Murder by Phone (1982, directed by Michael Anderson)

Here’s a movie that will make you thankful for the death of landline phones.

People across Toronto are answering phones and blowing up.  Someone has created a device that can send a blast of electricity through the phone line.  The blast is so powerful that it causes hemorrhaging before it blows its victim off of their feet and then melts their phone.  The first victim is a woman who makes the mistake of answering a pay phone.  (It was 1982.  Pay phones were very popular with the youngsters.)  Her college professor (Richard Chamberlain!) decides to investigate her death.  Helping him, for at least a few scenes, is his mentor (John Houseman!!).

Chamberlain and Houseman were serious actors so who knows why they’re in this largely tepid thriller.  But present they are and one of them eventually makes the mistake of answering his phone and seeing a legitimate actor have to pretend to die in such a stupid way almost makes the movie worth the trouble of watching.

Despite all of the killer phone stuff, Murder by Phone is pretty slow and the murderer turns out to be pretty boring.  I only watched it because it was directed by Michael Anderson, who also directed The Martian Chronicles, which I’m planning on reviewing tomorrow.  He also directed a legitimate Best Picture winner (Around the World in 80 Days) and Logan’s Run so he had it in him to do a better job with the promising material in Murder By Phone than he did.  Instead of going all out with the science fiction elements, Anderson directed the movie like it was an episode of a cop show.  It’s disappointing because the story really had potential to be something better.  When it comes to movies about killer phone calls, the top prize still goes to Telefon.

The movie is also known as Bells, which sounds even worse than Murder By Phone.

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