poster screamed: “Most criminals answer to the law. The world’s most savage
executioner must answer to Bronson.” Since the late 1960s, Charles Bronson’s
name on a marquee was a guarantee of unchained action. When The Evil That Men Do opened in 1984, fans
were hit with the expected violence─but this time they were also assaulted with
thick layers of sadism, sleaze and depravity. And they loved it.
Born in 1921, Charles
Bronson (originally Bunchinsky) was a dirt-poor Pennsylvania coal miner before
he was drafted and later used the GI Bill to study acting. After dozens of
small roles, he became a popular supporting player in hit films like The
Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963)─then went
overseas to star in European pictures like Farewell, Friend (1967), Once
Upon a Time in the West (1967) and Rider on the Rain (1970).
Although ignored in the States─where they were shelved or
sparsely-released─Bronson’s foreign films were international blockbusters and
made him one of the biggest superstars in the world. With the vigilante-themed
American movie Death Wish (1974), Bronsonfinally became huge at
U.S. theaters and he followed it with worldwide hits including Breakout
(1975) and Breakheart Pass (1975). By the early 1980s, weak entries like
Love and Bullets (1979) and Borderline (1980) weren’t doing much
at North American box offices, but the Bronson name (with the right material)
could still secure financing.
Looking for suitable material was independent producer
Pancho Kohner─son of Paul Kohner, the successful Hollywood agent and the
longtime representative of Bronson. Pancho Kohner had already produced the
Bronson vehicles St. Ives (1976), The White Buffalo (1977), and Love
and Bullets. He recalls, “[Bronson] always liked to satisfy his audience.
He knew what his audience expected of him. He didn’t want to deviate too far.
He did a couple of films that were different, but mostly he knew what his
audience expected of him and that’s what he wanted to do.”
look for material that will entertain,” Bronson once said. “I’ve sustained
because I’m sympatico with the material I do and the other way around. An actor
shouldn’t just think of doing things he
might enjoy doing. I think first of the audience, not of myself, but of the
movie fans all around the world who want to be entertained.”
Kohner’s search led to an action novel called
The Evil That Men Do. Published in November of 1978 by Times
Books, it dealt with a legendary assassin named Holland who
travels to Guatemala to take out Clement Moloch aka“The Doctor”─a
feared torturer described as “one of the most hideously depraved men in all the
darkest ranks of history…a man who stood in blood to the ankles.” Kirkus Reviews called the book “A
frightening, razor-slice thriller that holds the reader hostage until the last
shuddering climax.” Author R. Lance Hill’s previous novel, King of White Lady (1975) which was about a cocaine dealer, was
optioned several times by movie producers, but it stayed unfilmed. Bronson
initially passed on The Evil That Men Do, but in 1980 the screen rights were
purchased by a partnership consisting of Kohner, Bronson, Jill Ireland
(Bronson’s actress wife) and director J. Lee Thompson. Hill was commissioned to
turn his novel into a script.
J. Lee Thompson’s long directing career began
in the 1940s in England and his exceptional British films included the
suspenseful Tiger Bay (1959). Thompson relocated to Hollywood in 1960,
and the following year he helmed two action-suspense classics: Guns of
Navarone (which earned him an Oscar nomination) and Cape Fear. His
output included over a dozen more pictures before he first teamed with Bronson
and Kohner on St. Ives and The
While Kohner shopped the Evil That Men Do package, Bronson starred in Death Wish II for the Israeli filmmaking cousins Menahem
Golan and Yoram Globus, who had recently moved into the Hollywood movie market
by purchasing the distribution/production sleaze outfit the Cannon Group. In
1982 the Death Wish sequel went
to number-one at the U.S. box-office, was a huge international hit, revitalized
the Bronson name, and gave a major boost to Cannon’s image. Naturally, Golan
and Globus wanted a follow-up.
Kohner explains, “Golan wanted to do
Charlie’s next picture and [The Evil That Men Do was] the one that we were going to do next. We were going off to
Cannes to pre-sell foreign territories. I explained to Menahem that the rights
to the book and the cost of the screenplay was $200,000. Menahem said, ‘Well,
as a producer, that’s your contribution.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s very nice, but
I put up a third, Charlie put up a third, and J. Lee Thompson put up a third.
