Saturday, February 14, 2009

When A Stranger Calls(1979)

I know that most people will only have heard of the remake of this movie, but the original movie was much more spooky and scary. The remake has very little to do with this movie which is a shame because this is a great thriller with good actors. This movie is directed by Fred Walton who also directed April Fools Day(1986) and the little known I Saw What You Did and I Know Who You Are(1988).

The action begins with a babysitter called Jill Johnson(Carol Kane) who is babysitting for a doctor and his wife. She is enjoying her night and the kids are in bed when the phone rings. On the line is a stranger who asks her frightening questions like 'Have you checked the children'. Needless to say, Jill is spooked by this and she calls the cops after the stranger keeps calling her. The cops come and
tell her that they will try and trace the call. The stranger rings Jill once more and he scares her witless. She is armed with a poker and when the cops call to tell her that they have traced the call, it appears that the call is coming from INSIDE the house! Jill tries to get out of the house when she sees the shadow of a man. She reaches the front door and then screams..

This brings us to a cop, John Clifford(Charles Durning) who is at the investigation. We find out that the kids were killed by some man called Curt Duncan(Tony Beckley) and that he has been sent to an asylum. Seven years pass and we find out that Duncan has escaped(of course!) and he is back on the streets. Clifford is on the hunt for him. Duncan is a loner and he is wandering the streets. He meets a woman called Tracy(Colleen Dewhurst) and they get on. He asks her out and she says that she will see. Meanwhile, Clifford finds out about Duncan and Tracy and he tells her what Duncan has done. We see that he tore the kids apart with his bare hands. Tracy is shocked and she agrees to help Clifford get Duncan. Duncan doesn't show up and Clifford walks Tracy home. He is leaving when he hears her screams. He runs back into her apartment and finds Duncan has attacked her. Duncan escapes, but Clifford runs after him. He runs after him and Duncan manages to lose him time and time again. Clifford is forced to give up.

Meanwhile, Jill Johnson is married with two kids. She has moved on from that night. She and her husband go out that night for dinner and leave their kids with their babysitter, Sharon. Jill gets a call while she is at dinner to ask her has she checked the children. She calls the cops and they escort her home. Clifford tries to get in contact with Jill,but he can't. Jill and her husband go to sleep that night. Jill gets up in the middle of the night and the lights go out. She goes back to bed and she sees the closet door opening and she hears Duncan's voice. She shakes her husband but he isn't there. Duncan is in the bed with her! He attacks her and chases her around the room. Just then, Clifford arrives an he kills Duncan. Jill's husband is still alive. Clifford comforts Jill and we see a view of the house and Duncan's frightening eyes.....

This is a great thriller with some really eerie scenes. I think that it is underrated because the remake overshadowed it. I remember seeing this when I was very young and it scared the crap out of me. The remake is nothing like this and that explains why it disappointed many people. There was a sequel to this movie called When A Stranger Calls Back(1993) and it is very good. It has plenty of thrills and scary moments too. I will give this movie an 8/10.


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