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  • Given the title, you would expect 'Murder by Phone' to be a silly eighties slasher style flick...and that's actually more or less what it is. The most notable thing about this film is definitely the killer's modus operandi. Most slashers simply feature some guy with a knife, but the killer in this film has decided to go a step further than that and had developed a way to use an ordinary telephone as a murder weapon! Obviously, the whole thing comes off as being more than a little bit silly, but the way that the murders are carried out is amusing enough. The plot centres on these murders and takes the form of an investigative thriller, as our hero, Nat Bridger, begins looking into the death of one of his students. The film is never really all that interesting, but at least it's not boring and there's usually another murder scene just around the corner anyway; though unfortunately, they are pretty much the same. Director Michael Anderson does manage some fairly good moments of suspense, a couple of major characters have close calls (no pun intended) when speaking on the phone and there are various other bits and bobs to keep us interested. I can't say that this is a brilliant film, but it's at least worth a look.
  • "Bells" looks like an average and routine 80's slasher but you should know to expect a little bit extra from the talented director of "Logan's Run"; Michael Anderson. And indeed, only a couple of minutes into the film and already it turned out that my impressions and expectations towards this film were entirely wrong and I was in for a pleasant surprise. "Bells" isn't a teen slasher movie at all (despite the VHS cover art and the cheesy sounding alternate title "Murder by Phone") but a fairly well plotted thriller that even shows the ambition to question the reliability of gigantic enterprises and refer to government conspiracies. How many "Friday the 13th" rip-offs can righteously claim to have done that? Richard Chamberlain stars as university professor and environmentalist Nat Bridger who privately investigates the bizarre death of one of his former students. The poor girl turns out to be the first victim of a maniac who developed a method to kill people over the phone (!) by sending an extremely high level of voltage through the speaker. Don't ask me to explain the technical aspects, but the victims start to shake and bleed from eyes & ears before getting catapulted in the air by an explosion! Not exactly tasteful but original and very entertaining to look at! This killing modus operandi as well as the further development of the "whodunit" storyline is often very implausible and silly, but you easily look past these flaws simply because the pace is exciting and the suspense-sequences are extremely intense. The film's only real disadvantage is that the scenery has severely dated by now and that some of the observations in the script turned out very exaggerated (for example, the phone company tour guide's estimation that there will be 1.4 trillion phones by the year 2000). Perhaps, this even is a rare example of a horror film that would actually profit from a remake! I'm convinced that some of the nowadays scriptwriters can come up with nifty ideas when re-working this premise into a story that revolves on mobile phones, teleconference attributes or web cams. Class actor Chamberlain is adequate in the lead, but the best performances are delivered by Sara Botsford as his love-interest and Gary Reineke as the obnoxious police detective.
  • Richard Chamberlin plays a college professor who is trying to find out who is the psychopath (more like a postal ex-phone company worker) who is killing victim with a Hi-frequency sound through the phone. It kind of runs like a TV film, if you cut out the Phone/blood violence. John Houseman also star in this Canadian film that was released a year earlier in Canada as BELLS, and released in U.S. as MURDER BY PHONE. The American print is edited to 78 minutes as the Canadian print runs 95 minutes. Roger Corman probably edited it to save money on the print stock when he picked it up for U.S. release. Canadian print is recommended. Originally sold overseas under the title THE CALLING.
  • Richard Chamberlin makes for an amiable hero in this idiosyncratic Canadian shocker. He plays Nat Bridger, an idealistic, ecologically aware lecturer who eventually discovers through diligent investigation, somewhat incredulously, that a nefarious individual has manufactured a monstrously effective device that turns the once prosaic phone into a conduit of agonizing death! Includes nice support from John Houseman as his crotchety mentor, whose amenable exterior may conceal ulterior motives. 'Bells' might seem to have an entirely implausible premise, but nonetheless manages to coalesce into an efficient, and highly entertaining, early 80s horror; which is lent considerable verisimilitude by Richard Chamberlin's earnest performance. 'Bells' comes highly recommended. 'The very next time the telephone rings, might it in reality be the tolling of your imminent death!'
  • The technology in "Murder By Phone" (also called "Bells") is impossible. You just have to set that aside and watch the film without questioning...and if you do, you will very likely enjoy this Canadian film.

