What does it take for a film to become a cult classic? It doesn't always require high production values or flawless execution. In fact, these might even be a detriment. Don't Answer the Phone certainly qualifies as a cultish movie, and does lack a certain something in the quality department. But it's entertaining, and features a sublimely outrageous (and fun to watch) performance by Nicholas Worth.
Worth plays the serial killer Kirk Smith, who works by day as a photographer, and has a penchant for killing his beautiful young models. And also prostitutes, and random women whose houses he breaks into. He also likes to call in to the radio show of psychologist Dr. Lindsey Gale (Flo Gerrish), pretending to be a Puerto Rican with emotional issues. For him, it's all a lark, and perhaps a way to prove himself after growing up with a disapproving and stern father. The police are on his trail, however, in the persons of Lt. McCabe (James Westmoreland) and Sgt. Hatcher (Ben Frank), a couple of cops who, perhaps, don't play by the rules.
Smith is able to outwit the cops for quite a while, and gets the better of the cat and mouse game. He stalks and kills one of Dr. Gale's patients, and then kills another girl on the air after calling in to her show later. Interspersed among the killings are the bumbling attempts by the police to find the killer, and an unlikely romance between Dr. Gale and McCabe. There's a surprising amount of humor in the film, and it never takes itself too seriously, which is one of its saving graces. The producers seem to know that this isn't top quality filmmaking, and get on with the business of enjoying themselves.
Don't Answer the Phone isn't really interested in the mystery portion of the story. The audience knows who the killer is from very early on. The film works more like the Italian giallo films, it's about the experience. Mostly, that experience is watching misogynistic violence and scantily clad women, and at times it seems destined to be merely a crude T&A movie. Nicholas Worth saves it from that fate, however, with his electrifying (though admittedly cheesy) performance. He brings in lots of background and motivation to the character, often through ad lib monologues, looking in the mirror or wandering around his house. He imparts a depth and energy to the role that transcends what was written for it. In many ways, Don't Answer the Phone is an inept film, but its moments of greatness (and even some moments of silliness) make it enjoyable nonetheless. Recommended, especially for fans of seventies slasher films.
Katarina's Nightmare Theater
Audio Interview with Star James Westmoreland
"Answering the Phone" - Featurette with Star Nicholas Worth
"For What It's Worth" - Bonus Interview Footage
Commentary with Director, Writer and Producer Robert Hammer
Please note that, though it appears to have a full raft of extras, this is a check disc, i.e. one without normal packaging or artwork, so no comment can be made on the quality or quantity of extras included in the final product.