Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Stone Killer (Michael Winner, 1972)

In 1972, Charles Bronson was The Man.

Butt-ugly. Short. Smug. Tough. Bronson was an actor who immediately gave the impression that he mixes scrap-metal into his Maypo in the morning. His movies, by this stage in his career, were simple vehicles designed around Bronson single-handedly killing as many people as there were pages in the script.

THE STONE KILLER is no different.

Director Michael Winner more than lives up to his last name with a film in which Bronson blows away (or runs over) dozens of characters in the brief span of 90 or so minutes.

BUT -- ironically -- surprisingly -- and somewhat disappointingly -- Bronson does NOT perpetrate today’s dummy-death. That doesn’t mean it’s not a corker!

Even if you blinked in the 5 seconds the director allows you to witness this spectacular execution, something supernatural occurs -- the lids of the viewers' eyes are magically pried apart and literally held wide open so as to enable the dummy-death to be seen each and every time it is screened.


Mafia Don, Martin Balsam, hires a team of Viet Nam Vets to assassinate the heads of the major crime families who will be gathered in one room for a meeting.

The hit team hides under the elevator --

-- rides it up to the meeting room --

-- bursts out --

-- and machine guns the assembled Dons.

One of them jumps up from the table, runs to the window, turns his back to it, faces his attackers and receives a chest-full of hot lead.

In medium-shot the Don falls backwards through the window.

Winner cuts to an exterior long shot of the building, angled up as the Don cartwheels head over heels out the window -- screaming.

The deception is a success! Within a single edit, the actor has fully transformed into an intelligently jointed, weighted and costumed dummy!

The arms extend straight out from the body in a T formation. This has the aerodynamic effect of slowly arresting the cartwheeling motion.

The dummy then settles into a face-down swan dive with the legs bent neatly back 90 degrees at the knees.

The screams cease somewhere around here.

The camera pans downward, gracefully following the death dive. Pinstripes, flapping like wings, the dummy hits the sidewalk with a loud THUMP and small bounce.


THE STONE KILLER © Columbia Pictures
post © Howard S. Berger & Kevin Marr

1 comment:

Arbogast said...

One more movie forever altered by the legacy of 9/11.