Adapted from Walter Wager’s bestseller, this is far from director Don Siegel’s best work, but it’s a more than acceptable thriller with a nifty plot and a couple of cracking performances.
Charles Bronson is solid enough as a KGB troubleshooter who is sent to America to prevent fifty “sleeping” Soviet agents from carrying out their mission to blow up key US military targets as part of a deadly fail-safe operation hatched during the Stalin years – and codenamed “Telefon”.
The 50 agents had been drugged, hypnotised and planted across the USA, with their identities so secret that they themselves don’t know they’ve been programmed.
The plan had been officially scrapped but someone had started to trigger the explosions and the Soviets had to intervene to prevent a nuclear collision.
Lee Remick is typically assured as Bronson’s contact but the film belongs to Donald Pleasence as a crazed Stalinist spymaster and Tyne Daly as a sharp-tongued CIA computer boffin.
Co-writer Peter Hyams was slated to direct and, given his skill with conspiracy pictures, he might have turned up the suspense a notch.
Helen Page Camp