The Sentinel (1977 film)

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The Sentinel
Sentinel movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed byMichael Winner
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Jeffrey Konvitz
  • Michael Winner
Based onThe Sentinel
by Jeffrey Konvitz
Music byGil Mellé
CinematographyRichard C. Kratina
Edited by
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • February 11, 1977 (1977-02-11)[1]
Running time
92 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Box office$4,000,000[3]

The Sentinel is a 1977 American supernatural horror film based on the 1974 novel of the same name by Jeffrey Konvitz, who also co-wrote the screenplay with director Michael Winner. The film stars Cristina Raines, Chris Sarandon, Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles and Eli Wallach. It also features Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, John Carradine, Jerry Orbach, Tom Berenger, Nana Visitor and Beverly D'Angelo in supporting roles.

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 that the building is a gateway to Hell.

The film was released by Universal Pictures in 1977.


Alison Parker, a beautiful but severely neurotic fashion model, moves into a gorgeous Brooklyn brownstone house that has been divided into apartments. The house is inhabited on the top floor by Father Halliran, 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 suicides. 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 her. The behavior of her "non-existent" neighbors becomes increasingly surreal and disturbing.

Alison learns that the building is owned by a secret society of excommunicated Catholic priests and is a gateway to Hell. The blind priest is the Sentinel, who ensures that the demons do not escape. The priest is nearing the end of his life and a new Sentinel 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 will she be allowed into Heaven.

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 tries to convince her to commit suicide in order 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 blind like Father Halliran, who sits at the open window in the top floor apartment.



The external views of the house were taken from the block built at the west end of the Remsen Street in Brooklyn and much of the film's locations are located in Brooklyn Heights.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

Initial response[edit]

The Sentinel received mostly negative reviews upon its release. David Pirie in Time Out was quite negative in his review, claiming The Sentinel was "just a mass of frequently incomprehensible footage, acted so badly that even the most blatant shocks count for little".[5] 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".[5] Robin Wood described The Sentinel as "the worst—most offensive and repressive—horror film of the 70s".[6] Variety gave the film a negative review, writing "The Sentinel is a grubby, grotesque excursion into religioso psychodrama, notable for uniformly poor performances by a large cast of familiar names and direction that is hysterical and heavy-handed."[7] The New York Times called the film "dull", criticizing the film for its long stretches, but commended Raines' performance.[8] TV Guide awarded the film 1/5 stars, calling it "a truly repulsive film".[9] Jedd Beaudoin from PopMatters gave the film 1/10 stars, criticizing the film's lack of believability and incoherent plot.[10]

Modern response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, The Sentinel holds an approval rating of 47% based on 19 reviews, with a rating average of 5.9/10.[11] Anthony Arrigo drom Dread Central gave the film 3.5 out of 5 stars, writing, "The Sentinel might be devoid of any big, memorable showstopper moments but it maintains enough of a chilling atmosphere to keep fright fans engaged."[12] Brett Gallman from Oh, the Horror! gave the film a positive review, stating that, although it was not the best of the "Satanic horror" subgenre, it was just as entertaining. Gallman also commended the film's script, performances and effective imagery.[13]

Ian Jane from DVD Talk awarded the film 3.5 out of 5 stars. In his conclusion Jane wrote, "Michael Winner's The Sentinel is a gleefully perverse slice of seventies horror that makes no qualms about taking things in a few entirely unexpected directions while still sticking to some tried and true genre conventions. It's not a perfect film but it's definitely interesting and always entertaining."[14] The film was ranked #46 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments in 2004.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "The Sentinel". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  2. ^ "The Sentinel (18)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  3. ^ Richard Nowell, Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle Continuum, 2011 p 256
  4. ^ Alleman, Richard (2005). New York: The Movie Lover's Guide: The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie New York. Broadway Books. pp. 392–93. ISBN 978-0767916349.
  5. ^ a b "The Sentinel", in Time Out Film Guide 2011, Time Out, London, 2010. ISBN 1846702089 (p. 946).
  6. ^ Robin Wood, Hollywood From Vietnam to Reagan. Columbia University Press, 1986.ISBN 0231057776 (p. 153).
  7. ^ "The Sentinel – Variety". Variety Staff. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  8. ^ "'Sentinel,' Less a Horror Film Than Dull - The New York Times". New York The New York Times. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  9. ^ "The Sentinel - Movie Reviews and Movie Ratings". TV TV Guide. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  10. ^ Beaudoin, Jedd. "'The Sentinel': Of Pre-Internet Feline Birthday Parties and Masturbating Specters - PopMatters". Jedd Beaudoin. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  11. ^ "The Sentinel (1977)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  12. ^ Arrigo, Anthony. "Sentinel, The (Blu-ray) - Dread Central". Dread Anthony Arrigo. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  13. ^ Gallman, Brett. "Horror Reviews - Sentinel, The (1977)". Oh the Brett Gallman. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  14. ^ Jane, Ian. "The Sentinel (Blu-ray) : DVD Talk Review of the Blu-ray". DVD Ian Jane. Retrieved 30 August 2018.

External links[edit]