We must certainly reimburse them, if not me.’ He said, ‘Oh, I can’t do that.’
Menahem and I liked each other, but he didn’t want to back down. It became a
matter of principle. We were leaving the next day for Cannes. [Golan] said,
‘I’ll tell you what. We’ll go to Cannes anyway and we’ll pre-sell the next
Bronson picture. When we come back in two weeks, we’ll find another story and
we will not make The Evil That Men Do. That’s how we came to do 10 to
Midnight . It wasn’t
until later that we made The Evil That Men Do.”
Charles Bronson and Nicole Thomas.
When the Cannon deal for The Evil That Men Do died, Kohner went to the British company ITC Entertainment─headed by Lew Grade, the movie/TV mogul whose previous presentations included The Muppet Movie (1979) and Raise theTitanic (1980). In the fall of 1982, ITC granted The Evil That Men Do a budget of $4.6 million and made it the final film in Bronson’s three-picture, pay-or-play deal with Grade. (Love and Bullets and Borderline were the earlier films in the trio.) Discussed previously during the Bronson/ITC pact were Dollar Ninety-Eight (the star’s autobiographical, never-made pet project about life in a Depression-era mining town) and Firepower (1979), which ended up starring James Coburn.
The Evil That Men Dowould be Bronson’s fifth movie with Kohner as producer. Lance Hool─who had produced 10 to Midnight with Kohner and Caboblanco starring Bronson─was set as executive producer.
R. Lance Hill’s script was turned over for revisions to John Crowther, who had written the martial arts movie Kill and Kill Again (1981) and had previous experience as an actor and director. Crowther recalls, “I’d known Pancho Kohner for years. We got to be very good friends. I had actually worked on another Bronson picture as a writer. I wasn’t credited, but I was the final writer on location in Switzerland on Love and Bullets. I was casting director on10 to Midnight. [Hill] had it in his contract that he could do the first draft of the screenplay. But it was fairly clear that he was not a screenwriter. He just made a screenplay out of a novel. There were things in it that weren’t cinematic. It didn’t make good action, it didn’t make good visuals. It just didn’t work as a movie. Pancho, Lance Hool, and I knew that this really needed a major, major rewrite─really going back to the book and starting over. Pancho told [ITC] that they were bringing me on to rewrite [Hill’s] script, which was really not true. [laughs] I wasn’t really rewriting his script, I really went right back to the novel. They hired me on a weekly contract, thinking that it would take two or three weeks and I’d be finished. This all started in ’82 in the fall. One of the things that I knew from the very beginning when I read the book was that there were holes of logic in it that you could drive trucks through. The premise is nonsense. It’s ridiculous. ‘The Doctor’ has better security than the Israeli Mossad─it says so in the book. It’s just impossible to get to ‘the Doctor.’ But the security for ‘the Doctor’ couldn’t be more ridiculous. He’s got these three lame-os doing his security and this crappy video surveillance. [laughs] So, the challenge was to just keep it going so fast that nobody would notice. I had to keep it moving and at such a fast pace that nobody would turn around and say, ‘But wait a minute, that can’t be.’”
Several of the novel’s minor characters, like Moloch’s wife, were cut from the script. Also dropped were a number of vignettes, including: Moloch’s surreal dream of being tortured in a concentration camp by Josef Mengele; the heroine disguising as a man; and Holland torturing the Doctor’s sister to death.
Jorge Zepeda as the torture victim of Joseph Maher.
Although J. Lee Thompson intended to direct The Evil That Men Do, his current schedule made it impossible. Crowther explains, “J. Lee, at that point, couldn’t do it because he was finishing up 10 to Midnight─the editing and post-production.” (10 to Midnight was to be released March, 1983.)
