Gang War (1958) Poster

(1958)

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7/10
What a bizarre little film!
superstar494 July 2000
That's what I thought as did my guest, when we both watched this film recently on cable.

There's a lot of originality going on from the minute the film begins, with Hollywood, California as the back drop, including the old Capitol Records building in the background. There were some interesting camera angles, as well as one unintentional humorous fight scene between some gangsters.

As for the plot, well, it's "Death Wish" 1958 almost, with a young and raw Charles Bronson as a high school teacher. Gloria Henry, the mother from the Jay North sitcom "Dennis the Menace" plays his pregnant wife.

Next time you come across it on cable, give the film a chance. You might end up watching it (and enjoying it), all the way through.
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Early Bronson
Michael_Elliott26 February 2008
Gang War (1958)

** (out of 4)

A school teacher (Charles Bronson) witnesses a gang killing and turns the gangsters over to the police. In return, the gangsters kill the teacher's pregnant girlfriend, so he goes out for revenge. It was rather funny seeing this film because you can't help but think of Death Wish while watching it. Bronson is rather bland in the lead and the direction by Gene Fowler, Jr. doesn't add much to the mix. The ending really doesn't work and comes of a letdown as well.

Fox owns this title and as of yet they haven't released it to DVD.
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10/10
Early Bronson with a touch of things to come
Renaldo Matlin16 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
It's nice to see Charles Bronson in a leading role in a 1958 20th Century Fox-production. All though it's low-budget and really should be graded as B-material it is a testament to the rising stardom of Bronson. Imagine it would take another 16 years for him to become the greatest movie star in the world!

(MILD SPOILER)

What really makes this movie interesting, if you're a fan of Bronson, is the fact that you get to see him go into his "Death Wish"-mode so many years before he made the character of Paul Kersey part of movie lore. When gangsters accidentally kill his pregnant wife he goes from mild school teacher to a furious revenge-seeker. Sadly the cops stop him, but this is just halfway into the plot.

It's nice to see John Doucette, for years one of Hollywood's many bit-players, given the chance to ham it up as a local mob boss, and there are some surprisingly nice shots for a movie of this size. Such as one mentioned in another comment, where we see Charlie in downtown L.A., late at night, with the Capitol Records building towering in the background.

This is a rare opportunity to see Bronson in a serious starring-role early in his career. Ineptly titled "Gang War" this is more drama than action. Here characters (all be-it paper-thin) play a bigger part than blood and bullets. And as I mentioned above, somewhat a curio for Charlie-fans.
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6/10
Nobody puts the finger on Joe Reno and gets away with it! And Don't You Forget It!
sol121814 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
(There are Spoilers) Having trouble holding his splintering crime syndicate together mob boss Maxie Meadows has his henchmen Joe Reno & Axe Duncon get one of his boys Slick, alone in a L.A parking lot, and beat the guy to death. Slick made the mistake of leaving Maxie's organization for the up and coming Mr. Big of L.A crime Billy Tompkins who's muscling in on Maxie's turf.

Math teacher Alan Avery on his way home from the drug store sees Slick getting it, from Reno & the Axe, and calls the police not giving his name. Alan unknowingly leaves, in the phone booth, a prescription that he got for his pregnant wife Edie with both her name and address on it. Confronted by the police and pressured to identify and later testify against the two murderers sets into motion a series of events through a snitch in the police department. This all leads to Alan's wife Edie getting brutally murder by one of Maxie's henchmen the hulking and brain damaged former boxer Chester. Chester not knowing his own strength was told by Maxie to just smack Edie around but over did it and pummeled her, a woman eight months pregnant, to death.

Alan now not caring what happens to him is determined to take the law into his own hands since the police and D.A are helpless to indite Maxie or Chester for Edie's murder with no one willing to testify against the two hoodlums. It turns out that he doesn't have to with the Topmkins mob doing it for him.

Early Charles Bronson crime drama that's eerily similar to his block buster hit that made him almost overnight an international action star 16 years later as the New York vigilante avenger Paul Kersey in "Death Wish". In fact Bronson's Alan Avery was also like Paul Kersey in "Death Wish" a Korean War veteran who like in that ground-breaking crime film Alan was motivated to take matters into his own hands after his wife Edie played by Gloria Henry, like Hope Lange who played Mrs. Kersey in "Death Wish", was savagely murdered!

The movie moves to it's surprising climax with Alan buying a gun at a local pawn shop and as he's about to break into Maxie's place as Tompking & Co. beats him to it. Maxie was having a Christmas Eve party and expected everyone who's anyone in L.A crime to show up. Instead Maxie is left a broken man as Tompkins has all his hoodlum desert him. With the only friend in the world that he still has the almost brain dead Chester getting worked over and knock out cold by Tompkins' hoods.

With nobody left for Maxie to give orders to he goes into his study and breaks down crying like a baby. Alan, now after all the action is over, enters the place gun in hand and ready to blow the now former mob boss away.

In what has to be the most effective and even touching scene in the movie Alan for the first time loses his determination in wanting to do in his wife's killer or the man who was responsible for her murder. Alan then slowly walks away and drops his gun on the ground as he does it.

It turned out that Alan did the right thing as he left Maxie's place he sees a number of police squad cars pulling up in the driveway. The cops have a number of warrants for Maxie's arrest gotten from his now indited for murder and jailed henchmen.
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6/10
"Dames a Dime a Dozen."
gattonero97515 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I finally got to see this little gem of a movie starring a still-looking young Charles Bronson. He has always and will be my favorite actor of all time. Here, he is his in one of four pictures in 1958 that he had a starring leading role. It has almost the same premises of his later hit "Death Wish"(1974). But it is more a gang picture than anything else. And what I mean by gang it has the typical cliché's like the big boss, the dumb dame, the punch-drunk ex-fighter, the 'bought' cop and the gangland attorney. All in all it holds up well.

