Friday, December 09, 2016

The Sentinel (1977)

A forgotten film from a forgotten bestseller, The Sentinel doesn't even enjoy the notoriety of other Michael Winner films like Death Wish or The Wicked Lady remake.  By all accounts it is just about as subtle as most of Winner's seventies and eighties output.  Unfortunately, I've never been able to track down a copy to form a proper opinion, (it has had a DVD and Blu Ray release in the US), so I can only judge the film on its reputation.  Which is pretty poor.  Jeffrey Konvitz's source novel, (he also co-scripted the film adaptation) had come hard on the heels of the film adaptation of William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist and the film was an attempt to cash in on the demonic movie craze instigated by films like Rosemary's Baby, The Amityville Horror and The Exorcist.  Indeed, it liberally mixes elements from those movies - Catholic priests, young woman apparently in peril from her weird neighbours in a mysterious apartment building and gateways to Hell - to little effect.

The film is notable for giving early roles to the likes of Jeff Goldblum, Chris Sarandon , Tom Berenger, Christopher Walken and Beverly D'Angelo, as well as providing employment for veterans like John Carradine, Burgess Meredith, Arthur Kennedy and Martin Balsam.  The  trailer pretty much gives away the main plot points: the building is a gateway to Hell, the dying blind priest its guardian, keeping the denizens of Hell (the other occupants) at bay, the heroine is doomed to become the priest's successor.  In the end, this lacks the novelty of Rosemary's Baby, the spiritual dimension of The Exorcist, with its examination of the nature of religious faith or even the pure pulp excesses of The Amityville Horror. This lack of an additional dimension is possibly why The Sentinel has failed to gain the lasting appeal of its contemporaries. 



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