Don’t Answer the Phone (1980) Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray Review



Don’t Answer the Phone is as sleazy as it gets, but fans of the genre can’t have much more to ask for.

Plot: A deeply disturbed Vietnam veteran terrorizes the young women of Los Angeles and taunts a radio psychologist with descriptions of his grisly crimes.

Review: A headache-prone Vietnam vet-turned porno photographer named Kirk (indelibly played by Nicholas Worth) is in the midst of a murder spree. He strangles beautiful women and violates them before/after he murders them. On a whim, he calls into a radio station during the psychiatry hour and taunts the psychiatrist (played by Flo Lawrence). The two cops who land the serial murder case are clueless for a while. The MO is the same, but they have no leads. They even hire a psychic, who nails it when he describes his vision, but the cops don’t believe him at first. Meanwhile, Kirk, who is a beast of a man with a bulked up frame, a narcissistic worldview, and a hatred of women, continues to brutally murder women, some whom he picks up right off the streets as prostitutes, hitchhikers, or would-be starlets who willfully submit to allowing this strange man to take photographs of them. Other women, he targets as subjects who fascinate him: He enjoys killing damaged women, and soon he targets the psychiatrist from the radio, and that’s where he steers his path the wrong way because one of the detectives has begun a relationship with her. When the cops figure out whom Kirk is (they find his sleazy studio after stumbling onto the pornography he produces), it becomes a cat and mouse game, but Kirk is no mouse: He’s a bulldozer, intent on demolishing everyone and everything in his way to getting one last fetish thrill, even if it means dying in a blaze of glory.

A vivid time capsule of late 1970’s Hollywood, with all the sunshine and sleaze it was able to capture, Don’t Answer the Phone is almost beautiful and perfect in how it portrays hulking, lonely menace (thanks to Worth’s demented performance), but it’s a slasher horror film, so be warned if you’re not into that sort of thing. Right from the start we know what we’re getting into with a weird, off-kilter point of view with the killer almost always being the focus. The movie soars with its day and night murder crusade, the killer always on the lookout for his next thrill, and while it’s a voyeuristic descent into madness, it’s still imminently watchable, thanks to the convincing performances and oddly entertaining police procedurals. Worth is incredible in the movie, and if it hadn’t been for him, the movie might not have worked as well. Director Robert Hammer never made another feature again, although he was really good at it. Don’t Answer the Phone is as sleazy as it gets, but fans of the genre can’t have much more to ask for.

Previously available on DVD from BCI, Don’t Answer the Phone was just released onto high definition Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome. The transfer is stunning (it was scanned and restored in 4k), and it’ll never look better than it does here. The packaging is attractive, with tons of special features, including the old ones from the previous DVD release. There’s an audio commentary track, as well as tons of bonus featurettes and interviews, including an entertaining pair with the late Nicholas Worth. This is totally worth the upgrade. It’s available now.

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