Saturday, 16 November 2013

MOVIE: The Sentinel (1977)

The Sentinel

USA 1977, 92m, Universal

DVD: MediumRare Entertainment (UK) - Cert 18

Neurotic model Alison Parker (Christina Raines) moves into a surprisingly modestly priced apartment in a New York building, despite the misgivings of her boyfriend Michael (Chris Sarandon). She finds the house populated by a host of seemingly eccentric characters, and a reclusive blind priest (John Carradine) who lives on the top floor. As the behaviour of her neighbours becomes ever more strange, and Christina's nerves go to pieces, it seems that there is more to this building than meets the eye...

Directed by Michael Winner, who also scripted from Jeffrey Konvitz's novel. Although a cinema release, it has more of the feel of a TV movie, and that is meant as a compliment. I've always thought of the 1970's as a high water mark for horror films produced specifically for television, and there's something about the structure and pacing of the film which places it favourably alongside offerings of the period from the likes of Dan Curtis and John Llewellyn Moxey. This actually makes the more graphic scenes in the film slightly unnerving, as they stand out somewhat incongrously from their setting. It's almost like Winner is trying to do a Ken Russell in places.

You can't help but be impressed by the supporting cast. Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, Eli Wallach, John Carradine... Further down the cast list, there are early appearances by Jeff Goldblum, Beverly D'Angelo, Tom Berenger and Christopher Walken.

Although Michael Winner arguably became something of a figure of fun later in life (and, to be fair he sent himself up a great deal), it is worth remembering that he was a highly proficient, if not necessarily spectacular director. The Sentinel is probably one of his best works, a good, solid, fun horror movie. If Winner's name wasn't on the credits, I can't help feeling it might be a bit more highly regarded. His commentary on the DVD is an absolute hoot.


 Original UK paperback - I remember my grandmother having this back in the 1970's, but I never got around to reading it myself...

Original Theatrical Trailer:

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