10 TO MIDNIGHT — New on Twilight Time Blu-Ray

10 To Midnight was released by Twilight Time in a Limited Edition Blu-ray release of 3,000 units.

“Grizzled vets” would be an apt descriptor for both J. Lee Thompson and Charles Bronson in 1983. Both had been active in Hollywood since the 1950s, generally enjoying success and being responsible for some pretty terrific films. In their latter years, both settled into the tough guy action pictures at the Cannon Group, and found in each other a fruitful collaborator.

Some of these latter-day B movies aren’t that great (cough, Murphy’s Law), but 10 To Midnight, Bronson’s first for Cannon, manages to take some pretty sordid ideas and fashion them into something daring and memorable.

When a sexually depraved serial killer (Gene Davis) stalks and kills several young women, Charles Bronson’s grizzled detective Leo Kessler and his junior partner Paul (Andrew Stevens) take the case. Kessler’s involvement inadvertently puts his own adult daughter Laurie (Lisa Eilbacher) dead center in the killer’s sights. 10 To Midnight plays mostly like a cop drama, but is also basically the b side of a slasher film — like if Nightmare On Elm Street was told from the John Saxon character’s perspective (minus that film’s supernatural elements).

What stands out most is probably the outright depravity of the sex-obsessed killer. Some of it’s a bit familiar and cliched — he’s sexually frustrated and has a hard time connecting with girls, and hates them for it. But there are some interesting twists as well. He’s not a slob or traditional loser, but fairly handsome and physically fit. It’s his repulsive personality, not his looks, that gets him shot down over and over again. And surprisingly whenever a girl shows some interest, he’ll immediately turn on her and call her out as a whore. At this point he’s given up on actually connecting and is just fueled by hatred and a desire to hurt and kill. And kill he does — in the nude. Murder is his rape, and a knife his penetration. A bit on the nose, yes, but also striking and undeniably memorable and uncomfortable — probably the appropriate feelings for this kind of material.

On Bronson’s side of the story, the film’s big theme becomes the choice between right and legality. The cops can’t provide ample proof to put the killer away despite knowing he’s behind the murders, and the temptation is to stop the killing by any means necessary, legal or not. Do ends justify means? It’s a worthwhile question, and one which is probably looked at much differently in today’s charged atmosphere in which police brutality has strained the public’s trust.

Also, Wilford Brimley.

The Package

This is a nicely-done package featuring a slightly remixed take on the classic poster art, plus Twilight Time’s usual booklet by Julie Kirgo and now-standard clear case. The liner notes are pretty zippy on this title, making for a quick and pleasant read. Some of the most interesting points covered are the film’s real life inspiration, comparisons to Dirty Harry, and thoughts on Cannon Films under Golan-Globus.

EDIT: I somehow forgot to mention this, but there’s inner artwork as well, and when you lift the disc you get treated to a surprise shot of the killer’s bare ass. Whoever set that up probably had a good laugh over it.

Special Features and Extras

Audio Commentary
With Producer Pancho Kohner, casting director John Crowther, and film historian David Del Valle. The commentary primarily follows an interview format, tracking with the participants’ conversation as opposed to actively discussing what’s on the screen. In this sense it’s a bit detached, but nonetheless a very cool track packed with info and anecdotes. My favorite tidbit was that Bronson, often a supporting actor, was tired of being abused by productions. So for his Cannon tenure which firmly established him as a leading man, he contracted an 8-hour workday, much to the delight of the film crews. This apparently had a positive impact — or at least no negative, as his Cannon films were routinely delivered within their schedule and budget.

Theatrical Trailer (2:13)
 Red-band equivalent with some blood, nudity, and language. Drink a shot every time you see the repeated clip of Bronson brandishing his gun! Interlaced SD.

Radio Spots (1:34)
 A trio of suitably noisy and macho 30-second spots.

Isolated Score Track
 More educational than entertaining, these tracks are something of a Twilight Time staple. This one’s pretty spotty, given the film has lots of score-free parts.

A/V Out.

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