11/10/08

The Lightning Bug's Lair Salute to Men of Action: Cold Sweat (1970)


Bronson. The name itself evokes the man in my mind. The stone face. The bowl cut. The muscles that look like he just did 50 push ups. The steely look in his eyes that could cut you in two. Charles Bronson is a prototypical tough guy. He's also another in the list of actors who probably wouldn't make it beyond character roles if they tried to break into the business today. From his first big role in Machine Gun Kelly, a Roger Corman produced gangster flick, to his final performance in the Family of Cops series, you always know what you're going to get with Bronson. You're in for a ride with the most uncompromising, hardest boiled, vengeance seeking, baddest ass mo-fo of them all, and this film is no exception. I give you...

Cold Sweat (aka De la part des copains) (1970) starring Charles Bronson, James Mason, Jill Ireland, Liv Ullmann, Luigi Pistilli. Directed by Terrance Young.

Joe Martin (Bronson) lives the quiet life as a fishing boat captain in the south of France. He gets home late one night and receives a mysterious phone call from a man who accuses him of being Joe Moran and states that he wants to kill him. Joe takes his wife Fabienne (Ullman) to her bedroom as he searches the house. She hears a noise and creeps downstairs to discover Joe knocked out on the floor of the kitchen with a man standing above him. Joe comes around and the man, Vermont, seems to have something on old Joe, and he demands Joe take him somewhere on his boat. Joe agrees under duress but gets the drop on his captor, taking him down and breaking the man's neck.

As Joe and Fabienne get rid of the body, Joe recounts the tale of his mysterious past. The Korean was had ended, and his company had been stationed in Germany. His Captain, Ross, gets bored and starts dealing in the black market, but he gets caught and thrown in the pokey. Joe manages to get himself jailed as well when he slugs a superior officer. Once inside, Ross (Mason), Joe, Vermont, and Fausto (Pistilli), all fellow prisoners, plan an escape. They break out with the help of Yannick a former member of the Foreign Legion. All seems to be going
well until a German cop comes along and Yannick kills the man. Joe wants nothing to do with murder and takes off in their getaway car. This leaves the other four guys hanging, and they get thrown in a German prison for twenty years.

When the couple get back to the house, they find guests waiting for them. Ross, Fausto, and Yannick are making themselves at home and packing plenty of heat. They take Fabienne captive and force Joe to take Yannick out to make a drug deal. Joe being ever resourceful manages to incapacitate the man and make it back to shore. He goes to collect his step daughter from French girl scout camp, but Ross has already been there with Fabienne to collect her. So having little options, Joe goes to the airport and kidnaps Ross' girlfriend Moira (Ireland) who is coming into town with the money Ross needs for his deal.

He takes the hippy chick out to the country and locks her in a tiny shack. Then he confronts Ross and demands a trade, Ross' girl and money for Joe's family. Ross agrees and they drive out to the country. Joe convinces Ross to let his family go when they get there, and the Captain agrees, but as they drive off, Yannick opens fire on them. Joe jumps the man and the machine guns wild fire cuts down Fausto and lodges a bullet in Ross' gut. They take the wounded man to the cabin and Joe is given one last chance to save his family. He must go into town and fetch a doctor before Ross' blood runs out. Otherwise Yannick will gun down Joe's family in cold blood. Joe drives like a maniac, but with each beat of Ross' heart his time runs short to save those he loves.

Film Facts

--Director Terrance Young helmed Dr. No, Thunderball, and my favorite Bond flick From
Russia, With Love.

--The film was shot in Nice and around the Mediterranean coast of France, but it was an Italian/French/Belgian co-production.

--The film is based off the Richard Matheson book Ride the Nightmare. Matheson was of course responsible for I Am Legend, many fine episodes of The Twilight Zone, and one of the best episodes of Star Trek with The Enemy Within.

--Bronson and Ireland had been married since 1968. When they met Ireland was married to actor David McCallum who Bronson co-starred with in The Great Escape. Legend has it he told McCallum, "I'm going to marry your wife.".

The Bug Speaks
What a film! This was one I feel like is criminally underrated. As I took a chance to look online to see what other people have been saying about it, it seems that the reviews go from middle of the road to bad. I have no idea why. It seemed one of Bronson's best performances, and with it coming out just before Death Wish which made him an international star, it seemed like a film where Charlie tried not only to beat down the bad guys but flex his acting muscles as well. There seemed to me genuine emotion in his performance that some of his later films lacked.

The direction by Terrance Young was also very well done. Although it was not as well shot as his Bond entries, Young still was able to make use of the exotic locales to make the film have a depth of style and color. I especially liked the scene in the airport for a glimpse at the French hair salon. I actually watched the scene a couple of times so I could take in the Peter Max style decor on display.

Ullman and Ireland both do quite well in their roles as the wife and girlfriend respectively. Although neither character is fully realised, they are both beautiful woman and the screen could do far worse than to showcase them. As a big fan of Luigi Pistilli, I was thrilled to see him show up in an all too brief role as the doomed Fausto. I actually cheered the first time I caught sight of him, but that because his presence made an already enjoyable film even more so. I hesitate to call James Mason's performance good, but I will say it was interesting. Mason has a very distinctive voice, but in this film he affects a Southern accent which varies wildly throughout. He ends up sounding like a Southerner with a mouth full of BBQ trying to sound vaguely British. While it is not really a success, I found it highly entertaining.

Overall this may not be a Bronson film that everyone loves, but from the fist fights to the car chases I was with it all the way. It made me want to run a ton of Bronson films and make a whole day of it, but you know I cant' do that. I have a moon to run and a terrifying goodie to bring to you tomorrow. So until then Moonies, stay calm because I'll be back. I don't want y'all breaking out in a Cold Sweat.
Bug Rating


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