Back to the Drive-In: 10 to Midnight (1983)

This week at the drive-in, it sounded like fun to revisit one of the most badass dudes in film history. I’m talking Charles Bronson! You see, Chuck Bronson was one of the coolest guys hell bent on revenge to ever grace the silver screen. Throughout the Sixties up into the Eighties, he proved that messing with his family was a really bad f*cking idea. And in the part slasher, part action and part vengeance and exploitation thriller 10 TO MIDNIGHT, he had a naked killer and a crazy adorable daughter to balance out. Don’t let that naked dude near my daughter! Let’s take a look at this drive-in classic.

10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983)


In 10 TO MIDNIGHT, Charles Bronson plays hardened detective Leo Kessler who is searching for some sicko who likes to stab women to death. Unlike most thrillers of this type, we are introduced to the killer almost immediately. Gene Davis plays Warren Stacy, a twisted f*ck who likes to strip down to his bare necessities and slice up a broad or two. Sure nowadays you have DNA testing and such, but for Warren, he commits his murders bare-assed and guess what, it is a pretty freaky idea if you think about it. Imagine being in bed at night and having some dude with a knife and not a stitch of clothing looming above you. It may sound goofy but the whole sexual aspect is pretty damn disturbing, especially since director J. Lee Thompson (CAPE FEAR, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE) was taking the helm.

Desperate to get this creep off the streets, Kessler plants blood on Warren’s clothing (unbeknown to him the dude’s penchant for nudity) a sleazy lawyer convinces Leo’s goody-two shoes partner Paul McAnn (Andrew Stevens) to tell the truth and nothing but. So Stacy is set free, but at least he finds out that his nemesis has a pretty young thing for a daughter. It seems now that Laurie Kessler (Lisa Eilbacher) will be the next target. That is if Kessler would stop following him around. But you know damn well that this crazy bastard is going to get his chance and that Laurie, along with her nurse in-training friends will face the undressed stranger. Don’t be too frightened though, this is Chuck Bronson we are talking about and he will take care of this dreg of humanity the way he always does and it won’t be pretty.


One thing is for sure, this flick has a ton of nudity. We see constant shots of actor Gene Davis in the buff as well as an assortment of nubile hotties running around. The problem is simply that this guy is stabbing them to death and the skin shots aren’t really sexy at all. However this mix of T & A with blood and violence may get some of you hot and bothered but please don’t let anybody know it. Keep that to yourself and maybe even get therapy. However if just the sight of beautiful young ladies breasts or Gene’s ass get your blood pumping before the bloodshed, maybe you’ll be okay.


Okay, Gene Davis is a pretty damn good actor. You have to give this guy credit as he can certainly hold his own next to Bronson… all the while his little Gene is flappin’ in the wind. Yet the thing about this guy is he is pretty funny when he is just being smartass Warren. This is especially evident as he attempts to create an alibi at a movie theatre with a couple of cuties. I’m not sure how, but they resist his offer of enjoying his company. After the rejection, he is a little bit pissed that they don’t want to share his popcorn at a screening of BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. If this dude weren’t a crazed murderer, he’d be pretty cool and a little bit funny the way he jokes around with the girls he doesn’t kill. Sure this is intentional humor and thankfully this flick is surprisingly low on unintentional laughs… unless you count Bronson’s bad typing skills.


As I was saying earlier, a naked man coming into your apartment and attacking you might just be scary as hell and this is proof. When Warren finally goes after Laurie, he commits some serious mayhem as she hides just out of sight from his view. Meanwhile he brutally stabs a girl or two and things get pretty damn bloody. This entire sequence seems to be inspired by the real life murderers Richard Speck and Ted Bundy. Laurie’s reaction to her friends being slaughtered feels pretty legit thanks to an excellent performance by Ms. Eilbacher. This may not be edge of your seat terror, but it is scary enough to warrant a little bit of extra closeness with your date.


Robert O. Ragland offers up a fine score for this genre mixer. It relies heavily on orchestra and it works wonders for this tawdry slice of action exploitation thriller. If you hear a violin playing as the killer is about to attack, it just sounds better and it somehow feels a little more sinister. This is not always true but the score is top-notch for this better than expected Bronson flick.


F*ck it, if you are going to start with Charles Bronson, end with Charles Bronson. You could check out all the DEATH WISH flicks or you could give a little movie called DEATH HUNT (1981) a shot. Also starring his 10 TO MIDNIGHT co-star Andrew Stevens - plus Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson - you just can’t do better than this double bill. It also places Bronson on opposite ends of the law between the two flicks, and you can’t help but root for him on either side. So get the popcorn, bring out that brown paper bag filled with booze and enjoy the show.


Extra Tidbit: What is the most kick-ass Charles Bronson flick ever made?



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