[box cover]

When a Stranger Calls

When babysitter Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) receives several threatening phone calls asking her to "check on the children," she gets the cops to trace the caller. But when they do, the calls seem to be coming... from inside the house. Though a well-known urban legend, the yarn is sloppily executed in 1979's When a Stranger Calls (1979). After the first 20 minutes and its neat little hook, the movie goes nowhere fast as writer/director Fred Walton and co-writer Steve Feke don't know how to pad out the rest of the story into a feature-length film, opting to leap seven years into the future, when spooky caller Curt Duncan (Tony Beckley) — looking sweaty, but never threatening — escapes from a mental ward. Not-so-quick-witted detective John Clifford (Charles Durning), who was on the original case, is in pursuit. But Curt's target turns out to be the grown-up Jill, who now has kids of her own. Director Walton shows no talent for the genre — or directing — as When a Stranger Calls flounders for over an hour before the baddie offers an immediate threat. And even then, there's never any reason for him to do so. Less a thriller or a chiller, and more like a snoozer. Columbia TriStar's DVD presents in both anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and pan-and-scan transfers, with audio in monaural DD 2.0. Bonus trailers, keep-case.
—DSH



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