"Someday I'd like a part where I can lean my elbow against a mantle piece and have a cocktail." – Charles Bronson

Sorry Charlie, but somehow I just can’t picture it.

Born Charles Buchinsky in 1921 and product of the coal mines of Pennsylvania. He was the only one of his parents 15 kids that managed to graduate from high school. Looking to escape a life in the mines, he joined the armed forces and served time during World War II as a tail gunner. Once he got out of the service he used the G. I. Bill to study acting. His image of the “tough guy” was about to be born…

Although Bronson has made many a clunker during his long career, he has also made some pretty good films, most notably, The Magnificent Seven where he held his own with such powerhouses as Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner and James Coburn, Once Upon a Time in the West, directed by Sergio Leone and my personal favorite, The Great Escape where he played a claustrophobic tunnel digger.

Update: Charles Bronson died from pneumonia on August 30, 2003 at the age of 81.

(Jeez, a quick review of his movie titles even sounds tough.)


Family of Cops III (1999)
Breach of Faith: Family of Cops II (1997)
Family of Cops (1995)
100 Years of the Hollywood Western (1994)
Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994)
Donato and Daughter (1993)
The Sea Wolf, (1993)
Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus (1991)
The Indian Runner, (1991)
Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects (1989)
Messenger of Death (1988)
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)
Assassination (1987)
Murphy's Law (1986)
Act of Vengeance (1986)
Death Wish 3 (1985)
The Evil That Men Do (1984)
10 to Midnight (1983)
Death Wish II (1982)
Death Hunt (1981)
Borderline (1980)
Caboblanco (1980)
Love and Bullets (1979)
Telefon (1977)
The White Buffalo (1977)
Raid on Entebbe (1977)
From Noon Till Three (1976)
St. Ives (1976)
Breakheart Pass (1975)
Hard Times (1975)
Breakout (1975)
Death Wish (1974)
Mr. Majestyk (1974)
Valdez, il mezzosangue (1973)
The Stone Killer (1973)
The Mechanic(1972)
The Valachi Papers(1972)
The Bull of the West(1971)
Chato's Land (1971)
Quelqu'un derrière la porte (1971)
Soleil rouge (1971)
Città violenta (1970)
De la part des copains (1970)
You Can't Win 'Em All (1970)
Le Passager de la pluie (1969)
Twinky (1969)
C'era una volta il West (1969)
San Sebastian 1746 in 1968 (1968)
Villa Rides (1968)
Adieu l'ami (1968)
La Bataille de San Sebastian, La (1968)
The Meanest Men in the West (1967)
Operation Dirty Dozen (1967)
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
This Property Is Condemned (1966)
The Big Sur (1965) (uncredited)
Battle of the Bulge (1965)
The Sandpiper (1965)
Guns of Diablo (1964)
4 for Texas (1963)
The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters (1963)
The Great Escape (1963)
"Empire" (1962)
This Rugged Land (1962)
Kid Galahad (1962)
A Thunder of Drums (1961)
X-15 (1961)
Master of the World (1961)
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Never So Few (1959)
"Man with a Camera" (1958)
Gang War (1958)
Machine-Gun Kelly (1958)
When Hell Broke Loose (1958)
Ten North Frederick (1958)
Showdown at Boot Hill (1958)
Run of the Arrow (1957)
Jubal (1956)
Target Zero (1955)
Big House, U.S.A. (1955)
Apache (1954)
Riding Shotgun (1954)
Tennessee Champ (1954)
Drum Beat (1954/I)
Vera Cruz (1954)
Crime Wave (1954)
Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)
House of Wax (1953)
Torpedo Alley (1953)
Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952)
The Clown (1952)
Red Skies of Montana (1952)
Battle Zone (1952)
The Marrying Kind(1952)
Diplomatic Courier (1952)
Pat and Mike (1952)
My Six Convicts (1952)
The Mob (1951)
The People Against O'Hara http://www.celebritystorm.com/actors/pics/CharlesBrons
Charles Bronson is also the UK's most infamous prisoner, although he is not the same Charles Bronson as... well, Charles Bronson. He was born Michael Peterson in Wales and led a placid childhood, although after his family moved to Merseyside in his late teenage years he fell in with a bad crowd, and started an alternative career as a bare knuckle boxer and circus strongman. He changed his name to Charles Bronson - then famous for 'The Dirty Dozen', 'The Great Escape' and 'Once Upon a Time in the West', as this was several years before Death Wish - and grew a handlebar moustache.

