Surely that's it, right? Not... even... close... bud! If you act now, you'll also get the following stars absolutely free: Tom Berenger, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Walken and yes, even Beverly D'Angelo completely naked! Squint real hard and you'll even see Richard Dreyfuss in the mix! That's just about everybody but Mayor McCheese, folks!
And, no, I'm not kidding about any of those. You should all know by now that I would NEVER joke about Beverly D'Angelo in the nude! Man, it's like playing "I Spy" and "Where's Waldo" at the same time! I had to double check around to make sure I was still in my living room as opposed to Morton's Steak House!
Hey, not that Chris Sarandon isn't cool, you know, I like him a lot, but it's funny to see Christopher Walken play second fiddle to him in a film. I can just see him talking Walken aside and saying "You know, you could be a star like me... if you play your cards right!" Then the next year when The Deer Hunter came out, Sarandon would be like "Please tell me I didn't say that to him, man!"
Moving on... It's somewhat ironic that one of the only faces you might not recognize is that of our star, Christina Raines. Ironic and sad, because she's beautiful and does a fine job in this film. Then again if you're a fan of the 1978 mini-series Centennial, she needs no introduction... that is, unless you THOUGHT you were getting Centennial and got Sentinel instead and fainted with a "Oh my HEAVENS!" and vowed never to watch another Raines flick again. I'm not sure if that happened to anyone, but it may be telling to note that from 1978 until she retired from acting in 1991, she never made another movie that sounded like "Centennial"/ "Sentinel"!
Raines (who was a fashion model as well as an actress) mixes things up a great deal here by playing Alison Parker, a fashion model who has just landed a few speaking parts in commercials. Somebody please give Casting Agent Cis Corman a raise for this one! Alison has a busy schedule and a solid relationship with lucked-out lawyer Michael Lerman (Sarandon), but she's looking for a place of her own to try to be her own person. See, she's still recovering from the trauma of walking in on her dad (Fred Stuthman) having a threesome with two naked chicks (neither of whom were his wife, Lucie Lancaster)!
This trauma led directly to another trauma... that being her attempted suicide. So, while Ol' Mikey-poo seems like a nice enough guy, you can see why the modern woman might need a little time to her damn self.
Enter Miss Logan (Gardner), who shows her the perfect apartment in the perfect neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights, New York. Though the rent is steep at 400 bucks a month, she moves in and makes the place her own. 400 bucks? The place is a Palace, man! My first apartment in Shreveport, Louisiana cost more than that per month, man! "Steep" my aerobicized ASS!!! Man, to go back to '77! Cheap Rent, rising stars... hot models.
Things do get a little weird for her as soon as she moves in, however. Alison is a bit creeped out by her top floor neighbor, a reclusive priest named Father Halloran (Carradine) who seems to be staring at her in spite of the fact that he's blind. Once she's fully moved in she finds out that the good Father is the most normal person in the building. Her gregarious floor-mate Mr. Chazen (Meredith) seems to show up uninvited all the time, has weird distortions of memory and does such bizarro things as throwing a well-attended birthday party for his stupid cat!
The eccentricities grow out of every floor, of course, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention "The Lesbians", as the script calls them. Mouthy Gerde (Miles) and Silent Sandra (D'Angelo) are a bit weird when Alison meets them with their oddball mannerisms and choice of attire. Stranger still is the fact that within five minutes of meeting Alison, Sandra masturbates herself to orgasm... right in front of her. I guess that could be a testament to how hot Raines' character is, but I'm somehow not surprised that this also makes said character more than a little bit uncomfortable. One would think this was at least second date material or that she could just wait until Alison left. Hully Gee! From that point on they basically say "screw the attire" and just lounge around naked. (By the way, Bev... thanks!)
Needless to say, the already nervous Alison is put off by such things and is even more concerned with the loud noises that are going on all night, from the parties to the strange moving around in the apartment just above hers. One must wonder how ol' Halloran put up with such things (except the Lesbians)!
