Skip to content

The Sentinel (1977)

Show me a 1970’s theatrical release with no less than sixteen “stars” I’m sure to recognize and I’d think I was sitting down to watch another disaster epic. Maybe the much anticipated sequel that combines elements of both The Towering Inferno and Earthquake for a doubled down epic sized disaster. Minus Newman, McQueen and Heston. And while some critics might have called this latest effort from director Michael Winner a disaster, I’m not one of them looking back at the film 40 plus years after it’s initial release.

The plot surrounds a young New York model played by Cristina Raines and her fiancé Chris Sarandon. She’d like a little space before committing to marriage and contacts local real estate agent, Ava Gardner, who sets her up in an older furnished apartment. She’s quick to point out that on the top floor there’s an elderly blind Priest who we will soon see sits in the window above as if he’s Norman Bates’ Mother. Not this time but you’ll be sure to recognize a very creaky looking John Carradine when he finally gets a close-up.

Raines will soon be treated to a tour of her new apartment building and the inhabitants once the giddy, energetic Burgess Meredith introduces himself as the man who lives a couple of floors above. Not surprisingly, Burgess is a scene stealer throughout the entire film. Through Burgess she’ll meet a weird looking pair of lesbians (Sylvia Miles and Beverly D’Angelo) and some decaying old timers at a birthday party for Burgess’ pet cat.

Yes there’s a creepiness to the whole meeting that has a certain Rosemary’s Baby feel to it by this point in time. Had me wondering if Chris Sarandon might be playing the John Cassavetes role?

When noises from an empty apartment over her own and chandeliers start swinging, Raines, is positive something is amiss in the building and approaches Ava about the problems she’s experiencing and the rather odd clients renting the other apartments. Things are going to get a bit eerie when Ava claims that aside from Carradine on the top floor, there are no other tenants in the building. Raines will quickly confide in Sarandon and we’ll also learn more about her abusive father in a disturbing flashback sequence. All this will lead to the creepiest scene of the film when she goes to the empty apartment above her to see just what is making all the noise and who owns the footsteps that she’s been hearing nightly.

I’m not about to play spoiler so check it out for yourself.

What you do need to know is that Detective Eli Wallach is going to be called in to the case and he’s been after Sarandon and Raines for a while over the apparent suicide of Sarandon’s first wife. And if you think you recognize that young partner of Eli’s on the force you’d be right. It’s none other than …… Still to come is a sure fire gauntlet of terrors for Miss Raines in a finale that almost harkens back to the 1932 banned film Freaks from Tod Browning. Not wanting to spoil anything I do like the way Winner handled the final few minutes and how he framed the retreating pack of demons from the room where the battle takes place.

Some of the other “faces” you might recognize include Martin Balsam, Deborah Raffin, Jose Ferrer and another Priest played by Arthur Kennedy who is hard to figure out until all is revealed at the end of this look into the battle of good vs. evil according to the Catholic Church. See if you recognize that young guy that shows up near the end to look at renting an apartment from lovely Ava or how about that guy trying to direct a TV commercial with Miss Raines as the feature model.

Do I like The Sentinel? Absolutely but somehow it misses the mark of being a true fright fest that might have elevated it into the same conversations as other 70’s demonic thrillers like maybe The Omen. Still one can’t argue with this cast that Universal packaged together for producer, screenwriter, director Michael Winner. Most film buffs will know Winner from his work with a certain mustached leading man on six films including the first three films of the Death Wish series. Which brings us to a little bit of trivia…

In The Sentinel you’ll spot a young actor we all know and love seen here in one of his earliest screen credits as a cameraman who is always on set for Miss Raines’ model shoots. Not sure why they dubbed him on the film but this marked his second role in a Winner film. He played one of the three creeps in the original Death Wish film who rape the daughter of Charles Bronson and it’s actually his hand that kills lovely Hope Lange in the opening moments of the film. Fast forward to 1985 and Winner would bring along two actors from The Sentinel to appear in Death Wish 3, Martin Balsam who had previously worked with Winner as far back as 1973’s The Stone Killer and Deborah Raffin who would be cast as the love interest in the third stanza of the vigilante series.

Impressive production? Could be if you consider that the cast combined adds up to a total of 5 Academy Awards and 18 acting nominations. One of those awards for a Life Time Achievement belonging to Eli Wallach while another is for the appearance of a “blink and you miss him” cameo by Richard Dreyfuss. If you enjoy reading autobiographies, give Michael Winner’s a try where he’ll discuss the film at length and his trying to get Martin Sheen cast in the Sarandon role and thinking Miss D’Angelo would have been far better suited in the leading role that Miss Raines scored. He also points out that he had worked previously with Miss Raines on The Stone Killer but her scene(s) ended up cut from the film

Looking to see The Sentinel in it’s uncut glory, nude scenes still intact? Grab a copy of Scream Factory’s blu ray release as I did and look for some of those other names and faces I’ve omitted here so you can discover them for yourself while playing “spot the star.”

