Peter’s Retro Reviews: 10 to Midnight (1983)

February 10, 2014

10 to Midnight posterby Peter Nielsen

”Forget what’s legal… Do what’s right!”

I’ve stated before that I’m a huge Charles Bronson fan, so it was only a matter of time before we landed on one of his flicks again. I vaguely remember watching 10 to Midnight in the theater back in the day, but it’s been so damn long since I last watched it, that the only thing I actually remembered about it was the ending. Come to think of it, that time in the theater might very well have been the only time I’ve ever seen it. No wonder I felt it was time for a re-watch!

A classic slasher-shot!

A classic slasher-shot!

10 to Midnight is a great thriller with elements from the slasher genre thrown in for good measure, which is actually so common in this type of movie that maybe one shouldn’t make too much of a distinction between the two. But we’re not here to discuss genres nor the differences or similarities between them. No, we’re here to talk about my chosen movie of the week.

It was directed by J. Lee Thompson who did a bunch of movies with Charles Bronson, but also The Guns of Navarone, Firewalker and the original Cape Fear from 1962, to mention a few. Mr. Bronson himself doesn’t need much of an introduction, but I’ll mention a couple of titles anyway… Does Telefon, Breakheart Pass or Death Wish ring a bell?

Interrogation with an attitude!

Interrogation with an attitude!

Leo Kessler (Bronson) is the older detective who, together with his young rookie partner Paul McAnn, played by Andrew Stevens (The Fury), is investigating the murder of a young woman and her boyfriend. They are found naked in a park, stabbed to death. Leo recognizes the girl, Betty, from his old neighborhood as a childhood friend of his daughter Laurie. She’s played by the beautiful Lisa Eilbacher, whom you might know from Beverly Hills Cop or Leviathan.

At the funeral the girl’s father tells Leo about a diary she kept, which might help the investigation. Also present at the funeral is her killer who overhears the conversation about the diary. He, of course, wants to get his hands on that and breaks into the apartment Betty shared with a friend. While he’s searching through the place the roommate comes home and I’m sure you can all figure out what happens next…

Laurie and Paul getting a call from the killer.

Laurie and Paul getting a call from the killer.

The killer, Warren Stacy, is very effectively portrayed by Gene Davis (Black Eagle) and don’t worry… I’m not spoiling anything by stating that, because we know from the start who the killer is. He’s not a bad-looking guy, but he’s a bit of a douche, so he more often than not gets turned down by the ladies. Unfortunately for them, he’s a psychotic creep who doesn’t just walk away when that happens… Nope, he kills them!

His MO, or “modus operandi” if you will, is to make sure he establishes a solid alibi before the actual killing and then doing it completely naked, wearing nothing but rubber surgical gloves. You know, so as not to leave any evidence behind, thus making it tough to connect him to the murders or prosecute him in any way.

Leo is sure Warren is the killer and, against better judgment, plants false evidence in his apartment. Warren’s lawyer manages to get him off the hook and once he’s on the streets again, it’s all about revenge and this is when it gets real nasty as Warren sets his sights on Leo’s daughter.

Scary! (and I don't mean the blood)

Scary! (and I don’t mean the blood)

Another big name in 10 to Midnight is Geoffrey Lewis as Dante, the lawyer. You’ve seen him alongside Clint Eastwood and Clyde the orangutan in Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can, but also in a ton of other movies… I mean, the man has more than 200 credits to his name, for Pete’s sake!

As Leo and Paul’s superior, Captain Malone, I’m sure you’ll recognize the actor Wilford Brimley from movies such as High Road to China, John Carpenter’s The Thing and Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

Upon its release here in Sweden, 10 to Midnight was, not surprisingly, trimmed down slightly. The censors made 3 cuts with a total time of 58 seconds, which wasn’t very much considering how they “butchered” other less violent movies in the 80’s. 10 to Midnight is a dark and gritty movie and is actually pretty brutal. It doesn’t shy away from the violence either, so I was kind of surprised that it wasn’t cut more. Not that it’s an overtly gory movie, it’s just the overall tone and feel of it that made me think they’d come down a lot harder on it, you know?

Do NOT mess with my daughter!

Do NOT mess with my daughter!

As I said before, I like this one! The story itself is pretty straightforward… Two cops go after a deranged killer before he kills again! See? Not complicated at all, but if the movie is entertaining it doesn’t have to be, right?

The cast is good too, but I’ve already mentioned that. You might also recognize the actresses who portray two of Laurie’s friends… One of them is Ola Ray who’s only done a handful of movies and to be fair I only recognized her as Michael Jackson’s date in the music-video for the hit song Thriller.

The other one is listed in the credits as Kelly Palzis, but is now known as John Travolta’s wife, Kelly Preston from Mischief and Twins for instance. 10 to Midnight was one of her earliest roles.

If you haven’t seen this one before, I definitely recommend you check it out! At least once! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. There’s just something about the image of a stark naked killer wielding a big and bloodied knife that is scary as hell. Somehow you know he means business!

And that’s the image I’ll leave you with this time. Until next time, my friends…

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