Maybe it’s just reminiscence of that special era before caller ID and *69, but I love prank phone calls. The film “Red” contains its share. The 30-minute short revolves around a series of notorious phone shenanigans committed by a nameless prankster in New Jersey circa the late eighties.
The calls contain most of the classic lines like, “Is Mike Hunt there?”. Unfortunately my personal favorite, “Is Claude Balls there?” was somehow forgotten, but such is life. The funniest part of the phone calls (and the film), however, is Red’s reaction to the deviants. I know juvenile pranks can be annoying, but Red is literally angry enough to break someone into little pieces. Of course, if he had responded in a gentler manner, we wouldn’t have the series of calls, or the film. In the spirit of a five-year-old, the caller is only more encouraged by the roar he gets out of Red. Red is also somehow very easily fooled by the prankster and his demands to speak to “Al Koholic” or “Stu Pip”.
Chris “Christian” Gore solved the problem of what to do with 30 minutes of barely audible and crudely recorded (but hilarious) audio recordings that lack any visuals. He craftily formed a narrative around a series of well-photographed black and white stills (in the style, but not necessarily the spirit, of Chris Marker’s “La Jetee”) and followed the static images with a short live action “what if” sequence. Film snobs pay special attention to the next line. Thanks in part to the Super 8 stock, sections of the live action sequence are reminiscent of the early French films by George Melies and the Lumiere Brothers, a cool aesthetic. By the way, this is probably the first and last time anyone will ever see the Lumiere Brothers, “La Jetee” and prank calls mentioned in the same article. The subtitles help overcome the audio imperfections (and you have your choice of language from Dutch to Russian- I prefer Portuguese). Veteran actor Lawrence Tierney‘s performance as Red is, of course, incredible. I truly can’t imagine the real Red looking or behaving any differently than Tierney.
I love a DVD that features a 30-minute short film and over 300 minutes of bonus materials, talk about going the extra mile. Disk extras include 3 commentaries, a behind the scenes look at “Red”, a stills gallery, Chris Gore’s comic book convention favorite “Ouch” (beware those who have weak stomachs), a gallery dedicated to the cult of “Red”, trailers and a rather sweet personal tribute to Lawrence Tierney by Chris Gore.
“Red” is a great DVD not only for cult followers to add to their collection, but for new audiences to discover. Thanks to the film I, for one, finally figured out where the opening line to the Blake Babies cover of the song “Severed Lips” came from: Red himself. The film was Matt Groening’s inspiration to have Bart make prank calls to Moe the Bartender and Howard Stern thinks the film is “really, really funny,” what more can you say?