A deeply disturbed photographer and Vietnam veteran, named Kirk Smith, terrorizes Los Angeles by going around strangling lingerie-clad young women in their homes while taunting Lindsay Gale, a young psychologist, by calling her on a radio call-in show to describe his sexual hang-ups and misogynistic ways, while a local police detective, Lt. McCable, is always two steps behind in trying to catch the psycho.Written by
Snickering Vietnam vet Kirk Smith (Nicholas Worth) is one hell of a sicko: for a living, he shoots obscene pornographic photos, and in his spare time, he strangles pretty young women BEFORE raping them. LA detectives Lt. Chris McCabe (James Westmoreland) and Sgt. Hatcher (Ben Frank) are hot on the maniac's heels, but can they catch him before he kills his latest target, radio psychologist Dr. Lindsay Gale (Flo Lawrence)?
With such a sleazy premise, Don't Answer The Phone looks set to be a classic slice of extremely offensive exploitation, but with director Robert Hammer reluctant to go that extra mile to offend, the film falls short of the high (or should that be low?) standards set by his contemporary William Lustig, whose similarly themed film, Maniac, goes all out to shock the viewer.
Worth's character, Kirk Smith, is an undeniably repugnant fellow, and what he gets up to certainly ain't nice, but Hammer's approach to his patently sensationalist material is surprisingly cautious: whilst he doesn't mind showing the audience a little nudity (for example, all of the victims have their tops torn off before being choked to death), he doesn't quite seem to possess the cojonas necessary to present his sex and violence in the no-nonsense manner the genre demands.
Instead, his characters simply fill us in on the salacious details through conversation: a psychic gives a graphic account of the murder and rape of one girl, offering lurid tidbits of info about Kirk's modus operandi, and several characters pass comment on the particularly explicit nature of his photography. At the risk of sounding like a dangerous psycho myself, I ask 'Where's the really good stuff?'. A few throttlings and some tits only qualify this as exploitation lite!
To be fair, Don't Answer The Phone does manage to deliver a couple of scenes that almost make the grade—Kirk strangles a junkie hooker whilst she is live on air with Dr. Gale, and one topless victim is subjected to scalding by melted candle wax— but with too many other scenes pulling their punches, this film is most likely going to disappoint fans of degenerate cinema.
5.5 out of 10, generously rounded up to 6 for IMDb.
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