When A Stranger Calls (1979)


Wow, what a great start to a movie! When I saw this movie as a kid, the first 20 minutes scared the heck out of me. It’s an intense almost Hitchcock like scene that goes on and on. It builds tension exquisitely and then comes to a crashing crescendo.

You might know the story. A babysitter played by Carol Kane is babysitting for some kids and is called repeatedly by a stranger who asks “Have you checked on the children?” Of course she doesn’t. Which is good for her, because the call is coming from inside the house and it’s a crazy guy on the other end. A crazy BRITISH guy!! (which is the classiest type of crazy)

The rest of the movie, up until the end, is a bit of a letdown when compared to that opening.

After the opening the movie abruptly turns into a gritty Manhunter/Deathwish style movie. With a comically overweight Charles Durning playing a retired cop/private eye/vigilante, who for a man of his size, has amazing stamina in all these running scenes. Durning was the cop who showed up the night of the phone call, has never forgotten the horrors he saw that night. Now he is been hired by the parents of the kids to find their killer and bring him to “justice”.

Durning’s weapon of choice? Lockpicks of course, which he hurls with the marksmanship of a carnival knife thrower. Awesome!

The villain in this movie played by Tony Beckley takes the role pretty seriously and we actually see some interesting character development. The madman, on the streets again has very little purpose. Slowly but surely though his bloodlust returns and the movie culminates in an exciting 10 minutes at the home of the now grown up babysitter.

Not the best movie I have ever seen, but with such a great start and finish it actually left me feeling very satisfied even if I was a little bored in the middle. All in all, a great way to kick off this Halloween season.

Never seen this movie? Need convincing? Check out the trailer:


The Retroist

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