Kohner then turned to Fielder Cook, an Emmy-winning director of dozens of TV movies and episodes as well as a few small theatrical features including A BigHand for the Little Lady (1965). Crowther says, “[Fielder Cook] and Pancho had met sometime before and Pancho liked Fielder’s work and they talked about working together one day. It was a ridiculous choice. Fielder had absolutely zero experience with action. [On] Thanksgiving morning, Pancho, Lance and myself met with Fielder Cook, who was to be the director. And that was our first indication that things might be problematic because we were talking about the script and it became painfully obvious that Fielder had not read the novel. [laughs] He had it with him, but he hadn’t read it at all. He was really tap-dancing all over the place. He was winging that meeting and we knew it. After he left, we all looked at each other and said, ‘Oh, man. We’re in trouble.’ [laughs] Fielder had a [writer] friend, who had worked with him before, and he wanted me off the film and the friend on. I had an office at ITC. In the same building where I was working, they were interviewing [other] writers. It came time for Christmas break and Fielder went home and, on his own, started working on a draft. And he made the huge mistake of turning that draft into Pancho. We all looked at it and went, ‘This is justawful.’ It started off with pages of dialogue between ‘the Doctor’ and his sister talking about martinis. [laughs] It was impossible. I went to Pancho and said, ‘You do what you want to do, but you’re crazy if you don’t get rid of him.’ Pancho said, ‘I’m not gonna’ get rid of him, but I’ll tell him that he has absolutely nothing to do with the script.’ Pancho thought that if he told him this, Fielder would quit─which any self-respecting director would do. But Fielder was desperate to do this movie. So, he was cut out of the [writing] process from early on. Because it was a major rewrite, it just kept on-and-on, week-after-week.”
Jill Ireland served as the film’s associate producer under her new production company Zuleika Farms, named after the Vermont estate she shared with Bronson. (Zuleika was also the name of the couple’s daughter.) Ireland’s duties consisted only of casting. She recalled in a memoir: “As associate producer, I was introduced to Hilary Holden, an Englishwoman who was the casting director. Hilary and I got along like a house afire. For two months we worked side by side, brown-bagging our lunches.” (Holden had cast Love and Bullets.)
Early trade announcements for the movie reported that Ireland (who had already appeared in fourteen of her husband’s films) would be playing the female lead,Rhiana─described in the book as half Swiss-Italian/half Latino. But Ireland decided that another actress was better-suited to the role. She wrote: “Theresa [Saldana] had been a special project of Hilary’s and mine. We felt we had rediscovered her by fighting to have her cast in The Evil That Men Do after she had been brutally attacked and slashed on a Los Angeles street.” On March 15, 1982 the young actress, whose pictures included I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978) and Raging Bull (1980), was stabbed ten times by a deranged stalker. She almost died and spent four months in a hospital. Ireland convinced Cook to cast Saldana. Crowther says, “That’s consistent with Jill. She was such a nice lady.”
Before accepting the role, Saldana discussed the brutal script with her support group and explained, “One of the saving graces is that the woman I portray is a nonviolent person.” The actress did several of her own (minor) stunts in the film. “They thought I was too fragile,” she said. “I’m feeling better than ever and I desperately wanted to do my own stunts to show everyone I’m fine.”
The cast and crew went to Mexico in early March, 1983. Crowther says, “They saved a lot of money by shooting everything in Mexico. There was nothing on a sound stage, everything was actual location. Lance was experienced in Mexico.” Hool was born in that country and his previous productions Survival Run (1979) and Caboblanco were shot there. Both Hool and Kohner were on-set for the entire production. Ireland stayed on location for the whole shoot with Bronson and their children. She got her good friend Alan Marshall on as a makeup artist.
