Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 3rd, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1975
Director: Walter Hill
Writers: Walter Hill, Bryan Gindoff, Bruce Henstell
Cast: Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Jill Ireland, Strother Martin, Margaret Blye, Michael McGuire, Felice Orlandi, Edward Walsh, Bruce Glover, Robert Tessier, Nick Dimitri, Frank McRae
BluRay released: April 24th, 2017
Approximate running time: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Eureka Video
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: £17.99 (UK)
Hard Times was co-written and directed by Walter Hill whose other notable films include, The Driver, The Warriors, Southern Comfort, 48 Hours and Streets of Fire. Key collaborators on Hard Times include, cinematographer Philip H. Lathrop (Point Blank, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?), editor Roger Spottiswoode (Straw Dogs, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid) and composer Barry De Vorzon (Dillinger, The Ninth Configuration).
There is no denying the impact casting can play on any given film. And nowhere is this more evident than with a film like Hard Times. At the time this film was being made Charles Bronson (Once Upon a Time in The West) was one of cinema’s most in demand actors. And attaching his name to any film would have been a tremendous asset in regards to the box office. On the surface, though the cast of Charles Bronson in the role of the protagonist appears to be an unlikely choice. In hindsight, the end result is one of the more inspired casting choices in cinema history.
The premise for Hard Times is well executed and the narrative is perfectly paced as key moments are given an ample amount of time to resonate. The characters are well defined and the entire cast are very good in their respective roles. With this film’s anchor and standout performance being Charles Bronson in the role of a drifter named Chaney, who quickly gains notoriety in the underground world of illegal prize fighting. Other standout performances include, Strother Martin (Cool Hand Luke) in the role of preacher like character named Poe and James Coburn (Duck You Sucker) in the role of a small-time hustler named Speed, who forms a partnership with Chaney.
When discussing Hard Times one must not overlooked the contributions of Walter Hill, who at the time was making his debut as a director. His direction is rock solid and there is a very satisfying balanced between the action set pieces and more dramatic moments. And when it comes to this film’s action set pieces, this film delivers in spades. Stand out moments include, a scene where Chaney gets the money that is owed to him from a group of locales that refused to pay up after their man lost a fight with Chaney. And the knock down drag out fight that culminates this film.
Hard Times comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. For this release a brand-new transfer has been created from a 4k digital restoration and the end result is a solid transfer. The image looks crisp, grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English and a DTS-HD 5.1 surround mix in English. Both audio mixes sound, clean, clear and robust when they need too. Out of these two audio mixes, the DTS-HD 5.1 surround mix offers a slightly fuller audio experience. Included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 23 seconds), excerpts from a 1984 interview with Walter Hill at the National Film Theater, London (31 minutes 32 seconds), three interviews – the first interview with co-screenwriter / director Walter Hill (20 minutes 40 seconds), an interview with producer Lawrence Gordon (14 minutes 20 seconds) and an interview with composer Barry DeVorzon and a twenty page booklet with cast & crew information, Pauline Kael’s original 1975 New Yorker review of the film, archival imagery and information about the transfer.
Topics discussed in the audio interview with Walter Hill include, his thoughts about directing, action cinema, westerns, his favorite directors, the financial side of filmmaking, staging fight scenes, how he got into screenwriting, Sam Peckinpah, why what is written in a screenplay does not always end up onscreen and he also discusses various films that he worked on.
Topics discussed in the on-camera interview with Walter Hill include, producer Lawrence Gordon, making the transition from screenwriter to director, Raoul Walsh, Sam Peckinpah, Hard Times and what type of film was he trying to make, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Strother Martin, cinematographer Philip H. Lathrop and what he learned from him as a filmmaker and his thoughts about Hard Times.
Topics discussed in the interview with Lawrence Gordon include, the origins of Hard Times, Columbia Pictures and how they got involved in distributing the film, Walter Hill and why he decided to hire a first-time director, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Strother Martin, Jill Ireland, cinematographer Philip H. Lathrop and his thoughts about Hard Times.
Topics discussed in the interview with Barry DeVorzon include, Dillinger and his experiences working with director John Milius, how Dillinger’s score lead to him being hired to do the score for Hard Times, Walter Hill, his creative process as a composer, his thoughts about Hard Times and the score for this film was one of easiest scores he ever worked on.
Included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Hard Times gets a definitive release from Eureka Video, highly recommended.