La Cabina (The Telephone Box) (Antonio Mercero, 1972)
Container file........: AVI
Audio Languages.......: Spanish 1.0 (Mono, Untouched)
Subtitles Ripped......: None
Subtitles in Subpack..: None
Aspect Ratio..........: 1.33:1
Original Aspect Ratio.: 1.33:1
Source................: PAL DVD
IMDb Rating...........: 8.3
Movie Information.....: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065513/
Well, not unless you've seen the short surreal horror called La Cabina--
translated as The Telephone Box in English. Dating back to 1972, this Spanish TV
production by Antonio Mercero demonstrates perfectly that an innocuous fixture
in the public sphere can become a source of terror. And the only monsters making
an appearance in the film are human.
Horror writer Stephen King once likened reading a novel to having a long a
satisfying affair. He contrasted that with a short story being like a quick kiss
in the dark from a stranger. This metaphor can be carried over to films. La
Cabina is a mere 35 minutes long, yet in that time it leaves a lasting
impression because of its short and surreal nature. Like any good short horror
story it provides no explanations for the situation that the hapless victim
finds himself in.
The story begins with four workmen in a phone company truck arriving at a plaza
surrounded by apartment buildings. They unload a red telephone box from the back
of the truck and install it in the middle of the plaza - leaving its door ajar.
A human Venus fly trap has been set.
Shortly afterwards a middle aged suited man sees his son off to school and then
decides to go into the telephone box to make a call. He soon finds that the
phone is out of order, but while trying it the door has closed behind him.
Initially puzzled that the door won't open he then starts to become agitated and
tries to force it open to no avail. He doesn't have to wait long before two men
walking by on the way to work spot his predicament and fruitlessly try to pull
the door open.
Unfortunately, they can't stick around and have to leave. More people have
noticed what's going on and a crowd starts to gather, obviously this is
entertainment in a town where nothing much normally happens.
The mood of the film so far is fairly light-hearted, though it's easy to feel
sympathy for the man whose discomfort and embarrassment has become palpable now
he's also become an object of curiosity and amusement. The next few minutes are
played mainly for laughs as several people, including a couple of policemen, try
to pull the phone box door open only to fail and fall over backward with the
door handle in their hands.
The crowd itself becomes a source of curiosity, too--there's a tall man stealing
cakes from a tray a boy holds on his head; an old woman is invited to sit on a
chair a man was taking somewhere; a couple of workmen stand around with a big
mirror; and children taunt the trapped man.
Symbolism and homages begin to emerge. For instance, we notice that two of the
onlookers are women sat chatting and knitting. This is presumably a reference to
Madame Defarge who sits knitting while people go their deaths in Charles
Dickens' story A Tale Of Two Cities.
Eventually, a fire truck arrives and the firemen decide to break the glass of
the phone box. One of them gets on top of the box and is just about to smash the
top glass with a sledgehammer when the phone company truck comes back, its horn
beeping for attention.
The phone company workmen proceed to load the phone box onto their truck. It's
at this point that the man inside realizes that something is definitely not
right about the whole situation. Despite his obvious panic and gestures to the
workmen to get him out, the crowd wave him off with cries of "Good luck". Having
been so close to escape his fate is getting even more puzzling.
Like some kind of peculiar mobile freak show, the truck drives through the town
with the trapped man eliciting jokes by passers by and lots of friendly waves.
Much to his disappointment people continually misunderstand his gestures for
help. On the way out of town they come to a halt in traffic and by the side of
the road is a funeral party standing around a glass casket containing a corpse
on display. This is an unsubtle way of signaling the man's own fate.
A little later, while stopped at traffic lights another phone company truck
pulls up alongside and on it is an identical phone box with a stuck man inside
it. Looks of empathy and questioning pass between the two men before the other
truck pulls away. Our man then becomes even more panicked and desperately tries
to get the workmen's attention to let him out. This is the first indication that
something more than just an unlucky accident for one person is at work.
A neat touch is when we see a man briefly struggling to get out of a phone box
by the side of the road, but in his case the door soon gives way and he walks
away little knowing what may have befallen him otherwise.
So now we know there's a concerted effort going on to capture people. For what
purpose we can only guess at but will never find out. Around this time the
soundtrack becomes portentous with low register rhythms. Driving out of the town
there's one final and meaningful encounter with other people. When the truck has
to again stop some circus dwarves near the road look on, and they are the only
ones to simply look and not laugh or wave.
