Telefon

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

33%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 12

48%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,319
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Movie Info

Don Siegel took over the directing chores from Peter Hyams on this taut cold war action film, based on the novel by Walter Wager. With the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union thawing, old KGB hard-liner Nicolai Dalchimsky (Donald Pleasence) activates a group of Americans who were brainwashed twenty years earlier to blow up United States defenses when a passage from a Robert Frost poem is recited to them. When bombs go off at an abandoned United States defense installation, the Kremlin realizes that they have a rogue KGB agent on their hands who is trying to re-ignite the cold war. To stop him, the Russians send out KGB agent Grigori Borzov (Charles Bronson). Accompanying him is KGB double agent Barbara (Lee Remick). As the two agents try to stop Nicolai from starting World War III, they find time to fall in love with each other.

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Cast

Charles Bronson
as ''Bortsov''
Lee Remick
as ''Barbara''
Donald Pleasence
as Nikolai Dalchimsky
Tyne Daly
as Dorothy Putterman
Alan Badel
as ''Colonel Malchenko''
Sheree North
as Marie Wills
Patrick Magee
as General Strelsky
Frank Marth
as Harley Sandburg
Helen Page Camp
as Emma Stark
Roy Jenson
as Doug Stark
Jacqueline Scott
as Mrs. Hassler
Ed Bakey
as Carl Hassler
John Mitchum
as Harry Bascom
Iggie Wolfington
as Father Stuart Diller
Kathleen O'Malley
as Mrs. Maloney
Åke Lindman
as Lt. Alexandrov
Ansa Konen
as Dalchimsky's Mother
Hank Brandt
as William Enders
John Hambrick
as TV Newsman
Henry Alfaro
as TV Reporter
Glenda Wina
as TV Anchorwoman
Jim Nolan
as Appliance Store Clerk
Burton Gilliam
as Gas Station Attendant
George Petrie
as Hotel Receptionist
Jeff David
as Maitre d'
Carl Byrd
as Navy Lieutenant
Lew Brown
as Petty Officer
Peter Weiss
as Radar Operator
Robert Phillips
as Highway Patrolman
Cliff Emmich
as Highway Patrolman
Alex Sharp
as Martin Callender
Margaret Hall Baron
as Airport Clerk
Al Dunlap
as Taxi Driver
Sean Moloney
as Hot Rod Kid
Ville Veikko Salminen
as Russian Steward
Teppo Heiskanen
as Hockey Player
Mika Levio
as Hockey Player
Marlene Hazlett
as Tourist Family
Tom Runyon
as Tourist Family
Claudia Butler
as Tourist Family
Philippe Butler
as Tourist Family
Stephanie Ann Rydall
as Mrs. Wills' Child
Derek Rydall
as Mrs. Wills' Child
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Critic Reviews for Telefon

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (6)

  • Instead of winding tighter and tighter, as a suspense story should, Telefon just winds down, rather like -- come to think of it -- a phone call between two people who don't really have much to say to each other.

    Jul 21, 2015 | Full Review…
  • Following Telefon is about as thrilling as being kept on hold for the better part of the day.

    Jul 21, 2015 | Full Review…
  • Tyne Daly is notable as a CIA staffer. Remick's teaming with Bronson is a graceful one for both players.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Most disappointing is Siegel's contribution: he, of all directors, should have been able to inject some life into the proceedings, but this is his most nondescript outing in years.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Chris Petit

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • To describe Telefon as synthetic is to take it more seriously than it's taken by anyone connected with it.

    May 9, 2005
  • Apart from a certain energy evident in the cutting, you'd never know it was the work of Don Siegel, a generally excellent action director.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Telefon

