When a Stranger Calls (1979)
Director: Fred Walton
Teenage Jill (Kane) is on a babysitting gig, she begins to get creepy phone calls and comes close to losing her life at the hands of a raving lunatic named Duncan (Beckley). Duncan gets arrested and Jill goes on with her life. Years later Duncan Donuts escapes the mental institution he was glazing in and with private eye John (Durning) hot on his trail he heads back Jill’s (now an adult, married to an ugly dude and mother of two kids) way to finish what he started.
Uneven creepy film. It feels like two movies. The first 20 minutes is very chilling and well directed, it will have you chewing your toenails. The middle 60 minutes seem straight out of another movie, with "Private Eye" Durning tracking the killer and the murderer’s persona being explored, it feels like a cop movie at that point. And the last 10 minutes goes back to the mood of the first 20 minutes. The ending is scary but feels very rushed, after waiting an hour for the showdown…a bit more than a couple of minutes would have been nice. The opening sequence is the movies stronger point, its worth the price of rental alone. It also proves once again that "Kevin Williamson" doesn’t have one original bone in his body cause it felt a lot like the opening of "Scream". (BTW this marks the end of my Williamson bashing) The stranger doesn’t feel like a stranger…
If blood was beer this movie would have 0.5 percent alcohol.
Carol Kane (Jill) does good here but we don’t see her much. She usually annoys the shite out of me, but here her trademark whining is kept to a minimal, therefore making her pretty good. Charles Durning (John) is great as always, giving us a determined, no bull crap performance. Tony Beckley (Duncan) underplays the part of the psycho most of the film and only lets the character’s rage show in the end, which makes it so much more horrifying. He comes across as a real human being, with real feelings but with a couple of cans short of a six pack. Great work.
T & A
Duncan’s white behind…urgh.
Walton really kicks butt in the first 20 minutes. Setting up mood, shooting clocks, doorknobs, the phone…really giving us a complete picture of the environment. He kind of goes bland in the middle except for a few clever use of shadows and some minor suspense. He climbs back on top for the speedy ending.
A gloomy, sometime weird score and some funky 70’s jive.
Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment release
Image: You can choose between widescreen and full, which is kool, but the image is pretty grainy and obviously a 70s flick. Not as bad as video though.
Sound: No big whoop here, the film is presented in its original mono sound. C'mon!!
Extras: None. Actually, scratch that...there are trailers for "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and "Night of the Living Dead". Excited yet?
A killer tries to murder a babysitter, gets locked up and escapes to come back and finish the job. Sound familiar? We now know where this one got its inspiration. Can you spell "Halloween"? But the thing that made Halloween so good was that the killer remained enigmatic and in the shadows. Here we know way too much about the nutball, he’s the most explored character in the film! The narrative structure is very awkward. If the movie would have went along with what it establishes in the first 20 minutes and concentrate on the Carol Kane character, it would have worked better. But all aside this movie does bring a few creeps, it’s well directed and the line "have you checked the children" will stay in your mind for a while.
There’s a TV movie sequel called "When A Stranger Calls Back". Carol Kane is back, so is Charles D.