    You see the girl die at the beginning of the film. She receives a phone call and when she answers it, her eyes begin to bleed, she shakes and then the phone explodes! Nat Bridger (Richard Chamberlain) investigates the case and almost immediately he comes upon very nasty and awful phone company reps...who do everything they can to frustrate his investigation. Not to be deterred, he presses on...and ultimately learn that a weird machine has been created that can be used to kill by phone!

    The biggest shortcoming of this film is that so many folks want to stop Bridger...and since he's only one guy, why didn't they just kill him?! Too easy to laugh off...but still kinda fun in a mindless sort of way.
  • Around this period slashers seemed to be in-craze, but coming out where some fairly oddball horror mysteries and the 1982 feature "Bells" just happened to be one of those gritty change of pace experiments. Also known as "Murder by Phone" under a re-edited version. The curiosity is waiting around for the killer's method of weapon. Ingenious, but laughable. Electrocution by phone. And boy do the victims get some air! While it might have that body count formula, instead of something rather primitive, it laced the plot with industrial conspiracies and scientific jargon as an environmentalist professor goes about investigating the deaths, despite no one really believing him when he thinks it's a phone killing people. It did come off being low-key and clever in spots (a cynical script), but this didn't stop it from being rather stilted (romance sub-plot) and at times silly. The problem lied in between the murders, as it wasn't as interesting or captivating like it should have been. Therefore the idea isn't really realised and uneven in its suspenseful build-ups. It was something you might read from a Michael Crichton novel, especially with his interest in technology getting out of control. Richard Chamberlain putting his game face on was sturdy in the lead role and was good support by a classy John Houseman. Sara Botsford feels secondary, but the cast also bestows Alan Scarfe, Barry Morse and a small part for Lenore Zann. Director Michael Anderson's durable handling is slow-grinding, letting the story unfold and atmosphere bubble with sweeping camera-work and John Barry's ominously edgy music score. Sterile, but resourcefully unique 80s horror mystery.

    "If man is going to control his future. His got to learn to control his machinery."
  • CooperCom5 December 1999
    This movie is known under the title "Bells" in my country. Bells is a exciting and unusual thriller about a killer who kills people with the help of the phone (he sends some deadly sounds through the phone). The movie is made with skill and have great & convincing actors who really takes the job serious. The plot is good and makes you feel the tension in the film. Recommended

    I give it 8 out of 10
  • Alternatively known as Bells, here's an entertaining chiller with two gooder actors for a film that's still a good solid drama/thriller. Certainly something different here, we have a disgruntled nut who used to work for the phone company, taking people out at random, some he personally knows, by upping the voltage so high, their body melts, their ears explode, and are sent flying backwards whether on subways, or from high rise buildings. Richard Chamberlain, of all people, is a professor, who investigates the killings, when one of his best students, is a victim (the first one on the subway). While bedding architect (Sara Botsford- Rats) he teams up with a cop who he first bangs heads with, on the account of his no caring attitude, they try to flush out the killer, who's doing his business from a small electricity house, which is also his abode. John Houseman, an old lecturer and close friend of Chamberlain, has something to hide here, too, which I thought was a good shock point (pardon the expression). I did like the cop in this film, a Frederick Forest type guy, I found a hoot, if the whole film. The death scenes are classics, and we do question if we could really kill someone by upping the amps so high. How they set the killer up, is classic, as is the last call Richard Chamberlain takes, that he shouldn't of. On the whole, Bells is fun viewing for the horror/thriller viewer, though I don't think it will turn you off answering your next call.
  • On paper this sounds pretty uninspiring, but 'Bells' turns out to be an ingenious idea well-executed (a bit like Didier Grousset's 'Kamikaze' [1986] in reverse), that reunites the director and composer of 'The Quiller Memorandum'.

