Raymond St. Ives (Charles Bronson) is a former cop-turned-writer who desperately needs money. Abner Procane (John Houseman) is a wealthy and cultured burglar who needs someone to serve as a go-between. Five of Procane’s ledgers have been stolen. The thieves are demanding a ransom and Procane believes that St. Ives is just the man to deliver the money. But every time that St. Ives tries to deliver the money, another person ends up getting murdered and St. Ives ends up looking more and more like a suspect. Who is the murderer? Is it Janet (Jacqueline Bisset), the seductive woman who lives in Procane’s mansion? Is it Procane’s eccentric psychiatrist (Maximillian Schell)? Could it be the two cops (Harry Guardino and Harris Yulin) who somehow show up at every murder scene? Only Ray St. Ives can solve the case!
Charles Bronson is best remembered for playing men of few words, the type who never hesitated to pull the trigger and do what they had to do. St. Ives was one of the few films in which Bronson got to play a cerebral character. Ray St. Ives may get into his share of fights but he spends most of the film examining clues and trying to solve a mystery. The mystery itself is not as important as the quirky people who St. Ives meets while solving it. St. Ives has a great, only in the 70s type of cast. Along with those already mentioned, keep an eye out for Robert Englund, Jeff Goldblum, Dana Elcar, Dick O’Neill, Daniel J. Travanti, Micheal Lerner, and Elisha Cook, Jr. It’s definitely different from the stereotypical Charles Bronson film, which is why it is also one of my favorites of his films. As this film shows, Bronson was an underrated actor. In St. Ives, Bronson proves that, not only could he have played Mike Hammer, he could have played Philip Marlowe a well.
St. Ives is historically significant because it was the first Bronson film to be directed by J. Lee Thompson. Thompson would go on to direct the majority of the films Bronson made for Cannon in 1980s, eventually even taking over the Death Wish franchise from Michael Winner.