1939 has become known as Hollywood’s Golden Year due to its surfeit of outstanding and beloved films that have stood the test of time. This day in 1939 marked another golden arrival: producer Pancho Kohner was born. The son of legendary Mexican American actress Lupita Tovar (famed for the Spanish-language 1931 Dracula and still around at a spry 105) and noted talent agent Paul Kohner, the brother of actress Susan Kohner (Imitation of Life) and the uncle of writer-directors Chris and Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy), Pancho Kohner has been well-schooled in the entertainment business. He wrote, directed and produced two movies in the early 1970s (The Bridge in the Jungle, from a novel by The Treasure of the Sierra Madre author B. Traven, and Mr. Sycamore, from a play by Ketti Frings) and got a close-up view of many rich and powerful Hollywood titans while observing his well-connected dad at work. As a producer, he is associated with two icons. For the family audience, he shepherded many animated TV movies, a series and a 1998 live-action theatrical feature centered on the beloved children’s book character Madeline, writer-illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans’ precocious Parisian schoolgirl who solves mysteries and untangles other people’s predicaments. For action fans, he produced 10 hard-charging thrillers starring his friend and client Charles Bronson. One of their most popular collaborations is Cannon Films’ 10 to Midnight (1983), casting Bronson as an ornery cop who bridles in the face of bureaucratic obstacles and legal technicalities that blunt his ability to nail a serial killer who stalks his prey while nude and wearing latex gloves so as to leave no evidentiary trace. Like Bronson’s previous Death Wish forays, it smacked of overzealous vigilantism and murky questions of suspects’ rights but fans didn’t mind because the righteous Bronson gets the job done. Twilight Time’s hi-def Blu-ray of 10 to Midnight also gets the job done by including a marvelously engaging Audio Commentary with producing honcho Kohner, casting director John Crowther and film historian David Del Valle that covers the film’s quick and efficient production (a mandate when working for Cannon) under frequent Bronson director J. Lee Thompson and affectionate and revealing recollections of Bronson on and off the set. More exciting Bronson titles, including another produced by 77-years-young Kohner, will be unleashed by TT in the months ahead, promising more golden opportunities for action junkies.
Lupita Tovar and Pancho Kohner