The Horror Honeys: Black and White Cake, Black and White Cat!

Black and White Cake, Black and White Cat!

The Sentinel (1977)

After a few weeks of killing what’s left of my soul by watching movies of recent years, I decided to go back to a time where everything was good. The 70s! Whether or not you grew up in the 70s, you have to admit, there are so many things right with the decade. Disco, exploitation films, bell-bottoms… OK, maybe not bell-bottoms, but still, many great films were created during this time. Most people would argue that The Sentinel is not one of them, but I balk at the status-quo.

Based on a novel by Jeffery Konvitz, which I LOVE, The Sentinel tells the story of Allison Parker (Christina Raines), a model, wanting a life of her own before strapping on the marriage shackles to her lawyer boyfriend (Chris Sarandon), who moves into a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. Once settled in, she starts to experience some bizarre and scary shit. 

She first meets neighbor Charles Chazen (Burgess Meredith), his cat Jezebel, and bird Mortimer. Her next encounter is with Sandra and Gerde, ballet-loving lesbians, who introduce Allison to a brazen display of masturbation. Chazen introduces her to the other wacky neighbors at a birthday party for the cat. When Allison goes back to her realtor, Miss Logan (Ava Gardner), to complain, she is confronted with an empty building. Logan explains that only Allison and one other tenant, a Father Halloran (John Carradine), reside in the building.

Happy birthday, demon cat!
After some investigation by Michael (Sarandon), he discovers Father Halloran is one of a long line of Sentinels. These Sentinels are guarding the gates of Hell and Allison is next in line. It also turns out the neighbors are long-dead murderers and the minions of Satan, who are trying to drive Allison to suicide and end the reign of the holy guardians.

Let’s talk about what’s wrong with this movie. While we have a cast of names here, before most of them were famous, like Jerry Orbach, Christopher Walken, Beverly D’Angelo, Jeff Goldblum and Tom Berenger, I’ll admit, a lot of the performances are phoned in. For Pete’s sake, Goldblum is dubbed in all but one scene, which is bizarre. In addition to Meredith, Carradine and Gardner, it also stars the likes of Silvia Miles, Jose Ferrer, Martin Balsam and William Hickey, all of whom are stellar, particularly Meredith.

Kill it! For shit's sake, kill it with fire!

I’ve read the book at least a dozen times and it’s not all that complicated, but somehow translating it to a script was a problem for Michael Winner. There is very little chemistry between the actors and I’m sure it’s not all their fault. From what I understand, it was literally Hell on Earth to make. I attended a convention once where Chris Sarandon was on a panel and outright refused to discuss the movie at all. 
Painful production aside, it has some wonderfully scary moments. Anyone who has seen the movie remembers Allison killing her already dead father in the dark of an empty apartment. The climax of the film, where Allison makes her decision to repent or die, is filled with dread and… wait for it… FREAKS! Real freaks. Now I know that’s not very PC of me, but come on, that’s ballsy.

Still a sex god.
If you were raised in a repressed, conservative, Catholic household like I was, everything is a sin and you don’t talk about it. No matter what you do, you’re going to Hell. That said this film focuses on religion and sin, and the repercussions. It also puts suicide and sex very much in your face, without apology. Of that, I’m a big fan.

Oh, and did I mention the freaks? FREAKS

*FUN FACT: When I first moved to NYC, one of the only things I wanted to see was the brownstone featured in this movie. It’s still there at 10 Montague Terrace in Brooklyn Heights. The building has since had all the ivy removed from the outside and sports a higher privacy fence, but very little else has changed about the house or the neighborhood, except the rent.

Supernatural Honey Rating - 3.5 sinners out of 5
Someone needs a nap... An ETERNAL NAP! MUAHAHA!