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When a Stranger Calls

A movie directed by Fred Walton

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Terror By Telephone

  • Sep 23, 2011
Seven years after a homicidal lunatic terrorizes a babysitter (Carol Kane) via telephone in the home of her wealthy hosts, that same psychopath (Tony Beckley) finds himself fixated on a lonely lush (Colleen Dewhurst) while sought by a former detective turned P.I. (Charles Durning).

This might have been another unexceptional thriller if not for its perfectly apt cast. Fragile and elfin, Kane's nervous and ultimately hysterical delivery are as effective as the movie's measured pace. As she was already an old hand in the part of the tough, worn and unmarried, Dewhurst's more reserved performance is equally plausible. Durning's both reliable and unsurprising as the determined investigator, but the real treat here is Beckley, totally twisted (though never outrageous) as the madman. This proved to be Beckley's final role; the British stage and television veteran was terminally ill during shooting, and ended his career on a high note, imparting some humanity and not too much frenzy to an antagonist who's as pathetic as reprehensible.

Those who have viewed this won't be surprised to learn that its first twenty minutes were initially filmed as a short by horror director Walton, who expanded it into his first feature-length picture after noting the success of Carpenter's Halloween. Though its extended plot was skillfully devised, proceedings therein are a whit tedious midway through the second act. Durning's obsessive pursuit of Beckley is of interest, but continues for too long ere its absorbing chase scene. However, even this film's slowest moments are sustained by gorgeous photography, courtesy of the distinguished, recently deceased D.P. Donald Peterman. Composed in the vein of Goldsmith's tenser offerings, Dana Kaproff's eerie, string-driven score might well put and keep anyone on edge.

Quite an assemblage of talent, this is terrific at its best in spite of some minor flaws. It's most efficacious when viewed in the dark at 1 A.M. on a chilly October morning...
Terror By Telephone

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September 28, 2011
enjoyed the review, thanks!
September 23, 2011
OUAOU! :D Heehee! ^-^ We *will* watch this at 1 A.M. on a chilly October morningsie, heeheeeeee! ^-^ This will be funsies, heehee! ^-^ Muu! ^-^

*rubs nosies & cheekies*
*juicy yummy kissssssssssies* ^-^

♥ Annusya ♥
September 24, 2011
It's another movie conducive to the cozy creeps! *hugs* *cheek wubs* *megasmooches*
September 24, 2011
OUH! ^-^ Heehee! ^-^ Yes! ^-^ OHH, You are a Snugglesnus, heehee! ^-^ Muu! ^-^

*rubs faceies*
*yummymegasmuuuuchies* ^-^

♥ Annusya ♥
About the reviewer
Robert Buchanan ()
Ranked #2
I'm a bibliophile, ailurophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow and anastrophizing syntax addict. My personality type is that of superlative INTJ.
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About this movie


When a Stranger Calls is a 1979 thriller starring Carol Kane and Charles Durning, directed by Fred Walton. The film derives its story from the classic folk legend of "the babysitter and the man upstairs". The original music score is composed by television composer Dana Kaproff.
The film ranked #28 on Bravo's "The 100 Scariest Movie Moments"[1]. It is followed by the 1993 made-for-television sequel When a Stranger Calls Back and a theatrical remake in 2006.
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Director: Fred Walton
Genre: Crime, Drama, Horror, Thriller
Release Date: 1979.10.12
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Fred Walton, Steve Feke
Runtime: 97 minutes
Studio: Columbia Pictures Corporation, Melvin Simon Productions
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"Terror By Telephone"
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