Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bronson of the Day: Cold Sweat

The last time I took a trip to the Middle East of America I watched Battle of the Bulge on my Kindle.  That pretty decent World War II flick stars Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw and Charles Bronson.  Coincidentally on this trip I viewed another flick starring Bronson only this time he wasn't part of an ensemble but was into his leading man years.  Cold Sweat is a French/Italian co-production released in 1970, directed by James Bond helmer Terence Young and based on a novel by I Am Legend's Richard Matheson.  The film opens calmly enough with the super vascular Joe (Bronson) teaching a guy how to navigate his charter boat.  After a night of gambling with the boys he comes home to his wife Fabienne (Liv Ullmann) and they argue about him always being out and his drinking habits.  The petty squabble is soon interrupted by mysterious phone calls and a home invasion.  It's not a random burglary though as the perpetrator knows Joe and whacks him with the butt of a pistol.  Turns out ol' Joe was in the military, struck an officer, got thrown into the brig and escaped with a crew.  When one of them kills a street cop, getaway driver Joe bolts and the team is captured.  All these years later, it's time to get even.  Using his new wife and step-daughter as collateral, Joe is forced to assist his former comrades in meeting some drug dealers to buy heroin.

Of course, things don't go so smoothly with Bronson playing Joe and he takes out the crew one at a time.  Under the command of Captain Ross (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea's James Mason, Kirk Douglas alert!), the whittled down team ends up fighting each other in a remote cabin while Joe is out with hippie/money carrying Moira (Bronson's spouse Jill Ireland).  At only 93 minutes, Cold Sweat started off intriguingly enough but loses a bit of steam as it goes on.  Mustached Bronson looks lean and mean here in his tight black tee shirt and veiny yet not overly pumped up arms.  His performance isn't particularly iconic but it's not perfunctory either, he's just a guy trying to save his wife and kid.  He's no victim and takes action often, always working another angle.  I was impressed by the cleverness of some of the action bits like Joe kicking out a table leg from under an armed guard or using a car door to disarm someone later.  Towards the end there's a pretty solid car chase as Joe races through town and the mountains with a doctor to tend to a wounded man.  Cars cut each other off with inches to spare and there's plenty of screeching around corners on mountain roads with precarious drop offs only feet away.  James Mason's gravitas and terrific voice are put to good use as the former commander even if he looks a bit goofy in his 70's attire.  I couldn't help but think of actor Richard Jordon from Timebomb (Michael Biehn alert!) and The Yakuza watching Mason and wondered if they ever played father and son in anything...

Car Sequence Stunt Coordinator Remy Julienne would go on to work on multiple Roger Moore era James Bond films as well as a couple of Jean-Claude Van Damme pictures.  Post Dr. No, Thunderball and From Russia With Love director Young would collaborate with Bronson on two subsequent flicks, the highly enjoyable "western action comedy with samurais" Red Sun and the American hit about the mob, The Valachi Papers.  After years of building up a reputation as a solid supporting player in The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen and Battle of the Bulge where he was paid in the $50,000 range, Cold Sweat finds Bronson in his European star years where audiences appreciated his unconventionally handsome yet unforgettable face and stoic silent strength.  His salary would double and triple on it's way to a massive $5 million in the 80's.  It would still be another five years before American audiences appreciated Bronson and gave him his first all out stateside hit, Death Wish.

If you're looking for that Bronson fix while sitting on a plane, in an airport or in bed, you could do worse than Cold Sweat.

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