Color, 1976, 92 mins.

Directed by Michael Winner

Starring Cristina Raines, Chris Sarandon, Martin Balsam, John Carradine, Jose Ferrer, Ava Gardner, Arthur Kennedy, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, Beverly D'Angelo, Deborah Raffin, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Jerry Orbach, William Hickey, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Berenger / Music by Gil Melle / Cinematography by Richard C. Kratina

Format: DVD - Goodtimes (MSRP $19.95)

Boasting a jawdropping cast and a plot that combines almost every successful '70s horror trend into one tight little package, The Sentinel is one of those films that either makes viewers ill or scares the bejeezus out of them. Thanks to director Michael Winner (Death Wish, The Nightcomers), the exploitation angle is pumped up to an uncomfortable degree, particularly in the use of real life freaks mixed in with Dick Smith's unsettling make up effects for the jittery finale. Sort of like a Sidney Sheldon novel gone straight to hell, The Sentinel definitely isn't great cinema, but it can do quite a number on you just the same. Besides, any movie with Beverly D'Angelo and Sylvia Miles as topless cannibal lesbians in leotards can't be all bad.

After a lengthy, oh so mysterious opening in Italy which finds Catholic defenders of the faith Arthur Kennedy and Mel Ferrer muttering about something evil brewing over in America (a la The Exorcist), the film introduces our heroine, Alison Parker (Cristina Raines), a glamorous young fashion model. Faster than you can say Eyes of Laura Mars, the credits unspool over a pointless but stylish montage covering her fashion shoots and exploits throughout the Big Apple. Alison decides to settle into a brownstone apartment (a la Rosemary's Baby) thanks to landlady Ava Gardner, who informs her that a blind old priest (John Carradine) is her neighbor but never does anything but sit at his window all day and night. Seeing nothing odd in this, Alison moves in and becomes perturbed by the unsettling behavioral patterns of her neighbors. Creepy old Burgess Meredith prowls around, D'Angelo and Miles make out on the couch in full view of their neighbor, and someone in the apartment above Alison keeps pacing loudly back and forth all night. Alison goes to complain to her landlady, who blithely informs her that no one has lived in the building for the past three years besides Carradine. Even worse, Alison's sort-of-boyfriend, Michael (Chris Sarandon), informs her that Carradine is the latest in a long line of suicide attempts who wound up sitting in that room guarding the gateway to hell.

Goodtimes' DVD of this Universal title looks markedly better than the outdated VHS version and is presented fullscreen with an open matte, which doesn't seem to affect the composition one way or another. Picture quality is generally sharp and very good, particularly for a mid-'70s title, and while this was never a very colorful film to begin with, the Technicolor transfer looks fine; only a few minor flickering compression flaws are visible upon close inspection but shouldn't distract any casual viewers. The sound, on the other hand, has not fared as well; the quiet moments have a faint but discernable hiss which becomes more obvious when turned up loud. The kitschy score by Gil Melle, who did much better work on Night Gallery, sounds a little pinched but was never really all that powerful to begin with. The scare scenes still hold up well and look great here; a Repulsion-inspired sequence in which Raines finds herself lost in her own apartment building at night and comes upon the reanimated body of her dead father is genuinely frightening stuff and should prevent anyone from trying to watch this alone in the dark. Not a horror classic, but the chills are definitely here for anyone willing to overlook some of the tackier elements. In a nice gesture, Goodtimes has also included the original trailer, which is in rough shape but still a lot of fun ("Look behind you, Alison!").

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