Film #151: THE KILLER IS ON THE PHONE
The Killer Is On The Phone (aka L’assassino… e al Telefono)
2 out of 5 stars
Director Alberto De Martino (HOLOCAUST 2000, FORMULA FOR A MURDER) brings us this slow and uneventful giallo from 1972. Telly Savalas (KOJAK, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, KELLY’S HEROES, tons of other flicks) stars as an assassin looking to tie up a few loose ends by stalking widow (and potential witness), Anne Heywood (THE NUN AND THE DEVIL, THE FOX). But here’s the thing… Giallos hinge on the connection made between the audience and the imperiled characters, the intricacies of the film’s premise (and its kills), their inherent perversity, and how formidable the killers are. Sadly, THE KILLER IS ON THE PHONE has literally none of these things. It’s talky, strung-out, and well, more than a little boring with what seems like incessant hand-wringing, whining, and a series of established and abandoned storylines. Savalas sleepwalks through his role and Heywood creates an utterly cold and unappealing damsel in distress. The other problem is that the murders in the film are almost beside the point (and either bloodless or happen off-screen) which castrates any film of this type. And so, at the end of the day, THE KILLER IS ON THE PHONE is a minor entry in the genre and – repeat it with me folks – serves only as either a title to check off the list or as a snapshot of a time gone by. Oh, there are three positives to counterweigh all these negatives: The first…The film was lensed by Aristide Massaccessi aka Joe D’Amato (BUIO OMEGA aka BEYOND THE DARKNESS, ANTROPOPHAGUS, EMMANUELLE AND THE LAST OF THE CANNIBALS) and, as a result, looks good. The second… the great Stelvio Cipriani (TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE, DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS, Bava’s RABID DOGS, Umberto Lenzi’s NIGHTMARE CITY) composes a mournful score that creates a mood and are another asset. And the third… there is a cat-and-mouse sequence at the very end of the film in which Savalas stalks Heywood around an abandoned theater that shows that De Martino does understand what makes the genre work. It’s well done, genuinely tense, and has all the qualities the rest of the film SHOULD HAVE had. Sadly, it is a short sequence in an otherwise too-long film. Frankly, given Savalas’ presence, I was hoping for better.