Hotline (1982)

Potboiler made-for-TV movie, starring Lynda Carter of Wonder Woman fame.  Carter plays an art student who supports herself by tending bar four nights a week in a western-style roadhouse somewhere in California.  The tips must be pretty good because, besides covering her tuition, they evidently pay for her big, luxurious house in the woods and her showy, impractical car.  She's got one of those offbeat names that TV writers like:  Brianne (pronounced like Brian).  

Brianne's interpersonal skills impress one of her bar customers, who runs a crisis hotline.  He talks her into volunteering.  She starts getting creepy whispered  calls from a guy who seems to be confessing to a murder.   And--get this curve-ball!--he eventually starts threatening Brianne herself.   

Since the show's only plot mechanism is making us wonder who the caller is,  nearly all of its many male characters are set up to look suspicious at one point or another. Maybe the caller's that annoying customer at the bar, the one who comes on too strong with Brianne and hates his mother.  Or maybe he's Brianne's hotline boss, with whom she finds herself becoming romantically involved. Or maybe he's  that swarthy stranger sitting behind her on the airplane. Or maybe he's James Booth's character, Charlie Jackson.   Institutionalized for insanity, Jackson wears a doctor's white coat and behaves erratically.  The voice on the phone sounds so much like his that I assumed he was the killer.  (I certainly hoped he was, because it would have meant more screen time for Booth.)   But no, the killer is somebody else  and we have only the one scene with Jackson--yet another of those mini-gems that typify Booth's later career.


Text copyright Diana Blackwell, 2003.


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