The Sentinel (1977) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Sentinel is a major cheesefest of a cornball 70s horror movie about ... well ...

It seems that there is only one being who can guard our existence from being overrun from hellish demons - the Sentinel. The Sentinel is not actually a single being with a seemingly infinite life-span, like Cher. In fact, it is not a being at all, but a job which is filled by a succession of ordinary earthlings who are chosen to fulfill their destiny as Sentinel of their Lifetime.

The identity of the Next Sentinel is known to certain earthlings, like real estate agents, for example, who have to make sure that the Next Sentinel is in the right place at the right time to take over the Sentinelship, that place being an apartment building which is conveniently located directly atop the portal to Hades. The arrangement works out fairly well for the real estate agents as well, because nothing sells an apartment unit faster than a low price combined with panoramic views of both the Hudson River and the gates of hell!

Although it can be a bit confusing distinguishing which view is which.

Unfortunately for all of mankind, the identity of the Next Sentinel is also made available to the demons from hell. It appears that heavenly justice works very much like the criminal justice system in the United States, in that the demons are allowed full disclosure of any evidence known to the good beings. Since the demons are privy to this information, the sole purpose of their existence is to do a bunch of spooky chain-rattling Jacob Marley shit that will cause the Next Sentinel to go insane and commit suicide before the Changing of the Sentinels, thus causing the Sentinelship to be vacant, and allowing the demons to leave hell and do whatever crazy shit demons do when they get a furlough. I suppose they are like American swabbies taking shore leave in Manila.

The chosen earthling is always especially susceptible to the demonic maneuvers because he is just about the only person in the universe who is not aware that he is the Future Sentinel. It works out sort of like when you are about to be fired from your job, and everyone knows but you.

In this case, the Next Sentinel is a supermodel, because you just can't have too attractive a Sentinel. She is being haunted by chilling dreams and is visited constantly by long-dead serial murderers. Bereft of sleep and alone, she starts to imagine that she is responsible for everything evil in the world from terrorism, to the death of her father, to microwave burritos and the Oprah Book Club. Not knowing that she is destined for Sentinelship, she's not trying to hang in there to save the human race, but is simply despondent and ready to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Of course, there are some other dudes who try to help her out, like some priests who are aware of the problem, and the Current Sentinel, who hasn't had a day off in several decades, and just wants to turn over his onerous Sentinel duties, buy a modest condo, and catch a few rounds of golf in South Florida with the other retirees.

This film is cheesier than most of its type, not just because of the storyline, but for a couple of other reasons as well. (1) The star, Christina Raines, was just hopelessly unable to give a decent reading to even a single line. She would stick out as an especially bad actress even on an episode of Charlie's Angels. (2) The special effects are absolutely comical (right).

On the other hand, there are some very good reasons to sit through this film.

1) Lots and lots of future stars are manning insignificant roles in their pre-stardom youth. Tom Berenger had two lines. Beverly D'Angelo may have had one or two lines, but I don't remember her speaking. Jerry Orbach, Christopher Walken, and Jeff Goldblum have a few lines each. This was D'Angelo's first movie. Berenger and Goldblum would not break through to stardom for several years, until they worked together in The Big Chill. Walken would become famous a year after The Sentinel, in his career-defining turn in The Deer Hunter.

2) Many old Hollywood veterans ham it up in small roles. The list includes: Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Arthur Kennedy, Jose Ferrer, Martin Balsam, John Carradine (as the Current Sentinel!), Sylvia Miles, and Eli Wallach! All we'd need is Charo, and we'd be ready for an entire season of The Love Boat.

3) There's plenty of female nudity. Christina Raines only exposes a breast briefly, but Sylvia Miles, Beverly D'Angelo and two unidentified women are topless throughout most of the movie, with occasional flashes of bum from Miles and one of the unknowns.

D'Angelo and Miles play topless cannibal lesbians (far left), and Bev makes her screen debut sill more memorable by masturbating herself to orgasm on camera (left).

DVD info from Amazon

  • no features, but this is the first time that a widescreen version of the film has been made available on DVD



see the main commentary

 (Screen capture to the left: former star Eli Wallach and future star Christopher Walken play two detectives whose presence is completely irrelevant to the film! )

The Critics Vote ...

  • no major reviews online. The Terror Trap did an exceptionally thorough summary of the film.

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. If you like the old style, inexplicit, slow-build horror films, ala Rosemary's Baby, this is a barely satisfactory example, albeit with a spectacularly interesting cast.

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