10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983) Reviews and overview

 

‘A cop… A killer… a bloody deadline’

10 to Midnight is a 1983 American thriller about a weary detective and his rookie partner on the trail of a psychopathic young male killer.

Directed by J. Lee Thompson (Death Wish 4: The Crackdown; Happy Birthday to Me; The Reincarnation of Peter Proud; Eye of the Devil; Cape Fear) from a screenplay written by William Roberts (The Last American Hero; Red Sun; The Magnificent Seven) from a story by J. Lee Thompson (uncredited). Produced by Lance Hool and Pancho Kohner for Golan and Globus.

The Cannon Group production stars Charles Bronson (Death Wish franchise), Lisa Eilbacher (Beverly Hills Cop; This House Possessed; Bad Ronald), Andrew Stevens (Mongolian Death Worm; Scared Stiff; The Seduction; The Fury), Gene Davis (Shark Swarm; Nostradamus; The Relic) and Geoffrey Lewis (Disturbed; Salem’s Lot; Human Experiments).

The soundtrack score was composed by Robert O. Ragland (Alien from the Deep; Deep Space; Evils of the Night; Q: The Winged Serpent; Grizzly; Abby; The Thing with Two Heads; The Touch of Satan).

Plot:

Leo Kessler (Charles Bronson) is a cynical Los Angeles cop on the trail of Warren Stacy (Gene Davis), a homicidal maniac who turns rejection from beautiful women into the ultimate revenge. When the legal system sets Stacy free, Kessler plants evidence to put him behind bars for good. But Kessler’s plan backfires, leaving him with only one option: to hunt down Stacy on his own… before the crazed killer can strike again!

[May contain spoilers] Reviews:

“Successfully bringing together a number of 80s movie elements and genre stables, 10 to Midnight is able to draw a much larger canvas than just a simple cop movie from the me decade would ordinarily have. As such, it is one of the most intriguing genre pictures of the decade…” The Action Elite

“Is this is a good movie? Not really. Is it entertaining to watch? Absolutely. 10 to Midnight is a down-and-dirty piece of exploitation that has graphic violence, gratuitous nudity, and a “do whatever you have to do to get the scum off the streets” message. It could not be made in today’s more enlightened climate.” The Aisle Seat

“Bronson hits the right combination of self-righteousness and grizzled dark humor as the world-weary but determined cop hero and Gene Davis is downright blood-chilling as a psycho that is as narcissistic as he is perverse. When they face off during the film’s climax, it’s the stuff of b-movie legends. All in all, 10 to Midnight is probably a little too exploitative and grim for sensitive viewers but Bronson buffs and thriller addicts will enjoy its skillfully-crafted cheap thrills.” AllMovie

“The unstoppable cop routine remains compelling, with star Charles Bronson doing what he does best: scowling at bad guys. However, there’s something more interesting brewing here beneath obvious sleaze and police procedure, with director J. Lee Thompson tapping into violent insecurity to mastermind a proper opponent for his hero, who, interestingly, isn’t a very noble man himself.” Blu-ray.com

“Often offensive, frequently compelling, Bronson takes on a sadistic naked killer with a penchant for disemboweling women, and will stop at nothing to put him away. Not for the squeamish, this trashy quasi-horror movie brilliantly balances its exploitation and exposition, then blows you away with one of action cinemas most shockingly rewarding endings ever.” Cool @ss Cinema

10 to Midnight is an excellent 80s thriller that has Charles Bronson hot on the trail of a serial killer who gets naked to kill sexy women. It’s also got one of the coolest endings that we’ve ever seen. It’s also kinda cheesy in that special 80s way, but the good here far outweighs the bad. It’s just a really cool flick.” The Horror Club

10 to Midnight is made with smooth commercialness but this hardly disguises a sado-sexual voyeurism behind the cheap morality, which only makes such an attitude doubly hypocritical. Bronson, as always, has both the physiognomy and expressiveness of a brick wall. It is also hard to believe that 10 to Midnight could come from J. Lee Thompson, the same director who also made the brilliant Cape Fear, a film that has become a template for a great many modern psycho-thrillers.” Moria