Crowther recalls, “I, presumably, was finished [with the script] when everybody left for Mexico. Then they needed me in Mexico─the idea being that I would just do a little bit of rewriting down there and come back. That was actually the first film I worked on a computer with. We didn’t have it in Mexico. We did take it to Mexico [but] the power was just so [weak] down there, it just went out. In Mexico, it became painfully obvious after about a week or so that Fielder was really not up to this. Fielder was trying to get his [writer] friend on the movie again and he was fiddling with the shooting schedule so that all of the action would be at the end of the shoot. He was terrified of it. We all got very nervous. He was spending a lot of time down there interviewing women to do his laundry. He had a huge trunk shipped down there filled with his cooking things. And any director who thinks he’s gonna’ be cooking while he’s shooting a Bronson picture really doesn’t know what’s going on. And Charlie would have just eaten him alive. Charlie had no patience for somebody who didn’t know what they were doing. [laughs] He was a great guy but he could be evil if you didn’t know what you were doing. Pancho had come back up to L.A. and I went to Lance and said, ‘Lance, you guys are crazy. You gotta’ get rid of him. Because if he stays on this picture, you’re gonna’ get halfway into it and it’s not gonna’ be working and then you’re gonna’ be really stuck.’ So when Pancho got back, he and Lance and I sat down and we talked it through over a weekend and at the end of it, Pancho called in Fielder and fired him. And in the meantime, had gotten in touch with J. Lee and said, ‘J. Lee, we’re in trouble down here. You gotta’ just drop everything and get down here and shoot the picture.’”
“It was hysterical. We all met J. Lee at the airport with a mariachi band. [laughs] When he arrived, just three or four days before the shoot started, he said to me, ‘John, you gotta’ stay here with me right through the thing. Because I’m gonna’ want changes regularly. And you gotta’ walk me through the script day-by-day and tell me what’s going on.’ [laughs] J. Lee was brilliant and his ideas and his changes and where he wanted to go with it were just dead on. ITC were very antsy about my staying down in Mexico. They kept sending frantic messages saying, ‘When is the writer coming home?’ Not only was I still being paid by the week, but I was getting my hotel and expenses. But J. Lee put his foot down and he said to me, ‘You are not leaving here until the last day of shooting. You’re not leaving the set until I do.’ [laughs]” Thompson was seventy at the time. The Evil That Men Do was his 41st film as a director and his fifth starring Bronson.
Kohner explains, “[Thompson] was so efficient that he would get twenty, twenty-five set-ups in a day. He started out as an editor. He knew exactly what he wanted. He knew exactly what angles, what shots. Lee knew exactly what shots he needed to put together the film. So it all worked just fine and Charlie mellowed out. [Bronson] had a lot of respect for Lee. The whole crew appreciated when the director didn’t make them work over and over getting the same shot from different angles. The crew and the actors know [when] the director is obviously going to direct the film in the editing room. Lee didn’t need to do that at all. He was just a terrific filmmaker.”
Bronson once said, “I avoid a director if he takes too long because I get paid the same if it takes ten weeks to make a picture as I do if it takes two years.”
Crowther recalls. “[Thompson] walked on a set very prepared. I don’t know how he did on other movies, where he’d have more time to prepare, but on this one he didn’t work from a storyboard. I sat down with him after shooting every day to go over the next day’s shooting─not the shots, just the continuity. Because he came into it so fast, he had to be reminded what came before, what was going to come after, how things fit together. He had little pieces of paper and he’d scribble things. He was such fun. I used to call him ‘Lee T.’ Because he looked like ‘E.T.’ He looked like this little alien creature and he had this very funny little English voice. Very prissy. [laughs] He was the total antithesis of Charlie and they got along famously. They really worked well together.”
Bronson and Theresa Saldana
“Charlie had a contract that said that he worked eight hours, period. He would not go overtime at all. He wanted to be with the family. He was such a professional that you got eight hours work out of Charlie. He never had a problem with lines, he always was on his marks, he really knew what he was doing. Almost always on a set when you have a major star and he has off-screen lines─in other words, it’s somebody else’s close-up─that star will just stand off-camera and just deliver the lines. Or they’re in their trailer and the continuity person will do the off-screen lines. Charlie always would be there right next to the camera, not only doing his lines but giving a performance. He never cheated a second. That was the coal miner ethos: You were paid for a day’s work, you did a day’s work. Early on, through the writing process [Bronson] didn’t have anything to do with [the script] at all. [During production], he would come back with changes or he would have questions, little things. I had a thing in the script where he said, ‘My name is Smith. Bart Smith,’ and Charlie just guffawed and said, ‘God, this isn’t James Bond. What are you doing that for?’ [laughs] He had an amazing ear for cliché. Charlie knew his stuff. He didn’t want to do the car chase. He had grown to hate car chases, but he did it. When we shot the stuff at his [character’s] home─which was actually John Huston’s place in Puerta Vallarta─it was the last thing we shot. You could only reach it by tonga, these little open boats. That scene where he’s looking at tapes, Charlie didn’t like what was in the script and he wanted it changed. J. Lee wanted it the original way and I was in the middle of the two, trying to be a good craftsman. It was probably a half-hour discussion. Finally, because we were losing time, J. Lee said to Charlie, ‘If John sits down and writes it right now, will you shoot it both ways?’ And Charlie, said, ‘Yes.’ And we did, we shot it both ways. Most actors who didn’t like one version would sabotage it. They wouldn’t act it. But Charlie acted them both, full on. It just wasn’t in his DNA to cheat. The version that J. Lee and I wanted, the original version, was the one that stayed in the movie. But he was terrific in both of them.”