But Bronson had a temper, and in 1968 prison beckoned, with a charge of criminal damage. With the exception of 124 days of freedom, Bronson has been in prison since 1974. In America, home of the 1,000-year sentence, this is not exceptional, but in Britain it makes him one of the longest-serving prisoners in the country, certainly the longest-serving non-murderer. In that time he has committed more offences in prison than on the outside, and has spent 24 years in 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement, in over 100 different prisons. If his temper could be tempered he would make an ideal soldier, or timebomb. Or a submariner, or sniper, or any job that involves a mixture of almost total isolation and extreme violence.

In 1974 he was jailed for seven years for armed robbery, although he exhibited behavioural problems - he kept attacking people - and was certified in 1978 and moved to Broadmoor, Britain's most infamous jail, an institution reserved for the criminally insane. Bronson's life took a turn for the worse after that, and although he was moved from Broadmoor in 1981 his sentence was extended by four years for assault, property damage, and a rooftop protest at the conditions in the prison. He was shifted around the prison network incessantly, but nonetheless in 1987 he was released, a free man. For 69 days.

After that he was arrested on suspicion of armed robbery, for which he pleaded guilty, and sentenced to another seven years in prison. He was again released in 1992, despite having taken a guard hostage in 1990. After being free for 55 days he was again arrested for armed robbery and possession of an illegal firearm, and sentenced for eight years this time.

And this was the end of Bronson's freedom. He took hostages again in 1993, 1994, 1996 (four people in one year, one of whom he threatened to eat), and 1998. In 1996 he assaulted the governor of High Down prison, and all of his sieges resulted in damage to prison property. The upshot of these hostage-takings were two extra 7-year sentences and eventually life imprisonment. Assuming all goes well, Bronson will not be eligible for parole until 2010. Bronson is a cult figure, a peculiar one. He is like Wesley Willis in some respects - his consistency and lunatic persistence. And he is unlike him in many other respects. Physically Bronson is undoubtedly a strong man; even in his fifties he looks like somebody who has done hard manual work throughout his life. Although the conditions in which he has been imprisoned are deplorable, there is no doubt about the legality of his imprisonment; he pleaded guilty to his crimes and there have been no claims that he was framed.

His website reveals that he is very much an old-fashioned British gangster; sentimental, conservative, a good egg, albeit an exceptionally violent one who has threatened people with death, and caused at least one hostage to undergo a nervous breakdown. He ran a charitable fund which donated £1,000 to Winnie Johnson, mother of one of the victims of the Moors Murderers. The conditions in which he has been kept - mostly solitary confinement - have removed all hope that he might one day be integrated with society, and most of his hostage-takings have resulted in him doing more harm to himself than to his hostages.

And in a bizarre move, Bronson is a happily married man, albeit with unconventional sleeping arrangements (his wife sleeps in a bed; he sleeps on a concrete block in a high security prison, many miles away). In July 2001 he married Saira Rehman, a lady from Bangladesh who had been brought to the UK for an arranged marriage which had turned sour. Bronson now goes by the name of Ali Charles Ahmed, although he will always be 'Charles Bronson'.

As for his day-to-day life, he listens to the radio. He reads and writes books. His autobiography, 'Silent Scream', was published in 1998, whilst a second book, 'Solitary Fitness' (which instructs the reader on how to keep at a peak of physical perfection whilst confined to a 12"x9" cell for 23 hours a day), was released in 2002. He paints strange, abstract watercolours, and cartoons, and that is what his life consists of.

