Friday, July 25, 2014

Worth Mentioning - The Biggest One You Ever See

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody and Priscilla watch Charles Bronson take on a slasher.

10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983)

In the fourth of his nine collaborations with director J. Lee Thompson, legendary screen tough guy Charles Bronson stars as Los Angeles police detective Leo Kessler, whose years on the force have worn him down into cynicism. He wants to bring criminals to justice to receive the punishment they deserve, but the system doesn't always work to his satisfaction. He laments cases like the one involving a wife-killing pharmacist who was given a lax sentence due to an insanity plea, soon releasing him from custody to kill again.

The stage is set for Kessler to potentially take steps that go beyond the law. And now he's dealing with a case that just might be the one to drive him over the edge.

That case is the murder of his twenty-year-old daughter's friend Betty.

Betty is killed during the film's opening sequence by a young man named Warren Stacy. Warren is a very strange guy in his daily life, with zero social skills and an intensely creepy way of hitting on women who draw his attention. Betty was one of the women Warren has hit on and been rejected by. He became infatuated with her, calling her at her apartment, vowing to get back at people who have put him down. Betty was afraid of Warren, and rightfully so.

Warren Stacy is a very fit, good looking guy who is pretty obsessed with himself. He's obviously extremely troubled, and sometimes almost kind of feminine with how he acts and speaks. I think that he was confused about his sexuality, I think that deep down he simply wasn't into women, but thought he should be, which caused him to be unable to connect or engage in any type of relationship with them and to feel any kind of emotion other than the hatred that came from being rejected by women so many times. When Kessler is searching Stacy's bathroom, there is a magazine showing a naked man, so that's further proof that he was either confused or simply didn't want to face the fact that he liked guys.

After making a spectacle of himself at a movie theatre to establish an alibi, Warren sneaks out, tracks Betty down, and then murders her in a very slasher-esque manner.

Stacy saw Betty leaving with her boyfriend, then he went to his apartment, took his sweet time showering and getting ready, headed to the theater, made a scene, waited for the movie to start, drove all the way to the lake and the couple was still having sex. Wow! Betty and her boyfriend were having some long humping-in-the-woods session!

Betty is just the first of several victims Warren will claim over the course of the film, and he always gets naked before pulling out his knife and going in for the kill.

I feel like Betty had a chance to escape. She could've ran to Stacy's car - he certainly wasn't carrying any keys - or simply over to the road. Instead, she goes deeper in the woods, and basically waits for him to find her. Not smart.

When Warren's threatening interactions with Betty to come to light, it doesn't take Kessler long to deduce that he's the murderer. But there's no evidence to back up Kessler's strong belief in Warren's guilt, and due to the rules of the law he can't just beat a confession out of him, which frustrates Kessler to no end. This guy killed his daughter's friend, he's killing more people, and he might get away with it.

Betty's roommate Karen is Warren's second victim. He goes to their apartment right after the funeral, looking for Betty's diary, and I find it weird that the two women shared an apartment which wasn't that small, but only had one bedroom. The thought of two adults sharing a bedroom with two single beds in it is just so strange to me. Kind of boggles my mind.

It gets worse for Kessler when the presence of his daughter Laurie at Betty's funeral brings her to Warren's attention. She becomes his new infatuation. Warren stalks her around the college she attends, makes obscene phone calls to her apartment while putting on an accent and calling himself Pedro, and we know it's only a matter of time before a nude Warren will be chasing Laurie down with a knife. Unless Kessler can stop him before that happens.

Pedro's phone calls are really gross... and hilarious. 

In the role of Laurie, Lisa Eilbacher does nice work making her character likeable and sympathetic, although she does have a tendency to be harsh on her father, who has been largely absent from her life due to his dedication to his job. Despite this fact, over the course of the movie she gradually falls for her father's partner, Paul McAnn (Andrew Stevens). Her father hasn't been there for her because of his work, and yet she falls for a guy who does the exact same thing. The choices of a twenty-year-old.

Truth is, she wanted to hate her father and blame him for not being around, but couldn't anymore, because she's a grown woman now who understands that he did what he had to, and she did admire him for it. So, it makes sense that she'd go for someone similar when it comes to dating.

One thing I really like and find interesting in the movie are the relationships between those three characters - Kessler, Laurie and McAnn. McAnn looks up to Kessler, respects him, wants to learn from him, and doesn't want to disappoint him; but at the same time, he still wants to stand for what's right, or what should be right. He still wants to prove himself while keeping his oath alive, being so new at the job. So, he gets a little conflicted sometimes and that affects his relationship with Laurie. Laurie seems to really like McAnn ever since they first meet, but tries to play cool most of the time. Her relationship with her father is a little shaky at the beginning, but as the movie goes on everything that happens actually brings them closer together, and their bond gets stronger and stronger.

