Thursday, November 12, 2009

Theme Thursday - Telephone

When a Stranger Calls

When a Stranger Calls (1979)

[Charles Durning; Carol Kane; Colleen Dewhurst; Tony Beckley; Ron O'Neal]

Plot: A petrified baby-sitter, a relentlessly ringing telephone and whispered threats set the stage for this suspense-packed, hair-raising chiller. A string of menacing phone calls unnerves baby-sitter Jill, until a compulsive shamus enters the scene to nab the caller -- a deranged killer. Fast-forward seven years … the homicidal maniac returns to ruthlessly torment Jill, who's now a wife and mother herself.

This movie is often remembered for the opening, where the babysitter is terrorized by the menacing phone calls from a stranger. These scenes are intense and hit home, at the time, for lots of young girls and women who had fears of something similar happening for real. And Kane was well cast as a nervous, scared teenage babysitter. Her big eyes can act all by themselves!

It is definitely 'of its time', due to the changes with telephones in the past 30 years. Back then, a line like "the calls are coming from inside the house" was damn scary stuff! Now, not so much.

The middle section of the film is not as well remembered and is really pretty sluggish. Dewhurst, Durning and Beckley are great actors, but the whole thing is just slow and almost boring. Yet it does do its part in showing just how dememented the stranger is, instead of making him a one dimensional killer.

The film picks up once more at the end, seven years later, with the babysitter a mother now herself. I was freaked out the first time I saw it. Good way to end a horror flick!

The film had a sequel, "When a Stranger Calls Back", a 1993 made-for-TV movie. Kane and Durning are back in their roles, this time helping another woman who is going through a somewhat similar experience. Not as great as the original, but it has its own positives, as well.

The original film itself was remade in 2006 as "When a Stranger Calls". This film dumps the slow moving middle section of the original, instead having the entire film focus on babysitter Jill and her night of terror. It was not well received. And, as I said, "the calls coming from inside the house" doesn't have the same scare value when everyone and their stalker uncle has a cell phone!

Here is the trailer for the original film:



I still have a hard time grasping the fact that the movie just celebrated its 30th anniversary!

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Have you checked the children?

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For more Theme Thursday posts, click here ---> Telephone

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29 comments:

  1. I was pleasantly surprised by the the middle and end of the film, only knowing the famous beginning like you mentioned. It was a nice change of pace and genuinely creepy movie. Never did see the remake.

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  2. I was one of those babysitters when that movie came out. And, yes, I did think about this movie in the wee hours of the morning on a late or over night sit.

    And, I guess you're right, now that lines can no longer be cut, it's just not as scary.

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  3. This movie scared the beejeezus out of me for years! This was almost going to be the topic of my post as well. :)

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  4. I never was able to get interested in it!

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  5. will have to go back and check it out...i remember several campfire stories centered around a babysitter, but dont remember this one...

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  6. I think this was, for my mother, the scariest film she'd ever seen but somehow I've never gotten around to it. I do love me some Kane and Durning, so I may just need to check it out for myself.

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  7. I've never seen it! I just got to where I don't have to look under the bed before getting into it if I'm home alone. Better not start something up again! LOL!

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  8. Wasn't the opening the basis for the first Scream movies? I haven't seen When a Stranger Calls but I'll definitely check it out.

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  9. I am a total chicken and don't watch scary movies!

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  10. The original is great. Hated the remake though. Then again I don't like remakes in general.

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  11. I will have to check out the original...thanks!

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  12. Ha! You have a hard time grasping the fact that the movie just celebrated its 30th anniversary? I posted about a film that was made 57 years ago! Oy! I think I need to go sit down now. ;o)

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  13. OH! CRAP! I was a babysitter when this came out and was DUMB ENOUGH to watch it. There were nights I sat OUTSIDE the little kids' rooms!!!!

    I get freaked just HEARING the police say the call is coming from inside the house!

    Babysitter Jill

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  14. Wasn't there one done in the early 60's like that? I think it was set in London and starred Doris Day?

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  15. I have never seen this movie, but I remember Carol Kane from "Annie Hall" and some Mel Brooks films, I think.
    I do recall when this movie came out. I didn't want to see it—too scared. Do you also remember a movie with a trailer with a baby? in a carriage, but I don't think it was an ordinary baby!

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  16. You're right, the original was so much better than the remake but I guess it's one of those storylines that once you know the ending, the suspense isn't the same.

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  17. There is something quite frightening about the sound of a telephone ringing - particularly that echoing ringing sound they made 30 years ago. It's like the rattling of the keys in ET, it can send a chill down your spine even though it is an everyday sound. Great post. Happy TT

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  18. I still need to see the original. I didn't know the new one was a remake until you told me so a while back.

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  19. Just love a good scary movie!!!!

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  20. those movies where the phone rings and a stranger says things that they shouldn't know are scarier than anything!

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  21. i never saw this one. but it sounds like it would totally freak me out

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  22. I really like The Conversation.

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  23. Yup, definitely a classic. Love Charlie Durning.

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  24. Another date flick I've never seen. I had a deprived childhood,lol.
    Happy TT

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  25. i've not seen either, i shall look out for it.

    Dial M for murder was a good one

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  26. i didn't think about phones in the horror movies! Great take on the theme. & glad to be able to access your site again; my old clunker setup was preventing it. Happy TT and happy friday the 13th!

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  27. Everyone's associations with "telephone" are so different. I've never seen this movie because I shy away from scary movies. I like the many movie references I've read about in TT.

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  28. I absolutely love the opening act in this one, but the rest of the film falls pretty flat for me. There is no denying the power of the setting in the house, still puts me on edge when watching it alone in the dark =D

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