Plot: As seemingly normal citizens begin to do some sudden, violent acts, such as flying a helicopter directly into missile fire, these incidents are first dismissed as unrelated, but there is a darker truth. These citizens might seem normal, but in fact they are Soviet sleeper agents. Years ago these people were hypnotized and then planted in American society, to live nondescript lives until a code word triggered them, sending them out to create chaos and unleash violence. The program was a success, but it was later shut down and the agents left dormant, until recently when someone has been calling in to awaken the agents. If these explosive deaths continue, the Americans will be able to put the pieces together, which could lead to a nuclear showdown. But Grigori (Charles Bronson) has been dispatched to hunt down the traitor responsible and stop the calls, against all odds and with global devastation on the horizon.
Entertainment Value: This is a movie that centers on Charles Bronson hunting down Donald Pleasence, that alone should be enough to sell you on Telefon. The movie is a tense drama with some political elements and while the narrative is mostly simple, it works well and sets up the chase. Bronson is a Russian officer here, but he is still the hero and his usual bad ass self, toward both friend and foe. Some of his conversations with Lee Remick are especially memorable, as he lets her know where she stands and that he won’t hesitate to take her down. The two have an odd, but fun dynamic that adds to Telefon’s entertainment. Remick is fine here as well, in an interesting role, while Pleasence is our villain, though his dastardly deeds are carried out by his awoken sleeper agents. Although this film has some set pieces here and there, it isn’t an all out action thriller like Bronson fans might expect. The pace is on the slow side as well, but I found it to be wacky enough to compensate. I mean, Bronson’s main skill in Telefon is a good memory, which is hilarious. This is a weird, wild movie that defies expectations and is a lot of fun to watch.
No nakedness. Not only does Bronson have zero attraction to his love interest, he taunts her in subtle and not so subtle ways about it. When she acts surprised they haven’t made love, he fakes coming in for a kiss, then leaves her ice cold at the last second. This is a glorious movie. A little bloodshed, but not much. Just some a red gush from gun related violence, that wonderful bright red, paint textured blood, no less. The dialogue here is fantastic, with Bronson on a real roll and his banter with Remick is hilarious, not to mention cruel at times. The two have such a strange dynamic, but it is a blast to watch and ensures Bronson ribs her with sharp barbs. Pleasence hams it up like a champ here, but the humor comes from his mannerisms more than his lines. There’s also some bureaucracy hijinks, out of date tech talk, and a woman shouts at a helicopter. If you want craziness, Telefon won’t disappoint, from Pleasence’s cartoon glasses to his disguise as John Denver, pancake based threats, hidden geological messages, emotionally sensitive computers, housewife terrorism, CIT-EES, a lack of state road maps, Lee Remick’s McDonald’s chic wardrobe, and guys, this one even includes a gunfight between a cop and a snake. A literal snake. All that and the Bronson/Remick lunacy, Pleasence’s goofy presence, plus so much more.
Overall Insanity: 10/10
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Love the John Denver reference. I can see it now. Best thing about this one might be Don Siegel asking Bronson to shave off the mustache for his role here. The answer from the iconic tough guy? No mustache, no Bronson.
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