The Sentinel (1977 film)
Movie poster by Bill Gold
|Directed by||Michael Winner|
|Produced by||Jeffrey Konvitz
|Written by||Jeffrey Konvitz
|Music by||Gil Melle|
|Cinematography||Richard C. Kratina|
|Edited by||Bernard Gribble
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||92 min.|
|Box office||$4 million|
The Sentinel is a 1977 American horror film directed by Michael Winner and starring Cristina Raines, Chris Sarandon, Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, and Eli Wallach. Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, John Carradine, Jerry Orbach, Tom Berenger, and Beverly D'Angelo also appear in the film. It is based on the 1974 novel of the same name by Jeffrey Konvitz who also co-wrote the screenplay with director Michael Winner. The plot focuses on a young model who moves into a historic Brooklyn brownstone that has been sectioned into apartments, only to find that its proprietors are excommunicated Catholic priests, and the building is a gateway to hell.
Alison Parker, a beautiful but severely neurotic fashion model (Raines) moves into a gorgeous Brooklyn brownstone house that has been divided into apartments. The house is inhabited on the top floor by Father Halliran (John Carradine), a reclusive blind priest who spends all of his time sitting at his open window. Alison begins having strange physical problems, including insomnia, and has some terrifying flashbacks of her attempted suicide. She complains to the real estate agent of the noise caused by her strange neighbors, only to be told that the house is occupied only by the priest and herself. The behavior of her "non-existent" neighbors becomes increasingly surreal and disturbing.
It turns out that the building is owned by a secret society of excommunicated Catholic priests, and is a gateway to Hell. The blind priest is the guardian who ensures that the demons do not escape. The priest is nearing the end of his life, and a new guardian is needed. The society has chosen Alison because her two suicide attempts qualify her as the perfect candidate. She is told that she must pay for her sins by becoming the next Sentinel, and only by doing so she will be allowed into Heaven.
In the climax of the film, Alison is confronted by her neighbor Charles Chazen and all of the minions of Hell. Among them is her boyfriend, Michael, who was secretly killed earlier and is damned for killing his wife. Alison is chased through the building by grotesque and deformed creatures. She runs to the top floor and into Father Halliran's room where the demons corner her. Chazen hands her a knife and convinces her to commit suicide to avoid this torment. Father Halliran and another priest, Monsignor Franchino, enter the room. Franchino supports the infirm Halliran as he wields a large crucifix. They work their way through the hordes of demons and reach Alison, where they prevent her suicide. She takes the crucifix from Monsignor Franchino, and sits down in Father Halliran's chair.
Shortly after, the brownstone is demolished and replaced with a new, more modern apartment complex. Mrs. Logan, the realtor, attempts to persuade a young couple to move into one of the apartments. The couple asks about the neighbors, and Mrs. Logan explains to them that there are only two: a violin player and an old, blind nun. The nun is Alison, now blinded like Father Halliran, who sits at the open window in the top floor apartment.
- Chris Sarandon as Michael Lerman
- Cristina Raines as Alison Parker
- Martin Balsam as Prof. Ruzinsky
- John Carradine as Fr. Francis Matthew Halliran
- José Ferrer as Robed Figure
- Ava Gardner as Miss Logan
- Arthur Kennedy as Monsignor Franchino
- Burgess Meredith as Charles Chazen
- Sylvia Miles as Gerde Engstrom
- Deborah Raffin as Jennifer
- Eli Wallach as Det. Gatz
- Christopher Walken as Det. Rizzo
- Jerry Orbach as Film Director
- Beverly D'Angelo as Sandra
- Hank Garrett as James Brenner
- Jeff Goldblum as Jack
- Nana Visitor (billed as Nana Tucker) as Girl at End
- Tom Berenger as Man at end
The external views of the house were taken from the block built at the west end of the Remsen Street in Brooklyn.
David Pirie in Time Out was quite negative in his review, claiming The Sentinel was "just a mass of frequently incomprensible footage, acted so badly that even the most blatant shocks count for little".  Pirie criticised the movie for being derivative of Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, and The Omen: "The Sentinel seems little more than a pile of outtakes from recent supernatural successes".  Pirie also took issue with Winner's use of deformed people in the film, claiming it was distasteful.  Robin Wood described The Sentinel as "the worst-most offensive and repressive-horror film of the 70s". 
- Richard Nowell, Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle Continuum, 2011 p 256
- The New York Times
- "Rotten Tomatoes—The Sentinel". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-11-12.
- "The Sentinel", in Time Out Film Guide 2011, Time Out, London, 2010. ISBN 1846702089 (p. 946).
- Robin Wood, Hollywood From Vietnam to Reagan. Columbia University Press, 1986.ISBN 0231057776 (p. 153).