Wednesday, December 22, 2010

TELEFON (Don Siegel, 1977)

I found a box of old B movies on VHS tapes outside a video store a little while ago, and I've made it my mission to watch them all. First cab off the rank, Charles Bronson stars in

The operation that can trigger 51 human time bombs!

1977. Back in the fifties the Russians deep programmed 51 agents with subliminal orders to explode US military installations, wiped their memories and slipped them into American Life. The time never came to set them off, and they live on unawares as local carpenters, mommy's and priests all across the country. Until now! Evil Donald Pleasance is an old Stalinist who doesn't like this new 'live and let live' detente attitude Russia has with the US, and decides instead of getting purge-murdered back home he'll tour America and call up some old friends, setting them off by reciting the Robert Frost "miles to go before i sleep" poem (as referenced in Death Proof) and their original Ruski name as the trigger. The Russians send over KGB agent Charles Bronson to ice Donald Pleasance and save them a lot of embarrassment and a possible third World War.

At first it can be a bit confusing with the Russian generals speaking randomly in American, British or Russian accents (Bronson stays straight up Bronson). There's lot's of scenes in offices while they lay it out and you don't quite know where you are at times, but generally there is a big poster of Lenin on the wall to give you a clue when it's Russia.

This a very cheap looking movie, but Don Seigel (he made Dirty Harry and lotsa hard boiled noir stuff) manages with panache and busts out a few pretty thrilling, impressive scenes, and even when its just flat out cheap looking, you've got either Pleasance being Supremely Oily or Bronson being tough and mustachioed to make you smile. And of course, the very concept of Charles Bronson being a KGB Agent is a novelty that never really wears off.

What's really cool is getting to see these little moments of all these different peoples everyday lives, fighting with the wife or cooking dinner for the kids and then suddenly they get the call and go into zombie crush kill destroy mode. There's some nice obsolete punch card super computer action too, if you're into that.

I don't imagine this is going to be coming out on DVD any time soon, but if you see it dumped on the street, pick it up!


Apparently Seigel asked Charles Bronson to shave his moustache for the role. His response: "No Moustache, No Bronson".

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