    The script vaguely recalls 'Quatermass 2', is lively, quite witty in places and generous to the supporting characters (Gary Reineke, in particular, is visibly enjoying himself as the police lieutenant, who gets to develop as the film progresses), the Toronto locations are well used, and it all builds up to a satisfyingly explosive climax. One can nit-pick - Richard Chamberlain gets a lot of lucky breaks looking for information - but it certainly makes you pay attention every time yet another 'phone rings; did every single phone in Toronto - even the Mickey Mouse ones - have exactly the same ring tone in 1980, by the way?
  • My review was written after a January 1983 screening on Times Square.

    Filmed in Toronto as "Bells", "Murder by Phone' is a sorry excuse for a horror/sci-fi programmer. Picked up for distribution by New World (and briefly flirting with an alternate moniker "The Calling"), it's due for a quick playoff.

    The picture's gimmick is a crazed killer baffling the local police by killing at a distance using a sophisticated apparatus which transmits through the telephone system, zapping victims through their phone receivers. New World's release title for the film unwittingly tips off the age of this hoary plot device, used as the basis for a stilted 1935 movie "Murder by Television".

    Richard Chamberlain, sporting a handsome beard and an unsteady country boy accent, toplines ats Nat Bridger, a science teacher investigating the mysterious death of one of his students. Tracking her death to a Toronto subway phone which was found melted, Bridger seeks aid in vain from his former professor Stanley Markowitz (John Houseman), now an environmental consultant for Inter-World Telephone Co.l In one of many preposterous script cogs, Bridger befriends artist Ridley Taylor (Sara Botsford), painting a huge technology mural in the phone company's lobby, who conveniently has access to all the lans and files in the supposedly high-security installation. Aided by local police detective Meara (Gary Reineke) they trace and trap the killer.

    British director (now a Canadian resident Michael Anderson fails to pump any excitement or suspense into the picture, preferring to immerse the viewer in telephone lore and load every scene with a different type of phone receiver. Cumulative effect is campy rather than scary, not surprising given the imprersona, definitely unhorrific reliance on "murer at a distance". Each killing consists of victim shaking, bleeding profusely and then, with hokey special effects, flying across the room in slow motion.

