Features and Columns · Movies

‘Don’t Answer the Phone!’ or This Guy Will Come Calling

By  · Published on February 9th, 2017

Plus two more sleaze, sex, and terror-filled Vinegar Syndrome releases to enjoy in the privacy of your home.

Vinegar Syndrome is no stranger to underseen films featuring sleaze, murder, and sleazy murder, and their January releases proudly carry that banner. We take a look at Don’t Answer the Phone!, Blue Money, and a double feature of Blood Mania and Point of Terror.

Don’t Answer the Phone!

Women are being assaulted and murdered across the city, and the only clue the killer (Nicholas Worth, Swamp Thing) leaves behind is a Vietnamese coin. Is he making a commentary on immigration? Is he suffering from PTSD after serving in the war? Or is the guy simply trying to unload currency he no longer needs. If you chose option B then you too could be a detective on the Hollywood Strangler Task Force. The cops are at a loss until the madman begins calling a radio talk show host with descriptions of his crimes and information that may finally lead to his capture.

Robert Hammer’s serial killer thriller rubs our faces in the madman’s actions as we follow him from sketchy photo shoots through the actual murders, and while the whole “Vietnam vet goes nuts!” story line was overdone even by 1980 it works here for two simple reasons. We get breaks from the griminess and depression by following two cops on the case, and Worth’s performance reveals a disturbingly well-crafted and very sick man.

The investigation leads through some ridiculous doors from an oddly accurate psychic to a whorehouse staffed by some truly creative sex fans. Much of it is played somewhat broadly for laughs, and it makes the contrast that much sharper when we cut back to Worth’s killer berating and abusing his next victim. There’s nothing alluring or mesmerizing about this killer ‐ he is simply demented and frightening, and that’s appropriate for a man committing actions like these.

Don’t Answer the Phone! may not be a lost gem, but it never feels generic which has to count for something in a genre built on copycats and clones. Worth’s performance feels akin to John Diehl’s in the slightly better known mid ’80s thriller, Angel, and that’s a compliment. Fans of serial killer cinema will want to give this one a go.

Vinegar Syndrome brings Don’t Answer the Phone to Blu-ray with a new 4k restoration, an isolated score, trailers, a promotional gallery, and the following special features:

Don't Answer the Phone! [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]

Blue Money

Jim is a happily married man with a lovely wife and a new child, and he’s at something of a crossroads in his life. Work is going well enough that he’s been able to save a good amount of money ‐ a nest egg he’s hoping to have fund his family’s sailing trip around the world ‐ but his job comes with complications. He’s an adult film director, and it’s a career with an impending end date. Money is running dry, he’s sleeping with the talent, and a police investigation is zeroing in on him and his operation.

At first glance Alain Patrick’s film ‐ he directs, co-writes, and stars in the lead role ‐ could pass for just another sex film, but anything more than a cursory glance reveals it’s actually interested in far more than bumping uglies. To be clear, uglies do bump here, but they do so in semi-graphic softcore fashion. Instead the focus is actually on the drama that Jim finds himself in as he struggles with his work and home life.

There’s a through line with the plot, but it feels more like a window of time being observed rather than a traditional story. That affects its momentum a bit as it feels at times like we’re watching wheel-spinning between Jim’s on the job shenanigans, his family time, and surveillance videos, but the film walks a fine line between actual dullness and character drama.

Blue Money is an interesting glimpse into a world few people experience and fewer films document. That doesn’t necessarily make it a must-see, but it definitely makes it memorable.

Vinegar Syndrome’s disc includes a new 2k restoration, a trailer, a still gallery, and the following:

Blue Money [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]

Blood Mania

A wealthy old man sits dying in his mansion with only his bitter daughter to keep him company. He has a private nurse as well, but she’s an employee and can hardly count as companionship despite her sarcastic sense of humor. He’s irritated with life, but that’s not a problem for much longer ‐ his daughter gets sick of waiting for her inheritance, things happen, and soon she’s embroiled in a play for his fortune with the young doctor he employed, the younger sister she forgot about, a blackmailer, and gravity itself.

The first of two Peter Carpenter-headlined features on this release, Blood Mania is a deceptively simple and melodramatic thriller about the lengths people go for financial gain. It’s not twisty in the traditional sense, but there are a couple fun turns late in the film designed to keep viewers and characters alike on their toes.

The film plays like an R-rated late-night soap (ie Dynasty, Dallas) complete with sex, drama, and terribly self-involved people duking it out for the top spot. Carpenter isn’t necessarily a strong actor, but he has a presence around which the rest of the film circles. Blood Mania builds to a lively conclusion, but the film works best as a mildly interesting but highly atmospheric time capsule.

The limited edition of Vinegar Syndrome’s new double feature includes a third disc containing extended TV versions. Both offer new scenes, but the longer cut of Blood Mania actually adds notable plot elements and character work. It loses the sex and blood, but it’s a more interesting film. The new Blu-ray includes a 2k restoration, trailers, a promotional still gallery, and the following special features:

Blood Mania / Point of Terror (Limited Edition) [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]

Point of Terror

A Lobster House lounge singer ‐ yeah, you read that right ‐ catches the eye of a record producer’s wife who promises stardom in exchange for putting her body in frequent rotation, but the deeper he gets into her the more he wonders just how far her desires run. Her husband’s last wife met an unfortunate end, and he’s heading for a similar fate.

Peter Carpenter returns as another guy whose libido and desire for the green lands him in a world of sex, deception, and murder, but the feel here is less soap opera-ish and more glitzy, playful, and abrupt. We get several music numbers alongside some more heightened performances, and again a pretty straightforward plot ends with a fun turn of events.

The film’s cinematography trades in the former’s atmosphere for more stylized colors and soft looks, and while it’s less memorable for it the effect it has mirrors the story and character shenanigans. Dark things happen here, but they’re presented more as “shocking” entertainment than character-driven plot shifts. There’s more visual stimulation here, but between the two films it’s the lesser overall.

The new Blu-ray includes a 2k restoration, trailers, and a promotional still gallery.

Blood Mania / Point of Terror (Limited Edition) [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.