Blu-ray Review: The Mechanic (1972)

STUDIO: Twilight Time | DIRECTOR: Michael Winner | CAST: Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent, Keenan Wynn, Jill Ireland, Frank DeKova
BLU-RAY RELEASE DATE: 6/10/2014 | PRICE: Blu-ray $29.95
BONUSES: commentary, isolated score
SPECS: PG | 100 min. | Action thriller | 1.85:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall


“They call him ‘The Mechanic.’ He has 100 ways to kill…and they all work!” boasts the ad campaign for the 1972 action-thriller starring Charles Bronson (Hard Times) in his role as the coolest contract killer to emerge from the cinema of the Seventies.

Yeah, Bronson is really cool in this one.

The Mechanic movie scene

Charles Bronson is The Mechanic.

Though he’s a hardened loner, Bronson’s Arthur Bishop ain’t no slouch. True, his only female companion is a prostitute (Jill Ireland) who plays out carefully dialogued sexual fantasies for him, but he’s a cultured man of taste who lives in a beautiful home filled with books, classical music, fine foods and an art collection. Hell, he even flies a single prop airplane in his down-time. High-end contract killing pays a pretty penny, and Bishop takes advantage of it, even as he meticulously constructs elaborate methods to carry out his killings. But the aging Bishop could use a breather, or at least a younger up-and-comer to give him a hand. Enter Steve (Jan-Michael Vincent, Damnation Alley), the slickly nasty son of one of Bishop’s recent victims (unbeknownst to Steve). Bishop trains Steve in the art and gestalt of contract killing, but can he get a handle on what’s really going on in his disciple’s head—or if he might even be one of Steve’s first solo contract assignments?

The Mechanic is still the tough and engaging movie that I remember from its regular run on TV in the late Seventies and Eighties. Directed by Michael Winner (one of a half-dozen films he made with Bronson, which also include Chato’s Land, The Stone Killer, and the first three Death Wish flicks), The Mechanic is richly textured and colorful, even as it’s taut and quite brutal in all the right places. The opening contract killing, a 15-minute sequence, is a bravura example of purely visual, dialogue-less filmmaking, and its subsequent action sequences, including a furious motorcycle chase, are equally impressive. And composer Jerry Fielding’s score only helps to underline the film’s strengths.

On Twilight’s Blu-ray release, Fielding’s soundtrack can be admired on its own in an isolated score track. Also included in the disc’s package are insightful liner notes by Julie Kirgo and an audio commentary by cinematographer Richard H. Kline (the man behind the film’s lushly grainy look) and film historian/Twilight co-founder Nick Redman.

Overall, Twilight offers a fine adaptation of an equally fine Seventies entry that proudly places high in the hitman movie pantheon, alongside Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samurai, Luc Besson’s The Professional and John Woo’s The Killer.

Oh, and as for that 2011 remake of The Mechanic starring Jason Statham (Killer Elite), well, you don’t really need to watch that one again.

The Mechanic is currently available from Twilight Time distributor Screen Archives.

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.