Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: Telefon - 1977

This is a translated and extended version of a review I wrote a few years ago in Swedish.

Director: Don Siegel

During the cold war the Russians have a super secret weapon at their disposal. The question, who’s the best agent, is asked. The answer is those who don’t even know that they are under cover. This is the powerful weapon the Russians have planted in small communities around the USA. A small trigger code is needed for the “sleepers” to carry out their forgottem orders at once, in other words to dispose of important strategic targets. But this is a weapon the Russians never have intended to use; it’s obsolete so to speak. But… the names and locations of the “sleepers” is stolen and someone triggers one by one of them into mass destruction. To prevent that the incident causes a major conflict or even a nuclear war the Russians send special agent to the USA to liquidate the thief, they send Charles Bronson.

Until recently I thought that this film was impossible to find on DVD. My search for it can be compared to that of the Holy Grail. This means that the positive memories that I had of it might have been emphasised and some negative forgotten. Actually there was nothing bad about this movie in my mind. Its nostalgic values have prevailed!  This was a true masterpiece in my mind; the best there was with Charles Bronson!

When I saw it again after all these years I realized that it had more flaws than I remembered. It was my favourite film in my youth but still it represents a genre that I generally don’t like very much – the spy thrillers. With that in mind it’s remarkable that I remember it with such joy. But the fact is – Bronson can make any film worth while (almost). Here he acts like a real star and I can’t complain about his performance at all. Neither can I say anything negative about Donald Pleasence who plays the bad guy. The problem is the story or rather the motivation of the story. It could have used some more depth. As it is its very shallow and cartoonish. I still like it but I no longer consider it to be a masterpiece of any kind.

Obviously Quentin Tarantino love the film too since he included the triggering phrase in his movie Death Proof. I can’t stress the fact that I find Tarantino greatly overrated as a director but he knows his movies and few people are such buffs as he is. The knowledge about cult films that he’s possessing is very wide, I must give him that! It’s so great that he spent an entire career imitating what others have done before him. But since this is not a film done by him, enough of that!

This film has its place in the collection for any true Bronson fan that’s for sure. But I’m sorry to say that it hasn’t aged with grace and the visualization of the computer storage and database keeping of information is a bit too naive I think. Did they really think that computers would one day be used like that? Or was the technology already so developed that things worked this way at the time, plus a little futuristic science fiction touch of course! I would like to give this a higher grade from a nostalgic point of view but truthfully… this is a…