The Sentinel (1977 film)

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The Sentinel
Sentinel movie poster.jpg
Movie poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Michael Winner
Produced by Jeffrey Konvitz
Michael Winner
Written by Jeffrey Konvitz
(novel, screenplay)

Michael Winner
Starring Chris Sarandon
Cristina Raines
Martin Balsam
Burgess Meredith
Beverly D'Angelo
Ava Gardner
José Ferrer
Eli Wallach
Music by Gil Melle
Cinematography Richard C. Kratina
Edited by Bernard Gribble
Terry Rawlings
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • January 7, 1977 (1977-01-07) (US)
Running time
92 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3,700,000 (estimated)
Box office $4 million[1]
This article is about the 1977 horror film. For the 2006 political thriller film, see The Sentinel (2006 film).

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. The film also features Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, John Carradine, Jerry Orbach, Tom Berenger, and Beverly D'Angelo in supporting roles. 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.

The film was released by Universal Pictures in 1977.


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 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 herself. 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 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 will she be allowed into Heaven.

In the climax of the film, Alison is confronted by her neighbor Charles Chazen (Burgess Meredith) and all of the minions of Hell. Among them is her boyfriend, Michael (Sarandon), 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 to avoid this torment. Father Halliran and another priest, Monsignor Franchino (Arthur Kennedy), 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.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

The Sentinel received mixed reviews and on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 10 reviews collected, the film has an overall approval rating of 50% based on various reviews collected since its 1977 release.[3]

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". [4] 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". [4] Pirie also took issue with Winner's use of deformed people in the film, claiming it was distasteful. [4] Robin Wood described The Sentinel as "the worst-most offensive and repressive-horror film of the 70s". [5]

The film was ranked #46 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments in 2004.


  1. ^ Richard Nowell, Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle Continuum, 2011 p 256
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes—The Sentinel". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  4. ^ a b c "The Sentinel", in Time Out Film Guide 2011, Time Out, London, 2010. ISBN 1846702089 (p. 946).
  5. ^ Robin Wood, Hollywood From Vietnam to Reagan. Columbia University Press, 1986.ISBN 0231057776 (p. 153).

External links[edit]