Comfortable and Furious

Fucked-Up Films #7: 10 To Midnight (1983)

Film Title

10 To Midnight


Nudey nutter knifes nurses


J. Lee Thompson


Charles Bronson

Gene Davis

Andrew Stevens

Lisa Eilbacher

Geoffrey Lewis

What are these sick bastards doing? Celibacy makes you kill people. Sex gets you killed. Christ, what’s a person s’posed to do?

Is the villain any good? I once went up to an attractive lady in a bar and said: “You are a woman and, as such, you will do my bidding.” Later, after I’d wiped the stinging white wine from my eyes, I reflected that perhaps my wooing technique could do with a little polish. Mind you, I’m still infinitely smoother than our main bad guy Warren Stacey (Davis). Good grief, this guy’s hopeless. His idea of seduction is to pull down the zipper on the back of a blonde girl’s dress at work. When that fails he does the Peeping Tom and obscene phone call thing before following her into the woods and stabbing her to death. You have to say, this combination of clumsiness, grudge-holding, harassment and fatal violence is probably not the best way to secure a steady girlfriend and some nice regular num-nums.

At work, it’s obvious Warren’s female colleagues dislike him, despite his metrosexual good looks. Perhaps that’s because he’s about thirty but has the most pathetic job I think I’ve ever known for a serial killer or non-serial killer alike: he cleans typewriters. As well as that, Warren’s apparently still a virgin. Now I’m starting to feel sorry for the guy. Thirtyish, never been laid, women despise him, and his workplace status is below that of a typist.

At one point he’s hauled in by the cops and presented with a homemade masturbation device they’ve found in his apartment. It looks like a blue and white thermos flask with a flesh-coloured orifice perched on top. It needs to be plugged in, yet its rubbery tube has indentations designed for a firm grip. For the life of me (and I say this as an expert wanker) I can’t quite understand how this thing works. Perhaps it vibrates and you can enjoy a steaming hot cup of oxtail soup at the same time. Disappointingly we never get to see it in action and our minds can only wonder at its efficiency, but I feel any novice user would likely end up red-faced in the ER. Whatever the case, it’s a sad substitute for a loving lady’s caress.

However, Warren’s colorful masturbatory habits are a mere sideshow in the shit show that’s his life. He’s a taunting, none too bright killer who appears to be based on a mash-up of the real-life scumbags Ted Bundy (handsome, drives a VW) and Richard Speck (dedicated nurse slaughterer). I have to say Davis isn’t much of an actor, but you’ve gotta acknowledge his bravery in taking this one on. His character is kinda unforgettable. See later.

How do the lovely ladies fare? Fine, apart from all the stabbings. This is a pic that might be free of rape, but it’s still knee-deep in misogyny. We’re talking obscene phone calls (“I wouldn’t piss on the best part of you”), stalking, multiple murders, sobbing victims begging for their life, full frontal nudity, and shots of bloodstained corpses in their underwear or in the nude. They’re killed outdoors or butchered en masse in their own dormitory. Honestly, there’s not a sniff of a Strong Female Role here, but at least we get lots of former Playboy Playmates in minor roles and a dark-haired, torpedo-breasted lass watching Butch Cassidy at a retro cinema that I instantly fell in love with.

How skuzzy are the men? Bronson’s partner Paul McAnn (Stevens) is a decent guy, so decent in fact that no one believes he’s a detective. He’s educated, treats women well, knows right from wrong, and stands up to be counted. In other words, he’s dull.

Lieutenant Leo Kessler (Bronson), however, is a blue-collar cop stumbling through a moral fog. “I’m not a nice person,” he tells a reporter. “I’m a mean, selfish sonuvabitch.” He quickly demonstrates these steely traits by putting some discarded chewing gum in his partner’s jacket pocket, objecting to the use of fancy words like ‘inured’  and revealing he hates quiche. There’s also little doubting his rightwing views in this Reagan-era pic. He’s an old school, villain-hating cop who has no faith in the system with its ‘shyster’ lawyers, bullshit defenses and legal loopholes. “The way the law protects those maggots out there you’d think they were an endangered species,” he says. “Forget what’s legal and do what’s right.”

A paunchy Bronson looks pretty bored throughout, although at least he gets to say ‘penis’ and ‘jacking off’, which might have been a first in his career. There’s a particularly embarrassing scene in which he has to chase the much younger killer in the direst of circumstances but can only manage to waddle with an expression of supreme disinterest. He might be armed, but manages to give the impression he’s making a half-assed attempt to catch the bus. Ultimately, Midnight is a long way from his best.

Would the violence make a vicar faint? Hmm, it’s not a particularly graphic movie, but a lot of the ladies do get to feel the pointy end of our killer’s hate. You don’t see the knife going in: instead it’s more a case of the red stuff spraying up the wall and lots of shots of the blood-stained blade. Midnight’s ambience is unhealthy. It has an emphasis on hunting women while its amped-up final fifteen minutes are quite something.

How fucked-up is this film? Well, the title’s fucked-up as it doesn’t make a lick of sense, but I guess that’s a minor concern. Under no circumstances would I call this a good movie, given its implausibilities, clumsy dialogue, awkward scenes, and smattering of overacting. Then again it was put together by those lovely peeps at Cannon Films, a now defunct company that delivered such quality fare as Over the Top, Death Wish 4, Lifeforce and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Midnight was a terribly reviewed action thriller/slasher horror hybrid, but is still worth a watch for its killer’s memorable MO.

Did I mention Stacey kills in his birthday suit? I reckon he spends the best part of twenty minutes prancing around in the buff with his knife out. You see his bare buttocks at such length they end up imprinted on your retinas. I’m willing to put my neck on the line and say no other movie has ever given us such nutty nudity, especially an early scene in which a naked woman is chased through the woods. We don’t actually get an explanation for Stacey’s unorthodox approach, but presumably it’s to avoid leaving behind forensic evidence, such as fibers. Then again, I would’ve thought his starkers act made him far more likely to drop a pube or two. Disappointingly no serial killer has since had the courage to ape Stacey’s pioneering MO.

And they say sicko movies inspire copycats.