Death Wish V: The Face of Death

The mob takes over a fashion house for money-laundering.



This might have been directed by J. Lee Thompson, indeed, Goldstein proceeds from the significant dream of Death Wish 4 to an oneiric realization of the grand finale, which not only allows a rapprochement between Paul Kersey (now a Professor of Architecture) and the NYPD, it carries the series forward to a new level. The subtlety of Goldstein’s approach to this final mêlée is twofold, he gives you an explicit dreamlike motion in one sequence that’s slowed down (preparing and justifying other effects), and he bases the whole thing at a very judicious remove on the ending of Dreyer’s Vampyr.

The detail work is consistent, as amongst the manikins at the end, or in the carefully-chosen view of the house (“safe as the womb”) owned by Tommy O’Shea’s security man, who suffers from dandruff and is known as Freddie “Flakes”. It’s a sort of glass-block Festung Europa with a garage-sale front door and security cameras everywhere. Kersey penetrates it with a curious memory of the soccer ball in Nabokov’s Pnin.

At Freddie’s funeral, a boy appears with a message for O’Shea. All the torpedoes in all the pews turn around, guns drawn, to face him, and the comic shift is made to oneirism.

Some films shot in New York look Canadian. Death Wish V was shot in Canada and looks like New York.

Goldstein showed his analytical powers early on with a videotaping of True West, and later directed 2001: A Space Travesty. The Washington Post, which holds that the ideal film critic would be Rex Reed with his funny bone removed (as if Dorothy Parker’s skill was a matter of “witty bitchiness”), harrumphed. Stephen Holden pronounced the New York Times’ last judgment by hoping for the end.

The central joke is a mobster’s idea of fashion-plate voguing, hookers wearing chain mail. There’s an interesting motif in the revenges. A cyanide-frosted cannoli, a toy, plastic wrapping, a rag doll, and a vat of industrial acid all figure in as a caustic reflection of the theme.

Lesley-Anne Down’s scarred face is a memory of Unforgiven.


2001: A Space Travesty



President Clinton has been replaced by a Vegan clone, or quite the opposite.

The sublimity and ridiculousness of that are reflected in the jokes, which first are aimed at the sci-fi universe, then at The Three Tenors (who sing “In the Navy”), and finally the two Presidents onstage with dueling saxophones.

Marshal Dick Dix (Leslie Nielsen) of “the Interplanetary Security” deals with this one by uncorking a bottle of champagne that knocks a parrot into a tourist’s soup.