    With silly, cliched dialog (and time out for pompous militant speeches by Chamberlain concerning controlling our destiny and protecting the environment), cast plays by the numbers. Redhead Sara Botword is introduced here as an attractive heroine, subsequently having made wo moe horror films "Still of the Night" and "Night Eyes", while Barry Morse is quite predictably up to no good as the president of IWT. Tech credits are subpar, particularly the murky photography. For an effective and intentionally funny paranoia film about the phone company, one still has to turn to "The President's Analyst".
  • gridoon5 October 2002
    Well, it's an interesting premise, but the director misses most of the opportunities it offers, managing only a handful of suspenseful moments. The film plays more like a whodunit than a horror film, but the "mystery" part is dreary, and the death scenes are silly and overwrought. What a cast as good as this one (including Sara Botsford, a real revelation) is doing in an unimportant little time-waster like this is anybody's guess. (*1/2)
  • Canadian horror film starring Richard Chamberlain as a professor out to prove a conspiracy exists in a huge phone company as they cover up a mad killer that uses high-pitch frequencies on the phone to kill people. The movie resembles Coma with its thriller-like atmosphere and its one person against the world protagonist. As thrillers go, the film is pretty enjoyable, although it is definitely short on logic. You really will need to suspend some disbelief here. Michael Anderson directs(quite a ways down from directing Around the World in Eighty Days if you ask me...which you didn't) with some polish and flair, using the materials he is given to their best. John Houseman is somewhat wasted in the film, but his verbal reparte with Chamberlain is quite amusing. Chamberlain is adequate in the lead. The special effects are...well, not too impressive. Some of the death scenes are over-acted and over-directed, and unintentionally amusing.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Wow, great start, the body count in the first 15 minutes rises. Not that gory after all but the idea was good. Big majors having us in their powers, well, do they? The teacher searching everything that concerns the killing of one of his students. The stupid copper who becomes a believer and finds together with the teacher the 'who's done it question'. It was also the time of Scanners and other flicks were technology made it all happen. Is it a horror, no not bloody enough (for the time it was released), is it a thriller, yes I think so but for a televisionrelease it's too bloody, get it? And that's the reason why it never got published. Only available on rental VHS, and if you catch this OOP be sure to not touch the US release which has been cut up to 20 minutes!! there is enough suspense in this movie, it take a while before it get's going but after all, a must have in your collection. Start phoning your local video before they phone you...bliep bliep
  • Well this Canadian stinker done by the Canadian film development corporation had a great concept. I remember watching this film, after I finished grade 11, with my dad, and I thought what a great concept. I think of all the movies I've forgotten over the years, and this film is burnt into my memory. Electrocute annoying people by the phone, this would be great for thoes annoying telemarketers who usually phone during dinner. Well, that's besides the point, like most of the Canadian Film development movies of that era this film has an ok concept, but lacks in budget or effects. I like the opening scene with the kids running in the subway, its a good mood setter. It has a great concept like Scaners, and it looks like it too could have been filmed in Monteral.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ***SPOILERS*** Richard Chamberlain looking like a Chuck Norris clone is ecologically minded Teronto collage professor Nat Bridger who's out to solve the murder of one of his students Connie Lawson, Lenore Zann,who was killed by answering a public telephone at the Toronto Museum subway station. What happened was that Connie had her brains blown out after answering the phone that exploded like a hand grenade. Nat soon finds out that a number of other people died the same way who had no connection to each other! And is determined to find out if this is some kind of insane plot by the phone company to get people to pay their phone bills or just some psycho getting his kicks or rocks off by terrorizing the people for his own sick entertainment.

    With the help of artist Ridley Taylor,Sara Botsford, whom he met at an local art exhibit Nat tries to track down the phone killer who by then has murdered-by phone-some half dozen people. That included Art's mentor and good friend Prof. Stanley Markowitz, John Houseman, whom we later find out knew a lot more then he let on to who was behind the "Phone Murders".

    ****SPOILERS*** Much like the 1977 Charles Bronson thriller "Telefon" where the phone was used to activate those who answered it to commit mass murder the movie "Bells" or "Murder by Phone" uses the everyday land line telephone, cell phones were not that readily available back then in 1982, as the murder weapon itself. And it's victims are anyone who's unlucky enough to answer the killer phone! The big surprise is that the killer was an ex-phone company employee who felt that phones were taking over his life and, by ringing all day and night, keeping him form among other things getting a good night's sleep. It's his very invention that ended up killing a number of innocent people that in the end did him in with the help of Nat-Who also turned out to be an electronic expert- hooking his phone up to the device and getting him to answer it.
  • Much more of a gap between the invention of the telephone and this movie, and the invention of the television and the movie Murder By Television, for some reason.....

    I saw the cut version of this, which was still rated R surprisingly, despite there being no nudity, just a couple of not-too-bad cuss words, and some deaths that weren't too terribly horrific. This could hardly get anything worse than a PG-13 rating today. I'd be curious what was cut from the movie.

    Anyway, a young woman answers a phone ringing in a subway station. Strange sounds come from the phone, and she begins having a seizure of sorts, blood drips from her eyes, and then she is forcefully blown away from the phone, while the receiver ignites in flames.

    The young woman was a former student of Richard Chamberlain's character, an

    environmental science professor, I think. Her father asks him to investigate her death, which he was told was a heart attack. Chamberlain learns about the phone from a bag lady, and gets some help from a woman painting a mural at the phone company's headquarters. Meanwhile, other people keep dying the same way.

