Sunday, 16 December 2018

Blu-ray Review: When A Stranger Calls/When A Stranger Calls Back (Second Sight)

For me, the 1970s was a magical period for the movies. There were so many films possessing a certain aura which has lingered down the years.
Made in 1979, Fred Walters' "When A Stranger Calls" is often compared to "Black Christmas" and John Carpenter's "Halloween", yet brings its own style and substance to the
table. Almost 40 years on, it's ripe for rediscovery.
Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) arrives for babysitting duties at the Mandrakis house, charged with looking after two young children while
their parents enjoy an evening out.
Following a series of anonymous phone calls - "Have you checked the children?" - Jill becomes convinced that someone is watching her every move.
When the phantom caller declares he wants her blood all over him, the stage is set for a grisly discovery.
Police involvement determined the calls were coming from inside the house, further upping the ante in this terrifying case.
We then move forward 7 years to a time when Jill herself is a parent and soon to become embroiled in a similar case, as a killer escapes from an asylum and
targets her own family.

With some fine supporting turns from Charles Durning, Tom Beckley, Colleen Dewhurst and Rachel Roberts, "When A Stranger Calls" boasts an overwhelming sense of
isloation and dread, driven by Dan Kaproff's ominous score.
The film was beautifully shot by DOP Don Peterman who captures that unerring sense of unease when darkness falls and tensions are amplified tenfold.
There are levles of suspense, too, that occur outside the Mandrakis abode: check out the pulse-pounding chase at a homeless shelter as the killer
strives to elude cop turned private investigator John Clifford (Durning) in a gripping game of cat and mouse.
It's testament to Fred Walton and his crew that their film still stands up today as a model of how to keep your audience on edge throughout.

When A Stranger Calls Back (1993)

Julia Jenz (Jill Scholen) is harassed during her babysitting stint by a stranger who claims his car has broken down.
Sensibly, she refuses to let him in to use the phone and tries to phone a repair firm herself.
With the phone line dead, Julia claims to have been in touch with the company, promising help will arrive within the hour.
As time ticks away, the man returns, demanding to call the repair firm himself and tensions rise leading to the abduction of two children.
5 years later, Charles Durning's John Clifford character resurfaces when Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) - now with a family of her own - is traumatised
by a phone call at a restaurant where she is enjoying a night out.
Clifford once again uses years of experience on the force to identify the shadowy predator who has a wholly unique way of delivering pure evil
inside the four walls of home. What should be the ultimate refuge.
I won't give the game away with regard to the reveal, but will guarantee your jaw will hit the floor!
With another wonderfully atmospheric score from Dana Kaproff, "When A Stranger Calls Back" is everything and more that a sequel could be, signing off
a double-bill that has real replay value.

The supplementary features begin with "The Sitter" (21m 22s).
This is the original, rarely seen short film which provided the basis for Walton's feature.
While it didn't go down too well with certain movie execs, it's a fascinating watch, using ingenuity and imagination that would really blossom a little later.

Directing A Stranger. An interview with director Fred Walton (16m 35s)
Fred reveals the idea for his film came from a newspaper article; talks about Kane, Durning, Colleen Dewhurst mand other cast members, explaining he tends
to leave actors alone and allow them to find their own levels.
He admits he doesn't like to revisit his work, and also praises DOP Don Peterson.

Carol Kane on When A Stranger Calls (17m 25s)
Carol reveals how she got the part; explains why she chose not to view "The Sitter"; talks about the humanity of the characters
and how her character changes in the sequel. It's a real delight to see this beautiful lady holding forth on these things and a nice addition to the package.

Rutanya Alda On When A Stranger Calls (5m 18s)
Rutanya (Mrs Mandrakis in the first film) talks about her career - including "Greetings", "Hi Mom" and "Rocky II" - the learning curve in acting,
and how she got the part in Stranger.

Scoring A Stranger: an interview with composer Dana Kaproff (7m 47s)
Dan talks about his background; his famous mentor; composing the music for both films, and likens his scores to a character in the films.

Second Sight's Blu-ray presentation from a brand new scan looks fabulous, and the package is nice rounded off with a CD soundtrack and a 40 page booklet.
Please note: Second Sight really have listened to their customers, and have made this disc Region Free.

"When A Stranger Calls" is released 17th December and is highly recommended for fans of the cinema of unease.

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