Saturday, September 5, 2015

BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Sentinel (1977)

  The 1970’s is the best era for the Horror genre. Many timeless motion pictures have come from that decade, including The Omen, Jaws, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween. It’s sad, but true that 1977’s The Sentinel directed by Michael Winner is considered more of a cult film than a classic. Perhaps, unfortunately, that’s why this Blu-ray release by Scream Factory isn’t one of their more showy Collector’s Editions with an artful cover and a plethora of extras.

The plot is one of originality: Young model Alison Parker, (Christina Raines) moves into a quaint brownstone apartment that’s full of elderly and perverted neighbors who turn out to be ghosts. The journey Alison goes through to find this truth causes everyone around her to believe she’s losing her mind due to trauma in her past and two suicide attempts. Add to that, her fiancé, Michael Lerman (Chris Sarandon), discovers that the creepy old priest that resides on the fifth floor in Alison’s building is guarding the gate to hell…which just happens to be the actual apartment building itself. He realizes Alison is being set up to replace Father Halliran (John Carradine) as the next Sentinel. Not everyone brings their A game to acting in this, just look to Sarandon for an easy example. However, a big positive for The Sentinel is its all-star cast including Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith and, Beverly D’ Angelo in her big screen debut in which she double clicks her mouse for your viewing pleasure!

The disappointing DVD publications don’t even have an option to view the trailer, just scene selection. So while this Blu-ray may not be everything you could wish for, it’s a release that finally gives fans something more than just the feature itself. It isn’t overly stacked on supplements, but what’s there is enough and more than we’ve been given before. There are three commentaries. One with the writer of the 1974 bestselling novel and producer Jeffrey Konvitz, another with the director Michael Winner and a final one with lead actress Christina Raines who’s just now watching the film after making it thirty eight years ago. Add to that, there’s a twenty three minute interview with assistant director Ralph S. Singleton, a trailer, still gallery, TV Spots, press photos and a lobby card and posters gallery.

The commentaries provide some information referring to the background of making the movie, but what I found intriguing is how disliked the film is by Jeffrey Konvitz and Christina Raines, and how it wasn’t a “peaceful set” to be on. Hearing Konvitz and director Michael Winner’s commentaries are essential for getting both sides of the argument as to why some of Winner’s choices for the movie were in “bad taste”, and how he would have preferred Beverley D’Angelo as the leading actress. It’s a bummer that so much time is wasted between commentaries discussing internal beef, bashing the flick, and hearing Michael Winner talk about himself, rather than the tricks of the makeup or how certain scenes were shot which is usually the point of these things….

As for the picture and sound quality, they’re on point. The grainy texture of the celluloid in The Sentinel gave it some of its character and added to the creep-factor, but it looks really good cleaned up. There are still some blemishes and hiccups in the transfer because you can still see some of the unrefined and crackly look that the feature had before being brought up to date on 1080p. Most of the time, problems like that can’t be helped due to the type of film used or the age of it, but it’s definitely presented as pristine as possible and it shows. The scene towards the end when Michael confesses to being dead to Alison, you can actually see the string being pulled to make the wounds on his face rip open. I’ve never noticed the threads before now. That might ruin the film to some newer viewers, but those things never bother me.

This is the highest respect The Sentinel has acquired yet from a home video release, with its original cover and some exhaustive material if you like listening to commentaries. Set your calendars for September 22nd  when this baby lands on store shelves. Or better yet, order it directory from Shout!Factory’s site HERE and receive it first like I did.

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