As with Michael Jackson, King of Pop, and General Sir Mike Jackson KCB CBE DSO ADC Gen of the British army, Bronson also exists to confuse computer-generated entertainment/news portals, which frequently combine filmographies of the actor with news of the convict, to confusing and surreal effect. This is much less of a problem now that Charles 'Charles Bronson' Bronson has passed away, but the possiblity for confusion is still there (so far, no-one has named himself after Charles Bronson the convict).

Selected sources

Charles Bronson - nee Buchinsky - passed away this weekend in Los Angeles.

Bronson was famous for his movie portrayal of a "tough guy" seen notably in such huge films as the Death Wish series and The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen. Want to see a real tough guy? Try Chato's Land and Mr. Majestyk. Yet one may also shed a poignant tear at his grace in the final waltz with (his actual wife) Jill Ireland at the end of From Noon Till Three ... and be chilled by his haunting harmonica in Leone's classic Once Upon a Time in the West.

Notwithstanding borgo's quotation - made entirely tongue-in-cheek, I suspect - let's be honest: Charles was a man of humbleness - IMO humble in a classy way. Consider this quote:

"I don't look like someone who leans on a mantelpiece with a cocktail in my hand, you know," he said another time. "I look like the kind of guy who has a bottle of beer in my hand." CNN
He even had the guts to say
"I guess I look like a rock quarry that someone has dynamited" CNN

A class act has moved beyond.

Charles Bronson is also the name of a now-deceased hardcore thrash band from Chicago who had an undying hatred for One Life Crew. I don't know too much about this shady group of spazztronaughts, but I thought I'd contribute what little I do know to the E2 database.

They have a notoriously fast sound in the vein of older DC and Boston bands (Gang Green and Void come to mind), and don't take themselves too seriously. They released a multitude of compilations and split 7"s, some of which were put out on their own label, Youth Attack Records, which I believe is distributed by Ebullition. One of their records, a split with Dropdead, comes in a steel box that you have to cut with a torch to get open - thereby destroying the record inside. Only two were made.

The good folks at Youth Attack Records put together a two-disc "Complete Discocrappy", comprised of well over 100 songs of fury-core, most of which are under 1 minute long, and a good many of which are under 30 seconds. In fact, the longest song on the album is only 1:31, most of which is made up of a Charles Bronson movie sample; the shortest track on the album is 4 seconds long, although the actual song only lasts for about 1 second. Additionally, the second CD contains movie clips from actual Charles Bronson movies, videos from shows, a clip from when Ebro was on Jerry Springer, as well as the members of Charles Bronson in a junkyard shooting stuff with shotguns. Just remember not to mosh during the thrash part, or thrash during the mosh part.

An old and long-lost interview with the band, perhaps published in the Disturbing the Peace zine, made it clear that Charles Bronson was not a straight edge band, although three(?) of the members of the band were indeed sxe. In the late 90's, the band parted ways. I met Charles Bronson's drummer, Ebro, at a Punch In The Face show I co-booked at WPI...he's a very nice guy.

Charles Bronson was:
  • Ebro Virumbrales - Drums
  • Mark McCoy - Vocals
  • Jeff Jelen - Guitar
  • Jon Arends - Bass
My favorite thing about this band is the poetic eloquence of their song titles...pure literary genius. Here's a few of my favorites:
  • One Life Crew Goes on Slimfast
  • They Should Legalize Drugs So You Can Hurry Up And Fucking Die
  • I Can't Be Friends With You Because You Like Epitaph
  • Eazy-E's Fucking Dead And I Think It's Fucking Rad
Lastly, here's a few records they've released:
  • All That And A Bag of Dicks - Compilation 7"
  • Cry Now, Cry Later - Compilation 7"
  • Deadly Encounters - Compilation 7"
  • Mandatory Marathon - Compilation 7"
  • Self-Title (a.k.a. Diet Rootbeer) 7"
  • Split 7" with Ice Nine
  • Split 7" with Quill
  • Split 7" with Unanswered
  • Split 7" with Spazz
  • Youth Attack 10"
  • Complete Discocrappy 2-CD set

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