DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE (1980)
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Don’t Answer The Phone is a dull slasher that I actually saw at the now gone Fox Theater in Hackensack, N.J. back in 1980. It has a simple and routine plot where deranged serial killer Kirk Smith (Nicholas Worth) is going around Hollywood strangling women and defiling their dead bodies while taking obscene photos of their corpses. He periodically calls in to a radio show to talk to radio psychologist Dr. Lindsay Gale (Flo Lawrence) and obviously, she’s added to his list of wannabe models. All the while he is hunted by a homicide detective (James Westmoreland) who also falls for the pretty Dr. Gale.
Boring and sometimes silly flick was written by Michael D. Castle and Robert Hammer, who also directed. It’s a weak script that contains some awful dialog and has us following the deranged and pudgy Smith as he operates around sleazy Hollywood Boulevard. There is little or no suspense and since we meet Smith’s victims just moments before he kills them, there is little or no emotional investment in them, as opposed to Laurie Strode’s friend’s in Halloween which we are given time to know and like. The dumb script has police doing things that even in the 80s would have caused a scandal and the scenes of Smith talking to himself elicit far more laughs than chills. There is some sleaziness to the proceedings that adds an uncomfortable atmosphere, but as Hammer’s direction is completely pedestrian, once must assume that any atmosphere was dumb luck. There is minimal bloodshed and even the kills are routine and dull.
As serial killer and war veteran Kirk Smith, Nicholas Worth seems to be trying hard, but isn’t much of an actor and his awful dialog makes things even worse, especially evident during a racist monologue after besting a victim’s pimp during an altercation. Maybe it was the lack of guidance from Director Hammer as Worth was far better as buffoonish thug Bruno in Wes Craven’s 1982 Swamp Thing. Lawrence is a pretty but dull heroine as Dr. Gale and Westmoreland is almost laughable as a hard nosed police detective. An ineffectual cast for an ineffectual slasher.
Overall, a revisit to this flick didn’t add much, even with the now 80s nostalgia. It’s a routine and dull slasher whose plot could have been used for any 70s/early 80s police show. It’s an un-involving 94 minutes with un-involving characters and no suspense or intensity, despite the killer’s creepy modus operandi. There are some unintentional laughs to be had, especially during Worth’s soliloquies as Smith and at least the settings add some appropriate sleaziness. Forgettable, but did make money for Crown International Pictures.