Telefon


1h 43m 1977

Brief Synopsis

A Russian agent travels to the U.S. to stop a crazed defector from triggering human time bombs.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Action
Adventure
Thriller
Spy
Release Date
1977

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

The Cold War is drawing to a close, but KGB hard-liner Nicolai Dalchimsky is unwilling to give up the fight. He activates the twenty-year-old plan to have some brainwashed Americans blow up a U.S. defense installation by reciting a Robert Frost p m to them. The explosions alert the Kremlin to the fact that there is a rogue KGB agent that they must deal with, so they send KGB agent Grigori Borzov to stop him. A beautiful double agent named Barbara accompanies Grigori, and as they try to prevent Nicolai form starting World War III, they fall in love.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Action
Adventure
Thriller
Spy
Release Date
1977

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

Telefon


Your next phone call may be your last!" proclaimed the ads for Telefon (1977), an improbable though intriguing espionage yarn based on Walter Wager's novel of the same name. Nicolai Dalchimsky (Donald Pleasence), a KGB records clerk, is upset by the current detente between the Soviet Union and the United States. He steals a notebook filled with the names of "sleeping" undercover KGB agents sent to the U.S. in the 1950s. These operatives received their assignments under hypnosis, so they can't remember their missions until they hear four key lines from Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening". Dalchimsky escapes to America and starts phoning these agents who perform acts of sabotage against military targets. Since the Soviets can't disclose the crisis to the U.S. government, they send Colonel Borzov (Charles Bronson) and Barbara (Lee Remick), an American double agent and military intelligence officer, to find and eliminate Dalchimsky before his actions trigger a war.

Key in the casting was Bronson (fresh from such hits as Death Wish (1974) and Breakheart Pass, 1975), as Borzov, a craggy, taciturn character that perfectly suited Bronson's tough screen persona. Bronson, who has never been known as a master of dialects, wisely decided to play the character straight, since a bad Russian accent could have resulted in an unintentionally funny performance.

Clearly, Bronson knew his audience well and understood the reasons for his popularity. As a result, he could be very uncompromising with directors and fellow actors during the filming of his movies. The director of Telefon, Don Siegel, documented some of their disagreements in his memoirs, A Siegel Film: An Autobiography. His first problem with Bronson arose when he asked him to shave off his moustache for a scene, "I felt that inasmuch as Bronson wore a heavy moustache in Russia, it would help his disguise if he had no moustache when he arrives in Canada. However he didn't want to shave it off." Bronson felt that his moustache was his meal ticket and told the director without it I never earned any money. The moustache stayed but Siegel made it quite clear that he was unhappy with Bronson's reasoning. More surprisingly, Bronson had a problem with kissing his beautiful co-star (Lee Remick) for an arrival scene at the airport. Bronson's answer to why he wouldn't was curt - "When my wife meets me at an airport, we never kiss." Siegel told Remick to embrace him anyway. Remick responded with "But, Don, I don't dare. He's liable to hit me!" Fortunately, the scene went without a hitch.

Tensions came to a boil during a sequence that was filmed in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco. One scene called for Bronson to walk off a beautiful glass elevator. Siegel had marked in black tape where Bronson should get off so he could keep the glass elevators in the shot. According to Siegel, Bronson exploded "You don't have to show off by telling me how to get off an escalator!" Siegel led Bronson out of earshot from the crew to explain why the tape was there. Bronson still felt he was being made fun of but became more reasonable when Siegel threaten to walk off the picture; they shook hands and a truce was made.

Yet, despite the difficulties of working with Bronson and a plot the director referred to as, "impossible to believe," Siegel succeeded in making Telefon a stylish action thriller that followed in the tradition of earlier Siegel fare like Dirty Harry (1971) and Charley Varrick (1973). All the hallmarks for a good spy flick are here: car chases, fight scenes, explosions, international locations and sharp editing. Add a crack supporting cast including Tyne Daly (providing fine comic relief as a wisecracking computer expert) and Donald Pleasence (whose sinister appearance and unsettling manner make him an ideal screen villain), and Telefon stands out as one of the more entertaining entries in the genre of Cold War espionage thrillers.