Cast as “the Doctor” was the distinguished, Tony-nominated Irish actor Joseph Maher (Time After Time, 1979). Just like the character was described in the novel, Maher had pink skin and “a cradle of dense white hair.” Crowther says, “Interesting choice for the role. [His performance is] really over-the-top but it works in the movie because everything has to be larger-than-life to sell that premise.” Raymond St. Jacques (Cotton Comes to Harlem, 1970) played a bisexual henchman, described in the book as “a giant man…able to intimidate by sight alone.” Crowther explains, “We did not hire Ray St. Jacques until we were down in Mexico and I suggested him. It wasn’t written as an African American. I had known him a number of years before in New York. I thought he had the right kind of threat to him. When he got down there he said to me, ‘You wanna’ know something? It’s the first time I’ve ever been hired to play a role that wasn’t written as a black man.’” Oscar-winner Jose Ferrer (Cyrano de Bergerac, 1950)and then-popular TV actor René Enríquez (Hill Street Blues, 1981-1987) added prestige as good guys.
Bronson may have been aging, but his movies definitely kept up with the times in terms of violence. Thompson also had no trouble with onscreen brutality─as demonstrated in his recent gory slasher Happy Birthday to Me (1981).The EvilThat Men Do became one of the more graphic and vicious films made by the star or the director. Crowther: “Nobody ever asked for things to be toned down. When we were shooting the scene in the little Mexican village where the henchmen get blown away by Charlie in that little café, I remember J. Lee going, ‘More blood, please. More blood.’ [laughs] So, [violence] wasn’t a concern.” The enormous, acromegaly-afflicted Mexican actor Miguel Angel Fuentes (Fitzcarraldo, 1979)was paired with Bronson for one of the more gripping fight scenes in the star’s filmography. (As described in in the novel: “The fabric of the ladino’s pants and the pouchy sac beneath were wrung through Holland’s clamped fingers.”)
The brutality of the action was matched by the sleaziness of the characters. At one point, Bronson’s character passes himself off as a bisexual wife swapper. Crowther recalls that vignette: “It was not in the version that we started shooting with. It’s not in the book. I never in a million years expected Charlie to do it. I thought he would look at it and say, ‘What? Are you crazy?’ [laughs] But, I wrote it because I thought that the idea of Charlie Bronson picking up a guy was too good to be true. And he loved it. He went for it with gusto. [laughs]” In the novel, Holland hides under a bed while the female villain has sex with a man. In the movie, the tryst is between two women. Crowther: “I changed it. I just thought it would be way more interesting. I just thought it somehow made more sense for her character, that really strange character. When I was coming up with stuff like that, nobody fought with me.”
The film’s sadistic climax, where “the Doctor” is attacked by a mob of his disfigured victims, is far more satisfying and effective than the ending in the book─where Moloch is blasted with a shotgun by Rhiana, shot in the chest by Holland’s revolver, then hanged by his feet and bled. Crowther recalls, “We didn’t have an ending. That was troubling us all along─how to end it. I was the one who came up with the idea of having the natives, the miners getting him. But it was out of desperation. It was like, ‘We gotta’ go with this or we don’t have an ending.’ And it was a pretty radical idea because it’s almost unheard of that an amazing, invulnerable hero has to be saved. And Charlie can’t do it at the end of that movie─he has to be saved by the natives. I was on the set writing the ending. [laughs] I was sitting in Pancho’s motor home writing the scene and handing [pages] out the window to the assistant director, in carbon copies. We shot that scene at a real mine outside Guadalajara, almost an hour’s drive up in the hills─really remote.”