The answer, it seems, is found in what the building itself actually is! As Alison is driven crazier and crazier by the strange goings-on (to the point that she is physically ill) Michael uncovers layer after layer of the true mysteries behind the brownstone and the strange denizens who seem to come and go without a lease! All the while, the police are investigating Michael for his past and any connection it might have to the current events. And I thought his worst crime was that Mustache! It can't end until Alison faces some of her deepest fears and a whole lot of ghosts, real and imaginary. What's waiting in the wings for all of them may be more horrifying and bizarre than they can imagine
The Sentinel seems to have a quiet legion of fans (if you'll excuse the term)... and a good many detractors as well. While the film hasn't captivated the fandom that similar films like The Omen, The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby have, the truth is, it's a quality horror film with some very surreal moments and genuine scares to boot. The film was Produced and Written by Jeffrey Konvitz and Michael Winner, based on Konvitz' novel and with the skilled direction of Winner. They do a fine job of crafting a truly creepy Catholic Horror flick, without quite the downers that a lot of these films carry with them. Meanwhile, Winner's cast handles the material believably and helps keep the mystery under wraps. Most importantly, it's not hard to feel for our main character and Christina Raines brings a humanity to her that helps the audience to really hope she wins.
On the other hand, this one might not be quite as popular or well known (in spite of its cast) as its supernatural brethren, partially because it hasn't been as easy to spoof or rip off... and partially because it's not quite as good as these other films. The strong cast occasionally gives us a weak moment and there are a few times that the dialogue delves directly into the silly, while the delivery dives into the cheesy. While there are a great many parts that work at their mysterious and spooky best and build to a quality finish, there are a few instances that seem to be calculated more for shock value and starts than genuine horror, terror and suspense. Lastly... well, it's hard not to see the film's ending coming. That's not to say there aren't surprises along the way, but starting with the film's poster and continuing through each noteworthy plot point, the film builds to an ending almost at the expense of some of the mystery.
Yeah, but I'm just nitpicking again. The occasional predictability and other flaw here and there can't change the fact that The Sentinel is worth seeing. And that ending it all builds to? Whether you see it coming or not, it's really quite satisfying. Winner faced a bit of controversy around the time of this film's release considering the fact that he used "Human Oddities" (a somewhat politically correct term for "Freaks") for his cast of living dead and demons. Say what you want about it, the move saved Universal Pictures a ton of money on special makeup effects and worked quite well for the thrilling climax. Why bitch, folks? They got paid!
All told, The Sentinel is more than just another entry in the horror subgenre that features the Catholic Church against the Legions of the Damned and it's more than just a curiosity for its supporting cast of stars and stars-to-be. Don't expect The Exorcist from The Sentinel, the dated Gil Melle score alone will remind you that this is the late 1970s and far from "Timeless". Then again, it's about seventy leaps and seven bounds ahead of the best of The Amityville Horror franchise. Three and One Half Stars out of Five for The Sentinel, the supernatural thriller with uncomfortable moments, hot women, a horn-rich '70s soundtrack and a cast of supporting actors that would be considered "Ensemble" today, but were, basically, "scale players" at the time. Dude, Altman and Allen have less familiar faces in their flicks. Whoa! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have another photo shoot, in my "Morticia" guise, followed by a look at a new abode. On one hand the neighbors are kind of freaky... on the other... I'm considering becoming a Priest anyway, so... so... so, I'll see you in the next reel. Unless I'm blind. Damned "gateway to hell" regulations!
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You know, if I showed up to visit Beverly D'Angelo and she was wearing some tight outfit and just started vigorously masturbating right there, I'll admit it might make me a little uncomfortable, but I can't imagine I'd actually leave. I might even help!
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I'll admit, though, she could do better than Gerde, but for an older lady, Miles DID look pretty good naked. Not as good as Vicki Michelle would, though. MMMMMM! Vicki Michelle and Beverly D'Angelo... now that would be amazing. Whoa. I love that idea. Okay, I'll stop before anybody realizes this text is here. Ah, Bev. Rub that Muff, baby!