    One of the most amusing moments for me was when John Houseman's character drawled "I've earned it." Houseman had done some famous commercials for Smith-Barney saying "They earned money the old-fashioned way: they earned it" - with that same pronunciation. I don't know which came first, the commercials or this movie (I'd guess the former).
  • BandSAboutMovies9 October 2020
    Warning: Spoilers
    Also known as Murder by Phone, this Canadian slasher - of sorts - boasts an interesting pedigree, as it features actors like John Houseman and Richard Chamberlain, as well as a score by James Bond series composer John Barry.

    The U.S. print of this - Murder by Phone - is 17 minutes shorter than the Canadian and international The Calling cuts. You'll miss out on so much of a disgruntled phone employee using the phone lines - is he using a Captain Crunch whistle? Any phone phreaks reading this? - to kill people.

    This will be part of my telephone-based drive-in horror night that I am curating, so...I guess stay tuned for that. These are the movies you never knew you wanted but here they are, calling and calling until you pick up. Consider this a not-as-good Scanners with Chamberlain looking very Gibb brother who is way too invested in solving this case. Gotta love the end freeze frame as he just has to answer that phone.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I Loved this movie and I don't understand why this movie isn't more well known. The movie was very well directed and i thought the writing was pretty solid too. The movie may have a crazy idea about a person who kills people through phones but I thought the idea was handled well.some mystery Madman has created some kind of device that allows him to shoot waves of electricity through The phone wires and kill whoever answers The phone on The other end. So the key to surviving is never answer the phone. The movie never came across as ridiculous to me, it always seemed very serious to me and I never found it dumb like some people did and I never found it boring either. The movie held my attention all the way through because of its intriguing mystery and Dark moody atmosphere. Ialso enjoyed watching the attack scenes I thought they were very over the top and crazy. Whenever someone answered the phone it looked like lightening was flying out of the phone and it would send whoever answered the phone flying across the room. Its a crazy idea but it's Fun to watch. This movie was different from most other Horror mystery movies and That's mainly because it did something totally different. I personally think the idea of killing people through a phone is pretty cool and highly original. I have never seen an idea like this done in any other movie before. This movie should be considered a Classic for its originality alone and I think it's miles better than those slumber party massacre movies. Those movies are okay but they have none of the originality or creepiness that this movie has. I'm a horror fan and I've heard a lot of people praise the slumber party massacre movies yet hardly anyone ever praises this movie and I think More Horror fans should praise Murder by phone instead.

    The movie has a great performance by Richard Chamberlain and I thought he was very likable as the lead character. He was a very smart and interesting character and I pretty much liked him right away because he seemed like a blue collar guy and I tend to like horror movies about blue collar people that find themselves in crazy situations, those types of stories just seem to appeal to me more than your typical by the numbers Slasher movie.

    Murder by phone is similar to a slasher movie but it Isn't one in my opinion, it's more of a mystery horror movie with a bizarre story. The lead character investigates and tries to figure out what's going on and how all these people are dying. The police thinks all of the people that died died by heart attacks but one of the victims was only nineteen years old and the lead guy played by Richard Chamberlain finds it odd that someone could have a heart attack at such a young age and he does not believe that's what happened so he spends the entire movie investigating and trying to convince people that something more sinister is going on and his theories are met with scepticism which is understandable. However because the viewer knows how people are being murdered that makes us cheer for the main character to find and stop the bad guy and prove to everyone what is going on. I won't give away the ending but I will say this, I had a lot of Fun watching this movie and I Loved the Dark Moody atmosphere the movie had and I thought it was very interesting and suspenseful. This is definitely one of the better Horror mystery movies of the 80s and This classic should be on DVD and blu-ray. The movie is also a whodunit, and trying to figure out who the killer is makes the movie Fun.