  • Jul 17, 2009
    <i>"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. Remember. Miles to go before I sleep."</i> <p> <i>Telefon</i> is an entertaining Charles Bronson vehicle - nothing more, nothing less. It lacks brains, it's a tad slapdash and it's an extremely predictable affair, but it's quotable and thoroughly enjoyable as well. With renowned action director Don Siegel at the helm (best known for the first <i>Dirty Harry</i>), <i>Telefon</i> is packed with nail-biting suspense and exciting eruptions of action, all the while threading together an engaging plotline (though it's nothing too deep). With the focus primarily on narrative velocity rather than compelling drama, this is a very serviceable spy thriller supported by an intriguing premise. <p> The story involves a communist zealot known as Dalchimsky (Pleasance) who plots to sabotage détente by activating deep-cover agents in the United States. Said agents were planted by the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War but were never utilised, and are primed to execute suicidal missions to blow up key military sites on telephonic phone cue. Military intelligence officer Major Grigori Borzov (Bronson) is recruited by the Soviets to eliminate Dalchimsky before his actions trigger World War III. Oh, and Grigori is accompanied by an American agent named Barbara (Remick).<br> With the continuing political conflict and military tension between America and Russia in the late '70s and throughout the 1980s, it's kinda heart-warming to witness a movie released in 1977 which features a Russian agent and an American agent working side-by-side. <p> At its most basic level, <i>Telefon</i> is pleasant escapism. The script was penned by the screenwriting duo of Sterling Silliphant and Peter Hyams, based on the novel by Walter Wager. Though the story is considered by some to be beyond the realms of reality, the driving force behind the plot (i.e. activating agents using drug-induced hypnosis) isn't as far-fetched as some of the actual schemes concocted by the overzealous CIA and KGB during the Cold War. The script's only weak spots are in the characters and the construction of events. Initially, Grigori and Barbara are hostile towards one another. An audience would expect these two to somehow end up together, and we get that pay-off, but it seems merely perfunctory rather than natural. Granted, it's probably unreasonable to expect a beautifully-written relationship in a film like this. But if said relationship is unmotivated and naff, then there's a big problem. <p> Here's the major problem with <i>Telefon</i>: it's entirely without a satisfying final act. At about a hundred minutes in length, the film is fairly long considering the '70s action-thriller pedigree. And during these hundred minutes, there's a lot of building up with very little pay-off. Walter Wages' novel contained an excellent climax which could've become an effective action set-piece in this screen adaptation, but alas the film fizzles out with a whimper. The demise of the main villain is underwhelming, and the story is wrapped up irritatingly quickly. In all likelihood, budget constraints prevented a big climax from being lensed. It's disappointing, to say the least. <p> Director Don Siegel handles the action competently, but this is not among his best efforts (a few terrific set-pieces notwithstanding, there's some pretty dull filmmaking on display here). Lalo Schifrin also provides a fantastic score which suitably amplifies tension during key scenes. As for the acting...not unlike the sleeper agents of the picture, the stoic Charles Bronson gives a strong impression of deep hypnosis throughout. During his career, Bronson rarely acted - he simply inhabited a film with his particular presence, which frequently played off his infamous <i>Death Wish</i> persona. Donald Pleasence fares a lot better as the main villain of the film. He oozes menace, and is especially sinister while uttering a few lines from the particular Robert Frost poem which triggers a sleeper agent. Lee Remick's performance is impassive, and she's an absurd love interest for Bronson. Also in the cast is Tyne Daly who's embarrassing as the overexcitable CIA computer expert (hilariously, the computers she uses literally have a brain of their own) and whose role feels at once redundant and underdone. <p> Bronson enthusiasts will almost certainly find a lot to enjoy about <i>Telefon</i> - it's a fun spy thriller with Bronson in Russian <i>Death Wish</i> mode. The film was later parodied in <i>The Naked Gun</i>, and Tarantino used the "trigger" phrase ("<i>The woods are lovely, dark and deep...</i>") in his 2007 movie <i>Death Proof</i>.
    Cal ( Super Reviewer
  • Oct 19, 2008
    <i>Telefon</i> is an intriguing spy thriller from Don Siegel, and while it does have its moments, it also falls short of expectations. It just lacks that extra something seen in other Siegel films.<p>The plot is a good one and it has a ton of potential. The Soviet Union has placed 50+ brainwashed sleeper agents all over the United States and suddenly, one by one, they begin to carry out their purpose of blowing up key military installations. I say that is a great concept for a spy movie.</p><p>The first 20 minutes are great as it involves the telephone calls, in which the culprit delivers the "trigger" phrases, to set the sleeper agent in motion. These "trigger" phrases are what Tarantino uses in his movie <i>Deathproof</i>. The main character of Charles Bronson doesn't show up until the 20 minute mark and that is where the film begins to lose its pizazz. The rest of the film focuses less on the sleeper agents and more on Bronson's attempt to stop the culprit from triggering the rest of them. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but watching the agents get the telephone calls and carrying out their missions are the high points of this picture.</p><p>Charles Bronson is a little flat. If you combine this with Don Siegel's directing you get a movie that doesn't live up to the hype. Fortunately, the supporting cast gets the job done. Donald Pleasance is a good "trigger" man and Lee Remick is a beautiful partner for Bronson. Tyne Daly gives a solid performance as a computer wiz, but her part of the story feels incomplete and unnecessary.</p><p><i>Telefon</i> may not be great, but it is still a better than average movie that Charles Bronson or Donald Pleasance fans may want to check out.
    JY S Super Reviewer
  • Jan 17, 2008
    Assassins living as normal Americans are programed to kill when they are given a certain phrase (I'll think of the word later and replace this... what the hell is the word I'm looking for? Let's just say a "trigger" word). Like Manchurian Candidate if Bronson had been there to kick all kinds of ass.
    Christopher B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 27, 2007
    A rather flat and dour cold war thriller starring a rather flat and dour Charles Bronson as a Russian agent sent to kill a cell of sleeper agents who are activated by a fanatical Stalinist. It's an interesting idea, but none of Siegel's trademark intensity and panache is in evidence and Bronson is at his least charismatic.
    xGary X Super Reviewer

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