Director – William Webb, Screenplay – Richard Brandes, Story – Tom Byrnes, Producers – Tom Byrnes, William Webb & Kurt Anderson, Photography – John Huneck, Music – Sam Sorensen, Art Direction – Mark Simon. Production Company – Westwind.
Richard Hatch (Lieutenant Dan Bridges), Leif Garrett (Seth Benson), Shawn Weatherly (Stacy Sloane), Greta Blackburn (Angelina Benson), Richard Roundtree (Captain Lloyd Barnes), James O’Sullivan (District Attorney Henry Wilson), Patricia Patts (Jennifer), Terrence McGovern (Jack Simmons)
Brother and sister Seth and Angelina Benson meet people on the Party Line, an X-rated phone-chat forum, and then lure and kill them. Fighting interference from his superiors, police detective Dan Bridges doggedly investigates after his girlfriend becomes one of their victims.
Party Line is a dreary thriller. It founds itself in the screwed-up puritanism than runs through the American psyche – that to show sex on screen or even people engaged in a casual attitude toward it is invariably connected to psychopathology. The hypocrisy of Party Line and most of films of its ilk is that their appeal is centred in a lurid pandering to both elements. Party Line is never tawdry enough a film to be interesting – mostly it is just dull.
Party Line‘s one point of perverse fascination is the presence of 1970s teen heartthrob Leif Garrett playing the psycho of the piece. Garrett trashes his pretty boy image with a cold-blooded performance, including going to pieces while being bullied about by his sister and in one scene being found masturbating while wearing a wedding dress. Unfortunately, both Leif Garrett and Greta Blackburn, cast as the sister, give bad performances. Neither have the skill to play beyond shallow depths. Certainly, the characters do not come with any believable psychological motivation.
The titular Party Line is poorly connected to the story – it is only a gimmick to hang a psycho-thriller on. (If the film had come out a few years later, it could have used internet chatrooms and online dating sites). The middle of the film contains one good plot twist where a babysitter idly phones the line, her employer investigates the calls listed on his account and becomes tempted away from his marriage, while another woman on the line pretends to be the babysitter and unwittingly rendezvouses with killer Leif Garrett. However, the film is too dully written to marshal these elements into anything interesting. A better film would have ditched the uninteresting police procedural and placed this subplot at the centre, making the twists into the dramatic focus of the piece.
The soundtrack features some incredibly bad rock music – at one point, one of the songs tosses up lyrics like “Praise the Lord and pass the loot/Don’t cross us or you’ll get the boot.”
Director William Webb is better known as a producer. He has directed a number of action films during the 1980s, all of which have a reasonable T&A content. The one other genre film he has directed is the psycho film The Banker (1989). He has also produced genre works like Party Line (1991), The Neighbor (1993) and Asylum (1997),