BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Exploitation filmmaking rarely gets ANY trashier than with 1980’s Don’t Answer the Phone!. Shot in and around Los Angeles, it is definitely one of the scuzziest flicks produced during the beginning of that century, yet it somehow left its mark on people and, however surprisingly it sounds, is now celebrated as a true cult classic.
Lowbrow and definitely not Leonard Maltin approved, Robert Hammer’s film – including the final line of dialogue – is a thinly scripted pulp affair. Crazy man stalks women in a flesh for fantasy type of killing. Some of the staging is shocking. Some of it is bizarre. Ultimately, this poorly acted flick is more nude-worthy than noteworthy.
And yet it is not forgotten.
During this era of cheapo bargain basement releases, there were a ton of warnings in these throwaway flicks. From Don’t Look in the Basement to Don’t Go in the Woods, the horror genre had a lot of strict and often humorous commands while a stalker was mowing down young people left and right. Drive-in audiences ate it up. Blood and sex, ya know, are the two main ingredients in the classic American grilled sleazewich narratives we like to pen.
Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Don’t go the bathroom! Even The Ramones picked up on the trend, naming a few of their early songs in the same style (which this film tips its hat to). Leave it then to this little T&A film to tell us not to pick up the phone. If we do, he’ll know we are ALONE!!!! But who is he? And how did he get in here?!
In this gem, it is character actor Nicholas Worth (also seen in The Glove), who’s portrayal of Kirk Smith, a deeply disturbed photographer and Vietnam veteran on a killing spree of lonely women, ranges from hilariously strange to downright deplorable. His portrayal of this misogynistic killer is the sole reason WHY we still celebrate this title. Worth is talented, extremely engaging, and dares you to try and look away. You can’t; his is that strong of a performance.
Making its debut on blu-ray courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome, Don’t Answer the Phone! arrives ready to offend all over again as Mr. Smith taunts radio psychiatrist Dr. Lindsay Gale (Flo Gerrish) through frequent calls to her radio show as “Ramone” and describes his killer insight in a disturbing manner. Convinced he’s killed over the airwaves, she wrangles a pair of the silliest homicide cops in LA County - Sgt. Hatcher (Ben Frank) and Lt. Chris McCabe (James Westmoreland) – to get on his pursuit and winds up becoming a target herself of Mr. Smith’s unquenchable thirst for blood.
Don’t Answer the Phone is not for everyone. You “normies” have been warned. You won’t make it through all the grunting and growling as the film slips in some comic undertones just because it can. This title is for the truly cultish hounds of horror; the “weirdos” out there that I lovingly refer to as family.
Ramone feel better. You will, too.
MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 94 mins
Director: Robert Hammer
Writer: Robert Hammer
Cast: James Westmoreland, Ben Frank, Flo Lawrence
Tagline: Run-if you must. Hide-if you can. Scream-but...
Memorable Movie Quote: "I want you to know something, officer. I wouldn't print anything like this. I mean really... candles stuck in all her privates? That's just sick."
Theatrical Distributor: Crown International Pictures
Release Date: February 29, 1980
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: January 31, 2017
Synopsis: Vietnam vet Kirk Smith (Nicholas Worth) spends his days photographing pretty girls. He spends his nights strangling them. With the LAPD baffled by what seems to be a series of random killings, radio psychiatrist Lindsay Gale begins receiving menacing calls from Smith, who then sets his murderous sights on her patients, and soon Gale herself...
Home Video Distributor: Vinegar Syndrome
Available on Blu-ray - January 31, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English SDH
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Region A
Released on 1080p by Vinegar Syndrome, this release has been scanned in 4K from the original 35mm camera negative. The results will leave with a damn good buzz. Rarely do "shitty" films look this stunning. Locations are saturated with popping colors and strong details. The tiniest pores on the body are perceptible. There is a slickness to the film – and the events within it – which has never before been present. To suggest that you will see this film in a new way upon the viewing of this remastered print is NO lie. It’s eye-opening just how clear things are. The DTS-HD MA English mono audio is also clearer than ever and, trust me, the synth score – even at its wildest moments – sounds so very welcoming now that its truly unbelievable. It has to be experienced.
Hammer provides the film with his commentary. It is interesting and honest as he discusses the film and its lows.
Vinegar Syndrome treats us a bit with their first foray into the wacky and weird Crown International releases by combining a lot of what has been previously issues on DVD. We get two featurettes with Nicholas Worth talking about his performance, a quick director introduction, and an awesome isolated score by composer Byron Allred. Also included with this blu-ray/DVD combo are archival TV spots, a gallery of stills, reversible cover art, and a 16-page booklet with an essay by Michael Gingold.
- Director Introduction
- Answering the Phone
- For What It's Worth
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Promotional Still Gallery