Telefon (1977)

TELEFON (1977)
Article 5071 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-4-2016
Directed by Don Siegel
Featuring Charles Bronson, Lee Remick, Donald Pleasence
Country: USA
What it is: Spy thriller

A Russian provocateur seeking to start a war between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. comes to America and begins activating sleeper agents (people unaware that they are under post-hypnotic suggestion) to attack military installations. The KGB send their own agent to stop the provocateur before an international incident erupts.

One of the things I’ve discovered over the years I’ve worked on this project is that I’m a sucker for a spy movie, though I should specify that my affection is much more for the more serious, straightforward examples rather than the fanciful superspy antics attached to James Bond movies and their imitators. I noticed that I even tend to like the ones that don’t have much of a reputation, such as this one. The use of hypnosis is the main fantastic content here (the sleepers are activated to perform their sabotage via coded telephone messages), though the CIA’s use of a computer that can respond to a human voice (a very minor story element) pushes it into science fiction territory. Charles Bronson gives a stolid performance as the KGB agent sent to catch the villain (played by Donald Pleasence), but Lee Remick’s perky fellow agent is so jarring in this context that she seems to be in a different movie. The movie takes a while to really get going, and some of the plot elements don’t make a lot of sense, but I have to admit that I enjoyed it.

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