Film Review: Keep Checking On Those Children

When a Stranger Calls (1979) Reviews - Metacritic

When a Stranger Calls is a thriller with a few adaptations and sequels, but the original version was first screened in 1979. It was directed by Fred Walton, who was cowrote it with Steve Feke. The cast includes Carol Kane, Charles Durning, Tony Beckley, and Colleen Dewhurst.

The film starts off with a charming young babysitter who suddenly gets terrorized by phone calls from a stranger. While she is trying to get the police to help her, what she does not realize is that her two charges have been murdered quite brutally by a mad Englishman named Curt Duncan. He has been calling the babysitter from inside the house because he apparently was not ready to make his escape. He is arrested and sent to an insane asylum. Seven years later, he escapes from the asylum and soon has a private detective, played by Charles Durning, on his trail. Beckley plays the deranged Curt Duncan, and he is suitably creepy. Anyway, one would think that Kane’s role as the babysitter would be the protagonist, but she does not really appear until near the end as a married mother of two. The private eye has the bulk of the heroism to do here.

Okay, this should have been a more interesting film, but it falls short. The children were apparently torn apart by Duncan’s bare hands, however Beckley, the aforementioned actor, doesn’t look like he could tear apart a slice of bread without difficulty. Durning does his best. He has a long screen history and is a compelling presence, but the script is of little help. Some aspects just needed to be toned down for it to seem somewhat realistic. I just could not buy into it very much.

The cast is talented, but the writing and editing did not really help them much here. This is definitely a film I will not be revisiting anytime soon.,

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