Producer: James B. Harris
Director: Don Siegel
Screenplay: Peter Hyams & Stirling Silliphant, based on the novel by Walter Wager
Production Design: Edward S. Haworth, Ted Haworth, Vinton Haworth
Cinematography: Michael C. Butler
Costume Design: Luster Bayless, Jane Robinson, Edna Taylor
Film Editing: Douglas Stewart
Original Music: Lalo Schifrin
Principal Cast: Charles Bronson (Borzov), Lee Remick (Barbara), Donald Pleasence (Dalchimsky), Tyne Daly (Dorothy Putterman), Alan Badel (Colonel Malchenko), Patrick Magee (General Strelsky), Sheree North (Marie Wills), Frank Marth (Harley Sandburg), Roy Jenson (Doug Stark).
C-103m. Letterboxed.

by Michael T. Toole
Telefon

Telefon

Your next phone call may be your last!" proclaimed the ads for Telefon (1977), an improbable though intriguing espionage yarn based on Walter Wager's novel of the same name. Nicolai Dalchimsky (Donald Pleasence), a KGB records clerk, is upset by the current detente between the Soviet Union and the United States. He steals a notebook filled with the names of "sleeping" undercover KGB agents sent to the U.S. in the 1950s. These operatives received their assignments under hypnosis, so they can't remember their missions until they hear four key lines from Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening". Dalchimsky escapes to America and starts phoning these agents who perform acts of sabotage against military targets. Since the Soviets can't disclose the crisis to the U.S. government, they send Colonel Borzov (Charles Bronson) and Barbara (Lee Remick), an American double agent and military intelligence officer, to find and eliminate Dalchimsky before his actions trigger a war. Key in the casting was Bronson (fresh from such hits as Death Wish (1974) and Breakheart Pass, 1975), as Borzov, a craggy, taciturn character that perfectly suited Bronson's tough screen persona. Bronson, who has never been known as a master of dialects, wisely decided to play the character straight, since a bad Russian accent could have resulted in an unintentionally funny performance. Clearly, Bronson knew his audience well and understood the reasons for his popularity. As a result, he could be very uncompromising with directors and fellow actors during the filming of his movies. The director of Telefon, Don Siegel, documented some of their disagreements in his memoirs, A Siegel Film: An Autobiography. His first problem with Bronson arose when he asked him to shave off his moustache for a scene, "I felt that inasmuch as Bronson wore a heavy moustache in Russia, it would help his disguise if he had no moustache when he arrives in Canada. However he didn't want to shave it off." Bronson felt that his moustache was his meal ticket and told the director without it I never earned any money. The moustache stayed but Siegel made it quite clear that he was unhappy with Bronson's reasoning. More surprisingly, Bronson had a problem with kissing his beautiful co-star (Lee Remick) for an arrival scene at the airport. Bronson's answer to why he wouldn't was curt - "When my wife meets me at an airport, we never kiss." Siegel told Remick to embrace him anyway. Remick responded with "But, Don, I don't dare. He's liable to hit me!" Fortunately, the scene went without a hitch. Tensions came to a boil during a sequence that was filmed in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco. One scene called for Bronson to walk off a beautiful glass elevator. Siegel had marked in black tape where Bronson should get off so he could keep the glass elevators in the shot. According to Siegel, Bronson exploded "You don't have to show off by telling me how to get off an escalator!" Siegel led Bronson out of earshot from the crew to explain why the tape was there. Bronson still felt he was being made fun of but became more reasonable when Siegel threaten to walk off the picture; they shook hands and a truce was made. Yet, despite the difficulties of working with Bronson and a plot the director referred to as, "impossible to believe," Siegel succeeded in making Telefon a stylish action thriller that followed in the tradition of earlier Siegel fare like Dirty Harry (1971) and Charley Varrick (1973). All the hallmarks for a good spy flick are here: car chases, fight scenes, explosions, international locations and sharp editing. Add a crack supporting cast including Tyne Daly (providing fine comic relief as a wisecracking computer expert) and Donald Pleasence (whose sinister appearance and unsettling manner make him an ideal screen villain), and Telefon stands out as one of the more entertaining entries in the genre of Cold War espionage thrillers. Producer: James B. Harris Director: Don Siegel Screenplay: Peter Hyams & Stirling Silliphant, based on the novel by Walter Wager Production Design: Edward S. Haworth, Ted Haworth, Vinton Haworth Cinematography: Michael C. Butler Costume Design: Luster Bayless, Jane Robinson, Edna Taylor Film Editing: Douglas Stewart Original Music: Lalo SchifrinPrincipal Cast: Charles Bronson (Borzov), Lee Remick (Barbara), Donald Pleasence (Dalchimsky), Tyne Daly (Dorothy Putterman), Alan Badel (Colonel Malchenko), Patrick Magee (General Strelsky), Sheree North (Marie Wills), Frank Marth (Harley Sandburg), Roy Jenson (Doug Stark). C-103m. Letterboxed. by Michael T. Toole

