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Home > Film

Robin Ince's Top 30,000 Films Of All Time

#29,966: That one in the telephone box that might have been Spanish

31 October 2003

If someone says to you, "God, a mate of mine was telling me about this really scary short film he saw as a kid," just say: "You mean the one about the bloke trapped in a phone box?" 67% of the time they’ll say: "Fuck, how did you know that?" Next, check whether they believe it was colour or B&W and if they say: "Colour, I think," that positivity statistic increases to 84%. If they say black and white, then you should say: "I think you mean, Oh Whistle and I’ll Come To You" - in which case there’s only a 58% chance you are right but only 19% of the people you speak to will know that.


The 35 minute story of a man trapped in a phone box seems to have hung in the minds of a huge number of 20 to 40 year olds, though it could well be 20 years since it was last on terrestrial television. My first memory of it was as a support feature to BBC2’s brilliant summertime horror double bill seasons, the season that made living in the time when rabies was about to infiltrate the British isles worthwhile.


It is a simple tale of a man getting stuck in a phone box who ends up being transported into the middle of a mountain where all the people who have been trapped in phone booths stand rotting or claiming their last breaths.

Why it hangs around in so many people’s heads I don't know, but it was certainly haunting and mysterious. Having not seen it for many years, I can't remember if it was a morality tale (you know, man bursts child’s balloon or queue jumps and so fate intervenes and starves him to death in a phone box), but I think it was just an average Joe who wanted to make a phone call and then was lead to his death by some sort of evil telecom. To make his situation worse, the phone didn't even work.

The film, originally titled La Cabina, was directed Antonio Mercero who went on to direct the TV series Farmacia de Guardia, which means nothing to me whatsoever but I am quite sure might have been quite good.

Short films rarely get much of a TV outing, occasionally Channel 4 sticks them on between 1am and 4am as a treat, but with the schedules so full of soap and Lynda La Plante, where’s the space? Personally I’d like to see the one about the man who invents an invisibility potion so he can dirtily spy on his undressing neighbour but who petrifies her when he sneaks into her apartment and they discover together that he has made his skin vanish but his arterial movements are painfully visible (also Spanish I think). And what about the one where a woman shocks her family at Sunday lunch by introducing her partner who is a woman with the final line given to her grandmother, "I wouldn’t worry dear, I was always a bit that way myself."

Short films are great calling cards, but more than that they are frequently potent feature films with all the excess fat cut off and simmered down to 30 minutes or less, why don't you help finance mine, it’s dark, mysterious, funny and has an old lady with a hook hand in it, you’ll love it.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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