“J. Lee Thompson is an expert at pushing these buttons, although I’m not sure how much craft or artistry they actually take to press. A large part of the effectiveness of 10 to Midnight is its brutal simplicity; its well-worn structure playing like folktale where the details may change from telling to telling, but the overarching thrust remains. Murphy’s Law meet Death Wish II. You might remember it as 10 to Midnight.” The Pink Smoke

“Is 10 to Midnight a dash chauvinistic in its treatment of the fairer sex? Of course, it is. Get over it. It’s also a fast-paced, refreshingly frank piece of entertainment which dares to stray from the pack. Its unapologetically blunt ending is a breath of fresh air and says everything that needs to be said, without pandering to tiresome rules and regulations.” Rivers of Grue

10 to Midnight, despite some editing issues, has held up remarkably well over the years. It manages the neat trick of marrying a police procedural narrative to a slasher film but also focuses enough on character to keep the viewer engaged. It has a gangbuster ending and some startling violence that works contextually while dancing close to the edge of the sleazily gratuitous.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

“This is a scummy little sewer of a movie, a cesspool that lingers sadistically on shots of a killer terrifying and killing helpless women, and then is shameless enough to end with an appeal to law and order. The people who made From Ten to Midnight have every right to be ashamed of themselves — and that includes Charles Bronson…” Roger Ebert

“We’re meant to think the law is an ass, but what you actually think is that if Kessler had stuck to the proper procedure they would have got their man anyway, and in fact, it’s his fault that Warren was released to carry out more murders. There are too few thrills, and most of them are in the last twenty minutes…” The Spinning Image

10 to Midnight is one of Chuck’s best. It’s an unheralded classic that really ratchets up the suspense and provides Bronson’s fans with lots of great moments. The scene where Chuck plants evidence on the killer? Priceless. The scene where Chuck goes to a cafeteria and says, “I hate quiche!” Awesome.” The Video Vacuum

Choice dialogue:

Leo Kessler (Charles Bronson): “I hate quiche! […] And coleslaw makes me sick.”

Laurie Kessler (Lisa Eilbacher): “Dad, you don’t understand. Alcohol is the most effective tranquillizer I know.”

Leo Kessler (Charles Bronson): “The way the law protects these maggots, you’d think they were an endangered species.”

Recent release:

10 to Midnight was released on Collector’s Edition Blu-ray on January 22, 2019, via Scream Factory. Joel Robinson designed the new cover art, while the original poster is on the reverse side.

Cast and characters:

Charles Bronson … Leo Kessler
Lisa Eilbacher … Laurie Kessler
Andrew Stevens … Paul McAnn
Gene Davis … Warren Stacy
Geoffrey Lewis … Dave Dante
Wilford Brimley … Captain Malone
Robert F. Lyons … Nathan Zager (as Robert Lyons)
Bert Williams … Mr Johnson
Iva Lane … Bunny
Ola Ray … Ola
Kelly Preston … Doreen (as Kelly Palzis)
Cosie Costa … Dudley
Paul McCallum … Lab Technician
Jeana Keough … Karen (as Jeana Tomasina)
June Gilbert … Betty
Arthur Hansel … Judge
Sam Chew Jr. … Minister (as Sam Chew)
Katrina Parish … Tina
Shawn Schepps … Peg
Sydna Scott … Mrs Johnson
Barbara Pilavin … Mrs Byrd
Beau Billingslea … Desk Sergeant
James Keane … Jerry
Jerome Thor … Medical Examiner
Breck Costin … Tim Bailey
Carmen Filpi … Hotel Clerk
Deran Sarafian … Dale Anders
Jeane Manson … Margo
Lynette Harrison … Ticket Girl
Neal Fleming … Young Man
John Garwood … Millikan
Shay Duffin … Nestor
Daniel Ades … Ben Linker
Cynthia Ream … Hooker (as Cynthia Reams)
Kyle Edward Cranston … Party Intern
Beth Reinglass … Office Girl
Monica Ekblad … Second Office Girl
Patti Tippo … Party Girl
Anne Lockhart … Murder Victim (uncredited)
Ron Preston … Orderly (uncredited)
Kyle J. Wood … Medical Student (uncredited)

Technical details:

101 minutes
Metrocolor
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Mono

Trailer:

YouTube reviews: