The Tube Bar prank call tape … as featured in “Red” (1991) dir. Christian Gore

One of the funniest and most famous prank call tapes of all-time were the series of calls made to the Tube Bar in New Jersey to the bar’s owner, a man known as Red.  The caller would ask Red if certain patrons were available at the bar to talk.  The names were usually plausible, but ultimately ridiculous names like “Pepi Roni” or “Mike Hunt” (say that last one to yourself a few times quietly, if you’re not sure it’s ridiculous).  Sometimes Red would comply, shouting out the ridiculous names into the bar, but other times he would see through the ruse and let loose with some of the funniest profanity ever uttered by a human being.  I realize being on the receiving end of telephone harassment isn’t funny, but when you’re not the one receiving it, it can sometimes be pretty f–king hysterical.

What’s featured here is the original Tube Bar tape set to visuals crafted by Film Threat editor Christian Gore, starring the late, great Lawrence Tierney as Red.  Aside from Joe in “Reservoir Dogs” and his role as Elaine’s dad on “Seinfeld,” this may be Tierney’s finest role.

As you can imagine, absolutely not safe for work.

If you haven’t noticed already, this is the “inspiration” for Bart Simpson’s prank calls to Moe on “The SImpsons.”

The Benny Calls, circa early 1980s


For my money, the best prank calls of all time were an endless series of calls made to someone by the name of Benny at Al White Motors in Tennessee by someone named Arnie at some point during the early 1980s. I say the 1980s, because Arnie asks Benny if he’s campaigning for Jesse Jackson at one point and Benny reacts very angrily (I can’t remember if this snippet is part of the calls at the links I’m supplying).

The premise is this: Arnie constantly pesters Benny about being friends … sometimes multiple times an hour … and Benny is … well, less than accommodating. Benny curses out Arnie at every opportunity, most frequently calling him a “buzzard bastard, “bastard buzzard,” “son-of-a-bitch-bastard buzzard” or telling Arnie to “Go to Hell!”

At first, the calls seem monotonous. But if you listen for a while, the pure benign stalker-ish charms of Arnie wash over you like a warm shower … and Benny’s (understandably) annoyed and tortured responses are … sorry … really really funny.

If you listen, you will also notice some drama emerging. It seems that Benny got a friend’s sister pregnant while he was in the Army and dumped her. The friend’s name is Barney and Arnie reveals that he is Benny’s long-lost son. Whether any of this is true or not is pure speculation, but the question does emerge of why Benny stays on the phone so long with Arnie and puts up with him. It’s the weirdest, most evocative expression of audio S&M ever recorded.

At some point in the 1990s, someone made a feature film out of the calls called “The Corndog Man” starring Noble Willingham as the Benny substitute. While Willingham delivers a career-best performance, the movie is uneven and quite frankly, I was a little disappointed the film “explained” the reason why Arnie was audibly torturing Benny. I kind of liked it when it was a mystery.

If you like the 45 minutes of calls linked above, there’s another 45 minutes at the link below, you bastard buzzard! And if you don’t like Hotpoint, go to hell!

“Compliance” (2012) dir. Craig Zobel


One of the best and creepiest films of the year is Craig Zobel’s indie drama “Compliance.” Based on a stranger-than-fiction true story, the film is about a manager at a fast food restaurant who receives a call from someone who says they’re a police officer. The caller says that one of the employees has stolen from a restaurant patron and that the manger needs to detain the employee until the police arrive. Through verbal manipulation, the caller has the manager (and others) perform an increasingly bizarre, disturbing, and illegal series of activities on the employee.

“Compliance” has garnered a lot of praise … and a lot of walkouts. Many people can’t believe that others would be so stupid, that they would commit heinous acts because someone who sounds like they’re an authority figure told them to. But they do. And it happens more frequently than you would think. “Compliance” is based on a real case that happened in 2004 in Kentucky, and what happened is actually not an isolated occurrence.  It’s called the “strip search prank call scam,” and there’s loads more details at this Wikipedia article:

As for the film, Zobel has done a solid job showing how this sordid series of events went down. Actress Ann Dowd, who plays the manager, has already won Best Supporting Actress from the National Board of Review for her performance. This was also one of director John Waters Ten Best Films of 2012.