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10 To Midnight
The closest thing Charles Bronson ever did to a horror movie is J. Lee Thompson's 1983 film for the Cannon Films Group, 10 To Midnight. The movie is set In Los Angeles, where a new rookie cop named Detective Paul McAnn (Andrew Stevens) is assigned a beat shared with old timer Detective Leo Kessler (Bronson). Together, they answer to Captain Malone (Wilford Brimley). Their current mission? To figure out who viciously murdered a young woman named Betty Johnson (June Gilbert) and her boyfriend with a knife in a city park the other night.
Kessler immediately latches on to the case when he recognizes the victim. She grew up near his home and, as a girl, was friends with his own daughter Laurie (Lisa Eilbacher). Unbeknownst to the cops, the killer actually attends Betty's funeral where he listens in on her father (Bert Williams) talking to Kessler about his Betty's diary, something that may hold a clue as to the identity of her killer. Soon enough, the killer breaks into Betty's apartment viciously murdering her roommate Karen (Jeana Keough) in an attempt to find the diary… but what he doesn't know is that before his arrival Karen was able to get the diary to Kessler. When Kessler starts to figure a man named Warren Stacey (Gene Davis) is the killer, he takes drastic measures to bring him to justice, unaware that by doing so, he's putting his daughter's life in danger.
Very much a slasher film as much as it is a cop movie, 10 To Midnight is tense, gripping and gleefully exploitative. Our killer prefers to operate in the nude, something that the movie doesn't shy away from, and Thompson and company seem to have no problem here leering at the murder set pieces that the story from writer William Roberts (the man who wrote The Magnificent Seven) provides. Production values are pretty decent here. The cinematography from Adam Greenberg is glossy and polished, doing a nice job of capturing both the glitz and the sleaze that Los Angeles offers in fairly equal doses. The movie makes great use of some authentic L.A. locations that prove to be an appropriate backdrop for the action and carnage that ensue. The film also features a pretty solid score from Robert O. Ragland and quality editing from Peter Lee Thompson (the director's son).
As to the performances, despite a solid supporting cast this is Bronson's show. At this point in time, he and J. Lee Thompson had made a few movies together and the director knew how to get good work out of his stone-faced leading man. Bronson plays the strong silent type here as he did in many of his films, but he does this well, handling the action scenes as well as the more dramatic aspects of the story with ease. He and Lisa Eilbacher have some nice moments together and he has solid chemistry with both Brimley and Stevens. Gene Davis does a great job as the main culprit, really going over the top (but not too far over the top) in his work in the film.
The films is fast paced and suspenseful, gory and trashy in all the right ways, putting entertainment front and center. It gives audiences pretty much exactly what they'd want from a movie where Charles Bronson chases down a naked, knife-wielding maniac! It's tough, it's gritty and it's dark but it sure does pack a punch.
Shout! Factory brings 10 To Midnight to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer on a 50GB disc, with the feature afforded almost 33GBs of space, framed in its proper 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio and looking excellent. Taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative, detail and texture are consistently impressive, especially in close up shots (though hardly limited to close up shots). Color reproduction looks spot on and we get black levels that are pretty much perfect as well. The disc is well-authored, there are no noticeable compression artifacts to gripe about, and thankfully darker scenes avoid crush. Skin tones look lifelike and natural, never too pink or too orange, and the transfer shows plenty of natural film grain but no noticeable print damage. Noise reduction and edge enhancement are never a problem, this looks very film-like.
The English 2.0 DTS-HD MA mono track, the only option for the feature, is just fine. Dialogue is clean and clear, the score sounds nice, and quite atmospheric in spots. There are no issues with hiss, distortion or sibilance. Sound effects have good punch and resonance to them. Nothing to complain about here, the audio is good.
