Director J Lee Thompson (The Guns of Navarone) was in the twilight of his career when he made this violent Charles Bronson action flick from 1983, but he deals with the lurid material with professionalism. Inspired, if that’s the right word, but a real life killing spree, 10 to midnight pitches Bronson’s rock-hard cop Leo Kessler against a new kind of low-life; a male killer (Andrew Stevens) who gets off on murdering women when he’s in the nude. Kessler’s disgust is only increased when the authorities fail to deal with the problem, and sorts out his own brand of justice in predictable but well-staged fashion. 10 To Midnight mixes the vigilante and slasher movie cycles with some skill; it’s a low-rent, nasty but effective piece of work.
The title is the Russian word for telephone, and Don Siegel’s 1977 thriller makes good use of it; Charles Bronson plays a Russian agent who comes to the States to uncover a network of sleeper cells, activated by a voice on the phone that recites Robert Frost’s classic “and miles to go before I sleep’ poem, also featured in Tarantino’s Death Proof. Based on a novel by Walter Wager, who also provided the source material for Die Hard 2, Telefon features a reasonable context for Bronson’s trademark gruffness as Major Borzov, teaming him with double agent Barbara (Lee Remick) and a gallery of great support including Tyne Daly, Patrick McGee, Alan Badel and Donald Pleasance. Siegel knew how to make a tough, taut thriller, and Telefon is a cut above most cold war thrillers.
The tagline “he didn’t want to be a hero…until they pushed him too far’ could be applicable for most of Charles Bronson’s films, but few have the drive of Richard Fleischer’s 1974 movie. Vietnam veteran and now humble melon-farmer Mr Majestyk (Bronson) falls foul of local crime syndicates, and Elmore Leonard’s script sees him fight back with all his melon-farming guns blazing. The bad guys have picked on the wrong Mexican, and Bronson’s fight-back is rendered in rousing fashion; opening the week after Bronson’s biggest hit Death Wish meant that Fleischer’s rather majestic film didn’t get the same iconic pop-culture iconic status it deserved.