TCM Remembers Charles Bronson - Sept. 13th - TCM Remembers Charles Bronson this Saturday, Sept. 13th 2003.


Turner Classic Movies will honor the passing of Hollywood action star Charles Bronson on Saturday, Sept. 13, with a four-film tribute.

After years of playing supporting roles in numerous Western, action and war films, including THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960, 8 p.m.) and THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967, 1:15 a.m.), Bronson finally achieved worldwide stardom as a leading man during the late 1960s and early 1970s. TCM's tribute will also include THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963, 10:15 p.m.), Bronson's second teaming with Steve McQueen and James Coburn, and will conclude with FROM NOON TILL THREE (1976, 4 a.m.), co-starring Jill Ireland.

TCM will alter it's prime-time schedule this Saturday, Sept. 13th. The following changes will take place:

8:00 PM - The Magnificent Seven (1960)
10:15 PM - The Great Escape (1963)
1:15 AM - The Dirty Dozen (1967)
4:00 AM - From Noon Till Three (1976)

Charles Bronson, 1921-2003

Charles Bronson, the tough, stony-faced actor who was one of the most recognizable action heroes in cinema, died on August 30 in Los Angeles from complications from pneumonia. He was 81.

He was born Charles Buchinsky on November 3, 1921 in Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania, one of fifteen children born to Lithuanian immigrant parents. Although he was the only child to have graduated high school, he worked in the coalmines to support his family until he joined the army to serve as a tail gunner during World War II. He used his money from the G.I. Bill to study art in Philadelphia, but while working as a set designer for a Philadelphia theater troupe, he landed a few small roles in some productions and immediately found acting to be the craft for him.

Bronson took his new career turn seriously, moved to California, and enrolled for acting classes at The Pasadena Playhouse. An instructor there recommended him to director Henry Hathaway for a movie role and the result was his debut in Hathaway's You're in the Navy Now (1951). He secured more bit parts in films like John Sturges' drama The People Against O'Hara (1951), and Joseph Newman's Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952). More substantial roles came in George Cukor's Pat and Mike (1952, where he is beaten up by Katharine Hepburn!); Andre de Toth's classic 3-D thriller House of Wax (1953, as Vincent Price's mute assistant, Igor); and De Toth's fine low-budget noir Crime Wave (1954).

Despite his formidable presence, his leads were confined to a string of B pictures like Gene Fowler's Gang War; and Roger Corman's tight Machine Gun Kelly (both 1958). Following his own television series, Man With a Camera (1958-60), Bronson had his first taste of film stardom when director Sturges casted him as Bernardo, one of the The Magnificent Seven (1960). Bronson displayed a powerful charisma, comfortably holding his own in a high-powered cast that included Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. A few more solid roles followed in Sturges' The Great Escape (1963), and Robert Aldrich's classic war picture The Dirty Dozen (1967), before Bronson made the decision to follow the European trail of other American actors like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. It was there that his hard, taciturn screen personae exploded in full force. In 1968 alone, he had four hit films: Henri Verneuil's Guns for San Sebastian, Buzz Kulik's Villa Rides, Jean Herman's Adieu l'ami which was a smash in France; and the classic Sergio Leone spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West.

