Blu-Ray Review: The Caller



If you watch a lot of movies, you learn very useful lessons. Always bet on black when Wesley Snipes is on the airplane. Prepare to dance around the table when Sandra Bullock is in the kitchen. And most importantly, never ever open the front door if Malcolm McDowell knocks in the middle of the night and needs to use your phone because of an emergency. Madolyn Smith’s character must live too deep in the woods to have cable. She had no idea what happened to the guy in A Clockwork Orange when he opened the door to be helpful to a previous character played by Malcolm McDowell. She also must not have seen the time McDowell played the Big Bad Wolf on Faerie Tale Theatre‘s version of “Little Red Riding Hood.” But if she had a clue at what might happen, she wouldn’t have turned the deadbolt and The Caller would be an extremely short film.

While a woman (Urban Cowboy‘s Madolyn Smith) gasses up her car in town, a man (Caligula‘s Malcolm McDowell) follows her. Is he tailing or stalking her? Later in the evening at her remote house in the woods, there’s a knock on the door. The man’s car has run into issues and he needs to use her phone to call for a tow truck. She lets him into the house to use the phone, but very quickly we get a sense that there’s more going on. He quickly pokes around the house and sizes up elements in her life. Is he merely playing with his victim before he goes for the kill? Although before the movie gets formulaic, we begin to fear that maybe he’s the potential victim. Maybe she lures guys up to her house and takes her revenge out on them. They each bring a bit of danger to each other. I’m not going to say much else about what happens in the cabin since that would ruin your experience. This is one of those films that a review shouldn’t over explain. There’s constant twists and turns with the mystery of these two characters so you are constantly guessing who is the cat and who is the mouse.

This seems to be the first time The Caller has had a respectful release. The movie was aimed for theatrical when it showed at the 1987 Cannes Film Market. But in the USA, the film ended up directly released to VHS in 1989. It had no real buzz having sat on the shelf for so long. Even in the digital age, The Caller was only put out on MGM’s burn on demand program. This is a chance to finally see the film clearly even as it obscures the characters mysteries until the very end. Plus you get to fully appreciate the work of director of photography’s Daniele Nannuzzi (Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre) and the crew. While the movie mostly takes place inside of the house, there’s an expansive feel until they need to push in on the claustrophobia. Both McDowell and Smith keep up the intensity and the mystery to make you want to see where all this all ends. While McDowell ought to be the more threatening of the two, Smith is up for spooking him when it seems she might be the real victimizer. It’s a great tango between the two actors. The Caller is a fine evening’s entertainment just remember not to answer the front door after you push play.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer is 2K from the 35mm interpositive. The image looks great as you can see the actors clearly as they toy with each other. The audio is DTS-HD Stereo. The levels are fine so you don’t miss the interchanges between the duo. The movie is subtitled.

Boiling Over (15:10) interviews Arthur Allan Seidelman about getting involved as director. He speaks of having to work with the production designer and the director of photography to keep the movie open while it mainly takes place inside a house. He goes into his approach to making sure his two person cast doesn’t boil over off-camera during the rehearsals. He did the film without video assist or an ability to speak Italian with his DP.

Audio Interview (9:35) with Michael Sloan has the screenwriter talk about making it a film. Sloan wanted to make a two character movie. Sloan had a career in television having created The Equalizer. He speaks about casting the two leads.

Promotional Still Gallery (0:47) has color press photos.

Vinegar Syndrome presents The Caller. Directed by: Arthur Allan Seidelman. Screenplay by: Michael Sloan. Starring: Malcolm McDowell & Madolyn Smith. Rated: R. Running Time: 97 minutes. Released: September 29, 2020.

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