Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Blast From The Past: The Sentinel (1977)

Last week I succumbed to nostalgia and watched Michael Winner's The Sentinel (1977).

Oh The Sentinel, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1. I love thee for Cristina Raines' super awesome 70s wardrobe, including a different white Olga nightgown for every night of interrupted sleep...

for Beverly D'Angelo's all-red dance costume, and Ava Gardner's amazing Joan Collins hats.

2. I love thee for thy hysterically overwrought heroine, played by the aforementioned Raines, a supermodel with a terribly traumatic childhood. Said trauma was apparently triggered by her absolute horror at walking in on her father (who, in this movie, looks like he's pushing the age of 85) with two enormously fat prostitutes. This causes her to flee sobbing to the bathroom, and cut her wrists (crosswise). Said trauma could also have been caused by being forced to wear a miniskirted Catholic schoolgirl uniform, which I suppose was meant to make Raines look like a youthful teenager, but instead makes her look like a giantess playing dressup.

3. I love thee for thy completely random lines of dialogue, like the whole "Black and white cat - black and white cake!" exchange. Huh? (See #4, below - these dialogue lines were probably mandated by SAG rules or something).

4. I love thee for thy totally eye-popping star-studded cast of thousands, all of whom pretty much walked in the front door, walked across the set, took their paycheck, and walked on, much like graduates receiving their diplomas. Like Burgess Meredith as a mincing old man with a grumpy cat, Beverly D'Angelo and the 2-minute completely awkward masturbation sequence, Sylvia Miles as her German lover, Jerry Orbach with INSANE 70s feathered hair, Martin Balsam as the cliched absent-minded professor, Richard Dreyfuss as an uncredited, line-less extra, Nana Visitor and Tom Berenger as walk-ons, Jeff Goldblum (with his shirt unbuttoned to his navel)....

Eli Wallach as the crusty old detective, and his sidekick Christopher Walken, chewing gum and saying ONE line....

Chris Sarandon as the mysterious boyfriend, with the wimpiest milquetoast 'stache you've ever seen....

Jose' Ferrer as a fearful cardinal....

And John Carradine, who never seemed to play any role that did not require him to (a) be old or (b) slathered in wacky makeup.

It was sort of like the director wanted to make It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World, or a Robert Altman kinda thing, but realized that everyone just wanted to see The Exorcist or something scary involving demons, supermodels and the Catholic Church. Whatever.

5. I love thee for the mere idea that a furnished Manhattan or Brooklyn apartment with a view could be considered expensive at $600 a month, and that one built on the Gateway To Hell is a steal at $400. These days you would pay EXTRA for that little feature.

6. But most of all I love thee for thy massively awesome Opening of The Hellgates ending, wherein your director hired actual carnival freaks to portray the demons of Hell, which was so fucking sick and scary when I saw this as an impressionable mid-80s-era teenager, and is so absolutely not scary here and now in 2009. I mean, they are all just sort of standing there and not posing any real menace. In today's cinema, they'd be ripping Cristina Raines' skin off.

Honestly, who doesn't love a good blast from the past?