The Killer is On the Phone

The Killer is On the Phone

"I just think that sometimes, losing one's memory can be extremely useful."

Seeing a familiar stranger (Telly Savalas) at the airport triggers a panic attack for stage actress Eleanor Loraine (Anne Heywood), leading to a case of amnesia. She is distressed to discover that not only is her boyfriend Peter dead, but there is a new man in her life named George (Georgio Piazza), who claims to be her husband. While she pieces her life back together and tries to remember the past five years, the man from the airport follows her every move, murdering the people around her. Who is this man and why does this man want Eleanor dead? Are Eleanor's memories real or is she confusing reality with a play she was in? And how did Peter die? The answers lead to devastating and surprising revelations.

The Killer is On the Phone is a well-acted, beautifully shot movie that suffers from pacing and logic problems. It puts us in Eleanor's shoes, so it's intended to be disorienting, but it's a little too confusing for its own good. Maybe it's that the twists aren't sufficiently twisty and the story is too predictable. The identity of the killer is never in question, but the real mystery is finding out who hired him and why. Overall, I'd say that the amnesia storyline is poorly realized here. If you're interested in similar story better told, I recommend seeking out Puzzle.
  • The city of Bruges, Belgium looks a lot nicer in that 2008 Colin Ferrell movie.
  • The title is a complete non-sequiter.  It implies that the killer makes repeated threatening phone calls to the victim, but nothing like that ever happens in the movie. The alternate title, Scenes From a Murder, is a little more accurate, as Eleanor pieces together fragments of memories.
What the Hell Am I Watching? 

Telly Savalas's hitman (who is named Ranko, by the way) is completely inscrutable. He is being pressured by a client to pull off the assassination of an oil baron, but instead insists on staying in Belgium to clean up an old job. He has every opportunity to take out his target and for some reason, never manages to do it.

Instead of doing the job he was hired for, Ranko buys a collection of tin soldiers, for some reason. This is never addressed or explained.

Under sedation, Eleanor has a gauzy, slow-motion dream sequence that looks like a K-Tel "Light Rock Hits of the 70's" infomercial. And then it takes a weird S&M turn.

Later, Eleanor is walking down the street and sees a group of children running away from a little person dressed as a Medieval court jester. There's a red flag right there. The jester waves his puppets at her (not a euphemism) and she hallucinates that the jester is Peter... and then Ranko... and then the jester again. She gets freaked out and runs away.

Fashion Moment

Off-white suits: Who wore it better?


or Margaret (Rosella Falk):

I think Ranko is the clear winner here. Telly Savalas can wear the hell out of a suit.

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