Imagine if you could be killed for answering the phone at the wrong time. Well, that’s what veteran director Michael Anderson (“Logan’s Run,” “Orca”) did and the result is “Murder by Phone,” a 1981 thriller so outlandish that I’m shocked it hasn’t been available since a 1982 VHS release. The idea is this: a disgruntled former phone company employee has found a deadly phone signal. First, you make the mistake of answering his call. Then, he pushes a button and the signal is transmitted. First, you go deaf from the signal. Then, your head fries. It all takes about 10 or 20 seconds.
Who can stop this maniac? Well, ecologist Richard Chamberlain (from “King Solomon’s Mines”) is on the case, while Academy Award winner John Houseman looks on. While not a well-known film, this film delivers great cheesy deaths and a rousing anti-corporate message. The strange electronic score is by John Barry. If you can find this movie, you will amaze your friends with this bizarre and entertaining film. After seeing this film, you will be very glad that everyone can now screen their calls. In short, “Murder by Phone” (aka “Bells”) dials the right number for terror.
First off, you are probably expecting a review of the new Matthew McConaughey movie “Gold,” but, well, Homey don’t play that…this is about the unheralded 1974 Roger Moore exploitation film. Set at a South Africa gold mine, the film’s about a conspiracy by the owners of the mine to cause the mine to drill a hole in the mine and flood it, making money off the rise in oil futures. To do this, they bring in Roger Moore as the new general manager, hoping his inexperience and naivety will make him an easy fall guy when their plans come to fruition. They didn’t count on his bullheaded courage, however, and he ends up saving the mine instead of destroying it.
This film is underrated and only showed at drive-ins as part of a double bill in America and is now a public domain DVD. Right off the bat, it opens with a great title song as the letters G-O-L-D flash on the screen. Indeed, Elmer Bernstein’s music is top-notch. Then we see that the film not only has Moore and Susannah York but also stars Oscar winners John Guilgud (from “Arthur) and Ray Milland. Moore is the man in this movie, rescuing miners and bedding married York. He is a man of suave sophistication and fierce resolve. Between the extramarital affair and the exploitation of South African men, this film is hilariously amoral. The reason I enjoy this film so much is that it is a product of a bygone era. No longer can films be so carelessly exploitative and get away with it. Also, “Gold” is from some of the better Bond filmmakers, including Peter Hunt, director of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and John Glen (director of 5 good Bond films including “License to Kill”).
In short, “Gold” is a gem, a silly drive-in classic. Watch for it in the bargain bin DVD section and stay tuned for more reviews soon!