Teenage dreamer Jean Painter (Christiana Gregg) is waiting one evening for the bus home from the country pub (“The Chequers”) run by her older sister and brother-in-law, Ron (Conrad Phillips) where she babysits her new nephew, Timmy, when she answers the ringing phone in a telephone box next to the bus stop on Harpers Lane – a secluded English country road.
Jean tells the caller (a man) that he has a wrong number – and so begins a voice-only flirtation with the smooth-voiced unknown charmer at the other end of the line who sets about grooming Jean – who is calling herself “Samantha” – and having her return to the call box night after night, preying on her vulnerability and youth until she is in a romantic spin, fantasising about her perfect man.
Jean eventually agrees to meet her new “boyfriend” at this deserted phone box on a dark night – sneaking out of the house with her younger sister Ann (Janina Faye) on the pretext of going to the cinema to escape their strict pipe-smoking father (Cyril Raymond) who has grounded both his daughters after reading in the local newspaper about a young girl hitchhiker who has turned up dead in a nearby barn.
Jean confides in the friendly and funny bus conductor, Molly (future Till Death Us Do Part star Dandy Nichols) who also issues a warning about the local girl who has been found strangled and informs Jean that she’s mad: “He might be anything”, says Molly. “Of course not,” replies Jean, “not with a voice like THAT, you can always tell”.
Fortunately, she becomes nervous in the nick of time and goes to The Chequers to seek help but Ron ignores her warning that a dangerous psychopath is just up the road because he has “some thirsty customers” he must attend to.
While waiting in the pub, Jean overhears the voice of the man. He is in the pub and dialling the phone box from the public telephone in the pub. Jean overhears the man speaking to someone (another girl) in the phone box and telling her he will be with her shortly.
When he leaves the pub, Jean rings the phone box to warn the other girl, only to discover it is her younger sister, Ann who has followed her from town, concerned for her welfare. But Jean is too late, and her sister is snatched from the phone box as she is speaking with her.
“I’m not Samantha!”, Ann says. “Oh, you are to me, Samantha – but younger than I thought”, replies the man . . .
The ending is rushed and includes a slightly off attempt at a twist, but justice is served and all’s well that ends well.
Don’t Talk to Strange Men was originally released in British cinemas as the support to Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, and although not in the same league as that film, this black & white thriller is more than worth the watch.
A Young Man