These films established Bronson as a huge box-office draw in Europe, and with some more stylish hits like Rene Clement's Rider on the Rain (1969), and Terence Young's Cold Sweat (1971) he soon became one of the most popular film stars in the world. It wasn't easy for Bronson to translate that success back in his homeland. In fact, his first few films on his return stateside: Michael Winners' Chato's Land, and The Mechanic (both 1972), and Richard Fleischer's Mr. Majestyk (1973), were surprisingly routine pictures. It wasn't until he collaborated with Winner again for the controversial Death Wish (1974), an urban revenge thriller about an architect who turns vigilante when his wife and daughter are raped, did he notch his first stateside hit. The next few years would be a fruitful period for Bronson as he rode on a wave of fine films and commercial success: a depression era streetfighter in Walter Hill's terrific, if underrated Hard Times (1975); Frank Gilroy's charming offbeat black comedy From Noon Till Three (1976, the best of many teamings with his second wife, Jill Ireland); Tom Gries tense Breakheart Pass; and Don Siegel's cold-war thriller Telefon (1977).

Sadly, Bronson could not keep up the momentum of good movies, and by the '80s he was starring in a string of forgettable films like Ten to Midnight (1983), The Evil That Men Do (1984), and Murphy's Law (1986, all directed by J. Lee Thompson). A notable exception to all that tripe was John Mackenzie's fine telefilm Act of Vengeance (1986), where he earned critical acclaim in the role of United Mine Workers official Jack Yablonski. Although he more or less fell into semi-retirement in the '90s, his performances in Sean Penn's The Indian Runner (1991); and the title role of Michael Anderson's The Sea Wolf (1993) proved to many that Bronson had the makings of a fine character actor. He was married to actress Jill Ireland from 1968 until her death from breast cancer in 1990. He is survived by his third wife Kim Weeks, six children, and two grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

TCM Remembers Charles Bronson - Sept. 13th - TCM Remembers Charles Bronson this Saturday, Sept. 13th 2003.