The six-week shoot ended in mid-May, 1983. Crowther: “It was a great shoot. It was a party the whole time. Sets generally are fun and happy but you always have the tough times. There was never a tough time on this movie.”
Ireland later wrote: “When I returned, filming completed, Hilary and I decided to open a production office. We had dinner and spent the evening planning, designing our office, and discussing books that might make good film properties.” But the partnership ended suddenly when Hilary Holden died of a heart attack on May 13, 1983 at the age of forty-six. She was a single mother and left behind a fifteen-year-old daughter, Katrina. Crowther explains, “I spent a number of years living in Italy and I’m fluent in Italian and [Holden’s] daughter’s father was an Italian. So, Jill called me the same day that Hilary died to call the father and tell him.” The Bronsons adopted the daughter who, as Katrina Holden Bronson, later became an actress and director.
The Evil That Men Do was edited by the director’s son Peter Lee Thompson (cutter of 10 to Midnight). The picture turned out to be a typically-efficient action effort from Thompson with extensive use of the Steadicam, a game (and well-dressed) Bronson, and no less than seventeen graphic onscreen deaths (the star kills eleven). Methods of destruction include: choking, knife-tossing, bullets in the head, shotgun blasts, hanging by fire hose, and testicular electrocution.
The screenplay was credited to David Lee Henry (the pseudonym used by novelist R. Lance Hill on his screen assignments) and John Crowther. The latter says, “My version was changed so much from [Hill’s] draft that I felt that I did have a good case to have sole credit. It’s helpful in terms of credit, but it’s also helpful in terms of money. If you get sole credit, you get all of the residuals. It went to Writers Guild arbitration and they ruled against me. That almost always happens when a novelist has adapted his own book for the first draft. The act of creating the original characters gives a lot of weight.”
In March of 1984, Tri-Star Pictures─a recently-formed subsidiary of Columbia Pictures─acquired North American distribution rights to The Evil That Men Do. (At the same time, Tri-Star also picked up ITC’s Where the Boys Areremake.) ITC handled distribution for the rest of the world. The new Bronson picture opened on March 15 in France, in other parts of Europe in the middle of the year, and in London in June.
Tri-Star released the movie in the States on September 23, 1984 with a saturation run in 1,464 theaters. Never again would a Bronson picture open in so many venues at once. It received an R-rating from the MPAA. Surprisingly, itwasn’t slapped with an X. At the time, the ratings board was very strict on graphic violence and the film also contains full-frontal female nudity. The U.S. Catholic Conference gave it an “O” (morally offensive) tag. The trailer made The Evil That Men Do look like a Death Wish entry with narration like: “When the system of justice doesn’t work, Bronson does! When the courts can’t do what they must, Bronson will!” A month earlier, the novel was reprinted as a paperback tie-in with the star’s image on the cover. By this point, the book had a cult following and some readers were unhappy with the casting─Holland is 33 in the novel; Bronson was 61 at the time of filming.
Like almost all Bronson vehicles, this one received negative reviews from mainstream critics. Variety: An assembly-line Charles Bronson pic.” Milwaukee Sentinel: “just an excuse for Bronson to coolly go about blowing people’s heads off…But if you like Bronson, and enjoy seeing people tortured with electrodes, this movie will probably please you.”Ottawa Citizen: “Bronson still hasn’t learned to act.” Evening Independent (St. Petersburg, FL): “The Evil That Men Do, indeed is an ironic title, for Thompson’s direction is so clumsy and false, Bronson’s performance so mechanical and uneventful, they are the ones who stand guilty of evil─the evil of committing unforgiveable movie-making sins, one after another, for an odious hour and a half.”Montreal Gazette: “This film glorifies in violence and gore. That automatically guarantees a huge audience full of the sort of people who get a kick out of picking wings off flies.” The Vindicator (Youngstown, OH): “This film is for the sadistic at heart. It could well have been written by the Marquis de Sade himself.” Beaver County Times (Beaver, PA): “The Evil That Men Do is a form of unbearable cinematic torture.”
