Director: Robert Hammer
Starring: Nicolas Worth, James Westmoreland, Ben Frank, Flo Gerrish, Denise Galik, Stan Haze
Written by: Robert Hammer & Michael D. Castle (Based on “Nightline” by Michael Curtis)
Music by: Byron Allred
Taglines: “RUN – if you must. HIDE – if you can. SCREAM but … … He’ll Know You’re Alone!”
“Murder’s just a phone call away…”
Los Angeles is being stalked by a killer who strangles women with stockings. Between killings, he’s obsessed with lifting weights and also makes regular phone calls to a radio psychiatrist. The cops are on his tail, but the seedier elements of the L.A. vice circuit have a habit of getting in the way of viable clues.
Don’t Answer The Phone is a weird mix of both genres and tones that makes for some uneasy viewing. On the one hand, it’s a fairly brutal movie detailing the exploits of a serial killer, giving us as much insight into the killer’s own routine as the cops chasing him. Yet, it’s noticeably lighter in tone than other movies it could be compared to like Maniac and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. At times, the movie plays out more like a feature-length Starsky And Hutch episode (especially when following the detectives on the killer’s trail), yet the murder sequences are undeniably brutal.
It’s this schizophrenic approach that makes Don’t Answer The Phone stand out among other movies of the time. It’s not exactly a fun slasher movie like the Friday The 13th movies, but neither is it a particularly gruelling experience despite the plentiful sleaze on display around L.A.’s seedier neighbourhoods. I like the synthesised score on this movie, which has a nicely 80s feel for a movie actually shot in 1979. The regular cuts back to Nicolas Worth working out can be comical if you’re in the right mood, but it’s an entertaining little sleazy number, especially if you’re watching the uncut version.
Don’t Answer The Phone was quite heavily cut for its UK cinema release, losing a lot of footage from the 3 main murder sequences. The BBFC supposedly reinstated some of the cuts when the movie was resubmitted for DVD, but it’s unclear what remains in the UK DVD release as print damage prevented some of the footage from being used. The latest region 1 DVDs are supposedly uncut, but I haven’t had chance to check it out yet…