Did anyone else here realize that the original Charles Bronson film was based off a novel? I sure didn’t. But the good news is that the release of the remake has also led to the novel getting reprinted in hardcover, and that makes it mercifully simple to find. Not so much with it’s sequel “Death Sentence”, but I’m working on that one.
I was surprised as to how much of the basic plot from the Death Wish novel made it into the film. It’s in many ways the same story, so what I really want to highlight are the differences.
We see a great deal more of the son-in-law in the book. He’s a bit of a weasel but he’s there to serve as a sounding board. He embodies the liberal archetype this book sets as the standard, even as Paul swings ever so slightly to the right. The assault on the wife and daughter are never described in detail. The film is far more lurid in it’s portrayal – the book goes out of it’s way to insist there was no rape. I kind of appreciate that. Still, we get a LOT more of Paul’s inner monologue as he begins his descent into violence. His violence is more random, and there’s just as much of it as we see in the movie. The ending is very different. Unresolved but very interesting.
Reading this, I can see where the film gets it’s social messaging from. It’s very heavy handed here, and while the film seems balanced, the author of the novel has definitely chosen a side on the left wing – which is odd because his hero is on the opposite end of his philosophy, causing an interesting cognitive dissonance.
Like the film, it moves slow. Most of the book is about getting over the tragedy of Paul losing his wife and daughter, and the madness of feeling alone. It absolutely draws you in and compels you. By the time we hit that last quarter of the novel where the shooting starts, it feels almost like we’ve got a completely different book in our hands.
I’m conflicted as to what is superior – the film or the book. The intellectual and literary snob in me wants to say the book, and yet the film is comfort food – not only is it familiar, there’s things it just does better. Do yourself a favor and check both the original film and this novel out from the Library so you can compare and contrast for yourself.