Thursday, April 15, 2010

Murder By Phone

(Michael Anderson, 1982)
In spite of its vague and persistent overtures to social significance - Richard Chamberlain is some kind of eco-ideologue, not that it has any relevance to the matters at hand - this is an almost defiantly stupid movie. The narrative concerns a mysterious maniac who transmits deadly electrical frequencies over the telephone, causing victims to bleed from their orifices and, invariably, fly backwards in slow motion through panes of glass. The fetishistic infatuation with which the filmmakers regard the newfangled technology of the land line is quite hilarious. While eventually we do get the obligatory rambling confession, none of it makes any sense and the victims still seem hopelessly random...although it was of course foreordained that one of them would be Lenore Zann in her underwear, and another guy does execute a priceless skydive in his office chair. In fact, Anderson milks this less than dubious premise until it yields a mathematically impossible bucket of entertainment value - it moves fast, it looks like a million bucks, and roles that were undeveloped nothings on paper are given fun, breezy readings by John Houseman and Sara Botsford and Alan Scarfe and, especially, Gary Reineke. As for Chamberlain, he looks like he's having a great time, and I'm with stupid.

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