Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Don't Answer the Phone (1979)
Available from BCI Eclipse | Order at Amazon.com | Review by Dan Taylor

The phrase "They don't make 'em like that anymore" gets thrown around a lot these days. But in the case of Robert Hammer's late 70s sleazeathon DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE it's 100% accurate.

Beefy character actor Nicholas Worth stars as Kirk Smith, though his character is referred to simply as "The Killer" in the opening credits, a Nam vet psycho creep prowling the streets of Hollywood.

While Smith's victims range from nurses and aspiring models to actresses and other LA castoffs, he's fixated on Dr. Lindsay Gale (Flo Gerrish), a psychiatrist who dispenses advice via a radio show on which Smith is a frequent caller. Stopping at pay phones or dialing her up from fleabag hotels, Worth affects an outrageous Hispanic accent and phones in as Ramon, a disturbed individual capable of pretty much anything.

Reminiscent of other 70s tits and blood thrillers like THE TOOLBOX MURDERS and BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, DON'T ANSWER has little in the way of plot. Smith trawls LA's seamy underbelly, gets close to good looking gals and then murders them. In ways that make their tops fly open and bras come off. Like I said, they don't make 'em like this anymore.

Naturally, The Strangler's killing spree attracts the attention of LA's finest, particularly Hatch (outstanding character actor Ben Frank) and McCabe (good looking but hammy James Westmoreland), who crack down on a porn publisher (Chuck Mitchell of PORKY'S and BETTER OFF DEAD fame), bust a whorehouse and kill their one and only lead in their efforts to flush out the crafty killer.

But forget the by-the-numbers plotline straight out of a bad 70s cop show. This is Worth's show and he steals it. Hell, the guy should've been arrested for what he does to the rest of the actors in this film. His performance is an unforgettable mix of hysterics, accents, power lifting (!), and 42nd Street bravado that's legendary among sleaze film fans. Want proof? Check out our interview with SLEAZOID EXPRESS authors Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford. They go so far as to name the flick one of their faves of the Times Square era.

Trust me... you haven't lived until you've seen a shirtless, beefy Worth sucking back cold brews as he asks aloud, "Are you proud of me Dad? Do I measure up?" It's the 42nd Street equivalent of "You talking to me?"

If you've only seen the flick on VHS or a previous DVD release, do yourself a favor and check this freakshow out. Absurdly affordable, the disc features the original, uncut version of the film as well as a commentary by director/co-writer Hammer. A featurette with Worth finds the actor a shell of his former self, but fondly – and not so fondly – reminiscing about his days on this "tits and ass movie."

 


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