Don't Answer the Phone (1980)

R | 94 mins | Horror | 11 April 1980

Director:

Robert Hammer

Cinematographer:

James Carter

Editor:

Joseph Fineman

Production Designer:

Kathy Cahill

Production Company:

Scorpion Productions
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HISTORY

According to a 3 Aug 1979 HR article, producer-director-screenwriter Robert Hammer combed public records regarding a wave of Los Angeles, CA, strangler murders that occurred in 1978 as the basis for his script. After receiving little information from the police, he filled in gaps in the story, using his imagination. However, Hammer gave the strangler in the movie a double personality, which was based on case information at the time that may have pertained to the real strangler. The article referred to the film by its working title, Hollywood Strangler.
       A 2 Apr 1980 HR news item stated after eight weeks in release, the film had earned more than $2 million in its U.S. ... More Less

According to a 3 Aug 1979 HR article, producer-director-screenwriter Robert Hammer combed public records regarding a wave of Los Angeles, CA, strangler murders that occurred in 1978 as the basis for his script. After receiving little information from the police, he filled in gaps in the story, using his imagination. However, Hammer gave the strangler in the movie a double personality, which was based on case information at the time that may have pertained to the real strangler. The article referred to the film by its working title, Hollywood Strangler.
       A 2 Apr 1980 HR news item stated after eight weeks in release, the film had earned more than $2 million in its U.S. debut.
More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
3 Aug 1979
Section S, p.22.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 1980.
---
New York Times
9 Aug 1980
p. 10.
Variety
16 Apr 1980
p. 28.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Crown International Pictures
A Hammer/Castle Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Addl photog
Addl photog
Key grip
Best boy gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
Asst ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Sd eff ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod coord
Asst to the prod
Scr supv
Prod asst
Prod asst
Addl casting
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt double
COLOR PERSONNEL
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on "Nightline" by Michael Curtis.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Don't Answer the Phone!
Hollywood Strangler
Release Date:
11 April 1980
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 11 April 1980
New York opening: 8 August 1980
Copyright Claimant:
Scorpion Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
18 September 1980
Copyright Number:
PA88909
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
94
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In Los Angeles, California, the strangler ties a cord around his neck while standing bare-chested with his arms outstretched before a crucifix. At her apartment, a nurse receives a call from her mother. After she hangs up, she is strangled and raped by the strangler, whose face is obscured by a stocking. The next day, the strangler listens to details of the crime on his car radio, and telephones radio psychologist, Dr. Lindsay Gale, from a pay phone, speaking in a thick Spanish accent. It is not the first time he has pretended to be “Ramon” who has chronic headaches, but now he announces that his new girl friend, a nurse, has solved his problems. When Dr. Gale wants to know what his girl friend thinks of his symptoms, he hangs up. Elsewhere, Lt. Chris McCabe investigates the nurse’s apartment and finds items used by the Vietcong for sexual pleasure, indicating that the strangler may be a Vietnam veteran. At her Valley Free Clinic, Dr. Gale has a therapy session with Carol, an incest victim. Carol is followed home by the strangler, who he breaks into her house, ties her up, and laughs as he drips hot candle wax on her body. He compliments her beauty, claims to be her daddy, and treats her as a sacrificial offering. As more murders occur, detectives are briefed on characteristics of the killer’s personality: paranoid, obsessive-compulsive, psychotic, and schizophrenic. McCabe visits Dr. Gale, but she demands a warrant before she releases Carol’s file. At night, the strangler offers to photograph Sue Ellen, a pretty, blonde hitchhiker, and lures her back to his studio. After several photographs, he dresses her ... +


