Telefon (1977)

The 1970s were ripe for great crime movies. Telefon may not be the pinnacle of the genre, but it’s good. It’s an unlikely vehicle for star Charles Bronson, as a KGB agent (but with no accent) trying to stop World War III by defeating rogue Russian Donald Pleasence, who’s using the telephone to dial up various Yankees who unknowingly have subliminal missions buried in their brains.

When Donald calls and recites a Robert Frost poem, it triggers them to enter a trance and embark on a suicide mission, whether that be taking out a military installation, an oil refinery or a phone company. It’s awfully repetitive, especially for a Don Siegel film, but its ‘70s tough-as-nails attitude cannot be denied.

Lee Remick, however beautiful, is clearly miscast as Bronson’s American agent who goes undercover with him (but thankfully, not under covers). If anything, Telefon serves as proof that Tyne Daly (here a CIA analyst) was ugly long before she got portly. —Rod Lott

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