The Telephone Box


Ah, The Telephone Box, or La Cabina, to give Antonio Mercero’s half-hour film its original Spanish title. Made in 1972, I saw what was probably the first UK TV screening sometime around 1980, and for years afterwards was asking people whether they ever saw that film about the guy stuck in a phone box. Eventually I got in on tape following another TV screening and would foist it on anyone who hadn’t seen it. Thom at Form is Void linked to a YouTube copy a while back, and Stephen Gallagher reminded me of it a few hours ago, so here it is, one of those simple but memorable dramas in which a small problem escalates into a nightmare.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Les Temps Morts by René Laloux

9 thoughts on “The Telephone Box”

  1. No, I don’t agree with that. In Mercero’s film the predicament is that of being trapped in a confined and public space whereas with Hitchcock the predicament is the random assaults from the birds which occur in a variety of locations. The phone box in the latter is only a temporary respite not the core of the film.

  2. Then I suppose Bunuel’s Exterminating Angel might be a better inspiration for this one.

  3. Not quite there with Buñuel either since that situation is quite inexplicable, at least to the audience. The obvious subtext of Mercero’s film is random imprisonment or “disappearance” in a fascist state. In 1972 Franco’s regime was still in power in Spain so this needs to be watched with that fact in mind. Metaphor always flourishes when artists are unable to speak the truth about their situation.

  4. Strange thing is that in this age of mobile phones a young person would look at this film and wonder what a phone booth was.

  5. The weirdest thing about it for me on watching it again a year or two back was the use at the climax of a chunk of Carl Orff’s Trionfo di Afrodite, which I realised had rather obviously been lifted in its entirety by Christian Vander for Mekanik Destructiw Kommandoh…

  6. I think there is a similar scene in the (rather sublime) The President’s Analyst, which played the whole concept as a bleak joke. I haven’t seen that movie in a decade though, so I might be remembering wrong.

  7. A childhood treasure for me – spotted several times on late-night ITV, in the days before late-night ITV was dedicated solely to gambling marathons and frequently threw up a heady cocktail of rare gems and seedy Hammer / Amicus horror. One day they stopped showing it and it never came back, and for years I was left trying to explain it to people and occasionally encountering a fellow witness. Then the internet came, but it took a few years before I managed to find details of the film (I didn’t know the name, and it’s entirely possible there was simply nothing out there about it). But eventually I found a bootleg DVD on eBay, which I must have sent back out in the world tenfold at least. And now there’s YouTube, which is nice for the young people.

    What I love about it is that at the time I first saw it, maybe eight years old and up way past my bedtime, I had no clue about its subtexts. It was a pure shot of surreal horror, unexpected and bewlidering, and as much as I went on to love The Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected and anything of that ilk in my young quest for The Weird, La Cabina was always sitting there at the back of my mind as a template none of them could match. I was happy that when I finally saw it with the full burden of adulthood, it still impressed me.

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