Charles Bronson Fills the Ladies with Love and Lead
Plus three more September releases from Twilight Time.
Twilight Time’s September titles include 9 to 5, Eye of the Needle, From Noon til Three, Murphy’s Law, Remo Williams, and Bobby Deerfield. Keep reading for reviews of all but the final one below.
From Noon till Three (1976)
Graham Dorsey (Charles Bronson) and his three bank-robbing associates are heading towards the small town hosting their next target when horse trouble requires he be left behind. He’s happy to sit this one out though for a couple reasons. One, he had a nightmare portending a bloody end to this robbery. And two, the remote home where he’s planning to shack up until his friends return is occupied by a beautiful young woman named Amanda. (Jill Ireland). They only have a few hours to kill, but a lot can happen between two people in a short time.
The western setting and rough ’n’ tumble nature of the characters feels familiar at first, but writer/director Frank D. Gilroy’s film keeps the focus on Dorsey choosing not to show us any part of the robbery action. Dorsey makes a playfully presented (but not really playful at all) stab at getting into Amanda’s knickers, but time is spent getting to know both of them before the pair come together more naturally. It works because she’s allowed to be strong, smart character moved by more than just her reaction to a man.
As atypical as the film’s first two acts are for Bronson it’s the final third that feels terrifically unexpected. The romance between a lady and an outlaw becomes the subject of a bestselling memoir, and the film becomes an exploration on both the creation and maintenance of legend. The truth doesn’t stand a chance in the face of popular belief.
There are no extras on the disc aside from an isolated score track and a trailer.
From Noon Till Three (Blu-ray)
9 to 5 (1980)
Women in the workplace exist strictly to complete mundane tasks and be ogled by their bosses, but for three employees of Consolidated that existence is about to evolve. Violet (Lily Tomlin) is a widow raising four kids on her own, but she puts up with the bullshit because she’s next in line for an impending promotion. Doralee (Dolly Parton) is secretary to the office bigwig, but his actions have her co-workers convinced she’s also his mistress. Judy (Jane Fonda) is newly divorced and entering the work force for the first time, and she’s shocked to discover the mistreatment and double standards she’s been missing. Mr. Hart (a terrifically sleazy Dabney Coleman), is the male boss at the heart of their troubles, and it’s in their interactions with ‐ and because of ‐ him that the three women find friendship, strength, and the desire to make a change. And it all starts with a little attempted murder and kidnapping.
The film’s first act starts us in a reality of the times with working women who are undervalued, underpaid, sexually harassed, and trapped beneath a glass ceiling. There are laughs, but things take a more wickedly fantastic turn once the idea of offing the boss comes into play, and it makes for some truly memorable sequences. All four leads do strong comedic work, and there’s a real energy to the story and situations. It’s nearly four decades old but still feels relevant and very, very funny.
The extra features include an isolated score track, a trailer, and the following special features. They’re mostly of the vintage variety, but they offer a wealth of behind the scenes thoughts on the film.
- Commentary with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and producer Bruce Gilbert
- Commentary with writer Patricia Resnick and film historians Julie Kirgo & Nick Redman
- Nine @ 25: Revisiting a Comedy Classic [24:37] ‐ A featurette exploring the film’s creation and lasting popularity.
- Remembering Colin Higgins [4:42] ‐ A continuation of the same featurette focused on the late co-writer/director.
- Singing Nine to Five Karaoke [3:27] ‐ The title song done in karaoke style with onscreen lyrics.
- Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin interviews [20:39]
- Deleted scenes [22:51]
- Animation reel [5:35]
- Gag reel [11:37]
9 To 5 (Blu-ray)
Eye of the Needle (1981)
Heinrich Faber aka the Needle (Donald Sutherland) is a German spy in possession of classified information guaranteed to turn the tide of World War II in the Nazi’s favor, but one obstacle stands in his way. He’s stuck on a Scottish island trying desperately to reach rescue aboard a German U-boat. All that stands between him and success is a lonely woman and her crippled, depressed husband.
For as popular an author as Ken Follett is (was?) this is the only one of his novels to ever make its way to the big screen. It’s surprising as Richard Marquand’s (The Legacy) adaptation is a dramatic spy film that takes its time with character and setting before slowly twisting the screws on the suspense for a truly thrilling third act.