In Los Angeles, California, the strangler ties a cord around his neck while standing bare-chested with his arms outstretched before a crucifix. At her apartment, a nurse receives a call from her mother. After she hangs up, she is strangled and raped by the strangler, whose face is obscured by a stocking. The next day, the strangler listens to details of the crime on his car radio, and telephones radio psychologist, Dr. Lindsay Gale, from a pay phone, speaking in a thick Spanish accent. It is not the first time he has pretended to be “Ramon” who has chronic headaches, but now he announces that his new girl friend, a nurse, has solved his problems. When Dr. Gale wants to know what his girl friend thinks of his symptoms, he hangs up. Elsewhere, Lt. Chris McCabe investigates the nurse’s apartment and finds items used by the Vietcong for sexual pleasure, indicating that the strangler may be a Vietnam veteran. At her Valley Free Clinic, Dr. Gale has a therapy session with Carol, an incest victim. Carol is followed home by the strangler, who he breaks into her house, ties her up, and laughs as he drips hot candle wax on her body. He compliments her beauty, claims to be her daddy, and treats her as a sacrificial offering. As more murders occur, detectives are briefed on characteristics of the killer’s personality: paranoid, obsessive-compulsive, psychotic, and schizophrenic. McCabe visits Dr. Gale, but she demands a warrant before she releases Carol’s file. At night, the strangler offers to photograph Sue Ellen, a pretty, blonde hitchhiker, and lures her back to his studio. After several photographs, he dresses her in a thick leather belt and restrains her with handcuffs attached to the belt. When he reveals a religious altar behind a curtain, she asks him for the keys to the handcuffs. Instead, he strangles her with a strap made from his previous victim’s stockings. After the strangler dumps Sue Ellen’s body, he weeps uncontrollably. When Dr. Gale meets with Lisa, a patient with a drug problem, the strangler watches from his parked car outside the clinic. A psychic visits the police station to help with the case, but McCabe is unimpressed. However, the psychic touches Sue Ellen’s photograph, and imparts physical details about the strangler, claiming that the strangler put a coin on the victim’s throat, wrapped it with a stocking from a previous victim, and modulated the pressure around the victim’s neck as he raped her. After the strangler was done, he photographed his dead victim and left. Although McCabe wants to arrest the psychic for the crimes, he has a credible alibi. Elsewhere, the strangler sells his photographs to an agency, and gets an assignment from Lloyd Weston, the owner. Later, he picks up a call girl named Denise on Hollywood Boulevard and persuades her to phone Dr. Gale’s radio show. As she rambles about quitting prostitution, she tells Dr. Gale her client is a frequent caller who gets headaches. The strangler kills Denise while she is on the air with the doctor. In his normal voice, the strangler asks Dr. Gale if she heard everything and hangs up. When Darnell Adkins, Denise’s pimp, checks the room looking for her the strangler knocks him unconscious. Later, when detectives confirm the strangler killed Denise, McCabe and his partner, Sgt. “Hatch” Hatcher, look for Adkins. They suspect he might have robbed the strangler for drug money. The detectives clear out a massage parlor after getting a tip, but kill Adkins when he tries to escape. At home, on a rooftop, Lisa paces back and forth, while police officers and Dr. Gale try to convince her not to jump. When McCabe arrives, he manages to calm her enough for an ambulance to transport her to the hospital. Dr. Gale is impressed by how McCabe handles Lisa, and accepts his invitation to have a drink. Later, they make love. Elsewhere, the strangler rings the doorbell of another victim, a pretty blonde named Cathy, claiming he was sent to do a photo shoot with her, but she is not aware of the appointment. When she is upset by the photographs in his portfolio, she asks him to leave. Instead, he strangles her and her roommate, who happens to walk in during the attack. In his haste, he leaves behind a camera full of images, which later becomes police evidence. The photography agency owner, Lloyd Weston, tells Hatch that “Kirk Smith” is the photographer and they search his apartment, although Hatch warns they have no search warrant. At her home, Dr. Gale has been assigned police protection and gets ready for bed. However, the strangler is in her house, waiting for the right moment to strike. Meanwhile, the detectives cannot find anything incriminating and realize they are in the wrong apartment. Finally, in Kirk’s studio next door, they discover pornography and a scarf with a coin. Back at Dr. Gale’s house, she realizes someone is in her house when the lights go off. Before she can escape, Kirk grabs her and announces that their time has come. He slaps her and ties her to a chair. At Kirk’s studio, Hatch discovers photographs of McCabe and Dr. Gale, leading McCabe to realize his lover is in danger. He speeds to her house as Dr. Gale asks Kirk to talk about his failed childhood, the abuse, and the many doctors he saw. However, his mood swings cause her to scream and he gags her. When McCabe enters Dr. Gale’s house, Kirk attacks him. They fight until McCabe shoots him in the groin, then restrains him with handcuffs. When McCabe frees Dr. Gale, Kirk breaks apart the handcuffs and goes after McCabe, who shoots him several times until the strangler drops dead in the swimming pool. As McCabe watches the swirling water turn red, he says, “Adios, creep.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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