Low budget exploitation releases rely on several tricks to get attention since they don’t have tens of millions of dollars to carpetbomb advertising. Film distributors have gone to odd lengths to gather free publicity for their releases. Think of what The Blair Witch Project did without having to run an ad every commercial break like a Marvel movie during football season. The easiest thing a distributor can do is come up with a title for the film that sounds like a popular film. This creates a sense of confusion that can lead to fast ticket sales. How many people in the ’90s rented the VHS of Hollywood Confidential thinking they were going to watch the Oscar winning L.A. Confidential.
Once upon a time in 1979, Crown International had a film ready for release called Hollywood Strangler. That was a fine enough title except The Boston Strangler had come out a decade before. They needed a hotter title reference. Then fate stepped in with Columbia Pictures having a massive hit with the babysitter stalker film When A Stranger Calls. A wise mind at Crown had a fresh and confusing titled ready for the poster: Don’t Answer the Phone. Who knows how many people bought a ticket thinking they were the same movie since When A Stranger Calls flows naturally into Don’t Answer the Phone. The confused audience member might have a clue to the confusion after the first reel when there is no babysitter on the screen, but they’ll probably keep seated to see how high the bodycount gets.
Kirk Smith (Swamp Thing‘s Nicholas Worth) does so many things like many of the folks in Hollywood that dream of working in showbiz. The Vietnam vet is a devoted bodybuilder whose main focus is working in the other film industry, the adult film industry. He’s interested in non-conventional religious ceremonies. But he’s also got a disturbing side hobby. He enjoys stalking and killing women in the greater Los Angeles area. He’s not too quiet about his horrifying life. He enjoys calling up radio shrink Dr. Lindsay Gale (Flo Lawrence) to complain about things. He stalks a patient that sees Gale in real life. Later he calls up Dr. Gale while he’s torturing an abducted victim. The cops are on his case, but the detectives seem a bit inept. Although one of the cops gets too close to Dr. Gale. What’s it going to take for them to get a break in the case of the strangler running around Hollywood?
Don’t Answer the Phone is a well made roughie film. The action is R-rated. Worth holds things together as the psychotic killer. He strikes the kind of tone that’s scary without doing the full Norman Bates. What’s extra interesting is that Don’t Answer the Phone later receive another great way to publicize a film when England declared it a Video Nasty and forced the producers to have parts snipped away.
The videos is 1.85 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the dirty side of Hollywood during Worth’s trips around the place. The crime scenes look more gruesome. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The sound is fine for a low budget affair. The movie is subtitled.
DVD contains everything found on the Blu-ray.
Commentary track with writer, producer and director Robert Hammer allows the filmmaker to recount his experiences working on the film.
Director introduction (0:26) is a brief visit with Robert Hammer
“Answering the Phone” video interview with star Nicholas Worth (13:40) to hear how he got to Hollywood and starred in a slasher film.
“For What It’s Worth” career retrospective with Nicholas Worth (8:52) has him talk about the other 80 films that he’s appeared in over the decades. He played a lot of goon roles over the years. Worth passed away in 2008.
Isolated Soundtrack by composer Byron Allred lets you hear the music without all the screaming.
Original theatrical trailer (1:37) has flying words thrown at the audience.
Multiple TV spots (1:30) has the killer POV shots and the arrival of him.
Promotional still gallery (1:20) includes all the pages of the press release book including the ads for exhbitiors to put in the paper. Also promo material that had the Hollywood Strangler title. There’s a few harsh reviews.
16 page booklet with essay by Michael Gingold and promo material.
Vinegar Syndrome presents Don’t Answer The Phone. Directed by: Robert Hammer. Screenplay by: Robert Hammer & Michael D. Castle. Starring: James Westmoreland, Denise Galik & Nicholas Worth. Running Time: 95 minutes. Rated: R. Released: January 31, 2017.
Tags: Don't Answer the Phone, Vinegar Syndrome