Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

MURDER BY PHONE



MURDER BY PHONE (1982). Director: Michael Anderson.

When the daughter of friends is found dead in the subway under highly mysterious circumstances, Nat Bridger (Richard Chamberlain in a great beard) investigates and discovers that the pay phone the girl was talking on was damaged by some kind of fiery or electrical disturbance. Before long various people taking phone calls are having their brains fried by weird sounds and impulses coming from their phones, impulses so strong that one poor man is sent hurtling out of his chair and through the window of a skyscraper! Is the phone company trying to cover up that some maniac is using new technology to send lethal electrical waves across phone lines? What do you think? Bridger joins forces with an artist (Sara Botsford) who tries to help him get inside information. This is a fairly effective thriller with a novel idea, even if the killer's exact motives are never quite clarified. John Houseman appears as another friend of Bridger's who has a connection to the phone company. The eerie, jangling score was done by John Barry of Out of Africa and James Bond fame; an unusual assignment for him that hardly makes use of his romantic sensibility. Busy actress Botsford also appeared in Deadly Eyes, Tremors 4 and the remake of The Fog.

Verdict: It may not keep you off the phone but it should hold your attention. **1/2.

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