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WHEN A STRANGER CALLS ($15) is something of a minor horror/suspense classic thanks to a killer opening sequence that contains one of the most iconic moments in the genre. Of course, after this brilliant suspense driven opening sequence, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS kind of plods along in like a low budget made for TV detective drama until it snaps back to life for a reasonably effective climax. WHEN A STRANGER CALLS begins with the arrival of a young babysitter named Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) at the home of her young charges, as their parents prepare for an evening out. With the children already asleep, Jill spends the evening in typical babysitter fashion, by doing homework and talking on the phone. Things begin taking a disturbing turn, when Jillís evening is interrupted by what she believes are a series of prank telephone calls- with no one on the other end. However, the prank calls become more sinister, and Jill becomes more and more terrified by the voice that emerges on the other end of the line.

Although Jill does phone the police for help, they immediately dismiss the calls as harmless. However, as the night progresses, Jill contacts the police yet again, who attempt to trace the sinister calls back to the source. After discovering the location of the caller, patrolmen and detective John Clifford (Charles Durning) are dispatched to the scene, and show up just in time to save Jill from the hands of a psychotic killer. WHEN A STRANGER CALLS then flashes forward seven years, where we discover that the psychotic killer Curt Duncan (Tony Beckley) has escaped from the asylum, where he has been heavily medicated for all those years. And back on the case, we find a determined Clifford intending to put an end to Duncan once and for all. The cast of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS also features Colleen Dewhurst, Ron O'Neal, Steven Anderson, Rachel Roberts, Rutanya Alda and Carmen Argenziano.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made WHEN A STRANGER CALLS available on DVD in a serviceable 1.85:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. WHEN A STRANGER CALLS was a low budget affair, which is pretty evident from the look of the DVD. The image is fairly grainy, but never to the point of distraction. Sharpness and detail are certainly respectable, but never much beyond that point. Colors look decent and the flesh tones appear reasonably accurate. Contrast is a bit flat at times and the shadow detail can be a bit muddy. There are no excessive signs of wear or damage on the elements used for the transfer. Digital compression artifacts are generally well contained.

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS comes with a perfectly acceptable Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Most of the age related background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving the track with a very respectable sonic quality. Fidelity has its limitations, but the musical component hold up very well. Dialogue is crisply rendered and remains totally understandable. A French language track has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles. The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as bonus trailers for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990) and I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER.

Thanks to its killer opening sequence, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS has garnered a reputation as a minor genre classic. Sonyís DVD is probably is good as this type of low budget production can look this side of high definition. If you are a fan, youíll definitely want to check out this disc.



When a Stranger Calls (1979)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2006 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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