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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital Mono
  • French: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
  • German: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Mono
    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Hebrew, Czech, Greek, Polish, Hungarian, Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese, Turkish, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Hindi
  • 1 Theatrical trailer
  • 3 Cast/crew biographies - Talent profiles on Charles Bronson, James Coburn and director Walter Hill
Hard Times
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 90 mins . M15+ . PAL


Walter Hill’s directorial debut with the 1975 film Hard Times is a remarkably accomplished one; polished, slick, and serving as an indicator of his later works, it is an extraordinarily assured first effort from the Long Beach, California native who had never attended film school. Hill first soared to prominence as the screenwriter of the 1972 action classic The Getaway, starring Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw, and directed by Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch, Convoy, and Cross of Iron).

Although noted as an astute producer, whose most notable credits include the four current films in 20th Century Fox’s Alien franchise, Hill soon achieved an enviable reputation as a director of gritty urban dramas, including the incredibly successful 48 Hours (1982), and its 1990 sequel, Another 48 Hours. In addition to the surreal Streets of Fire (1984) and Johnny Handsome (1989), Hill gained widespread notoriety with his 1979 release The Warriors; with its controversial depiction of nihilist youth and gang warfare, the film was targeted as being the catalyst for an increase in violence on U.S. streets.

Before films such as Silverado (1985), the superb Unforgiven (1992) and Tombstone (1993) repopularised the Western genre, Hill made The Long Riders in 1980; his preoccupation with the Wild West has continued with his 1993 epic Geronimo: An American Legend, and Wild Bill, an intricate factual account of the life of the legendary gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok, which was released into U.S. theatres in 1995. According to Hill: “It seems to be my fate as far as the Western is concerned to retell stories based on historical Americans.”

Obtained by producer Lawrence Gordon in March 1974, Hard Times was an original screenplay by Bryan Gindoff and Bruce Henstell; financed independently by tax shelter dollars, production on the film commenced later that same year, with shooting conducted on location in New Orleans, Louisiana. The film project was renamed The Street Fighter, however, in a surprising irony, its name was reverted back to its original title, when Gordon and Hill discovered, whilst their film was still in production, that a martial arts epic was due to be released - Shigehiro Ozawa’s The Street Fighter (1974).

Situated in New Orleans during the height of the Great Depression in 1933, Hard Times revolves around a vagrant loner, Chaney (Charles Bronson), whose life is a succession of nameless faces and towns as he drifts aimlessly across the country in search of money; his talent, it seems, consists of a sharp intellect and quick fists. Arriving off the train in a strangely poignant introduction, Chaney soon becomes involved in the township's clandestine world of street fighting, and with the misfortunes of a scheming hustler, Spencer “Speed” Weed (James Coburn).

After convincing Speed of his fighting abilities and enticing him with the prospect of financial gain, Chaney enrols in several tournaments, brutally vanquishing his opponents. Both Speed and Chaney form a mutually beneficial partnership; however, their prosperity is threatened when Speed recklessly gambles their profits on a disastrous crap game. Plunged into insurmountable debt and unable to repay his dues to the local crime syndicate, Speed is apprehended and is scheduled to be executed by their hand, unless Chaney offers to battle their undefeated urban champion, Street (Nick Dimitri).


Hard Times is presented in its correct screen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is anamophic.

Black levels are solid and provide good depth, while detail is very sharp, allowing for excellent definition. There are no evident MPEG artefacts, although there are instances where film artefects are quite visible throughout the film; appearing mostly as black dots and thin hairs, these seem to most noticeable in the film’s opening frames, but at no stage were they deemed intrusive. There seems to be a brief fluctuation in brightness and contrast, occurring at 38 minutes and 4 seconds; this anomaly lasts for a second or two.

Grain appears to be present throughout the film, and is most perceptible in its opening shots involving the blue Louisiana skies, and the darkened staircase in Chapter 15; none of this, though, proved to be distracting and is of a quite acceptable level, taking into account the film’s age. Flesh-tones seem accurate; there is no discernible colour-bleeding or oversaturation. Indeed, Hard Times exhibits a muted colour palette, but this can be attributed to the film stock which Hill had used.

There are five audio selections available, that of the English Dolby Digital 2.0, German Dolby Digital 2.0, French Dolby Digital 2.0, Italian Dolby Digital 2.0, and the Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0. Dialogue and sound is firmly located in the centre speaker, producing a monaural effect which is always clear and easy to understand. Barry De Vorzon’s musical arrangement is not terribly prominent; however, when featured, his bluegrass-influenced composition is curiously emotive and adds considerable weight to its accompanying scenes.

Extras are severely limited on this DVD, which include a theatrical trailer, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and a non-anamorphic aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with a running time of 2 minutes and 24 seconds. In addition, there are three talent profiles relating to director Walter Hill, Charles Bronson and James Coburn; each provide selected filmographies and rudimentary biographical details.

The Motion Picture Guide remarked that Hard Times was “one of Charles Bronson’s best pictures,” after its premiere on October 8, 1975. If not one of his best films, Hard Times undoubtedly contains one of Bronson’s best performances as the brooding, world-weary and cynical Chaney; with his intense portrayal of a man who is at odds with the Depression and himself, he manages to convey his character’s thoughts and emotions without expressing a word.

The film’s opening depicting Chaney traveling to New Orleans via a freight train is a shining example, showcasing Hill’s direction and Bronson’s performance; in the space of but a few minutes, Hard Times’ sense of desperation and Chaney’s nomadic character are firmly established. Yet for all the film’s bleakness, there is an optimistic tone which manages to creep into its coda, bringing with it a sense of resolution and redemption. It must be said that, although Hard Times is somewhat predictable, it is an enjoyable film and one that will satisfy Bronson's legions of fans.

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  •   And I quote...
    "Walter Hill’s first directorial effort can be regarded as a precursor to David Fincher’s Fight Club... Perhaps one the finest films in the street-fighting genre... "
    - Shaun Bennett
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