3 Comments »

  1. Reading the review I was already being reminded of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ before you mentioned it, and like you with this film, I expected a bit more from ‘Rosemary’s Baby’…to me, not the true fright fest I was expecting. Anyway, I know I saw ‘The Sentinel’ years and years ago when it played on TV, and I don’t remember much except thinking the ending was pretty good, and a bit freaky. And yes, enough stars in this one to choke a horse…I wonder how Michael Winner got them all to appear in this.

  2. The cast is indeed incredible! How did they manage to convince all those actors to participate in this schlockfest? This is what I like about ’70s horror movies — you can always count on seeing familiar (and talented) faces. Anyhow, I do like the movie. The climax is bonkers and the ending is kinda interesting. Not a great movie per se, but the actors alone make it fun to watch. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

"DESTROY ALL FANBOYS!"

Smashing System Bias Since 1972...

Movies ala Mark

With a Cast of Thousands

Classic Horrors

From silent screen to Halloween, and everything scary in between.

Just Hit Play

The Good, the Bad and sometimes Ugly in film

Strother Martin Film Project

What we've got here is failure to communicate

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Wolfmans Cult Film

Cult, B-Movies, cheesy fun films to Film Noir to classics new to me.

Talking Pulp

All things pulp and then some

cinema cities

a personal odyssey through film

Mark David Welsh

Watching the strangest movies - so you don't have to...

Scenes from the Morgue

The Lost Art of Pulp Ads: Film, Booze, Smokes & More!

Film Speech

All things film and television

Diary of A Movie Maniac

A Personal Journey Through Cinema & Television

portraitsbyjenni

My perspective on life & Classic Movie Recommendations

Statis Pro 1978 Replay

Methodically replaying every game of the 1978 baseball season!

4 Star Films

Looking Deeper at The Best Classic Movies

everythingnoir

Movies, Television, Books....Everything Noir

Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

by John Bengtson "the great detective of silent film locations" New York Times

Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Silent-ology

Uncovering the silent era

The Canadian Cinephile

“Film lovers are sick people.” ― François Truffaut

Noirish

The annex to John Grant's *A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir*

Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Sunset Boulevard

Writings of a Cinephile

The Bogie Film Blog

A Film by Film Affair with Humphrey Bogart

Vienna's Classic Hollywood

Vintage Hollywood films and stars

The Film Authority

You're ten seconds from watching an amazing film...

Once upon a screen...

...a classic film and TV blog

shadowsandsatin

. . where the worlds of film noir and pre-code collide . .

Alfred Hitchcock Master

Where Suspense Lives!

Tipping My Fedora

Enjoying mystery, crime and suspense in all media

Silver Screenings

Ruth's Old Movie Reviews

monsterminions

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Comet Over Hollywood

Home for classic movie lovers

filmgeek101

classic movie views for the classic and not-so-classic movie fan

Riding the High Country

Reviews and ramblings

Speakeasy

movies galore

"DESTROY ALL FANBOYS!"

Smashing System Bias Since 1972...

Movies ala Mark

With a Cast of Thousands

Classic Horrors

From silent screen to Halloween, and everything scary in between.

Just Hit Play

The Good, the Bad and sometimes Ugly in film

Strother Martin Film Project

What we've got here is failure to communicate

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Wolfmans Cult Film

Cult, B-Movies, cheesy fun films to Film Noir to classics new to me.

Talking Pulp

All things pulp and then some

cinema cities

a personal odyssey through film

Mark David Welsh

Watching the strangest movies - so you don't have to...

Scenes from the Morgue

The Lost Art of Pulp Ads: Film, Booze, Smokes & More!

Film Speech

All things film and television

Diary of A Movie Maniac

A Personal Journey Through Cinema & Television

portraitsbyjenni

My perspective on life & Classic Movie Recommendations

Statis Pro 1978 Replay

Methodically replaying every game of the 1978 baseball season!

4 Star Films

Looking Deeper at The Best Classic Movies

everythingnoir

Movies, Television, Books....Everything Noir

Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

by John Bengtson "the great detective of silent film locations" New York Times

Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Silent-ology

Uncovering the silent era

The Canadian Cinephile

“Film lovers are sick people.” ― François Truffaut

Noirish

The annex to John Grant's *A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir*

Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Sunset Boulevard

Writings of a Cinephile

The Bogie Film Blog

A Film by Film Affair with Humphrey Bogart

Vienna's Classic Hollywood

Vintage Hollywood films and stars

The Film Authority

You're ten seconds from watching an amazing film...

Once upon a screen...

...a classic film and TV blog

shadowsandsatin

. . where the worlds of film noir and pre-code collide . .

Alfred Hitchcock Master

Where Suspense Lives!

Tipping My Fedora

Enjoying mystery, crime and suspense in all media

Silver Screenings

Ruth's Old Movie Reviews

monsterminions

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Comet Over Hollywood

Home for classic movie lovers

filmgeek101

classic movie views for the classic and not-so-classic movie fan

Riding the High Country

Reviews and ramblings

Speakeasy

movies galore

%d bloggers like this: