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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Don't Answer the Phone
Don't Answer the Phone
BCI Eclipse // Unrated // October 10, 2006
List Price: $12.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Michael Zupan | posted November 14, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

A string of murders by strangulation have been popping up around Los Angeles. Young women murdered helplessly in their homes by a man who poses as a Vietnam vet and a photographer. He's psychotic and there's nothing the police have that will lead them to their killer. The only clues he's been leaving behind, are phone calls to local radio call-in show host Lindsay Gale.

The idea behind this pretty basic plot is that the killer apparently has an intricate scheme worked out to make Lindsay Gale his victim. He'll continue to terrorize and leave little clues with her on her radio show until he eventually turns Lindsay into another one of his lifeless strangled victims.

What's funny about the title to this flick being Don't Answer the Phone, is that it doesn't really have much to do with phones. The only times a phone are important to this feature, is when Lindsay Gale is answering the phone to gain a clue or two. Really the film should have been called Answer the Phone, but how exciting would that have been? Originally this feature was to have been called The Strangler, and that makes a lot more sense to me. Nicholas Worth who actually performed as The Killer, was given the script by writer/director Robert Hammer to beef it up a bit. In fact, Robert had originally purchased a screenplay and wrote it over keeping the same premise in mind. There obviously had been no real plot even before this feature had been filmed. It was mainly supposed to be a film with murder and a whole lot of naked girls. Worth dipped his hand at writing a little extra for the script to give some of the characters involved some more depth, and he succeeded in some areas and failed in others.

While giving some characters a little more depth such as the two detectives that are the most entertaining aspect of this film, the failures really are apparent when looking at the plot. I get that The Killer is trying to work his way up to Lindsay Gale so she can be his prize amongst victims, but most of the film seems to be more about the killing of a psychopath than any really intricate scheme. It was trying to be clever but ended up being quite far from it.

The film isn't quite sure what it wants to be at times. You certainly have a pretty nice background here for a slasher film (which is what the title of this film would lead me to believe it was), yet at other times we're given a couple of cops that are pretty serious at times yet sort of comical at others. One scene in particular that completely could have been worked differently in the film, concerns a sex house posed as a massage parlor. We almost get a Scooby-Doo sort of scene where people are running out of doors down a long hallway dressed in all sorts of crazy things, running away from the police as fast as they can. Where's the relevance? I can see where the following arrests made could give some more insight into the cops and how they work together, but the scene was completely the wrong tone for the movie.

Another thing that was completely wrong for this title was the music. It didn't instill any fear or suspense at all. For quite a while in the film, we got the same few notes every time The Killer appeared. It became repetitive and a little obnoxious.

It wasn't all bad though. The film certainly had its charms. One of the things I can comment on with positive grace is the acting. Everyone played their part pretty gosh darn well for such a low budget affair that featured no effects in it. Nicholas Worth did especially well as The Killer, minus some over acting near the end of the feature. James Westmoreland and Flo Garrish had acted their roles out very well too. They had some scenes together where they were supposed to have some very nice chemistry and it came off as pretty believable. Ben Frank played an excellent sidekick for our main leading officer.

Video

It's an old feature from 1980 but I have to say it anyway, the picture transfer is sloppy. The black levels are hardly ever black for the exception of a couple of scenes, and there's digital blocking to be seen throughout the entirety of the film. It's presented in anamorphic widescreen at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, although there are a few times where there's a little bit of the picture missing along the bottom of the screen. There's digital noise to be seen in many places although this might be chalked up to the old film that was used for the feature, and there were also a lot of film marks that show the age of it as well. The colors weren't incredibly bright or vivid and had a tendency overall to look a little washed out.

Audio

Also a real bummer. We have stereo sound which has an audible hiss that can be heard in the background pretty clearly at any given point in the movie, except for right before the credits roll and you can almost picture an audio tape being turned off as if this had been a cheap, dubbed transfer.

Extra Features

There's an audio commentary with writer/producer/director Robert Hammer, moderated by Shane M. Dallman. It's pretty informative and both of these guys aren't really boring to listen to. We get to hear about the ideas for the film, where they originated from, all the likeable qualities of the actors and actresses that were chosen, and more. We get a lot of insight into why they decided to present certain aspects of this film as they did and it gave me somewhat more of an understanding. Unfortunately, I still didn't seem to find any justification for some of the mistakes this movie had.

Another featurette is Answering the Phone, which is what the actual film should have been called if you ask me. It's an interview with actor Nicholas Worth. Nicholas Worth is sixty nine years old, and seeing him talk about his experience with this film is pretty interesting. He's a calm and gentle man, obviously quite the contrary to The Killer. He gives a bit of insight that overlaps a little bit with what we hear in the commentary but he's lively for a man of his age and still remembers quite a bit of the fans who are interested in knowing a little extra.

Also featured here is a still gallery and some trailers.

Overall

Don't Answer The Phone right out of the gate has a knock against it because it's a pretty misleading title. There are enough enjoyable aspects to keep someone who has not much else to watch for an evening, watching the feature until it's over. Will it ever be a feature that I'd recommend personally for anybody to watch? I can't say I would, I would say to just skip it. There are some scenes in this movie that don't make as much sense as they could with the tone that we should have throughout. The acting was good by all the main actors involved, but the ending had been pretty weak and we didn't get much depth into the background of The Killer. Some additional polishing on the script would have helped this feature along with getting us more intimately involved with all the key players, as well as perhaps correcting the scenes that almost seemed to be downright silly at times. Unless you're a true horror or suspense buff, there's no real reason I can sit here and say 'view this title', especially since you're not given very much in either spectrum.
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