In return the man earnestly looks back at them. Maybe the dwarves who are used
to being stared at because of their appearance identify with the man's situation
in which he's an object of curiosity and fun. Then blatant symbolism enters when
the camera focuses on a ship in a bottle that one of the dwarves is holding.
The journey continues on winding mountain roads, first up and then down. For
reasons that aren't obvious a helicopter joins in following the truck from the
Eventually, the final destination gets closer as a tunnel into the mountainside
is reached. The helicopter lands just outside and the pilot gets out to wave at
the man as he enters the tunnel.
As the truck continues into an underground complex, the soundtrack changes to
sinister chanting in Latin…somewhat like that used in The Omen. While driving
in, they pass men cleaning out phone boxes, and also a truck going the other way
full of empty phone boxes. By this time, the man is more anguished but despite
frantically banging on the glass he's continually ignored.
At this point I started to wonder--are the four workmen a metaphor for the Four
Horsemen of the Apocalypse, or is it just coincidence because four are needed to
load and unload the phone box?
Soon after, the truck yields its unlikely cargo to an overhead crane that takes
it away and passes it to a series of conveyor belts. The man's improbable fate
is then made clear when he's taken past corpses in identical telephone boxes to
Coming to a halt the man's phone box is put down next to one containing the
other victim he saw earlier. That man has strangled himself with the phone cord
rather than endure a drawn-out death.
It's all over for the man; he now knows it but still makes a last effort of
banging on the glass hoping to be let out. Desperately aware that he's doomed
the final shot of him is slowly sliding down the glass of his coffin in despair
What started out as an ordinary day for an ordinary man has turned into the kind
of thing that nightmares are made of.
Turning full circle, the film ends back at the plaza, where a shiny new
telephone box is installed and its door left open. We are left wondering how
long it'll be until some other unlucky person attempts to make a call. The
questions about what the hell is going on are never answered.
The trapped man is brilliantly played by Jose Luis Lopez Vazquez, a Spanish
actor with a substantial list of acting credits to his name.
I first saw this film on TV late at night many years ago, and it's been stuck
vividly in my memory ever since. It's truly terrifying, playing to archetypal
fears like people ignoring your pleas for help and being buried alive.
This amazing short film was directed by Antonio Mercero for Spanish television
in 1972. It's a wonderful example of efficient, lean horror story
telling which squeezes in plenty of thrills and shocks in its 40 minute running
Essentially a European riff on a Twilight Zone style format, the film begins
with a team of workmen installing a new public phone box. Later a man
drops his boy off at the nearby bus stop and then pauses to make a call...
But the phone doesn't work and when he tries to exit he finds himself trapped.
The filmmaker makes a lot out of the claustrophobic setting in these
opening scenes, the box is glass on all four sides leaving our victim exposed
and embarrassed as a crowd gathers to witness the odd spectacle.
Small children taunt him, offering him peanuts and calling him a monkey. Several
people offer to help including the police, the local strongman and a
handyman with a bag of tools.
Soon, the telephone crew appears to take the box with our hero inside, loading
it onto a flatbed truck as the amused crowd laugh and wave
goodbye to the hapless prisoner.
The film up to this point is presented as a lightweight comedy, with plenty of
physical comedy and pratfalls as the crowd attempt, and fail, to break
the man out of the phone box. However, once the booth is fixed to the truck, the
tone shifts subtly into one of increasing dread.
First, the man witnesses another guy successfully leaving a similar booth,
causing a look of anguish to cross his face. The film is very clever in this
regard, working almost in a silent movie style. The trapped man can only mouth
words and use exaggerated gestures to communicate.
The truck drives past a funeral in which a young woman can be seen in a glass
sided coffin increasing our sense of unease. As the truck pulls up to
a junction alongside another lorry transporting another hapless man-in-a-box our
guy can barely keep a grip as we finally have our suspicions
confirmed and realize that everything is wrong and something sinister is
Who has kidnapped him? Where are they going? What terrible fate is about to
The film is a triumph, telling a simple story with an excellent central
performance from the lead that has to deliver a huge range of emotions
through body language without turning the whole film into an embarrassing
pantomime. The filmic photography sets this apart from the usual TV
movie fare and the varied score, which ranges from playful for the comedic
opening to apocalyptic during the twisted finale, all help to create a thrill
ride with a shocking ending that will stay with you for a good while afterwards.