We are introduced to a professor named Bridger next. He is headed off to a big conference but before he goes a friend asks him to check with the police into his daughter’s death. Sure enough it is the girl from earlier so Bridger tells him he will and does so when he gets to town. The police aren’t very helpful at first telling him that it was a heart attack. But he doesn’t buy that since she was a healthy nineteen year old girl. This gets him to start digging and soon finds out that the phone company is covering something up.
I suppose I should also explain that before getting broken up in the eighties the phone company was a huge monolithic monopoly that used to operate at their own pace and the customer be damned. Hell, you didn’t even own your phone as it was just a rental that you paid for each month. Don’t like it… then live without a phone. Making them the villain of this story made sense and it was believable that they would just ignore the police. You all are getting a history lesson today.
I really wanted to like this one, but it just didn’t work for me. The story starts off fun but then bogs down as we watch our main character dig thru papers, talk to witnesses, dig thru more papers, and sneak around the phone company building. Other than brief instances of folks getting deadly calls which all play out the same way, nothing happens for most of the movie. When the authorities do finally pay attention there isn’t even any attempts to connect the killings together. I mean it does eventually sort of make sense, though some of the killings are random. I mean what did the housewife doing dishes have to do with anything? Spoiler I don’t think she did.
|Axel from MBV shows up!
Richard Chamberlain is our lead actor playing Bridger. He is decent enough in the role. There is also a smaller supporting role from the legendary John Houseman as a colleague who is in bed with the phone company and falls afoul of the killer. Another familiar face in that of Barry Morse also makes an appearance. Finally, since this was a Canadian flick it was cool to see a young Neil Affleck aka. Axel from My Bloody Valentine in a blink and you’ll miss it role as a phone technician.
I don’t know if Murder by Phone played better when it was released forty plus years ago, but it certainly doesn’t work now. The movie is slow, the killer generic, and the story is filled with plot points that don’t translate well. Its just not very good and I can’t recommend it.
© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer