Don't Answer the Phone

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Don't Answer the Phone
Don't Answer the Phone (movie poster).jpg
Official poster
Directed by Robert Hammer
Produced by Michael D. Castle
Robert Hammer
Written by Michael D. Castle
Robert Hammer
Starring James Westmoreland
Denise Galik
Nicholas Worth
Music by Byron Allred
Cinematography James L. Carter
Edited by Joe Fineman
Distributed by Crown International Pictures
Release date
  • February 29, 1980 (1980-02-29)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Don't Answer the Phone! is a 1980 horror thriller film directed by Robert Hammer, written by Hammer and Michael D. Castle.[1]

While not prosecuted for obscenity, the film was seized and confiscated in the UK under Section 3 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 during the video nasty panic.


Former Vietnam vet, amateur bodybuilder, and talented porno-photographer Kirk Smith is a crazed killer who stalks the streets of Los Angeles, picking up young women, strangling them in lurid fashion, and sexually abusing their dead bodies. Between murders, he carries out twisted religious ceremonies, has imaginary conversations with his dead father, and weeps like a baby. He repeatedly contacts Dr. Lindsay Gale, a psychologist with a radio show as well as a private therapy practice. He calls her show, speaking with an assumed Spanish accent and complaining of chronic headaches and blackouts. He follows one of Dr. Gale's female patients home from her therapy session, and tortures her (the patient) to death. He also murders a prostitute while on the phone to Dr. Gale's show, forcing Dr. Gale to listen to the victim's cries.

Two goofy detectives named Hatcher and McCabe are charged with the task of tracking him down. When McCabe first questions Dr. Gale, his manner is brusque and unsympathetic. She develops a strong dislike for him. However, he later prevents one of her patients from committing suicide, after which Dr. Gale becomes fond of McCabe and they have a brief love affair.

Hatcher and McCabe visit a whore-and-drug-house in search of a witness who has seen the strangler leaving the scene of one of his murders, but the witness (who is a pimp and a drug dealer) attacks them and they shoot him to death without being able to question him.

Kirk Smith is interrupted at the scene of his next murder by the victim's landlady, and he leaves a portfolio of photographs behind as he flees the scene. Hatcher and McCabe show the photographs to the local pornography dealer (played by Chuck Mitchell, who would later star in Porky's); he identifies them as the work of Kirk Smith, who has provided him with high-quality pornographic pictures in the past. When the detectives search Smith's apartment, they find his pictures of Dr. Gale and realize that he has selected her to be his next victim. During this time, Smith invades Dr. Gale's home, ties her up, and terrorizes her for hours, ranting about his childhood, grabbing her breast and shouting "Shut up or I'll tear your tit off!"

McCabe goes to Dr. Gale's home just in time to rescue her. At the end of a protracted struggle, McCabe shoots Smith many times, including several times in the back. The film ends with a shot of Smith's bullet-ridden body floating in Dr. Gale's garden pool, while McCabe snarls: "Adios, creep!"


  • James Westmoreland as Lt. Chris McCabe
  • Ben Frank as Sgt. Hatcher
  • Flo Lawrence as Dr. Lindsay Gale (credited as "Flo Gerrish")
  • Nicholas Worth as Kirk Smith
  • Denise Galik as Lisa
  • Stan Haze as Adkins
  • Gary Allen as John Feldon
  • Michael D. Castle as Lab Man
  • Pamela Jean Bryant as Sue Ellen


The film was shot in and around Los Angeles, California.[2]


When first released on DVD by Rhino Entertainment in 2001, an edited for television print was used, which had been subject to heavy edits—over 9 minutes were edited from the film. The uncensored, theatrical release version was released by BCI Eclipse on DVD on October 2006.[3][4]


The score was composed by Byron Allred.[5]


Crown International Pictures released the film on February 29, 1980.[6] By the end of that year the film had accrued US$ 1,750,000 in distributors' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals, making it the year's 105th biggest earner.[7]

The VHS was released in the United States on 28 February 1982 by Media Home Entertainment.[8] The DVD was released in 2002 by Rhino Home Video[9] and re-released by BCI Eclipse on 10 October 2006.[4]


Vincent Canby in The New York Times felt the film was “a nasty, dimly executed exploitation movie about a psychopathic fellow who roams around Los Angeles strangling women with stockings and then mutilating their bodies. The performances are terrible, as are the writing and the direction…"[10] Paul Taylor in Time Out magazine called it “a routinely mindless sickie." [11]

Years after its initial release, the film's mainstream critical reputation continues to be abysmal. Michael Weldon, in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, noted, "If you like really sick films, see this one...The ads made it look like another baby-sitter-in-distress movie, but it's in a class by itself."[12] Phil Hardy's The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror described the film as "yet another woman-in-jeopardy movie...the covert suggestion that the female victims have 'asked for it' is particularly objectionable."[13] However, the review further observed that Nicholas Worth's performance as the lunatic killer was "so outrageously over-the-top, and so bizarrely eccentric as to be horribly fascinating and the final line of 'Adios, creep', delivered over a shot of Worth's corpse floating in a swimming pool, is curiously resonant."[13] Leonard Maltin gave the film a BOMB rating, stating that it was another psychopathic Vietnam veteran killer film, warning readers to not watch the film.[14]


  1. ^ Don't Answer the Phone! Review (1979) - The Spinning Image
  2. ^ PLANET OF TERROR!!: Don't Answer The Phone! (1980)
  3. ^ "Don't Answer the Phone! (Comparison: R-Rated - Unrated) -". WiccanKM. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Don't Answer the Phone - DVD Drive In
  5. ^ Review: Don't Answer The Phone DVD (1980) - Retro Slashers Archived June 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Don't Answer the Phone!
  7. ^ Gebert, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards (listing of 'Box Office (Domestic Rentals)' for 1980, taken from Variety magazine), pg. 355, St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1996. ISBN 0-668-05308-9. "Rentals" refers to the distributor/studio's share of the box office gross, which, according to Gebert, is roughly half of the money generated by ticket sales.
  8. ^ Don’t Answer The Phone (1980) (a.k.a. The Hollywood Strangler)
  9. ^ EAT MY BRAINS! - Don't Answer The Phone Review
  10. ^ Canby, Vincent (1980-08-09). "Don't Answer the Phone! (1980) PSYCHOPATHIC KILLER". New York Times, review dated August 9, 1980. Retrieved 2012-05-28. 
  11. ^ Taylor, Paul. Review from Time Out magazine reprinted in The Time Out Film Guide, Second Edition, pg. 191, edited by Tom Milne, Penguin Books, 1991. ISBN 0-14-014592-3
  12. ^ Weldon, Michael. The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, pg. 199 - 200, Ballantine Books, 1983. ISBN 0-345-30381-4
  13. ^ a b Hardy, Phil (editor). The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror, Aurum Press, 1984. Reprinted as The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Horror, Overlook Press, 1995, ISBN 0-87951-518-X
  14. ^ Leonard Maltin; Luke Sader; Mike Clark (2008). Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide. Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated. pp. 369–. ISBN 978-0-452-28978-9. 

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