the west Torrey is on the tail of mafia don Al Vescari (played by Martin Balsam) who along with his gang is out to take over the underworld. Torrey puts the pieces together to try to take down the man along with all the other lowlifes along the way.

Directed by Michael Winner in his second collaboration with actor Charles Bronson following “Chato's Land”, “The Stone Killer” was an action packed fast paced brutal film, but sadly one that lacks coherence and depth with an awkwardly convoluted plot that seemingly goes nowhere and everywhere at the same time. The highlight of the piece is undeniably the car/motorcycle chase with Bronson seemingly wanting to crash into everything from a flea market, a parked car with two lovers getting it on, fences, storefronts, and whatever else may be in the way. As exciting as it is, there will be shouts of laughter for the absurdity of the scene. And in another case of absurdity, it’s pretty amazing to think a simple transfer to Los Angeles after brutal killings by a cop or an amazing amount of property damage can still NOT lead to the firing of the Torrey character. But he’s the best of the best! Even with warning after warning, there really is no stopping the man with the killer moustache.

“The Stone Killer” is a major picture - produced by Dino De Laurentiis and released by Columbia Pictures though it is essentially an exploitation picture, getting off on the violence and action rather than a straight police/detective plotline with coherence. It may try to be “Dirty Harry” or “The French Connection” but fails by having flat characters that cannot find a strong enough plot to stick with. Bronson plays it cool and does what he does best. His dialogue is sparse but his actions are vicious, and that is what Bronson fans love. As for the supporting players, Norman Fell as Captain Daniels seems like a cross between his characters on “Three’s Company” and “The Graduate” - one that wants to get mad but just doesn’t know how to put it directly with action. Paul Kolso as the flamboyant jazz musician and gunner Alfred leaves an impression but gets cut way too quickly. Martin Balsam is an unusual casting choice and also one that doesn’t seem to get enough screen time to feel a strong a presence as he should have. It would only be one year later than Winner and Bronson would team up again for another cop film, but that would be the one to hit it big with audiences and be a divisive one with critics and advocate groups - “Death Wish”. "The Stone Killer” is mostly a completely forgotten piece in various filmographies but considering the fine tuning done for the violent revenge classic “Death Wish” became, it is interesting to see how some of the violent cop themes played a year before with the same director and actor.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray which can be played back on any Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Powerhouse Films’ release under their Indicator banner presents the film in 1080p in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in the AVC MPEG-4 codec. Remastered by Sony Pictures in HD, the transfer looks good but certainly looks its age. Colors are accurately reproduced with the colorful wardrobes and the drab looking interiors of 1970s households. Dark colors are accurately dark and whites are light as they should be and there are no issues with severe damage. There are some minor specs here and there but for most of the time the image is clean while leaving the film grain alone. A very good transfer.

The runtime is uncut at 95:09, with previously made cuts by the BBFC in the UK being restored to its original US theatrical length.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
The original mono track is offered in lossless audio. The funky music and effects sound great, along with dialogue that sounds well balanced throughout. There are no issues with cracks or pops in the restored audio track.

There are optional English HoH subtitles available for the main feature in a white font.

Extras

Powerhouse Films is releasing “The Stone Killer” as a limited edition of 3000 Blu-ray+DVD dual format set, with the film and all the bonus content found on the Blu-ray repeated on the DVD but in standard definition. The limited edition set also includes a booklet. Once the limited edition sells out, it will be replaced with a Blu-ray only edition without the DVD or the booklet.

Audio commentary by journalist and critic Nick Pinkerton
In this exclusive audio commentary, Pinkerton explains that he is not the biggest fan of the film and does not give it additional praise but more critiques it - as he should. He even admits that the Lipper hit scene doesn’t make much sense and is still baffled as to why it happened the way it did. Pinkerton gives information of the locations, biographies of Winner. Bronson, Di Laurentiis and others, background on Bronson’s rise to fame and much more.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Isolated Score
The funky score is presented on its own in an alternate audio track.
in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

"Mr. Blonde: Paul Koslo on The Stone Killer" featurette (2017) (17:04)
The actor who played the jazz musician talks about his career as an actor and his memories of the making of the film.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with no subtitles

"The John Player Lecture with Michael Winner" (audio recording of an interview with the director conducted by Margaret Hinxman at the National Film Theatre, London; 1970) (64:55)
Recorded on September 13th 1970, Winner gives a lengthy Q&A session about his career. Issues discussed are about his previous films, the trouble with the UK market, as well as predicting a future where people will not go to cinemas but will most likely be renting movies on video cassettes. Obviously since this was recorded before his work with Bronson, there are no mentions of him or about “The Stone Killer”. This is an alternate audio track that plays along with the first 65 minutes of the film. Once it ends, the audio reverts back to the film’s audio.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Image Gallery (75 images) (1:13)
A series of black and white and color stills from Winner’s personal collection along with promotional stills and posters.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

Original theatrical trailer (2:13)
Presented in standard definition, it has weak picture and weak audio.
in 480p MPEG-2, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 1.0 with no subtitles

DVD Copy
An accompanying DVD presents the film and all the above extras in standard definition.

Booklet
The limited edition exclusive booklet includes a new essay by Paul Talbot, author of “Bronson's Loose!: The Making of the ‘Death Wish’ Films” (2006) and “Bronson's Loose Again!: On the Set with Charles Bronson”, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and historic articles on the film. Unfortunately we were not provided with a copy of the booklet for this review.

The film was first released on Blu-ray in America by Twilight Time which came with some differing extras. While it also includes the trailer and isolated score, the US release had a differing audio commentary with Paul Talbot. In terms of length, the UK release has the lengthier content in extras.

Packaging

This marks #33 in the Indicator Series releases from Powerhouse Films.

Overall

“The Stone Killer” is not particularly a memorable film due to its convoluted plot but it is an interesting precursor to the later collaborations with director Michael Winner and star Charles Bronson. The Powerhouse set presents the film very well with a great transfer with video and audio as well as having good extras.

The Film: C- Video: B+ Audio: A- Extras: B Overall: B-

 


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