The Telephone Book (1971) (Blu-ray/DVD Review)
Directed By: Nelson Lyon
Starring: Sarah Kennedy, Norman Rose, Jill Clayburgh
Rated: UR/Region: A,B/1:85/Number of disc: 2
Available from Vinegar Syndrome
A major, though forgotten, work from New York’s underground film scene of the late 60s and early 70s, Nelson Lyon’s The Telephone Book tells the story of a sex-obsessed hippie who falls in love with the world’s greatest obscene phone caller and embarks on a quest to find him. Her journey introduces to her to an avant-garde stag filmmaker, a manipulative psychiatrist, a bored lesbian housewife, and more. Photographed in high-contrast black-and-white, and punctuated with a remarkable, surreal animated sequence, The Telephone Book is one of the greatest cult films you’ve probably never heard of.
What you get with is a very weird and stylish sexploitation film. I guess you could just call it a full on experimental sexploitation film and that really makes it what it is. You get just an outstanding performance in Sarah Kennedy, a statement that I just won’t be able to stress enough here in this review. This woman has a very sweet look and she counters that by becoming a heck of a sex pot here as we follow her on her quest to locate a “John Smith” who makes sexually driven phone calls to random folks, which of course leads us to another really good performance from an actor in this one as well. That pretty much is your plot, but we get intercut shots of people who have made calls of that nature and gotten calls of that nature in between. Those more or less seem to delay the story, but it doesn’t hurt things over-all that much and add to the movie’s experimental core, which is a method I find rather creative overall. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into heading into this one, porn or other, but what I did get surpassed what I imagined and this is just overall a damn good movie.
The Telephone Book is also a very character driven affair (which helps when you have the dearly noted great acting performances), with everyone seeming to have their own gimmicks. We got porn actors, perverts on a train, and other wacky stuff that fills in the spaces on our lead’s mission. Throughout all she seems very into whatever comes up and that makes the film maybe work even more as a comedy in some spots. Overall, it isn’t a bad film at all, like I said before it is DAMN good. It all works together to make for a fun sexually driven watch. The transfer is also pretty darn good for the source. Yes, the film looks rough in parts with dirt and scratches, but the overall detail is there and it looks very nice, far better than anyone I’m sure would expect. If you just want to see something strange in a good way, then give this odd movie a watch. I don’t know if it’ll be everyone’s brand of Kool-Aid, but I drank it and I liked it very much.
– Commentary track with Producer Merv Bloch
– Original Music Soundtrack
– Photo Still Gallery
– Theatrical Trailers
Quality of Transfer: 93%