Naturally, this Bronson programmer was critic proof. It opened at number-two at the U.S. box office and collected $4.5 million in its first week. (Tightrope, the latest from fellow action star Clint Eastwood, had opened at number-one the previous week with $9.1 million.) A New York Times reviewer noted: “audiences show up simply to watch [Bronson] kill…There was plenty of audience participation at the theater. Crowd favorites, in addition to the electrode sequence, were a barroom scene in which Mr. Bronson inflicts an unspeakable form of pain on an enemy, and another scene in which he shoots off someone’s head.”The target audience apparently agreed with the underground fanzine Gore Gazette: “Bronson has always been revered by sleazemongers who can count on him to consistently deliver…[The movie has] some of the sickest killings and maiming depicted in a major Hollywood release to date…Gorehounds will howl with glee…A must-see for fans of truly depraved cinema.” The final U.S. gross for The Evil That Men Do was a respectable $13.1 million. (Thestar’s previous release, 10 to Midnight, had collected $7.2 million. Death Wish II and Death Wish 3 (1985) were the only Bronson pics of the 80s to make more money than The Evil That Men Do.)
Prints of The Evil That Men Do released in some countries, like the United Kingdom and Germany, had less violence than seen in the States. But stronger versions were released in Japan and Spain with: more blood spurting from Raymond St. Jacques’s throat wound; an additional bodily shotgun blast in the café scene; and extra gore splashing on the miners at the climax. (A Spanish DVD contains the full version.)
The film was released to American VHS and Beta in April 1985 by Columbia Home Video. An Evil That Men Do “shelf talker” for video stores also promoted the earlier Bronson tapes available from that studio. The movie hit pay-TV later in that year. Older Bronson followers had their interest in the star rekindled by seeing his new entries on the small screen while younger viewers first became fans by watching the legend’s new, ultra-violent pictures at home.
The Variety review for The Evil That Men Do noted: “Only question that remains is how long Bronson can continue to milk this formula before the genre goes stale.” The answer was six more pictures in the next five years. The Evil That Men Doturned out to be Bronson’s only feature of the 1980s that was not made for Cannon Films. In 1984 the star signed a three-picture contract with Golan-Globus that began with his next film, Death Wish 3. After that trio was completed, Bronson closed a Cannon deal in 1986 for another six movies. Only four got made─including Kinjite (1989), which almost topped The Evil That Men Do as the star’s sleaziest vehicle─before Cannon shut down, but Golan did use the contract to put Bronson in Death Wish V (1993). Also in the 1990s, Bronson had a featured role in The Indian Runner (1991) and starred in a half-dozen TV-movies. He died in 2003.
Jill Ireland later served as coproducer on her husband’s pictures Murphy’s Law and Assassination. (Her producing duties were uncredited on the latter.) She died in 1990. Pancho Kohner produced five more Bronson vehicles. J. Lee Thompson would direct another seven features, five starring Bronson, before his death in 2002. R. Lance Hill, under his David Lee Henry pseudonym, rewrote Oliver Stone’s draft for 8 Million Waysto Die (1986), then wrote Road House (1989) and the Steven Segal hit Out for Justice (1991).
John Crowther recalls, “[After The Evil That Men Do,] I would see [Bronson] from time or we would cross paths. I worked for Lance [Hool] on a Chuck Norris movie. But I didn’t do any other Bronson movies.” In addition to the Norris vehicle Missing in Action (1984), Crowther wrote the action movies The Wild Pair (1987) and The Damned River (1989). Today, he devotes his time to painting, cartooning, and exhibiting his artwork. Looking back on The Evil That Men Do, he says, “I still get residuals. It continues to make money all over the world. I think most people like it better than I do. I think it’s good because it accomplished what it needed to accomplish─it obscures the fact that it’s a ridiculous premise. [laughs]”
Paul Talbot is the author of several books including Bronson’s Loose!: The Making of the ‘Death Wish’ Films and Mondo Mandingo: The ‘Falconhurst’ Books and Films as well as numerous print and online articles and DVD liner notes.
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