Extras on the disc are plentiful, starting with a newly recorded audio commentary track with Bronson biographer Paul Talbot that is a mix of general history and scene specific information (he's even got info about the Cannon logo that opens the film). As the story plays out, we learn about differences between this version and the original cut of the film and why editing choices were made to make the opening more coherent. There's plenty of info here about Cannon's history and Golan and Globus, how the success of Death Wish 2 led to Cannon wanting more Bronson as soon as possible, how producer Lance Hool and director J. Lee Thompson came onboard, some of the Los Angeles locations that were used in the film, details of the killer in the film and how some of his tactics were inspired by Ted Bundy and other real-life serial killers, the effectiveness of some of the musical motifs used in the film's score, and, of course, lots of details about the different cast members that show up in the picture. Talbot also offers loads of information about Bronson himself, how he often insisted on helping different actors get supporting roles in his films to keep their SAG cards valid, his pronunciation of ‘morphine' and why he has the speech pattern that he does and his insistence that his wardrobe be changed. As the track continues we learn about Peter Lee Thompson's editing, his father J. Lee Thompson's efficiency behind the camera, why Kessler hates quiche in the film, Geoffrey Lewis' small role as an attorney in the film, how Bronson liked to stage the action in the films he worked on, Adam Greenberg's cinematography, some of the firearms that are used in the picture, and, hey, even some history about L.A.'s Cave Theatre adult cinema (check out the Sex World poster making a cameo in that scene), which also appeared in Don't Answer The Phone. If you've heard any of Talbot's other Bronson commentary tracks, you know what to expect… all the details you could hope for and then some, meticulously researched and delivered in a laid back, unpretentious and very listenable style. Great stuff. Oh, and he also points out the dangers of making toast in this movie! Producer Pancho Kohner and casting director John Crowther sit with film historian David Del Valle for a very interesting audio commentary that was originally recorded for the Twilight Time Blu-ray release from 2015. For those who haven't heard it before, it's an interesting talk that offers a lot of very fond memories of working on the project and some great stories about Bronson, Thompson and some of the other collaborators they worked with on the film.
Shout! Factory has also included some new interview segments starting with the eleven-minute Charlie's Partner, which interviews actor Andrew Stevens who talks about his admiration of Bronson from when he was a kid and saw The Great Escape before then meeting him on the set of Death Hunt. He notes that Bronson was a fitness nut who hung out almost entirely with his family, how it was nice to reunite with him when he got cast in 10 To Midnight, what it was like on set and how it was a much easier shoot than Death Hunt, and how they got along better on this second project. He also talks about Thompson's energetic directing style, what it was like working with Wilford Brimley, how one of the actresses in the film is the best kisser on the planet, working with Lewis who he describes as quirky, his thoughts on Gene Davis' work, Jeana Tomasina's work in the picture and how she was very sweet, Kelly Preston's small part in the film, and his thoughts on the film and his work in it overall.
Remembering Bronson is a six-minute interview with actor Robert F. Lyons that allows him to look back on the role that he played in the film and his thoughts on working with Bronson. He seems amused that he got to tell him off on camera and that he loved to act, how he had a ‘quiet knowing' rather than a ‘buddy/buddy' relationship. Lyons notes that Bronson was like this off set too, he wasn't the type of guy you'd go out for a beer with but that he was friendly in his own way, going so far as to chastise him for smoking!
Actress Jeana Tomasina is interviewed in the seven-minute Knife And Death. She talks about her modelling career, her interactions with different people from Playboy and how she wound up eventually went to a Playboy party which led to her moving to California, how she got along with Hugh Hefner, and how her career took off shortly after (ZZ Top videos!). She talks about why she didn't get the lead in the film, how she did ten movies in total, which ones she enjoyed more than others, some of the TV work that she did, her thoughts on working with Bronson and how much she liked him. She then goes on to share some stories from the shoot, difficulties she had cracking eggs in the kitchen scene (and how they had to use a different hand to get that scene done), and how she feels about the movie all these years later, especially her death scene.
Producing Bronson is a thirteen-minute interview with producer Lance Hool wherein he seems to be sitting on a runway near a plane (not safe!) and covers how he got involved with the production in the first place after reading Thompson's treatment, originally titled Blood Bath. He then talks about some of the events that effected the picture, his thoughts on working with Golan and Globus and their love of Bronson and the box office success he had brought them as well as some of the problems they had with the pair and the shrinking budget. He credits Greenberg's cinematography with really helping the film, how they toned down the stronger content before shooting, his memories of seeing the movie with the general public for the first time, and a fair bit more. Hool comes across as a really nice guy and he's got some interesting stories to tell, making this worth checking out.
Rounding out the extra are the original theatrical trailer, ninety-nine-seconds of radio spots, a still gallery and some TV spots. Animated menus and chapter selection are also included. As to the packaging, the first pressing includes a slipcover. We also get a reversible cover sleeve with Shout! Factory's newly created art on one side and the original poster art on the reverse.
10 To Midnight is a surprisingly nihilistic thriller but so too is it very well made. Bronson is in top form here and he's supported by a strong cast and some great character actors. Thompson keeps the pacing tight and the exploitation elements very strong and the whole thing is anchored by a very strong score and some impressive cinematography. Shout! Factory has done an excellent job bringing this to Blu-ray with a great looking transfer and a host of new extras. Highly recommended!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.