The 1980s were a wild time in American action cinema with big stars, loud explosions, and simple plots populating theaters, and they were also home to some of the toughest movie cops. The 80s didn’t invent rogue cops who play by their own rules, but this was certainly their most prolific decade with actors big and small playing bad-ass detectives catching bad guys by any means necessary.
The lovely folks at Scream Factory have just released new Collector’s Editions celebrating two such examples, and while both might seem odd for a label traditionally focused on horror they’re actually very fitting choices. Yes, they’re tough-guy action movies, but both 10 to Midnight and Cobra are also slashers. (I just wish they had also tackled a new release of Chuck Norris’ Silent Rage.) More than that, they both end the exact same way with the villain claiming the cop can’t stop them because the law is full of loopholes before… well, I’ll let you discover that for yourselves, but if you know the 80s you know what comes next.
10 to Midnight (1983)
A serial killer (Gene Davis) is slicing his way through Los Angeles, and while Det. Leo Kessler (Charles Bronson) knows he’s guilty the limits of the law are tying his hands. Knowing it’s the only way to prevent more slaughter he plants evidence to get the murderer off the streets, but when his plan backfires the killer looks for revenge by targeting Kessler’s daughter.
Bronson was no stranger to playing grim ass-kickers with little patience for the evils that men do, but this J. Lee Thompson feature — their third of eight collaborations — is probably the grittiest and most exploitative of the bunch. Numerous naked women grace the screen, and all of them meet their death from the sharp blade of the killer who’s also running around in the nude. The film plays up their fear well to create some engaging sequences including an assault on a nursing school dorm that recalls the sorority house murders committed by Ted Bundy in 1978. It’s sleazy and frightening, and it ends exactly as you know Bronson’s character would end it.
Davis — brother of the late Brad Davis (Midnight Express) — lacks much in the way of charisma or acting ability, but it could be argued that his flat demeanor actually enhances his frightening presence as there’s no denying the visceral terror growing from his attack scenes. Andrew Stevens, Lisa Eilbacher, Geoffrey Lewis, and Wilford Brimley round out the supporting cast and help make this an entertainingly grimy thriller.
Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray release brings this grim thriller to sharp-looking life along with a trailer, radio spots, and an image gallery. We also get the following special features.
- New 4K scan of the original camera negative
- *NEW* Commentary with writer/historian Paul Talbott
- Commentary with producer Pancho Kohner, casting director John Crowther, and film historian David Del Valle
- *NEW* Producing Bronson [12:41] – Producer Lance Hool talks about the film’s production from director J. Lee Thompson’s initial treatment called “Blood Bath” through bringing the project to Cannon (Bronson’s first there) where enthusiasm was quickly followed by a shrinking budget. It was a tough shoot, but he believes it was worth. He does seem to think that while it was a hard R in the 80s it might be get PG today which is… not true.
- *NEW* Remembering Bronson [6:00] – Actor Robert F. Lyons remembers working with the legendary Bronson, how paternal he was on set, his disdain for smoking, and his love for Jill Ireland.
- *NEW* Knife and Death [6:55] – Actor Jeana Tomasina recalls her journey from being a model in Chicago where Playboy repeatedly tried to recruit her to her move to California to pursue acting in film and a ZZ Top video. She also shares her love for Michael Crichton and working on Looker (1981).
- *NEW* Charlie’s Partner [10:46] – Actor Andrew Stevens talks about working with Bronson previously in Death Hunt (1981) where the legend was a health nut who kept mostly with his family and how they became friendlier in this reunion. He has some interesting things to say about the director who he calls a “mischievous imp” and recalls Lisa Eilbacher being the “best kisser ever.” He discusses much of the cast, but his best moments are recalling interactions with Bronson.
A gang of serial killers are slicing their way through Los Angeles, and while Det. Marion Cobretti (Sylvester Stallone) knows they’re guilty the limits of the law are tying his hands. He’s a sledgehammer of a cop called into situations where finesse and patience have worn thin. His latest hunt is for the cult responsible for a string of vicious murders, and he gets close when one of their intended victims (Brigitte Nielsen) escapes. The gang turns their attention towards eliminating the witness, but unfortunately for them Cobra stands in their way.
While Bronson’s film above is a bloody, sweaty thriller this effort from Stallone blends the genre with his more traditional big action beats. Large scale shootouts, motorcycle shenanigans, a car chase leaving massive destruction in its wake — but all of it is paired with some slasher-ish sequences as people are stalked and murdered at the end of wickedly sharp knife. As mean as some of the scenes get Stallone also gives his cop some humorous asides in the form of comments and carb-cutting exercises like literally cutting a slice of pizza with a pair of scissors. It’s insane.
These scenes play well, but the film’s real meat and potatoes are the action-oriented ones, and it doesn’t let audiences down there. To be clear, the action is ludicrous — as was required in the 80s — but it’s also a lot of fun. The big shootout sees motorcyclists flying through the air, getting knocked off their bikes, crashing into walls, and the end factory fight next to the citrus grove (obviously) is a music video in the making with sparks and steam flying left and right despite there being no workers present. It’s silly fun.
Scream Factory brings the Stallone classic to Blu-ray on a disc including trailers, a still gallery, and the following extras.
- New 2K scan of the original film elements
- Commentary with director George P. Cosmatos
- *NEW* Stalking and Slashing [26:00] – Actor Brian Thompson talks about his debut in The Terminator (1984) and the production of Cobra — and hoo boy does he not hold back. He refers to Cosmatos as George Comatose, says very plainly that Stallone directed the film, praises the film’s director of photography, and mentions how he wasn’t even invited to the film’s premiere. It’s a great interview and ends with a candid anecdote driving home his observations about the film’s star.
- *NEW* Meet the Disease [24:05] – Actor Marco Rodriguez recalls the film’s production and his role as the opening psycho.
- *NEW* Feel the Heat [14:15] – Actor Andrew Robinson talks about the film including that the script originally called for his detective character to be revealed as the head of the cult via a tattoo on his chest. He also mentions that both he and Reni Santoni felt they were both there as stunt casting having both been in Dirty Harry (1971).
- *NEW* Double Crossed [9:05] – Actor Lee Garlington remembers her audition for the film and the production that followed. She acknowledges it was a film done for the fun and the money as opposed to artistic endeavors, but her memories are mostly positive. Unlike Thompson and Robinson, she’s uninterested in speaking full truths saying instead “Oh the stories I could not tell you right now.”
- *NEW* A Work of Art [8:23] – Actor Art La Fleur talks about the production repeating Thompson’s claim that Stallone basically directed the film and offers some other memories and anecdotes worth a listen.
- Vintage making-of featurette [7:50]