The passing of actor Edward Woodward this week at age 79 naturally prompted me to think of the role I first encountered him in - that of Robert McCall, an ex-member of an unspecified government agency who turned into a virtual one-man army on the streets of New York in the CBS series The Equalizer, which ran for four years from 1985-1989. Woodward was as smooth as they come in the role and, even in his mid-50's at the time, totally convincing as someone who could roll over any opponent.
But besides Woodward himself, what I remember most about The Equalizer is its dramatic opening title sequence. Set to the music of ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland, this 59 second clip painted a picture of New York as an unsurvivable urban hell, a city completely taken over by criminals. With its shots of scared women peering out from behind chain-locked apartment doors or menaced by thugs in the flickering lights of elevators or on subway platforms, the opening of The Equalizer was as much a part of the 'women-in-peril' subgenre as any '80s slasher movie. All it was missing was an appearance by Maniac's Joe Spinell.
With its image as a city having been turned around over the last two decades, there's a whole generation or two that doesn't instantly think of New York as being a scary, dangerous place but that's the reputation it had in the '70s and '80s. When John Carpenter's Escape from New York was released in 1981, it clicked with audiences because at the time it didn't seem like that much of a stretch that the government would give up on the city and turn it into a criminal colony. During its run, The Equalizer's title sequence made it seem as though that day was just around the corner. It can still make you feel vulnerable, where ever you live.