I’ll agree that this Terence Young directed effort might not be the best movie of Charles Bronson’s career but it might be the best he ever looked on camera. One look at him here and you can see why he was fronting for the cologne MANDOM.
Cold Sweat comes from Bronson’s time overseas after committing himself to films abroad beginning with 1968’s Farewell Friend and subsequently scoring one success after another before finally hitting a home run with Death Wish back in the States. Taken from a source novel by Richard Matheson, Bronson is living in exile and married to Liv Ullmann who has a young daughter from a previous marriage. He runs a fishing charter boat and like Noir counterparts Bogie and Garfield, one can’t help but begin to think that boat is going to play a part in the crime flavored plot to follow.
Minutes into the film Bronson arrives home late at night to find Michel Constantin paying him and Liv a visit with a gun in his hand. Constantin has arrived from Bronson’s past of which Liv has no knowledge of. A grappling match ensues and a neck get’s snapped. Bronson will now need to get rid of the body or call the police. He chooses to tell the story of his past to Liv which involves a jail break from a military prison with James Mason and a gang of cutthroats. Bronson is to be the getaway driver but when a patrol officer is murdered, he flees the scene in the car leaving the gang to their fate. It’s now 7 years later and the gang is on the loose and want their pound of flesh. Liv being the good woman any man would want, sticks by her hubby and agrees to dump the body off a cliff.
When the pair return they find they’re only in deeper when Mason, Luigi Pistilli and Jean Topart are awaiting them. The fencing begins and Mason, sporting a terrible southern gent accent wants the use of Bronson’s boat for an exchange of money and drugs. Charlie has little choice when he discovers Mason has also kidnapped his adopted daughter.
“If any harm should come to her, God help you. God help you all.”
The latter half of the film is pretty much a cat and mouse routine with Bronson trying to get the upper hand for bargaining by putting Mason’s young squeeze on ice with a briefcase full of money. It’s none other than Charlie’s own real life squeeze, Jill Ireland turning up as a Woodstock reject smoking pot and talking of free love. It gets a bit repetitive down the stretch and while it’s all to easy to point out the film’s deficiencies, it’s a Charles Bronson film so all is forgiven.
I do have to wonder what enticed James Mason to the project besides the obvious which I assume to be money. It’s a rather boring role and one in which he hides his wondrous voice behind that southern accent. It also gives him very little to do other than sit in a chair after taking a gunshot wound to the stomach where he proceeds to bleed to death awaiting an afterlife as a George Romero zombie unless Bronson can deliver a doctor before he passes out which would leave Liv and daughter at the mercy of the crazed Jean Topart. Topart has made it more than clear to the viewer that rape and molestation is in the air if he gets his way.
Jill Ireland hadn’t quite graduated to leading lady status yet so while she’s relegated to second tier female lead, Ullmann is cast as Bronson’s wife and though it’s an odd pairing it works. Aside from this film, I’ve seen very little of her work though of course I’m aware of her films with Bergman. I just haven’t bothered to see them.
I’ve never hid that fact that Bronson has always been my go to answer for favorite film star. I know I had seen the 60’s trifecta as a kid meaning The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen. I’d have a hard time pinpointing the earliest leading role I had seen him in but I’m fairly certain Cold Sweat would have been among the first. Due to it’s public domain status it was probably the first film I owned on a store bought VHS tape. Thanks to Mom for that one.
Bronson would make three films with Terence Young who had moved on from the James Bond films. Along with Cold Sweat they teamed for the entertaining western Red Sun that saw Charlie saddle up with with Toshiro Mifune and a Godfather wannabe, The Valachi Papers.
Cold Sweat was one of Charlie’s film’s that failed to find an audience here in North America until the success of Death Wish in 1974 which led to it’s ultimate release with a less than flattering movie poster. Yes it’s here in the collection. And as for that MANDOM comment I made earlier, don’t have the cologne but wouldn’t mind a bottle.