42nd Street Cinema

Don't Answer the Phone! (1980)

Robert Hammer's Don't Answer the Phone!
Starring: James Westmoreland, Flo Gerrish/Lawrence and Nicolas Worth.

I've read a lot of reviews and opinions online about Don't Answer the Phone! So many people rattle on about the bad acting and dated soundtrack, but so what if the acting is a little shabby and the score is a little dated? Aren't 99% of the films in this sub-genre? Besides that don't people regularly listen to music from the 70s and 80s? This is a grubby little picture that deserves a watch. Rant over.

Meet Kirk Smith (Worth), an unhinged Vietnam vet who enjoys photographing, stalking and strangling young women. It becomes apparent that the only identifiable justification for these crimes is the need to satisfy his psychotic misogynist urges. Kirk also likes to taunt psychologist Dr. Lindsay Gale (Gerrish) by calling in to her radio show, while his crimes are being investigated by Lt. Chris McCabe (Westmoreland) and Sgt. Hatcher (Ben Frank).

Throughout the film, similar to Frank Zito in Maniac (1980), we're given an insight into the killer's lifestyle and routine. The possibility of Kirk being a religious fanatic is hinted at, as there's a couple shots of him standing topless in a darkened room, grunting, beside a large illuminated crucifix, sadly this is never explained and as a result these sequences appear more comical than disturbing. Along with the menacing story there's some straight up comedy lines inserted into the script that ultimately fails and falls flat on it's unfunny face. Most of these lines are spouted by the wise-crackin' Police photographer.

Nicolas Worth's performance as the greasy strangler makes this film worth seeing alone, his sweaty on-screen appearance perfectly encapsulates the heat of the LA Sun.
Shame that the overall film turned out to be so bad as it has such a great premise to work with, not to say it doesn't have it's moments but they're few and far between. Ending up either forgotten or remembered as a poor man's Maniac.

2 Stars


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