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10 To Midnight (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • 10 To Midnight (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: January 22nd, 2019.
    Director J. Lee Thompson
    Cast: Charles Bronson, Lisa Eilbacher, Andrew Stevens, Wilford Brimley, Gene Davis
    Year: 1983
    Purchase From Amazon

    10 To Midnight - Movie Review (by Horace Cordier):

    Despite being blasted by Roger Ebert as misogynistic trash, I've always found 10 To Midnight to be both a compelling thriller and one of Charles Bronson's strongest late period vehicles. It boasts a fully committed performance from the star, an excellent supporting cast (Wilford Brimley is in here!), taut script and surefooted direction from Cape Fear veteran J. Lee Thompson. It has some genuine exploitation spirit and a few unforgettably sleazy quirks like a nude male killer, salacious phone calls and the legendary appearance of the accu-jack (more on that later).

    L.A.P.D. Detective Leo Kessler (Bronson) is on the trail of a killer. A beautiful young woman has been brutally murdered, along with her boyfriend, in a highly sexualized crime. Further complicating matters is the fact that the victim was a childhood friend of Kessler's daughter Laurie (Lisa Eilbacher). All signs point to a handsome but mentally unstable young man named Warren Stacy (Gene Davis of Cruising), but his unusual M.O. and ability to construct seemingly bulletproof alibis are hindering the case. To top it off, Kessler is saddled with an idealistic and green rookie partner - Paul McAnn (Andrew Stevens). As the killer starts to target Kessler's daughter, can Bronson's detective figure it all out and stop him in time? And just how far will he have to go to do it?

    10 To Midnight, despite some editing issues, has held up remarkably well over the years. It manages the neat trick of marrying a police procedural narrative to a slasher film but also focuses enough on character to keep the viewer engaged. It has a gangbuster ending and some startling violence that works contextually while dancing close to the edge of the sleazily gratuitous. Calling a movie like this "fun" might raise eyebrows in certain quarters, but to fans of a certain genre sensibility (I'll raise my hand here), that is precisely the word I would use.

    The two strongest aspects of the film are its characters (and attendant performances), and its willingness to go full gonzo exploitation at key points. Bronson, playing the world-weary cop, invests his cliched character with both gravitas and humanism. Playing a widower with a strained relationship with his only daughter, he is completely believable in their scenes together. But the real heart of 10 To Midnight is in its depiction of the relationship between Bronson's Kessler and his younger partner. Stevens was always a criminally overlooked actor who had a lot more going for him than just cute dimples and chiseled abs. Here he not only holds his own with Bronson, he plays off him beautifully. There's a begrudging respect that the older detective bestows upon his partner as we see the younger cop reject Kessler's methods. It's an interesting dynamic. When McAnn essentially ends the senior Kessler's career for ethical reasons based on evidence manipulation, the ensuing fallout isn't quite what we expect. Eilbacher - who would also feature in the blockbuster Beverly Hills Cop - has a nice naturalistic quality and good chemistry with Bronson as well. Then there's Gene Davis. His nude killer (an outrageous conceit that amps up the film's sleaze factor to 11) makes your skin crawl. He's a creepy misogynist utterly incapable of interacting with women normally. The fact that he's quite conventionally handsome makes the whole scenario all the more effective.

    And those exploitation elements? Start with the stuff that irked the esteemed Roger Ebert so deeply: the violence against women and sexualized murders. Rarely has the "knife as penis" metaphor been so blatant. In fact, in one of Bronson's more memorable lines, he says just that. The early 1980's was also a far cruder era in terms of the general understanding of sexual pathology so Bronson's dime store analysis fits. Then there is the Accu-jack. Few will ever forget the image of star Charles Bronson holding up this penis pump-sex toy and regarding it with the kind of disdain usually reserved for soiled underwear. Of course, 10 To Midnight also features a bevy of lovely student nurses (the eagle eyed can spot a young Kelly Preston in the cafeteria scene) in various states of skimpy dress. Interestingly however, and in direct opposition to the charge of misogyny against the film, Bronson's detective passes no moral judgement on the sex lives of the female victims. When he says, sadly, "All those dead girls" at a key point, you really do know where his sympathies lie.

    The ending of the film is where the creative team behind this film truly get their exploitation mojo on. In a sort of recreation of the infamous Richard Speck student nurse killing spree that occurred in Chicago in 1966, Davis' killer enters the girl's dorm and starts horrifically stabbing them to death. It's a genuinely disturbing sequence and well shot. The scene may have a slasher movie aesthetic, but Thompson's natural skill brings the whole thing up a notch from a mindless Friday The 13th setup. Then there's a quick switch to a dramatic street chase on foot with a butt naked knife wielding killer featuring helicopters and screeching cop cars thrown into the mix, and finally the last minute where Bronson delivers one of his career best lines. This is what we call delivering the goods in an action film.

    10 To Midnight - Blu-ray Review (by Ian Jane):

    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 2051. Horace's thoughts? “Full disclosure - I was actually able to listen in on this when it was recorded in Los Angeles and found it just as interesting to hear a second time. What makes this particular track so engaging is that both men knew Bronson very well. In addition to their longstanding professional relationships with him, they were friends who socialized with the star. A lot of the "Bronson mythos" gets dispelled here. We meet the Charlie that adopted tragic children, looked after orphans on movie sets and was a committed husband and father. Crowther - who spent an entire shoot with Bronson on location for a different film (The Evil That Men Do) has some very funny stories about Bronson's working methods and Kohner gives great insight into what made the actor tick both professionally and personally. Del Valle probes and has done his homework. There is also some great stuff about the workings of the Cannon Golan and Globus empire and anecdotes about J. Lee Thompson, including the director's legendary drinking which often forced Kohner to be his personal chauffeur. Del Valle is sharp enough to discuss the film's famous ending about midway through the track - so as to avoid running out of time at the end. With so little currently out there about Bronson save for writer Paul Talbot's eagerly awaited upcoming second book on the star, it's important to get down the recollections of those still with us that knew the man.”

    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.

    Note that there are a few extras that remain exclusive to the aforementioned Twilight Time release, those being the isolated score and the liner notes from Julie Kirgo.

    10 To Midnight - The Final Word:

    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!

    Click on the images below for full sized 10 To Midnight Blu-ray screen caps!

    • VinceP
      yabba man
      VinceP commented
      Editing a comment
      Calling a movie like this "fun" might raise eyebrows in certain quarters, but to fans of a certain genre sensibility (I'll raise my hand here), that is precisely the word I would use.
      Well said, sir. I raise my hand in solidarity.
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