Happy Birthday Charles Bronson: November 03, 1921
Outside of Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen, you be hard pressed to find anyone as cool as Charlie Bronson. Whether you’re engrossed in his enigmatic “harmonica” character in the epic Sergio Leone western, “Once Upon a Time in the West” or Bernardo O’Reilly from the classic “Magnificient Seven“, Bronson always plays a smooth operater and ipitimizes the very essense of “cool” in his icy and haunted eyes.
In Telefon, Bronson plays an intelligence agent hot on the heels of an enemy agent (played by Donald Pleasance) who is awakening Russian sleeper agents all across the country by calling them over the phone and reciting a specific passage of poetry to them. Fans of Tarantino might recognize the piece from “Death Proof” when Kurt Russell says it to Vanessa Ferlito in order to get his lap dance. Such a fan of movies as he is, it would be no surprise to find out if he had been inspired by Telefon for the scene in his movie.
This is very much in the vein of the Bourne movies with sleeper agents and cold war espionage at every turn. Mastering the double agents and the triple agents, Bronson is teamed up with partner Lee Remick who is constantly at odds with our hero. And if the cold hearted professional Bronson needs to slap her around to get the job done, well who’s going to argue with him? Remick has to earn his respect throughout the film, actually making her a more interesting character than otherwise. Tyne Daly, one half of “Cagney and Lacey” also has a small role in the film as a data analyst at an unnamed US government agency who is also sexually discriminated by her coworkers. In this circumstance she is smartest one in the room and is constantly having to explain things to the dumb men in the room.
Don Siegel who had directed Dirty Harry six years earlier is joined by writers Peter Hyams (who went on to direct classics like “End of Days” and “Time Cop“) and Stirling Silliphant (Shaft in Africa and Towering Inferno as well as the troubled but intriguing Bruce Lee movie Circle of Iron that became a vehicle for David Carradine). The three give the movie a strong foundation visually to match the great dialogue and solid plotline and characters. Between the cast amd the production team, this is one of those movies where all the right elements fall into place at the right time and make this movie a seldom seen gem.
So to recap, you have dozens of Soviet sleeper agents being awakened from their programming and ready to blow sole shit up in the US and only one man can stop him; bad ass, Charlie Bronson!
Happy Birthday Charlie!