The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4 included a feature on the 1983 film Local Hero and invited listeners to write in suggesting their favourite film featuring a phone box.
Pondering the suggestion, I recalled a short film that has remained in the memory for forty years. It is unlikely that it is anyone’s favourite, but it is a film that once seen is never forgotten.
Having always imagined the film to be French, only today did I Google “film French phone box.” The search immediately identified the film, it was a Spanish film, not a French one, and it was made in 1972.
In La Cabina workmen install a phone box in a town. Later a man goes to use the phone and the door of the box closes behind him. The phone doesn’t work and the door is stuck and the man becomes desperate trying to leave the box.
Eventually two other men come to try to let him out, but can’t get the door opened. A crowd gathers to watch what is happening. Others try to help, but the door stays stuck. A fireman is just about to try to break open the glass roof of the box when a lorry from the phone company appears The men from the company lift the box onto the back of the lorry, and drive away with the man inside it. The onlookers are pleased something has been done.
The man is driven into a state of panic. He tries to call for help from people, but the people think all is well. The lorry stops beside another lorry, which also has a phone box on the back with a man inside it. The two men try to call to each other, but are unsuccessful.
Eventually, the lorry reaches a warehouse. The box is lifted off the lorry by crane and the lorry leaves. A forklift truck carries the box through the warehouse, which is full of other phone boxes. Each of the boxes has the corpse or the skeleton of someone who had been trapped.
The man struggles in desperation but he cannot release himself. The forklift truck sets down the box and goes. Nearby, the trapped man sees the other man that he saw on his way to the warehouse. The other man has strangled himself with the telephone wire. The man falls to the floor in despair.
The film closes with the phone company installing another phone box in the same place.
When there were so many horror films, it is odd that one that lasts just 35 minutes has remained so strongly in my memory. Perhaps it touches upon something deep in the psyche.