Release Date(s)1972 (June 10, 2014)
Studio(s)MGM (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C+
The Mechanic was released in 1972 and tells the story of a professional hit man called a mechanic (Charles Bronson) who takes a young man under his wing (Jan-Michael Vincent) and teaches him the tricks of the trade in order to become a truly great mechanic. Things heat up when Bronson’s apprentice has been ordered to execute Bronson by his superiors, leading to the film’s explosive conclusion.
Michael Winner made quite a few action-thrillers during his heyday as a director, many of which are now considered cult classics. Although he’s better known as the director behind the first three Death Wish films, it’s The Mechanic that many feel is one of his better works. Although the final film is vastly different from its original novel by Lewis John Carlino, it’s still a tightly-wound action film with interesting characters and great action set pieces.
The Mechanic feels effortlessly well-paced, well-written and tightly-edited all the way through. Arthur Bishop (played masterfully by Charles Bronson), carries the major weight of the film’s main plot. His character is quite zen, being very calm and cool in most situations, which makes him the perfect hit man. Steve (Jan-Michael Vincent) is almost the polar opposite. He’s so snarky and wild in comparison to Bishop that they seem like a very odd couple. However, the dynamic is there between the two characters and you’re constantly engaged in what’s going on.
The film’s opening moments, which take place over the course of about twenty minutes, hook you in as we see Bishop nail his target using his wits and skill as a professional. The story spirals towards its conclusion and doesn’t waste any time on pointless dialogue or character development. We find out all we need to know about our characters through the context of their actions, which is how a good story should function. Obviously, Charles Bronson’s character is the main draw of the film, but all the parts surrounding it work just as well. The Mechanic really is one of the best action-thrillers out there and if you haven’t seen it, or you’ve only seen the Jason Statham remake, then you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Twilight Time’s transfer of the film yields a very pleasant and mostly strong presentation. The film has an inherent soft look to it, which may cause some to question the intended sharpness of the transfer, but to my eyes, it is as sharp as it can be most of the time. The grain structure is still present and very prevalent, especially during the nighttime scenes. As a consequence, blacks aren’t all that deep at all. Flesh tones look very good, although they appear slightly on the warm side, and both contrast and brightness seem to be at acceptable levels. I didn’t notice any leftover artifacts or signs of digital manipulation either, so it’s a very clean and mostly accurate presentation overall. The audio for the film, which is a single English mono track, is quite punchy. Dialogue is very clear and clean, although a bit too high at times because of the obvious overdubbing. Score and sound effects also fare well, and there’s a bit of surprising boost during some of the more lively sound effects moments. It’s not the most well-mixed soundtrack in the world, but the presentation of it is pretty spot-on. There are also subtitles in English for those who need them.
In the supplemental department, you’ll find an alternate isolated score audio track, an audio commentary with cinematographer Richard H. Kline and film historian Nick Redman, the film’s original theatrical trailer, an MGM 90th Anniversary trailer, a scroll-through of Twilight Time’s current catalogue, and a 6-page booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo. The commentary and the score track are, quite obviously, the best extras in this package.
Despite its fan base, The Mechanic still seems to be a bit of an underground movie in some ways, and most people either don’t remember it or haven’t ever heard of it (except for the remake, of course). With this Blu-ray release, it’s a better time than ever to dig back in to this excellent film. And overall, it’s another terrific release from Twilight Time, so get it while you can.
- Tim Salmons