If you've ever asked yourself the question,"Would I live in a super creepy old apartment building if I could occasional go to birthday parties for a very flamboyant Burgess Meredith and his cat?" then this movie has the answer for you. Horror movies in the 1970s gave themselves license to be weird in a whole different way than they can be weird now. For one thing, 70s films weren't afraid to cast unattractive people and that adds a lot of character. A good oddball looking actor can bring this extra level of eerie to a scene for sure. One of the things I love about THE SENTINEL is that it has one of those absolutely epic casts, very much along the lines of the 70s disaster films, but it's a horror movie so that makes it more of an anomaly. So first of you have the aforementioned Burgess Meredith who is just a delight in every movie he's ever been in. Love him to death. Then you have Chris Sarandon of FRIGHT NIGHT fame and his girlfriend played by Christina Raines. The rest of the deluxe cast includes Arthur Kennedy, Ava Gardner, Eli Wallach, Deborah Raffin (who I've had a longstanding crush on), Christopher Walken, Jose Ferrer, Martin Balsam, Sylvia Miles, John Carradine, Beverly D'Angelo, and WIlliam Hickey. Jerry Orbach has a quick bit as a grumpy commercial director. The movie even has a small part for a strangely dubbed Jeff Goldblum as a photographer. The cast is a big selling point, but so is director Michael Winner (for me). Though reputed to have been something of a difficult man to work with in some cases, he was still able to be quite prolific and crank out a ton of interesting films. Though most well-know for his DEATH WISH movies with Charles Bronson, he did so much more than that. Even his other Bronson films are sometimes forgotten, though THE MECHANIC is one of Bronson's best. He also made some interesting stuff with Oliver Reed in the 1960s and THE NIGHTCOMERS with Brando in the 70s. He had quite a varied filmography, but one thing he didn't do much of was horror films. THE SENTINEL was basically it (except for the amazingly nutty thriller SCREAM FOR HELP that he made in 1984). Winner brings some oddball touches to this movie and it is still genuinely creepy in parts even now. Makes me wish he'd done more like it.
The last thing I always remember about THE SENTINEL is that it's mentioned specifically in one of my favorite movies. That movie is Joe Dante's film THE 'BURBS. In THE 'BURBS, Corey Feldman's character has a short little monologue about it and thus THE SENTINEL has become inexorably tied to it and has always had a place in my consciousness because of that.
I know this movie is a favorite of Scream Factory's own Jeff Nelson as he was kind enough to to an underrated horror films list for me back in 2013 and he included it there. Very pleased to see that his passion for the film helped us get a nice Blu-ray of it and I'm grateful to Scream for putting it out.
Though not a Scream Factory Collector's Edition, this disc has some nice features nonetheless. First off, the transfer is a new one from the Interpositive.-An Audio Commentary With Writer/Producer/Director Michael Winner. Winner passed away in 2013, so this is an older track, but it's very good. He's a very talky fellow and has a very humorous and jovial way about him on this track. He is very honest about his memories of the making of the film, the actors and even goes into personal asides (like how he had an one-night-stand with one of the extras at the time). He is a real character and it's an enjoyable listen for sure.
There are also a couple newly recorded Audio Commentaries included: One With Actress Cristina Raines and another With Writer/Producer Jeffrey Konvitz. Between all three of these tracks, there is a whole lot to be learned about THE SENTINEL.
Also included on the disc is a new on-camera Interview With Assistant Director Ralph S. Singleton (23 mins).
THE SENTINEL can be purchased on Blu-ray here: