Telefon (film)

Telefon is a 1977 spy film directed by Don Siegel and starring Charles Bronson, Lee Remick and Donald Pleasence.[1] The screenplay by Peter Hyams and Stirling Silliphant is based on the 1975 novel by Walter Wager.

1977 spy film
Telefon

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Don Siegel
Screenplay by Peter Hyams
Stirling Silliphant
Based on the novel by
Walter Wager
Produced by James B. Harris
Starring Charles Bronson
Lee Remick
Donald Pleasence
Cinematography Michael Butler
Edited by Douglas Stewart
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Production
company
Distributed by United Artists (United States/Canada)
Cinema International Corporation (International)
Release date
  • December 16, 1977 (1977-12-16) (U.S.)
Running time
103 minutes
Country United States
Language English

. . . Telefon (film) . . .

After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Union planted a number of long-term, deep-cover sleeper agents all over the United States, spies so thoroughly brainwashed that even they did not know they were agents. They can be activated only by a special code phrase – a line from the Robert Frost poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” – followed by the agent’s real first name. Their mission was to sabotage crucial parts of the civil and military infrastructure in the event of war.

More than 20 years pass, and the Cold War gradually gives way to détente. Nikolai Dalchimsky, a rogue KGB headquarters clerk, travels to America, taking with him the Telefon Book, which contains the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all the sleeper agents. He starts activating them, one by one. American counterintelligence is thrown into confusion when seemingly ordinary citizens start blowing up facilities that were once important, but now have little, if any, value. The agents either commit suicide or die in the act itself.

The KGB does not dare tell its political leaders, much less the Americans, about its negligence in not deactivating the spy network. KGB Major Grigori Borzov, selected in part for his photographic memory, memorizes the contents of the only other copy of the Telefon Book and is sent to find and stop Dalchimsky quietly, before either side learns what is happening and possibly starts a war. Borzov is given the assistance of only a single agent, Barbara, planted in America years before.

Eventually, Borzov realizes the method behind Dalchimsky’s pattern of attacks: he has chosen the agents by the first letters of their American hometowns, “writing” his own name in sabotage across America. Borzov is thus able to anticipate Dalchimsky’s next chosen agent and kills Dalchimsky.

However, there are a number of twists. Barbara has orders from the KGB to assassinate Borzov once he succeeds, to get rid of a dangerous loose end. In addition, she is a double agent actually working for America. When she informs her American superior, Sandburg, he also tells her to kill Borzov, so she will retain the confidence of the KGB. However, Barbara has fallen in love with her would-be target. She informs Borzov, and together they blackmail both sides into leaving them alone, holding the threat of the remaining Telefon agents over their heads.

. . . Telefon (film) . . .

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. . . Telefon (film) . . .