Charles Bronson’s Slum Improvement Tips From ‘Death Wish 3’

By  · Published on August 31st, 2012

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Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; death wish, thy name is Baconator. You’ve wandered foolishly down the back alleys of the internet, and arrived in a really bad neighborhood. By that, I of course mean a neighborhood full of reprobates with a predilection toward criminally bad movies. Sure, the denizens of the dilapidated JFC tenements will surround the movie and stomp it liberally with mockery, but that’s simply the initiation. Surviving the onslaught of snark indoctrinates said bad movie into the gang, and much streetwise love is subsequently lavished upon it. That’s when we crack open a six-pack of Twinkies, or some other disgustingly tasty food themed to the movie, and chase away all semblance of respectable taste.

This week, we strap on a Kevlar vest we know won’t at all save us and prepare to stand toe-to-toe with Paul Kersey. Who’s Paul Kersey? If you don’t know his name it only means you haven’t crossed him yet…or that you haven’t seen any of the Death Wish movies. Paul Kersey is Charles Bronson, and Charles Bronson is the soft-spoken angel of mustachioed death. He has had arguably the worst luck as a husband and father. First, his wife and daughter are sexually assaulted by a gang of Jeff Goldblum-led punks, which are the worst type of punks, then his wife is murdered and his daughter goes catatonic.

But wait, there’s so, so much more. He moves to a new town and, wouldn’t you know it, his daughter (just out of the hospital) is raped again by young Morpheus and kills herself by leaping out of a window and smack-kablam onto a wrought iron fence. Kersey reacts the way any red-blooded exploitation hero would: violently. Seriously though, with fortune so disdainfully giving him the bird, is it any wonder the guy roams from town to town treating all the local scumbags like bullet dumpsters?

But those events all occur within the first two Death Wish films. Then his good friend is murdered by a bunch of punks led by grownup Chuck Cunningham. I lied, those are the worst punks. Yes, apparently the vanished brother from Happy Days ascended the staircase one day and didn’t come down until the 1980s. By the time Death Wish 3 reaches its climax, Bronson is no longer a vigilante. No, he’s a one-man wrecking crew, urban renewal with a .45. So RambOLD begins marching through the streets ahead of the most ill-advisedly well-armed neighborhood watch this side of Beirut. Even grandpa can get in on the killing in Death Wish 3!

Once the dust had settled and Kersey has had to move again, to another slum because apparently his realtor is Oscar the Grouch, we wondered if someone might try and persuade him to preemptively fix that neighborhood…you know, before all the lead-filled corpses pile up. Turns out, someone thought of this first. Fine, whatever, we don’t even care! In the Totally Real Archives of True Things, we found the master audio from a home improvement television series in which Kersey was to star. It’s called This Old Slum and the aim was to have Kersey, along with his assistant Rutherford, go into various economically depressed areas and make improvements. Again, ante-corpse. Fast-forwarding through the tape, it wasn’t hard to understand why the show was cancelled after one episode…was shot and never aired. Here now, are some of our favorite snippets.

Rutherford: Well, Paul. Why don’t we start with this old grocery store.
Paul: Sounds good. Well, right off the bat I see heavy rot and termite damage.
Rutherford: Yes, it looks like the whole foundation is in need of repair.
Paul: I once had a guest house with similar structural issues. So I shot five guys.
Rutherford: Cut!

Obviously the series struggled to find its legs at first, but surely this next exchange would be more on target…

Rutherford: This playground has sure seen better days, eh Paul? Paul?
Paul: Sorry, I was looking at those street punks over there.
Rutherford: One could argue that they are in fact Jehovah’s Witnesses, but let’s focus on the task at hand.
Paul: (Long pause dotted with muttering) What’s the problem?
Rutherford: The merry-go-round is so rusted it can barely turn. What’s our first step, Paul.
Paul: Hand me a flat-head screwdriver.
Rutherford: (Riffling through the toolbox) There you go. Now let’s – Paul! Paul, get back here! Those aren’t muggers, they’re breakdancers! Shit, someone call the police! Paul! Paaaaul! (Sound becomes more faint as Rutherford dashes across the playground)

Okay, so the guy’s a little gun shy toward assemblies of young people. Can you blame him? He’s had his life turned upside down by the guys from The Fly and Happy Days respectively. Not to mention his run-ins with Laurence Fishburne in the second movie and Alex Winter in the third. He’s basically been attacked by a roving pack of SAG card-carriers. Let’s jump ahead and see if we can find something a little less violent.

Rutherford: It’s a real shame this apartment’s wood flooring is in such disrepair. Really gorgeous red oak. Paul, how’s that last board next to the window coming?
Paul: Almost finished.
Rutherford: What you want to remember when ordering your wood flooring is to buy ten to fifteen percent more than you’ve measured for just in case you make any mistakes while cutting. (The sound of a bolt gun and spring are heard). Uh, Paul, whatcha doin’ over there?
Paul: Rigged your basic spring-loaded board-with-nails trap in case any little snot tries to crawl in the window and steal your stereo.
Rutherford: Okay, Paul, that’s not at all what we discussed. Also, Jerry’s out on the fire escape fixing the window frame so – (A snap and a fleshy thud is heard followed by a bloodcurdling scream).
Paul: It works. Just need to sweep up the blood. And the teeth.

Admittedly, Kersey’s not doing himself any favors with that one. We did our research and the good news is that Jerry is back to eating solid foods again and even regained partial sight in his left eye. Here’s the last bit of audio that was recorded, hopefully it finally gets the show on track…

Rutherford: Please Paul, can we just get to work on this garden wall? The bricks are busted up and need a healthy new supply of mortar as well.
Paul: Let’s take it down (A shotgun is cocked).
Rutherford: Paul, no! Not again! Give me the gun.
Paul: Fine. Here. (The sound of hammering and clattering bricks can be heard)
Rutherford: Wait a minute, Paul. We don’t have to completely dismantle the wall. Some of those bricks can be spared.
Paul: It’s like killing roaches, you have to kill them all. Otherwise, what’s the use?
Rutherford: And…ignoring that red flag. Folks, you want to make sure you have the right tools for the job. You’ll need a mason’s cold chisel, a level…(Interrupted by the sound of a duffel bag falling on the ground and being unzipped).
Paul: And a LAWS missile launcher. Anti tank, anti personnel.
Rutherford: Okay Paul, why don’t you take a break. I’ll call you when we’re ready to mortar up and re-stack.
Paul: Fine, I’ll got get some ice cream.
Rutherford: So folks, you want to make sure that you want to start at the top and work your way down. And – (An explosion nearby followed by a hail of gunfire). What the hell?! Kersey, what the fuck did you do?!
Paul: I sent them a message.
Rutherford: Who?!
Paul: I don’t know, the – the bad guys.
Rutherford: I quit, somebody get Sgt. Senile away from me!

It’s really a shame because the show had a lot of potential.

Junkfood Pairing: Death Wish Coffee

Billed as the strongest coffee in the world, Death Wish Coffee is sure to do to your bowels what Paul Kersey does to slums. We gave him half a cup and shortly thereafter, using only a toothpick and a can of hairspray, he reduced all of Seattle to one enormous smoldering ember. The man is an artist.

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.