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The Independent Culture
Tim Pope's Phone taps into a booming, if seldom discussed, American phenomenon, prank calls. Pope calls them 'mean, manipulative, deeply sick' - and he's got the half-hour film to prove it. Phone, doing the rounds with Laws of Gravity (see review), is nominally about the attempted telephone purchase of a classic bacon-and-egg Swatch watch for dollars 500. Ultimately it's about the see-saw of power as two couples - Bill Pullman, Amanda Plummer as the buyers, Linda Blair and Ed Blatchford as the sellers - play at seduction and illusion, sometimes hinting at sinister pleasures, sometimes courting violence, sometimes throwing loaded charges: 'You came on to my wife' / 'Your wife came on to my girlfriend' / 'Are you calling my wife a lesbian?' et cetera. The picture is seriously weird.

'I got a tape of the calls from an art director friend,' says Pope, best known for his pop video work, especially with the Cure and The The. 'When I heard this series of calls, they were just, well, scary, y'know? The couple with the Swatch, their motives didn't seem clear, but we didn't change a thing. Every word is verbatim.'

In fact, Pope became so excited by the Hitchcockian nature of what he had heard, he and the producer Lisa Bryce decided it was to be his cinema debut. A rough script was ready within 48 hours, within 10 days pounds 70,000 had been allotted and a cast and crew assembled for a three-day shoot.

A question remains: do the couple who planted the Swatch ad to attract flies to their web maintain copyright on their endeavours? 'I've been looking for them,' says Pope. 'I'm about three people away now.'

The Russians are off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of . . . Emerald Town. Yes, the L Frank Baum is out of copyright and remake fever has struck. Turner Entertainment, which bought the Judy Garland Wizard of Oz and the rest of the MGM film library some years ago, will keep a beady eye on the mooted production, but as the story is in the public domain, Turner's only chance of making a case would be to prove 'a marked physical resemblance' between the old costumes and sets and the new costumes and sets. Then cries of 'I'll get you my pretty' could be heard throughout the land.

Those worst trailer nominees keep coming in. Reader James Hendrie nominates The Flintstones: 'It's an animated rock bouncing over the lyrics of the theme song, followed by a shot of John Goodman drawling: 'Yabba-dabba-doo.' It's his self-satisfied smirk that gets my goat. 'Look who we got to play Fred]' it seems to be saying. It'll take a lot more than this to make me fork out pounds 6.50 to watch Roseanne's husband slouching around in a fake sabre tooth tiger-skin sarong.'