Hanging around with Laurie to protect her and set up a tap on her phone, the gun-toting and paranoid McAnn does have some fun moments as he tries to mingle with the college crowd.

His time at the party is very funny. It's one of my favorite parts and it lightens up the mood quite a bit.

With Warren closing in on his daughter, Kessler has to resort to desperate measures to bring him in: he plants evidence. This tactic nearly works, but ultimately falls apart and leads to Kessler being fired from the force. If he's going to take Warren off the streets himself, he's going to have to go vigilante.

The film builds up to a climactic sequence in which a buck naked, knife-wielding Warren raids the apartment which Laurie shares with a group of fellow nursing students.

To think that the three girls he murders at the apartment would've survived if Stacy went to prison like Kessler was trying to make sure of. 

For Warren's attack on the apartment, writer William Roberts drew inspiration from a true crime that was committed by Richard Speck in the summer of 1966. Like the character in the film, Speck entered an apartment inhabited by nursing students, but while Warren gets his rampage done quickly, the real life murderer spent hours tormenting and systematically killing eight women one-by-one. His downfall came in the form of two fingerprints and the fact that a ninth woman had managed to hide from him under a bed during the attack and was able to identify him.

Every time I watch 10 to Midnight, I keep wondering why the girls didn't fight back. I mean, the first one played by Kelly Preston didn't have a chance, but Laurie never came out to at least try and stop him somehow. Counting the girl taking a shower, it could've been three against one. But not even eight were able to stop what happened to them in real life, so the moment is just so hectic, unexpected and overwhelming that you can't do much thinking.

The way in which Speck's arrest was handled was affected by that year's Supreme Court case that made Miranda rights part of routine police procedure, so that may also have been an inspiration for Roberts' story about a cop who feels criminals have too many rights.

You can rest assured that Leo Kessler will make it so Warren Stacy has no rights by the time the credits roll. Nor will he have a pulse.

Kessler is such a badass that he doesn't even fear prison.

10 to Midnight is a very effective little thriller, a mash-up of police procedural and slasher. Its slasher just happens to be au naturel when he's doing his slashing, so when you watch it you should be prepared to see a whole lot of actor Gene Davis's rear end. Davis was not only in top shape for this movie so he could handle the nude scenes, he also does some fine work in playing his unbalanced character, making Warren Stacy a very unpleasant creep. The audience definitely roots for Warren to get what's coming to him, no matter how Kessler has to go about doing it.

Gene Davis is beyond perfect in the role. I couldn't think of a better man for the job, not even big names. He is always so creepy, and the final scene where he claims to be sick and therefore can't be locked up for too long is just chilling. His performance is top notch, and whenever he has a fit, it's grand. I remember being so appalled seeing him doing those horrible things while completely naked when I first watched 10 to Midnight. It's very striking. 

Even though he's the star with his name above the title, I actually feel like Charles Bronson gets overshadowed in this movie. Gene Davis, Lisa Eilbacher, and Andrew Stevens all make a bigger impression for me here than Bronson does. He seems very low-key in the role of Kessler.

I agree, even though Bronson has some great lines in this. And I love the part when he keeps harassing Stacy after losing his job. Very well done and fun in a creepy way.

10 to Midnight is very good at being what it is, a distracting time killer of a cop movie. It doesn't aim high, but it delivers what it intended to.

Even though I watched a few Bronson movies growing up, thanks to my action movie loving dad and especially brother, this movie was one that passed me by back then for some reason. It wasn't until a few years ago that I got to watch it for the first time. My husband, who loves him some Bronson-ness as well, showed it to me, saying it was a slasher, and I was so curious about it. Turns out it quickly became one of my favorites... I absolutely love this movie and watch it more often than I'd like to admit. So much so that I even know a bunch of lines by heart now. It's a mix of intense chasing, fun and shocking moments that work so perfectly together.


  1. To forgive is divine, they say, but I don't aspire to being an Angel.

    You tried to kill me and I owe you for that. And I always try and pay what I owe.

    Be seeing you, Mr Kessler.

    Likewise, Mr Stacey...

  2. Look at me, I'm a perfect example, you see...

    When it's cold and it's damp...

    I'll protect myself. No one else suckers me...