Originally released in the UK under the title THE STREETFIGHTER, presumably because Charles Dickens fans who were disappointed at not seeing Charles Bronson star in a Walter Hill-directed adaptation of that author’s satire on utilitarianism would have smashed up the cinema, HARD TIMES makes its UK Blu-ray debut as part of a dual format release courtesy of Eureka.
America during the Great Depression. Drifter Chaney (Bronson) jumps off a freight train in New Orleans with the intention of making some money with his (extremely impressive) bare-knuckle fist fighting skills.
He hooks up with local hustler Speed (James Coburn) and his morphine-addicted medic friend (Strother Martin) and together they enter the world of Louisiana prize fighting. Unfortunately Speed owes money to the kind of people who like to collect with a sledgehammer, and while Chaney is trying to romance Lucy (Jill Ireland) there are others who would like to hire his skills.
Walter Hill’s first film as director is rich in period atmosphere but stripped down in terms of plot and dialogue. In fact if you replaced bare fists with Colt 45s then HARD TIMES could easily have been a Western of the Man With No Name variety. We learn very little indeed about Chaney, who essentially arrives, fights, and then leaves at the end, having demonstrated noble intent - perhaps Hill’s stripped down idea of what masculinity should be?
Eureka’s disc provides us with some good extras including a talking head piece with Hill about the genesis of his first directorial project. There are also new interviews with producer Lawrence Gordon and composer Barry DeVorzon. There’s also an audio interview with Hill recorded at the NFT. The movie itself has had a 4k restoration and absolutely sparkles on Blu-ray. Finally, there’s an accompanying booklet with new and archival writing on the film and archival imagery.
Walter Hill's HARD TIMES is out from Eureka as a dual format release on Monday 24th April 2017