The Sentinel Film Details
Overview: A young woman moves into an apartment in a building which houses a sinister evil.
Tagline: She’s living in the gateway to hell.
Review: Ahh, yes, the all-star blockbuster. Take a so-so concept, stuff it into a script and load it down with every single freakin’ special effect that the Wizards of Hollyweird can conjure up, then round up the usual suspects: hot up-and-comers, has-beens, wanna-be’s and never-wuzzes, and stick ’em all in ensemble roles of various sizes in front of the unforgiving eye of the cameras. And hope to gawd that some of them aren’t too old to remember their lines. Leave it to the bishops of Box Office to apply the concept to horror films at last, as was the case with the post-EXORCIST thriller THE SENTINEL. Novelist Jeffrey Konvitz decided to try and one-up Ira Levin’s ROSEMARY’S BABY scenario of creepy (and ultimately satanic) neighbors in a New York brownstone. The result was a controversial best-seller that some claimed bordered on the plagiaristic, and an equally controversial, top-heavy/star-laden vehicle co-written and directed by DEATH WISH’s Michael Winner, but for many unsettlingly different reasons. Cristina Raines (NASHVILLE) plays successful model Alison Parker, who is pretty much over- stressed and over-worked, (I won’t add “overpaid.” I mean she IS a model, so that would be redundant), not just by her 24/7 schedule, by also by her insistent , ‘wanna-get-married- right-NOW’ boyfriend Michael (Chris Sarandon of DOG DAY AFTERNOON and the classic SOB.I.G. movie LIPSTICK). One of the ways she decides to try to get away from it all is to move into her own place; a big, beautiful brownstone in Manhattan which she’s able to get dirt-cheap, (that should’ve been the BIG red flag – cheap real estate in New York!), from the mysteriously accommodating broker Miss Logan (Golden Age screen vet Ava Gardner, fresh from the storm drain in EARTHQUAKE.) Things seem fine at first, but ah, yes…then comes the noises and the loud pounding from the apartment upstairs at night. And what about the REALLY strange neighbors like Gerde (Sylvia Miles) and Sandra (a VERY early Beverly D’Angelo), the nice “single friends” (read: lesbians) living together, and kindly old Mr. Charles Chazen (a nicely creepy Burgess Meredith), who seems maybe a little too concerned with Alison’s welfare? And that’s not to mention other assorted squirrelly cohabitants (You’ll never hear the phrase “Black and white cat, black and white cake” again without wanting to laugh milk through your nose and possibly vomit simultaneously.) Especially the old blind priest living in the penthouse… Things really start to go downhill when an apparition-laden nightmare of Alison’s morphs into a grisly murder, (in one of the movie’s most underwear-staining scares), and both Alison and Michael, with some assistance from Alison’s BFF, Jennifer (Deborah Raffin), begin to piece together the puzzle that reveals the brownstone’s dark origins, as well as the murderous agenda of its other-worldly inhabitants, not to mention Alison’s connection to them, which as it turns out is anything but coincidental. Although there’s nothing controversial about the overstuffed cast, which seems to feature every actor of diverse genres looking for work at the time, (Arthur Kennedy, Jose Ferrer, Martin Balsam, Eli Wallach, John Carradine, and even early appearances by Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum and Nana Visitor!) Winner and company went back to bombastic basics and pulled a “Tod Browning”…by enlisting real-life physically-challenged actors to appear in THE SENTINEL’S climactic everything-and-everybody-goes-to-Hell sequence, which I guess any ballsy director would do, finding himself unable to access Linda Blair and a case of green-pea soup. It does definitely leave you with arctic fingers playing your spinal cord like a zither, knowing this juicy little tidbit of info as you watch. And it does feature a technique to which filmmakers have only begun to return very recently: live on-set makeup and special effects that don’t involve CGI, (which was pretty much non-existent back then.) THE SENTINEL has that kitschy, late-Seventies cheese factor, but does manage to distinguish itself from time to time with some gasp-inducing moments like the one mentioned above, not to mention that queasy feeling of dread that horror writers find it easy to play upon, of isolation and things that go bump-and-shriek in the night. After all, what living-single-in- the-big-city person hasn’t lain in bed in the dark, and listened intently to the sounds of what they HOPE is “the building settling?” Konvitz followed up THE SENTINEL with an inevitable sequel, THE GUARDIAN (not to be confused with the William Friedkin supernatural thriller namesake), that was never adapted for the screen. =sigh of relief=
Language: English, Italian, Latin
Duration: 92 min
Also known as: La centinela,The Sentinel,Vartija,De wachter,Чaсовой,La Sentinelle des Maudits,Az őrszem,Hexensabbat,A Sentinela dos Malditos,Ondskapens redskap,Antihristos, o arhontas tou Skotous,Sentinel,センチネル,Ondskans redskap,A Sentinela,La sentinelle des maudits,Ta mystiriodi eglimata,Sentinela,Centinela de los malditos,Strażnik,Stražar