DON’T OPEN THE DOOR/aka DON’T HANG UP/1975
DIRECTOR: S.F. BROWNRIGG
WRITER: FRANK SCHAEFER, KERRY NEWCOMBE
CAST: SUSAN BRACKEN, LARRY O’DWYER, GENE ROSS, JAMES N. HARRELL, HUGH FEAGIN
With this post I shift my reviews or posts back to including more older style movies. In particular films form the late 50’ on into the glorious 60’s and 70’s. I actually enjoy the experience of watching some of these films even if they lean towards the pretty bad side of things. They tend to be shorter in duration (often no longer than 90 minutes and as short as 70 or so) and the colors are a bit brighter than newer films - to the point of being lurid- or they are shot in a type of b/w style I usually like. All that positive stuff being said, they also tend to have horrid music scores, sloppy editing and direction, poor writing and bad over acting. Strangely however, all of that can be fun. This film by S.F. Brownrigg ( Don’t Look in the Basement, Keep My Grave Open and poor white Trash 2) is a fine example of the goods and bads involved with viewing these old films. While I try to be nice and merciful with these older films compared to the newer ones I have to admit in the end it can be an ordeal really to sit all the way through one, and the 70 minute length of a film like this can seem like hours. If you’re able to do a sort of MST3K routine with yourself you will find the experience more enjoyable or at least less grueling.
We first meet Amanda Post (Susan Bracken who pouts and snarls her way through the entire film) in a flash back to 1962 where her mother is murdered by an intruder who had earlier made some intimidating anonymous phone calls. Amanda sees her dead mother but not the assailant. We zoom forward to the 70’s where Amanda returns to the town and house to care for her ailing grandmother (who looks a lot like Buddy Epsen to me) after receiving some anonymous phone calls. See, like her mom did? There are not that many characters in the film and almost all the action takes place in the house. The only times the camera really ventures out f the house is to a local doll museum and old train car (both actual local landmarks of Jefferson Texas where the film was shot) where we are treated to riveting acting by the mayor and curator who have conflicting interests in acquiring the old house, for reasons I must have missed when fast-forwarding the slow parts. Of which there are many. Added to the dynamic ensemble is a totally chauvinistic 70’s doctor and an old school house calling type town doctor who do not see eye to eye on the treatment for the old lady who lies in bed muttering “museum” all day.
There are some attempts at genuine creepy and sleazy moments when a phone calling perv taunts and peeps on Amanda while hidden in the walls of the house. He gets her to perform a naughty sex act on herself while he strangles a doll and breathes all predator like into the phone. There is no doubt as to which of the characters the sleaze ball is and the film tries to be some sort of study, I guess, into psycho-sexual stalking freaks with exaggerated sissy southern accents. As the pace of the film “quickens” towards the end we are treated to weird druggy style camera work and voices with lots of echo and reverb. As some other reviewers noted some of the camera work appears to have some influence by the likes of Mario Bava and Dario Argento, but those moments are few and far between and the connection may be projections of a flustered viewer trying hard to gild the lily whenever possible. There are lots of slow stair case climbing sequences trying to take advantage of the beautiful interior of the house (know as The House of Seasons by locals). At the end are treated to a sure sign of insanity in the form of Amanda rocking in a rocking chair and doing baby faces to herself. The music is of the standard 70's style jazzy improv stuff with walking bass lines that do not fit in with the 'action" on the screen at all. It all sounds like it could have worked in a TV detective show or porn movie of the period just as effectively. And when all and said done I have no clue as to what door it is one supposed to not open. The movie is of the old drive-in theater variety that played the southern drive-in circuit on some sort of triple bill most likely. Not the worst movie in the world - better than Teenage Tramp which I am trying to finish now- but it took me two settings and some fast-forwarding to get through.