One of the more frustrating/depressing things about getting older is that you find many of the films you cherish are being remade.
Did we really need a remake of the very unique, classic sci-fi film The Day The Earth Stood Still? What about The Wicker Man? If you’ve seen the mind-bending original, a work that simply could not be made today, did you really think this film could be remade/reworked into something worthwhile? And coming soon, a film that has already been remade (for television in 1998): The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta.
That’s not to say I’m against film remakes.
One of my all time favorite films, The Maltese Falcon, was the third (and best, of course) theatrical version of the classic Dashiell Hammet story. But I bring this up because the other night I was watching the 1977 Don Siegel directed, Charles Bronson actioner Telefon.
Telefon is a very entertaining action film that features a rather unique plot: During the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union “programmed” some fifty people to commit specific, horrific acts of military sabotage within the United States. These people were subsequently brainwashed and planted throughout our nation and given new identities as American citizens. Their brainwashing was so complete that, at the movie’s present date, none of them have the least awareness that they are in actuality Soviet sleeper agents awaiting activation.
But as the Cold War dragged on and overtures were made to establish a detante between the super powers, the years inevitably passed and the sleeper agents fully enmeshed into their American lives, still completely unaware of their Soviet “programming”. Some are successful, others are not. Some have married and have kids while others remain single. All the sleeper agents are approaching retirement age. Unfortunately for them, a power struggle within the USSR and a messy purge has caused a renegade officer (played with manic glee by Donald Pleasance) to jump the pond and activate one sleeper after another. His goal is to heat up the now dormant Cold War. Upon realizing the danger, the USSR recruits KGB Major Grigari Borzov (Charles Bronson) to go undercover to the United States and root out and eliminate Pleasance before he causes a nuclear war.
Now, this film is a perfectly good escapist piece of entertainment, even if it’s not what one would classify as a bona fide “classic”. But in this day and age of suicide bombers and terrorist fears, wouldn’t this film’s concept, with some modern twists, work pretty well? Unlike some of the other films being remade of late, this might be one worth revisiting.
Anyway, if you’re in the mood for a good, suspenseful little action film, you’d do much worse than catching Telefon.