Sutherland is quite good here balancing an icy sleaze with the mask of kindness, and Kate Nelligan stands out as the woman caught by circumstance in a whirlwind of seduction and deception. She walks a fine line with her character, but her performance makes her pain and desire equally believable.
The extra features include an isolated score track, a trailer, and the following:
- Commentary with music historian Jon Burlingame and film historians Julie Kirgo & Nick Redman
Eye Of The Needle (Blu-ray)
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)
A not-so hot cop (Fred Ward) is shot in the line of duty and dies from his wounds, except what this film presupposes is, maybe he didn’t? Instead, a secret government agency pulls a “la femme nikita” on him and resurrects him to be an agnt for good against bigger criminals. He’s given a new-ish face, training in all manner of secret martial arts, and a new name before being set loose to save the world. Say hello to Remo Williams.
This adaptation of the popular Destroyer book series comes to the screen courtesy of director Guy Hamilton who’d previously shepherded another secret agent into theaters with four James Bond films. His involvement helps shape the film into an occasionally rousing origin story complete with some fun action set pieces.
Less successful in retrospect (and hopefully at the time) is the casting of Joel Grey as an old Korean man. Kudos to the makeup department, but it’s difficult not to cringe when he’s onscreen. The plus side though is seeing Ward in a rare lead role, and it’s enough to make you wish he’d had the opportunity more often. He’s a fun, charismatic lug, and a perfect fit for the film’s character.
It’s been twenty one years, and the adventure has yet to continue. Happily we now have the film on Blu-ray (the second after Arrow Video’s UK release) to help the wait for a sequel a little bit easier. The extra features include an isolated score track, a trailer, and the following newly produced special features:
- Commentary with film historians Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer, & Paul Scrabo
- Created, the Destroyer: Writing Remo Williams [17:08] ‐ The origin of The Destroyer book series is discussed.
- Unarmed and Dangerous: Producing Remo Williams [21:50] ‐ An interview with producers Larry Spiegel & Judy Goldstein who discuss Dick Clark’s involvement and the process of making the film.
- Secrets of Sinanju: Training Remo Williams [8:45] ‐ An interview with Joel Grey who tries to explain how producers traveled the world in search of an Asian actor before settling on his very non-Asian self.
- Balance of Power: Designing Remo Williams [15:04] ‐ An interview with the production designer who discusses the film’s look including the sequence atop the Statue of Liberty.
- Assassin’s Tune: Composing Remo Williams [13:45] ‐ Craig Safan explores his approach to the film’s score and various themes.
- Still gallery
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins… (Blu-ray)
Murphy’s Law (1986)
Jack Murphy (Charles Bronson) is fed up with bad guys, sick of his ex-wife, and absolutely uninterested in your funny asides about the concept of “Murphy’s Law.” The daily grind is frustrating enough as a tough cop working the streets of Los Angeles, but when a woman (Carrie Snodgress) from his past takes aim on his reputation and acquaintances many things that could possibly go wrong for him do, in fact, go wrong.
The sixth of nine collaborations between Bronson and director J. Lee Thompson, Murphy’s Law is one of their lighter pairings thanks to the unusual addition of a wise-cracking, insult-throwing sidekick. A mouthy thief named Arabella (Kathleen Wilhoite) crosses paths with Murphy a couple times before the two end up shackled together and on the run after the cop is framed for murder, and her endless string of graphic jabs works to balance the otherwise dark and violent tone.
I’m still more partial to the likes of 10 to Midnight when it comes to Bronson/Thompson team-ups, but there’s fun to be had here. Wilhoite makes the most of what becomes a somewhat tiring character after a while, and Snodgress convinces as a mad threat capable of all the menacing things she does. Bronson is Bronson ‐ more specifically back half of his career Bronson. The film sits between Death Wish installments 3 and 4 so this wasn’t exactly his prime, but again, Bronson is Bronson, and he’s always a talent worth watching.
The extra features include an isolated score track, a trailer, and the following:
- Commentary with actor Kathleen Wilhoite and film historian Nick Redman
Murphy's Law (Blu-ray)
Related Topics: Home Video