• Don’t Answer the Phone! (Katarina’s Nightmare Theater)

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: 10/16/20012
    Director: Robert Hammer
    Cast: Nicholas Worth, James Westmoreland, Flo Gerrish, Ben Frank
    Year: 1980
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    The Movie:

    A maniacal strangler is leaving bodies throughout the Los Angeles area, and the two homicide detectives on the case are determined to bring the sleazeball to justice. McCabe (James Westmoreland) is a tough guy who doesn’t like certain laws from holding him back from getting his man, and Hatcher (Ben Frank) follows what his superior says, but by gum it’s McCabe’s ass that will be on the hot seat if things go wrong.

    The sicko they’re after, Kirk Smith (Nicholas Worth) is a loner photographer and Vietnam veteran who sells his photos to skin magazines, and who also calls a local radio psychiatrist Dr. Gale (Flo Gerrish) with an accent and going by the name “Ramone”. When one of her patients at her practice ends up a victim of the strangler, McCabe goes to her for some information on the poor girl in order to gets some leads. She’s difficult, doesn’t want to tell much about the victim, and rubs McCabe the wrong way. But when he kills a woman while on the phone with Dr. Gale, she goes back to McCabe to help catch the beast. The two get a little more involved than just on a professional level and she soon rubs him the right way.

    Meanwhile, psycho Kurt continues his rampage, one with a twisted, holy angle to it. He’s got a new target in mind, one the good doctor is quite familiar with, but the killer is going to need some luck this time. McCabe is onto him and he gives a shit about getting this strangler off the streets. In fact, he’ll do whatever he has to do, even if it means violating search & seizure laws, forgetting about Miranda Rights, or breaking Gene Autry’s Cowboy Code.

    A psychotic photographer is butchering women in the name of something holy, two stereotypical homicide detectives are trying to stop him, and a radio psychiatrist seems to be the key to it all. Yeah it’s sounds familiar and there’s nothing new here, but this little gem is memorable in more ways than one. For starters, it’s nice and sleazy right from the get-go. The opening scene sucks you right in with a nasty little murder and keeps delivering the goods throughout, which includes plenty of boobs. A great electronic score dates the movie for sure, but fits it so well and just adds to the seedy feeling the movie projects.

    But what really makes this one fun and worthy of multiple viewing is the unintentional entertainment it brings. Dialogue that’s clunky and delivered with less then stellar quality in most cases gives the movie some of its best moments. James Westmoreland, who is by no means a pussy, doesn’t come off very well as a tough cop, at least in this film. He toughness seems really forced and unnatural, which just makes his scenes all the better. His moments of intentional comic relief with his partner Hatcher are real eye rollers and not funny, which kind of makes them funny for the wrong reason. Flo Gerrish as the shrink has a couple of breakthrough sessions with a couple of her patients (not on the radio) that are so full of psychobabble garbage that they end up being more laughable than anything else. Again, this all adds to the fun factor.

    And then there’s the late Nicolas Worth. Probably best known for his role in The Swamp Thing as the thug Arcane turned into a humanoid rat. He plays it over-the-top at times, but he’s really effective as the psychopath. One minute he’s cold and quite emotionless, the next minute he snaps and loses his shit, giving some interesting moments. Watching him drive down the Hollywood strip hunting for victims brings a nice creepy vibe, even during daylight hours. And those location-shots give a nifty photo of the area at the time and there’s some cool stuff to check out in the background.


    Scorpion continues to please with a great transfer of the film, in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Nice colors, a clear image with no apparent noise reduction and plenty of natural grain. The night scenes look good with what appears to be pretty deep black levels. Minor and expected print damage is there, but so what. The movie looks great and the disc is on par with many of the Nightmare Theater titles. The audio is a 2.0 channel Dolby Digital one, but sounds like the same thing coming from both speakers. It’s more than satisfactory and sounds fine.

    Lots of extras to behold. An audio commentary from the director Robert Hammer and moderated by movie historian Shane M. Dallmann. It’s a pretty mellow track but full of a lot of great stuff. For example, Hammer talks about the title. This was released during the time The Hillside Stranger was active in Los Angeles and they didn’t want the movie affiliated with the case. Why it ended up with the title it ended up with isn’t talked about though. There really isn’t much of a reason to call it Don’t Answer the Phone. Surely something else could have worked better. At any rate, it’s well worth the time if you dig commentaries. A 22-minute phone interview with actor James Westmoreland is an interesting listen, and he tells some great stories and sounds like he just got off the set of this movie. (Hey Scorpion, maybe do a slide show for at least something to look at during phone interviews…they’re great, we love them, but they’d be even better with something visual) Nicolas Worth has a nearly 14-minute interview from a number of years ago that’s a nice piece. He seems like he was such a nice guy and there’s an extra eight of so minutes of footage not used in the interview as an additional featurette so we get more of his charm. A trailer for the feature is available and you can watch the movie with or without the Katarina Waters bookend intro and outros. As usual she’s silly and corny, but gives some good info about the movie and is of course easy on the eyes.

    The Final Word:

    Total entertainment, with a death scene that rivals the one in Kareteci Kız (go look it up, it’s worth it). Scorpion brings yet another great DVD to the masses. Get this disc.

    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      I've always been pleased with the BCI release. Is the transfer significant upgrade? I try my best to support Scorpion, but I might have to wait for a possible Blu-ray release.
    1. Horace Cordier's Avatar
      Horace Cordier -
      BCI did a good job except for the tinny and hissy audio. Bought this one just because of that.
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      No idea if the transer is better, never seen this on disc before.
    1. Jimmy Simard's Avatar
      Jimmy Simard -
      Almost tempted to get that one again, even if it would be a triple dip (fourth if we count the one in the BCI drive-in set), for the James Westmoreland interview...
    1. Ian Miller's Avatar
      Ian Miller -
      Special note to Something Weird Video fans: JOHNNY FIRECLOUD's Victor Mohica has a hilarious scene as a drug dealer in this!
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      Is he the guy in pic #5?
    1. Bruce Holecheck's Avatar
      Bruce Holecheck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Todd Jordan View Post
      No idea if the transer is better, never seen this on disc before.
      The transfer has improved detail and better colors -- I believe it's now pulled from an interneg whereas the BCI disc was from a worn release print. Here's some screencaps, courtesy of Mondo Digital:

      BCI / Scorpion: