HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
We Need to Do Something
Falbalas
Vanguard
A-X-L
Injustice
Bigfoot Hunters
Armitage III: Polymatrix
Girls Nite Out
Moxie!
Five Women for the Killer
Dolce Vita, La
Pig
I Am Belmaya
Lodger, The
Show, The
Beta Test, The
Medium, The
John and the Hole
Survivalist, The
Ape Woman, The
Black Widow
Cop Secret
Dark Eyes of London, The
V/H/S/94
Fay Grim
Night of the Animated Dead
Freshman Year
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions
Anne at 13,000 Ft.
Even Mice Belong in Heaven
Death Screams
Freakscene: The Story of Dinosaur Jr.
Demonia
East, The
Mandabi
Seance
Green Knight, The
Beasts of No Nation
One of Our Aircraft is Missing
Picture Stories
   
 
Newest Articles
Commendably Brief: Short Sharp Shocks Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Super Silents: Early Universal Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Fable Fear: The Singing Ringing Tree on Blu-ray
Gunsight Eyes: The Sabata Trilogy on Blu-ray
Bloody Bastard Baby: The Monster/I Don't Want to Be Born on Blu-ray
Night of the Animated Dead: Director Jason Axinn Interview
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt - Interview with Director/Star Ian Boldsworth
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
70s Sitcom Dads: Bless This House and Father Dear Father on Blu-ray
Going Under: Deep Cover on Blu-ray
Child's Play: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3 on DVD
Poetry and Motion: Great Noises That Fill the Air on DVD
Too Much to Bear: Prophecy on Blu-ray
Truth Kills: Blow Out on Blu-ray
A Monument to All the Bullshit in the World: 1970s Disaster Movies
Take Care with Peanuts: Interview with Melissa Menta (SVP of Marketing)
Silent is Golden: Futtocks End... and Other Short Stories on Blu-ray
Winner on Losers: West 11 on Blu-ray
Freewheelin' - Bob Dylan: Odds and Ends on Digital
Never Sleep: The Night of the Hunter on Blu-ray
Sherlock vs Ripper: Murder by Decree on Blu-ray
   
 
  When a Stranger Calls Don't Answer The Phone
Year: 1979
Director: Fred Walton
Stars: Charles Durning, Carol Kane, Colleen Dewhurst, Tony Beckley, Ron O'Neal, Steven Anderson, Rachel Roberts, Rutanya Alda, Carmen Argenziano, Sara Damman, Richard Bail, William Boyet, Kirsten Larkin, Carol O'Neal
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) is a teenage babysitter who arrives at the home of the Mandrakises to look after their two children for the evening. Mrs Mandrakis tells her that they have been getting over colds, so just to let them sleep and try not to wake them, and Jill bids them goodbye and settles down to attend to her homework. As the night draws on, she calls her friend for a chat, but after she puts the phone down it rings; on picking up, she hears one sentence spoken: "Have you checked the children?" - then the caller hangs up. Jill doesn't know it yet, but she is in big trouble...

One of those horror movies or thrillers based upon urban myths, When a Stranger Calls started life as director Fred Walton's short film The Sitter, which after the success of Halloween he opted to expand to feature length. What he ended up with was a minor hit thanks to the potency of that opening twenty minutes or so, which was related with the skill of a hushed tale around the campfire. Of course, now that story is so well known that much of the suspense has been lessened, especially as the remake from 2006 is better known and more widely seen than this lower budget, and far less slick effort.

That remake chose to dispense with what many at the time of the original thought was its weakest element, and that was what occurs after the first act. As will come as no surprise, Jill was being menaced by a psychopath, and after he has been caught and put away, we jump seven years into the present where he has escaped from his mental hospital incarceration. Here he is introduced as more than a voice on the phone, and is played by the British character actor Tony Beckley, who was gravely ill during filming and indeed died shortly after his scenes were completed. It's a credit to him that this performance may be what he is best recalled for, as his obvious ill-health brought an unnerving desperation to his reading of the role.

But sad to say, in spite of Walton's best efforts, it was obvious that he did not have the material to match that opening, and the tension notably dissipates during the run up to the climax. Partly that's due to the plot turning into a character study, a very seventies approach that doesn't quite come off, no matter how much sympathy Beckley tried to generate for his villain. We follow Duncan as he begs for money, lives on the streets, and chats up, then stalks, Colleen Dewhurst in a seedy bar - the whole middle section is pretty seedy, really, and lends a moody atmosphere to private detective Charles Durning tracking of his quarry.

Durning's Clifford was the policeman who oversaw the Duncan case, and you may be reminded of choice episodes of Cannon in the sequences where the decidedly portly star runs and barges his way through foot chases. You may be wondering where this is all heading by the halfway mark, but Walton did have a fitting finale in mind, it's just that again, it didn't quite match up to the archetypal quality of the urban legend that provided his inspiration, and for all his delving into the mind of a psychopath, how ever well meaning that was, the fact remains that people don't watch this kind of chiller for deep examinations of the bad guys. No, they simply wanted to be on the edge of their seat, but to be fair the film does work up a clever reveal for its last twenty minutes - two, if you count the part on the bed. When Jill receives the phone call at the restaurant, it's a fine moment, but the rest is much as you'd expect. Music by Dana Kaproff.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

This review has been viewed 2885 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Fred Walton  ( - )

American genre director who has mostly worked in TV, but is best known for sort-of slashers When a Stranger Calls (which he sequelised with a 90s TV movie) and April Fool's Day.

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
   

 

Last Updated: