February 17th, 2011: Death Hunt (1981)


Cast and Crew:  Peter R. Hunt (Director); Angie Dickinson, William Sanderson, Len Lesser, Maury Chaykin

What It’s About: Albert Johnson (Charles Bronson), a trapper living in the Yukon in 1931, runs afoul of trapper and dog-fight promoter Hazel (Ed Lauter).  Hazel goes to the Mounties, Sgt. Edgar Millen (Marvin), Sun Dog (Carl Weathers) and rookie Constable Alvin Adams (Andrew Stevens) for help, but Millen turns Hazel down.  After Hazel’s attempt to take Johnson himself results in two men getting killed, Millen leads a posse to Johnson’s cabin.  Johnson is well prepared and shoots his way out.  Soon the Mounties, Hazel, bounty hunters, and even the RCAF are out trying to find the elusive Johnson.

Why Watch it Today?: Death Hunt is based on events even more improbable than the ones that occur in the film, and the real Albert Johnson was killed today in 1932.  Johnson was a mysterious newcomer that the locals accused of disrupting traps.  He really did emerge from a foxhole firing guns after the posse dynamited his cabin, then led the authorities on a man hunt that lasted months before he was finally brought down in a gun battle.  No one knows how he avoided detection while surviving alone in the harsh Yukon winter. This is probably one of those cases where the real story is more interesting than the movie, but the film itself is a decent slice of 1980s action/adventure, with Bronson in a role that suits him well.

Another good reason to watch Death Hunt?  To catch Len Lesser, best known as Jerry’s uncle Leo on Seinfeld,  as one of Bronson’s antagonists.  Lesser died yesterday at the age of 88 after a long career as a character actor.

Where to Get It:  Currently Death Hunt is out of print on DVD and unavailable online legitimately (and, strangely, at Youtube) but it often shows up OnDemand and on cable, or you could buy it on ludicrously overpriced VHS at Amazon.com

The Trailer:

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