The Sentinel (Blu-ray Review)

SentinelScream Factory has announced the September 22 release of the 1977 horror classic The Sentinel on Blu-ray with a slate of new bonus features.  Based on Jeffrey Konvitz’s best-selling novel, this contemporary gothic chiller features amazing special makeup effects by the legendary Dick Smith (The Exorcist, Little Big Man) and an incredible assemblage of stars including Chris Sarandon, Ava Gardner, José  Ferrer, John Carradine, Arthur Kennedy, Eli Wallach, Martin Balsam, Burgess Meredith, Beverly D’Angelo, Deborah Raffin, Jerry Orbach, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Berengerand Christopher Walken. Director Michael Winner (Death Wish) comes up with something to terrify everyone in this spine-tingling exercise in supernatural horror.

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When a beautiful model, Alison Parker, rents an apartment in a gloomy New York brownstone, little does she realize that an unspeakable horror awaits her behind its doors… a mysterious gateway to hell. Alison likes her eccentric new neighbors, so it comes as a shock when she’s told that, except for a strange old priest, she’s the only tenant.

I wasn’t familiar at all with this film before this viewing, but consider me a new fan of it.  The Sentinel features tons of spooky slow burn horror situations, with terrific suspense sequence and haunting make-up and gore effects.  The film is constantly eerie, discomforting and seems to be one that features some sequences that kind of inspired later horror films and gimmicks.  Of the kind of horror films that came from the Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Omen fad, this is one of the better ones.

And wow, is this movie stacked with a cast.  Our lead is Cristina Raines and she’s all right, but everyone is or was SOMEBODY.  Chris Sarandon rocks a dirt ‘stache here and is very good as a boyfriend you just can’t trust.  Jeff Goldblum plays a photographer, but I wonder if that’s even his voice as he appears dubbed.  Let me just laundry list the remainder for you; Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Christopher Walken, Beverly D’Angelo, Sylvia Miles, Eli Wallach and Tom Berenger shows up for a second.  That’s not naming all even.

There is a sequence in this film which I think is still and would be still scary as hell to anyone including the youngsters.  Its execution and jumps feel right in line with modern cinema, which lead me to wonder how influential this film may have been.  There are also some nasty gore scenes mixed in with some odd nudity/sexuality stuff and a bunch of freaky looking folk in the film.  There is always a good scary feeling to this movie throughout its run time and it makes for a real winner, beginning to end.

The Sentinel is a film I definitely am wanting to add to my fall rotation of horror films to watch every year.  Its truly scary and I appreciate a lot of the craft on display.  Its got a twisted story with a nice Twilight Zone kind of ending that I’m a big fan of.  It also manages that while having a cast full of notables that don’t prove distracting and keep this film grounded in being a scare factory.  If you’ve never seen this one, just pick it up.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  This is a rock solid video transfer here.  There is plenty of impressive detail here.  Wood features the grains, gloss, scuff and dust.  You can make out patterns, threads and wrinkles on clothing articles.  The image is about as sharp as it can be for how old this is and looks pretty fresh and clean.

Depth:  Does a decent job with dimensional work.  Movements are very cinematic in nature.

Black Levels:  Blacks come across as accurate.  Detail isn’t hidden too much in areas, for the most part detail is still plenty visible in dark scenes and on hair and clothing articles black in color.

Color Reproduction:  Colors appear pretty bold and solid.  Reds and browns look pretty luscious in this picture.  Moreso a cherry brown that colors the wood.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout.  Facial and skin detail is much more apparent in closeups than it is medium or far away shots.

Noise/Artifacts:  Features some grain and dirt/specs.  Some areas feature some very minor (if noticeable) compression issues.

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Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  This mono mix sounds really solid here.  It features a loose thread between conversation and score that blends well and feels a punch with its sound effects, too.  Its a well rounded track giving a very good output.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Audio is clear and loud enough through everything.  It does carry a bit of an analog and ADR sound at times.

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The Sentinal’s cover features additional artwork on the reverse side.

Audio Commentary

  • With writer/producer Jeffrey Konvitz
  • With writer/producer/director Michael Winner
  • With actress Cristina Raines

Interview with Assistant Director Ralph S. Singleton (HD, 23:56) – This is a real good interview in which he discusses the differences of horror now and when The Sentinel was made.  Singleton goes into plenty of depth on his relationship and work with Michael Winner.  He also goes on a little bit of a “how I got into the business” story as well.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:35) 

TV Spots (HD, 1:39) 

Movie Stills (HD, 2:47)

B & W Press Photos (HD, 2:30)

Lobby Cards and Posters (HD, 2:34)

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The Sentinel is an old school piece of religious horror from the 70s that surprisingly still works an is very effective in its creepiness and scare delivery.  Scream Factory puts together a nice little Blu-ray with a terrific interview and three commentaries.  The film also looks and sounds really good to boot.  Horror collectors everywhere should have this gem in their collection.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com). He is also the Moderator/MC of the Live Podcast Stage and on the Podcast Awards Committee for PopCon (popcon.us). In the past 10 years at Why So Blu, Brandon has amassed over 1,500 reviews of 4K, Blu-ray and DVD titles.

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