Turner Classic Movies will honor the passing of Hollywood action star Charles Bronson on Saturday, Sept. 13, with a four-film tribute. After years of playing supporting roles in numerous Western, action and war films, including THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960, 8 p.m.) and THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967, 1:15 a.m.), Bronson finally achieved worldwide stardom as a leading man during the late 1960s and early 1970s. TCM's tribute will also include THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963, 10:15 p.m.), Bronson's second teaming with Steve McQueen and James Coburn, and will conclude with FROM NOON TILL THREE (1976, 4 a.m.), co-starring Jill Ireland. TCM will alter it's prime-time schedule this Saturday, Sept. 13th. The following changes will take place: 8:00 PM - The Magnificent Seven (1960) 10:15 PM - The Great Escape (1963) 1:15 AM - The Dirty Dozen (1967) 4:00 AM - From Noon Till Three (1976) Charles Bronson, 1921-2003 Charles Bronson, the tough, stony-faced actor who was one of the most recognizable action heroes in cinema, died on August 30 in Los Angeles from complications from pneumonia. He was 81. He was born Charles Buchinsky on November 3, 1921 in Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania, one of fifteen children born to Lithuanian immigrant parents. Although he was the only child to have graduated high school, he worked in the coalmines to support his family until he joined the army to serve as a tail gunner during World War II. He used his money from the G.I. Bill to study art in Philadelphia, but while working as a set designer for a Philadelphia theater troupe, he landed a few small roles in some productions and immediately found acting to be the craft for him. Bronson took his new career turn seriously, moved to California, and enrolled for acting classes at The Pasadena Playhouse. An instructor there recommended him to director Henry Hathaway for a movie role and the result was his debut in Hathaway's You're in the Navy Now (1951). He secured more bit parts in films like John Sturges' drama The People Against O'Hara (1951), and Joseph Newman's Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952). More substantial roles came in George Cukor's Pat and Mike (1952, where he is beaten up by Katharine Hepburn!); Andre de Toth's classic 3-D thriller House of Wax (1953, as Vincent Price's mute assistant, Igor); and De Toth's fine low-budget noir Crime Wave (1954). Despite his formidable presence, his leads were confined to a string of B pictures like Gene Fowler's Gang War; and Roger Corman's tight Machine Gun Kelly (both 1958). Following his own television series, Man With a Camera (1958-60), Bronson had his first taste of film stardom when director Sturges casted him as Bernardo, one of the The Magnificent Seven (1960). Bronson displayed a powerful charisma, comfortably holding his own in a high-powered cast that included Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. A few more solid roles followed in Sturges' The Great Escape (1963), and Robert Aldrich's classic war picture The Dirty Dozen (1967), before Bronson made the decision to follow the European trail of other American actors like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. It was there that his hard, taciturn screen personae exploded in full force. In 1968 alone, he had four hit films: Henri Verneuil's Guns for San Sebastian, Buzz Kulik's Villa Rides, Jean Herman's Adieu l'ami which was a smash in France; and the classic Sergio Leone spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West. These films established Bronson as a huge box-office draw in Europe, and with some more stylish hits like Rene Clement's Rider on the Rain (1969), and Terence Young's Cold Sweat (1971) he soon became one of the most popular film stars in the world. It wasn't easy for Bronson to translate that success back in his homeland. In fact, his first few films on his return stateside: Michael Winners' Chato's Land, and The Mechanic (both 1972), and Richard Fleischer's Mr. Majestyk (1973), were surprisingly routine pictures. It wasn't until he collaborated with Winner again for the controversial Death Wish (1974), an urban revenge thriller about an architect who turns vigilante when his wife and daughter are raped, did he notch his first stateside hit. The next few years would be a fruitful period for Bronson as he rode on a wave of fine films and commercial success: a depression era streetfighter in Walter Hill's terrific, if underrated Hard Times (1975); Frank Gilroy's charming offbeat black comedy From Noon Till Three (1976, the best of many teamings with his second wife, Jill Ireland); Tom Gries tense Breakheart Pass; and Don Siegel's cold-war thriller Telefon (1977). Sadly, Bronson could not keep up the momentum of good movies, and by the '80s he was starring in a string of forgettable films like Ten to Midnight (1983), The Evil That Men Do (1984), and Murphy's Law (1986, all directed by J. Lee Thompson). A notable exception to all that tripe was John Mackenzie's fine telefilm Act of Vengeance (1986), where he earned critical acclaim in the role of United Mine Workers official Jack Yablonski. Although he more or less fell into semi-retirement in the '90s, his performances in Sean Penn's The Indian Runner (1991); and the title role of Michael Anderson's The Sea Wolf (1993) proved to many that Bronson had the makings of a fine character actor. He was married to actress Jill Ireland from 1968 until her death from breast cancer in 1990. He is survived by his third wife Kim Weeks, six children, and two grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Being paranoid doesn't mean we're not being followed.
- Grigori Borzov

Trivia

During the parking garage sequence, a yellow Lincoln Continental sedan plays an important part in the during the attempted bombing of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Houston Texas (actually San Francisco, California). In Charley Varrick (1973), also directed by Don Siegel, a yellow Lincoln Continental was used during a bank robbery, where the driver, played by Jacqueline Scott (I) is wounded and dies.

Charles Bronson and Donald Pleasence appear together for the last time.

The interior of the Hyatt Regency is located at 5 Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, California. This is the same location where Towering Inferno, The (1974) was filmed.

- The code used to activate sleepers is taken from a poem by Robert Frost, "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening", originally published in 1923 in his collection titled "New Hampshire". The exact lines are: The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

When Bronson encounters Immigration on the Canadian border, the agent asks his character's citizenship and birthplace, to which he responds, "American, from Pennsylvania" Charles Bronson's true birthplace.

Don Siegel asked Bronson to shave his trademark mustache. Bronson replied, "No mustache, no Bronson."

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1977

Released in USA on video.

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1977