(France/Italy - 1970)
Directed by Rene Clement. Written by Sebastien Japrisot. Cast: Charles Bronson, Marlene Jobert, Annie Cordy, Corinne Marchand, Gabriele Tinti, Jill Ireland, Jean Gaven, Jean Piat, Marc Mazza, Ellen Bahl, Steve Eckhardt, Jean-Daniel Ehrman, Yves Massart. (PG, 114/118 mins)
When you think of Charles Bronson, the things that usually come to mind are the DEATH WISH films, his many sleazy Cannon actioners of the 1980s, the vengeful Harmonica in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, or his being a member of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, THE GREAT ESCAPE, and THE DIRTY DOZEN in the 1960s. But it's his European phase--lasting from roughly 1968 to 1973--that firmly established him as a global superstar, and it's that era that isn't referenced much today, though two new Blu-ray releases from Kino Lorber (because physical media is dead) are finally doing justice to this vital period of Bronson's career. Steadily employed in supporting roles on the big screen and in TV guest spots on shows like THE VIRGINIAN and THE FUGITIVE in the mid-to-late '60s but frustrated with the state of his career as he was approaching 50, Bronson decided to test the waters of the European film industry when he was offered a chance to team with French superstar Alain Delon in 1968's sweaty heist thriller FAREWELL, FRIEND (aka HONOR AMONG THIEVES). The film was a huge hit in Europe but wouldn't be released in the US until 1973. Following ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, Bronson starred in a series of French and Italian-made thrillers while maintaining a Hollywood profile in occasional American films like CHATO'S LAND, THE MECHANIC, and THE STONE KILLER. Nevertheless, it was his European films that were cementing his status as a pop culture icon everywhere in the world but the US. The major outlier here would be 1972's gangster biopic THE VALACHI PAPERS, an Italian-French co-production that became a major box-office hit in America in the wake of THE GODFATHER.
(France/Italy - 1970; US release 1974)
Directed by Terence Young. Written by Shimon Wincelberg, Albert Simonin, Jo Eisinger and Dorothea Bennett. Cast: Charles Bronson, Liv Ullmann, James Mason, Jill Ireland, Michel Constantin, Jean Topart, Luigi Pistilli, Yannick de Lulle, Paul Bonifas, Sabine Sun, Roger Maille, Nathalie Varallo, Remo Moscani, Dominique Crosland. (PG, 93 mins)
Released in France in December 1970, COLD SWEAT had mostly spotty distribution in Europe over the next couple of years. It didn't turn up in America until the fall of 1974, courtesy of grindhouse bottom-feeders Emerson Film Enterprises, a company that spent most of the '60s distributing dubious drive-in fare like CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS and MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE, and assorted pre-porn-era Times Square "nudies" like PUSSYCAT PUSSYCAT and WIFE SWAPPERS. After Bronson hit it big in the summer of 1974 with MR. MAJESTYK and the water-cooler, zeitgeist sensation DEATH WISH, Emerson saw some potentially easy money and vultured in on one of the actor's long-forgotten European efforts that fell through the cracks and still hadn't made it stateside. They managed to get COLD SWEAT into some theaters (it opened at a mall in my hometown of Toledo, OH on Christmas Day 1974), but it wasn't enough to keep the lights on, as Emerson finally folded after releasing the more typical FUGITIVE LOVERS in 1975. No one will ever mistake COLD SWEAT for Bronson's best movie, but it's a decent-enough thriller that deserved better than Emerson Film Enterprises who, from the looks of it, spent about five minutes working on that US poster art.
VHS in the early '80s. It became a public domain staple and was available on any number of low-quality DVD sets (usually with artwork showing shots of Bronson from other movies), but Kino's new Blu-ray release, taken from a restored French print (but in English) is easily the best it's ever looked. Bronson stars as Joe Martin, an American expat residing in the French Riviera, earning a living as a tour and fishing boat captain for wealthy tourists. He's married to Fabienne (the great Ingmar Bergman muse Liv Ullmann, who got some shit from highbrow critics for "slumming" in a Bronson movie) and is stepfather to her daughter Michele (Yannick de Lulle). Their quiet, happy life abruptly crashes and burns when Joe's past comes back to haunt him in the form of a team of criminals with whom he associated some 20 years earlier. Ross (James Mason, taking his Southern MANDINGO drawl for a test spin) was Joe's commanding officer during the Korean War, and they got reacquainted after being thrown in the stockade on a military base in Germany after the war, Joe for drunkenly punching a colonel and Ross for hijacking US Army trucks as the head of black market gunrunning operation. They escaped from the stockade, along with three other Ross cohorts--Katanga (Jean Topart), Fausto (Luigi Pistilli), and Vermont (Michel Constantin, dubbed by LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT star David Hess)--with Joe agreeing to be the getaway driver. But when Katanga impulsively killed a German cop who stumbled on the scene, Joe sped off, leaving Ross and his men behind and taking all of their money with him to start a new life in France. Ross and the others have just busted out of another German prison and tracked Joe down to "balance the books." They want their money and they want Joe to take them out on his boat to pick up a shipment of drugs from a Turkish cargo vessel.
on. COLD SWEAT was the first of three European collaborations between Young and Bronson, followed in quick succession by the 1971 east-meets-western RED SUN and 1972's THE VALACHI PAPERS, though it would be the last to make it to US screens.
|COLD SWEAT opening in Toledo, OH on 12/25/1974|