Here Bronson as 'Alan Avery', a high school teacher , underplays his role but keeps a sympathetic interest centered on him somehow.

John Doucette as the big crime boss 'Maxie Matthews' whose in denial that his day as boss is numbered, does a way better job for me. He just fits that role so well. Oozing sliminess and dangerous violence within him. And his vernacular is right on target on how those gangsters would sound like. Nice job John, perfect casting.

And the beautiful and sexy Jennifer Holden . Wow, what a doll! She played Marie 'the dumb dame' very well. She was just 'set dressing' but wow what a body! Too bad she did only 3 films!? Before this film she did one with Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock(1957). What a shame and loss of that beautiful figure.

Gloria Henry(Dennis the Menace's mom!) plays Bronson's ill-fated wife 'Edie Avery', did OK. Did not have much to do. It looked for a while that this would be her final 'movie' role as she just later concentrated on TV series shows and TV movies, and in 1992 made what appeared to be her final appearance in anything with a appearance in the TV show 'Sisters',she then reappears 13 years later in a movie no less! The film is called 'Her Minor Thing'(2005) She once again disappears for 7 years and reappears in 2012 in a TV series again no less!? Wow.

The late Barney Phillips plays the Police Lt. Sam Johnson has little do here but does recall his 'Dragnet' days by watching him do the police role. Larry Gelbman who plays the dumb and dangerous ex-fighter bodyguard of Matthews and has a thing for Maxie's moll Marie, did an okay job. Tall and menacing, he did alright for me. This tall actor disappeared from movies after 1969 and has not been heard of since.
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7/10
A Gang War's Death Wish.
morrison-dylan-fan13 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
With a 1950's Challenge currently taking place on ICM,I decided to look for flicks which I've been keeping of the side from viewing for too long. Planning to watch two Death Wish flicks soon,I was interested to read that this was part of Charles Bronson's first big push onto the big screen,which led to me joining the gang.

View on the film:

Ganging up when the Hays Code was the gang in town, director Gene Fowler Jr. Makes a clever use of the soundtrack in layering rumblings of gun fire to the background,creating the impression audibly of a gang war spilling outside across the streets. In setting up the Avery's relationship, Fowler & cinematographer John M. Nickolaus Jr. oddly stay on stilted wide-shots which blocks any closeness the viewers have to the couple from developing. Needing to be watchful due to the Code, Fowler stylishly unveils the aftermath of gang killings, most strikingly composed in the "looking over the edge" shot which triggers Alan Avery into revenge.

Witnessing a gangland killing, the screenplay by Louis Vittes adapts Ovid Demaris's novel with a mounting pressure on Alan and his pregnant wife Edie, in their measured, polite manners being shot down by high rolling gangs who unleash revenge, from wanting it over Alan witnessing their murderous business. Joined by a elegant Gloria Henry in her final film as Edie, Charles Bronson gives a wonderful turn as Alan,whose quiet, softly spoken behaviour Bronson chips away into a death wish against the gang war.
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7/10
Bronson Versus the Mob
zardoz-133 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
In director Gene Fowler, Jr.'s "Gang War," tough guy Charles Bronson plays Los Angeles high school math teacher Alan Avery who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Big-time mobster Maxie Mathews (John Doucette of "The Big Heat") has dispatched his second-in-command, Joe Reno (Jack Reynolds of "The Basketball Fix"), and his henchman, Bernard "Axe" Duncan (Ralph Manza of "Get Shorty"), to take care permanently of Slick Connors (Leonard P. Geer) who has since become an informant for the authorities against Maxie. Reno and Bernard trap Slick atop a car and stab him to death. Alan Avery witnesses this brutal mob killing on his way home from picking up a prescription for his wife. Later, the police show up at Alvery's residence where he lives with his pregnant wife, Edie Avery (Gloria Henry), and they hand him his wife's prescription. Avery has no problem with testifying against the mobsters who killed the man. A corrupt cop makes certain that the media knows everything there is to know about Alvery, and the newspaper the following day features a banner headline about Alvery's involvement. Naturally, mob kingpin Maxie Meadows wants to throw a scare into the public-spirited school teacher so he sends his manservant, Chester (Larry Gelbman of "She Demons") a former pugilist over to Alvery's house to soften up the wife and throw a scare into Alvery. The former prizefighter lays into Edie, and Alan comes home to find the tea kettle whistling stridently and his wife dead on the floor. Immediately, Alvery arms himself with an automatic pistol and takes a taxi out to Mathews' residence where he lines up the racketeer in his sights to shoot him. Unfortunately, some uniform policemen intervene and Meadows can do little more than have our hero arrested for trespassing. Part of the reason that Meadows cannot bring bigger charges against Alan is that the sympathetic cops have confiscated Alan's pistol. Meantime, Mathews' mouthpiece, Bryce Barker (Kent Taylor of "Mississippi Gambler"), tries to persuade Alvery to not testify against Mathews. Barker is an interesting character because he has a hearing aid. When he learns about the death of Alvery's daughter, things get out of control for Maxie.

"Gang War" qualifies as an unusual Charles Bronson B-movie because he doesn't get the chance to exact vengeance on the mobsters. Indeed, he totes an automatic pistol, but he never gets a chance to use it. Nevertheless, this doesn't keep Alan from interfering with their plans. Ironically, the mob takes care of Maxie, and Alan doesn't get a chance to burst into the attorney's house with two pistols blazing. Director Gene Fowler doesn't waste a second in telling this little story. John Doucette makes a good villain, and Kent Taylor is even better as attorney with a hearing aid.
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