Work as an entertainment journalist in the 1950s brought Michael Winner a career behind of the camera as a writer and director. After working for the BBC on a number of projects as writer and director, Winner made his feature directing debut in the British cinema with 1960’s Shoot to Kill.
Winner would direct a number of films in Britain over the following decade, including five with actor Oliver Reed–The Girl-Getters, I’ll Never Forget What’s ‘isname, The Jokers, Parting Shots, and Hannibal Brooks. The last movie caught the attention of Hollywood executives, and Winner started getting work from the studios, starting with 1971’s Lawman starring Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan and Robert Duvall and The Nightcomers starring Marlon Brando.
The next year Winner would direct the the first of what would become six collaborations with Charles Bronson with the western Chato’s Land. They would pair again later in 1972 on The Mechanic and once in 1973 with The Stone Killers before undertaking their most famous and infamous pairing–1974’s Death Wish.
Death Wish was at once a violent exploitation flick and also a commentary on the rise of urban violence in the 1970s. The controversial film focused on a bleeding heart liberal Paul Kelsey, who becomes a gun-toting reactionary vigilante after his wife is murdered and his daughter is raped. While age, and the four more blatantly exploitative sequels (two of which were also directed by Winner), have tempered the impact of the film quite considerably, it still stands as a landmark film in the history of American cinema.
The director would go onto direct more films, both in America and in Britain, most notably The Sentinel (1977) and his British-set adaptation of The Big Sleep (1978), but none would reach the level of quality or influence of Death Wish.
Winner retired from directing with 1998’s Parting Shots to become an influential restaurant critic, although he did have a role in 2010’s Burke and Hare.