The Plot Device Always Rings Twice

Posted on Apr 10 2014 - 5:03pm by Craig Hunter


In Steven Knight’s LOCKE (released in UK cinemas 18th April, US 25th April), troubled Welsh foreman Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) initiates a series of life-changing conversations through his car’s handsfree equipment as he hurtles down the motorway.

What if, though, Locke’s car wasn’t equipped with handsfree? LOCKE, the feature film,  would just be a three minute advertisement for BMW with a hysterical model breathing in and out through a paper bag.

This got us thinking. What would happen if we removed the ability to telephone from other movies, movies in which the need to do so is central to the narrative or conclusion? How would these stories unfold without landlines, or mobiles, or phoneboxes? Here’s what we came up with.



Ring Ring (Synopsis): Whilst watching the world from his rear window, wheelchair-bound amateur photographer L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart) becomes convinced that one of his neighbours (Raymond Burr) has killed his wife.

Jefferies’ girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) goes over to their apartment to investigate, but L.B. phones the police when he spots that his neighbour has returned.

Hello? (In a phone-less universe): Either, Jefferies watches on as Lisa and his neighbour Thorwald laugh off the whole sorry affair over tea and fig rolls or, he witnesses the cold-blooded murder of his girlfriend. We’re not gonna spoil the ending for you!


Phones 1Ring Ring: Serial womaniser Brad Allen (Rock Hudson) shares his phoneline with virginal Jan Morrow (Doris Day) who lives in the same apartment block. Allen needs the phone for serenading his many admirers, but entrepreneurial Morrow has important business to be dealing with.

By chance, Allen falls in love with Morrow upon setting eyes on her, pretending to be someone else in order to bed her. It’s all very uncomfortable.

Hello?: The two never meet. Jan’s interior design business goes from strength to strength without the unwanted distractions of predatory men. Her debut collection of bric-a-brac sell in their millions.

A flasher, Allen is placed under house arrest.

SPEED (1994)


Ring Ring: After foiling a bomb threat in an elevator but seeing the bomber (Dennis Hopper) flee, Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) witnesses an explosion on a bus. The bomber calls Jack on a nearby payphone to tell him that he has rigged another bus with another load of explosives that will blow if the vehicle’s speed drops to below 50 MPH.

Hello?: Without this information, Jack’s is unable to save the coach and Sandra Bullock never gets to make GRAVITY. 


phones 3
Ring Ring: Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is cheating on his wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell). He answers a ringing phone in a New York phone booth, thinking that it is his girlfriend Pam (Katie Holmes). The voice on the other end tells him that if he puts down the receiver he will be shot dead – it’s not Pam by the way.

Hello? Kelly uncovers Stu’s affair after finding a love letter in his work bag. They lock horns in a tortuous custody battle over their dog. Pam, too, leaves Stu after deciding that she can’t trust that he won’t cheat on her.

You can find our review of LOCKE here.

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