THE SENTINEL (1977) Reviews and overview



‘There must forever be a guardian at the gate from Hell…’

The Sentinel is a 1977 American supernatural horror feature film directed by Michael Winner (The Nightcomers; Death WishScream for Help) and co-written with Jeffrey Konvitz (Silent Night, Bloody Night) based on his 1974 novel of the same name.

The film’s soundtrack score was by the hugely prolific artist and composer Gil Mellé (Blood Beach; Embryo; Killdozer; Night Gallery; et al).

The movie stars Cristina Raines, Chris Sarandon (Fright Night), Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith (Torture Garden), Sylvia Miles, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken (The Dead Zone), Jeff Goldblum (The Fly; Jurassic Park), John Carradine and Beverly D’Angelo.


When a fashion model moves into her new apartment house, she begins to become emotionally disturbed, experiencing flashbacks to a failed suicide attempt. She is further unnerved by the strange priest who lives on the top floor and is terrified when she sees walking corpses haunting her flat.

It transpires that the apartment is, in fact, a gateway to Hell, and its latest owner is expected to take over as the next guardian…


The film became controversial when it was revealed the director used actual disfigured people and circus freaks to represent demons during the climax, although additional makeup effects were supplied by Dick Smith. The scene in which Cristina Raines slices off her dead father’s nose has become a legendary shock special effects moment.


Stars Cristina Raines and Chris Sarandon are pictured above on set with director Michael Winner.

On August 18, 2015, The Sentinel was released on Blu-ray in the US by Scream Factory. At the time of writing, extensive extras have yet to be announced.

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  • Audio Commentary by director Michael Winner
  • Michael Winner introduction
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Stills Gallery

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The Sentinel is one of those films that either makes viewers ill or scares the bejeezus out of them. Thanks to director Michael Winner (Death Wish, The Nightcomers), the exploitation angle is pumped up to an uncomfortable degree, particularly in the use of real-life freaks mixed in with Dick Smith‘s unsettling makeup effects for the jittery finale.’ Mondo Digital

“Winner never shied away from the confrontational, and while he was not the most refined director, he always attacked a scene with tons of energy. And that’s why the horror genre works for him; vulgarity is not only welcomed, it’s embraced…” Daily Dead

” …while certainly no classic of the genre, The Sentinel is certainly an entertaining and fairly effective chiller, which really deserves better than the reputation as a tasteless, badly made piece of shock which it has undeservedly acquired over the years.” Cult Movie Forums

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” …certainly not up to par with the likes of Rosemary’s BabyThe Exorcist and The Omen, but it’s perversely entertaining with some unsettling set pieces, cheesy dialogue and noteworthy performances from its A-list cast. Plus, the special effects and Gille Mellé score are a winning combo, along with the 1970s stylings and New York City locations.” Kultguy’s Keep

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Cast and characters:

  • Chris Sarandon … Michael Lerman
  • Cristina Raines … Alison Parker
  • Martin Balsam … Professor Ruzinsky
  • John Carradine … Father Francis Matthew Halliran
  • José Ferrer … Robed Figure
  • Ava Gardner … Miss Logan
  • Arthur Kennedy … Monsignor Franchino
  • Burgess Meredith … Charles Chazen
  • Sylvia Miles … Gerde Engstrom
  • Deborah Raffin … Jennifer
  • Eli Wallach … Det. Gatz
  • Christopher Walken … Detective Rizzo
  • Jerry Orbach … Film Director
  • Beverly D’Angelo … Sandra
  • Hank Garrett … James Brenner
  • Nana Visitor (billed as Nana Tucker) … Girl at End
  • Tom Berenger … Man at End
  • William Hickey … Perry
  • Jeff Goldblum … Jack
  • Richard Dreyfuss … Man on Sidewalk Talking to Girl in Red Sweater (uncredited)


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