Telefon - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Telefon Reviews

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July 28, 2017
Slow moving with a laconic Bronson taking his sweet time doing much of anything. There is zero chemistry between the leads and the ending is lame.
October 22, 2015
I really expected a lot more from a Charles Bronson/Don Siegel collaboration. It's not a terrible film, but the script is terrible. It's full of gigantic plot holes that fundamentally compromise the film. That it's not outright terrible says a lot for Siegel and the film's terrific cast that also includes Donald Pleasence and Patrick Magee.
½ January 5, 2015
Has it's moments but just not enough of them.
December 14, 2013
Superb movie with 2 great actors. Lee Remick is lovely.
½ November 25, 2013
Do you accept the call--Deep-Cover Sleeper Agents!!
September 14, 2013
Not nearly as interesting as the synopsis would lead you to believe, Even Charlie Bronson appears to be bored being in it.
½ February 9, 2012
Classic Bronson on a hunt
March 10, 2011
Based on the novel by Walter Wager, "Telefon" has not aged well because it‚(TM)s so dependent on the cold war tension that existed between the USSR and the US in the Seventies. The film is basically a cat-and-mouse game with Soviet agent Major Grigori Borzov (Charles Bronson, that's right Bronson is a commie) tracking rogue Russian scientist Nicolai Dalmchimsky (Donald Pleasence) across America to prevent him from activating sleeper agents. Borzov is assisted by Barbara (Lee Remick. fresh from "The Omen") who asks more annoying questions than necessary, leading the audience to believe she may not be completely true to the motherland.

The film's middle section is dragged down by repetitive bomb scares. Dalmichimsky is working from outdated intelligence so his targets are all de-classified U.S. Military installations. Once Borzov realizes the pattern and hones in the next target the action shifts to a more linear chase that‚(TM)s further heightened by Barbara‚(TM)s loyalties. But the ultimate showdown is deflating because beyond some silly disguises Pleasence's Dalmichimsky is never built up to be a threat.

Director Don Siegel uses his flair for montage to craft a his action sequences without dialogue. "Telefon" is a road movie, much like Alfred Hitchcock's "Saboteur" and "North by Northwest" had their leads criss-crossing America here we see plenty of seventies architecture including San Francisco's Hyatt Regency Hotel (used in "The Towering Inferno") and a modernist house resting on top of a barren rock outcropping.

The supporting cast is uniformly good (but trapped in underwritten roles), and it‚(TM)s nice to see veteran character actors Alan Badel and Patrick Magee playing snotty KGB strategists, and Tyne Daly in a small (and ultimately irrelevant role) as a computer geek.

Trivia note: The poem that activates the Russian sleeper agents was used by Quentin Tarantino in "Death Proof" as the lines Jungle Julia has her listeners recite to Butterfly. The lines are an excerpt of the poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost. "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."
February 16, 2011
Very dated, and not just in its cold war politics and hilarious fashion and furnishings. Siegel has his typically efficient, reliable, non-flashy way with the filming, and the concept ‚" while ludicrous ‚" sucks you in. Tough guy Bronson and spunky Remick somehow manage to keep themselves credible, if not the plot. Best of all is Cagney ‚" or is it Lacey? ‚" as a newspaper researcher.
½ August 26, 2010
I don't like Charles Bronson, but I always end up watching the movies he's in for other reasons. In this case, I wanted to see where Quentin Tarantino got the poem he used in Death Proof. It's a Robert Frost poem used for triggering brainwashed agents. I also love Patrick Magee and Donald Pleasence's performances. The movie itself is mediocre.
June 12, 2010
Not sure Bronson has ever made a bad film? Throw Tyne Daly looking very young and sexy and even though they never meet you have a great combination. Unlike some of his others though this needed a little more action to keep the storyline going; can't deny the suspense though, true rolle-rcoaster!
December 26, 2009
Awesome movie.....the best character actors, interesting plot, well paced, and everything is funky beacause its the 70's! Hooray!
Super Reviewer
October 5, 2009
"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."

Telefon 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 Dirty Harry), Telefon 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.

The story involves a communist zealot known as Dalchimsky (Pleasance) who plots to sabotage dťtente 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). 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.

At its most basic level, Telefon 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.

Here's the major problem with Telefon: 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.

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 Death Wish 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.

Bronson enthusiasts will almost certainly find a lot to enjoy about Telefon - it's a fun spy thriller with Bronson in Russian Death Wish mode. The film was later parodied in The Naked Gun, and Tarantino used the "trigger" phrase ("The woods are lovely, dark and deep...") in his 2007 movie Death Proof.
October 2, 2009
Cold war/espionage thriller starring Charles Bronson, Lee Remick, and others. I always like espionage thrillers since they can be such a challenge to the mind. This one is no exception. The story is intricate and exciting. Every time you wonder what Pleasance's next move will be, just like many of the characters do. The different locations of the agents provide a nice and varied view of the States, and of course there is Russia too. Nice mixture of indoor and outdoor locations on top of that. The women in the movie were a nice touch. The ending seemed a bit too easy, but I suppose it worked. I was just wondering why Pleasance had to travel around himself instead of just making the calls from one single location. Surely this would have spoilt much of the pace and excitement of the movie, but I thought it would be more logical from Pleasance's point of view. I guess this is not the best movie in its genre, but it is definitely a good one.
August 1, 2009
Telephones...Does anyone remember telephones/telephone booths?
Nice thriller...Neat twists!
½ July 6, 2009
Not very often do we see Russians as the good guys in movies. It's even rarer when said movies were made during The Cold War, but here is one of such oddities. There are many interesting things in this film. The unique approach and intriguing plot among them. I especially like the beginning, when I still don't have any idea what's going on, and I have to try to figure shit out. This is easily one of the best Bronson flicks I have seen. And quite hard to get on dvd as well, I hear. Recommended for the curious ones. And Finnish viewers, as there are some familiar faces in there for them.
½ July 1, 2009
"Hello?" This is a pretty routine Cold War spy thriller, but Siegel's direction manages to keep its tension just high enough for watching. Great cast of Bronson, Pleasence and Magee. And yes - the Moscow scenes were filmed in Helsinki with bit parts from our very own √?ke Lindman and Ansa Ikonen.
April 6, 2009
An excellent thriller from director Don Siegel, Telefon is great from beginning to end and deserves a wider audience. With great performances from Bronson and Pleasance and an overall wild story involving Russian sleeper agents being woken by a Robert Frost poem, this one really has it all. A great film that gets better with repeated viewings.
March 24, 2009
Enjoyable cold war-era thriller with a pleasantly sinister Donald Pleasance and Charles Bronson and Lee Remick in very decent roles.
½ January 6, 2009
Before detente there was Bronson. Well, it's an effective thriller, but with Bronson attached you expect a little more action. Donald Pleasence is right in his realm of creep-master general here.
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