The 1989 Punisher film was the first official live action incarnation of the infamous Marvel vigilante and starred Dolph Lundgren as Frank Castle; a man who would provide his own sense of justice to wrongdoers in his city.
It wasn’t well received at the time by critics or fans whose main complaint was the lack of the iconic Punisher’s skull logo, but personally I’ve always loved it and think it still stands up as a hugely entertaining action film.
Before it was released the film had to undergo several cuts due to the graphic violence and there has been a workprint floating around online for a while; I’ve posted a few clips below to give you an idea of what was cut.
It’s understandable why some of the footage was cut as it killed the pacing in parts but it’s always fascinating to see what didn’t make the final version.
Here’s some interesting pieces of trivia about the movie from IMDB:
All of the fight sequences were performed with real contact by the actors to give the fights a sense of realism and because the Kyokushin karate champions Kenji Yamakiand Hirofumi Kanayama’s sense of honour would not allow them to fake it.
Dolph Lundgren physically prepared for the film by revisiting the training regimen from his days as a competitive martial artist. During production, he weighed 220 pounds – the same weight he held as an international karate champion.
Instead of hiring stuntmen to portray the Yakuza combatants, the filmmakers specifically hired competitive Kyokushinkai karatekas and trained them to perform their own stunts.
Producer Robert Mark Kamen revised and rewrote Boaz Yakin’s original screenplay to make a few changes including adding a ‘Lethal Weapon’-like prologue which was filmed but ultimately omitted in the editing room, only leaving flashbacks, like in Yakin’s initial script.
The original ending climax that was filmed was a little different, and was deleted and replaced by a reshoot: Tommy wrestles with Franco over the gun, trying to stop Franco from shooting Castle, but Castle manages to stab Franco in the back with a knife, killing him. Tommy aims his father’s gun at Frank swearing that he will kill him, Frank instructs Tommy on how to use a gun and he forces Tommy to aim the gun at his forehead and shuts at Tommy to “DO IT!!!” But Tommy cannot bring himself to kill Frank and breaks down into tears, burying his face in Frank’s chest. Like in the final cut, Frank tells Tommy to grow up and be a good man or he will be waiting for him if doesn’t and leaves. Jake arrives and follows a trail of Frank’s blood to the rooftop, but Frank is nowhere to be seen, Jake cries out Frank’s name and the camera zooms out and fades to black. One of workprint versions ends with a pan up the Punisher from his boots to the head, as in the scene with the miniature truck.
It’s hard to believe it’s 27 years old but to this day The Punisher is one of my favourite Dolph Lundgren movies and I think I might just give it a watch this evening.
To finish off here is the Kill Count from the movie which is a rather impressive 60 kills for Dolph.