Tuesday, June 4, 2019

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK (1993) Blu-ray Review

When a Stranger Calls Back (1993) d. Fred Walton (USA) (94 min)

Five years after a terrifying baby-sitting ordeal, Julia (Jill Schoelen) is trying to put her life together when the past comes back to haunt her. Someone is breaking into her apartment, moving objects around and toying with her. The police think she's just a “hysterical coed,” but student advisor Jill Johnson (Carol Kane), similarly victimized thirteen years earlier, is determined to nail Julia's stalker with the help of retired detective John Clifford (Charles Durning).

This impressive-if-belated made-for-cable movie follow-up to Walton’s sensational 1979 babysitter thriller sees Kane (The Mafu Cage, Office Killer) and Durning (The Fury, Dark Night of the Scarecrow) back as their respective characters (the former now a college counselor and head of a woman’s abuse prevention center) attempting to discover who is tormenting cutie co-ed Schoelen (The Stepfather, The Phantom of the Opera).

As with the original, the suspenseful opening sequence (with our intruder on the other side of the front door as opposed to over the phone) is so effective and memorable that it nearly overshadows the remainder of the film, but writer/director Walton (April Fool’s Day) has a few tricks up his sleeve, most of which are doled out in the final 15 minutes once the identity of Julia’s stalker has been revealed and a showdown between the pistol-packing Jill seems inevitable. (It’s never not fun watching an empowered yet forever mousy Kane kicking butt.)

Composer Dana Kaproff (Empire of the Ants, Death Valley) accents the suspense nicely, even if he never reaches the low-to-high-end synthesized thrills of the original, with its THX demo-inspiring builds. Having worked primarily in television, director of photography David Geddes (Tucker and Dale vs. Evil [yay], Halloween: Resurrection [boo]) is clearly enjoying having the additional set-up time, crafting some elegant rain-streaked alley shots and the aforementioned climactic moments with Kane stalking the killer in her apartment.

Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release is of particular note for including Walton’s 1977 short film, "The Sitter," playing upon the infamous urban legend about a frightened babysitter plagued by mysterious phone calls asking, “Have you checked the children?”, which inspired the original film. The new interviews with Waton, Kane, and Schoelen only sweeten the deal.

Trivia: Kaproff also composed the musical scores for 1982’s Pandemonium (with Kane) and the 1985 TV-movie Chiller (with Schoelen).


NEW 2019 2K scan of the original film elements in 1.33:1 (Original TV Broadcast) and an alternate 1.78:1 version

NEW “Directing a Stranger” with director Fred Walton (13 min)

NEW “Process Is Everything” with actress Carol Kane (8 min)

NEW “A Stranger’s Prey” with actress Jill Schoelen (14 min)

Fred Walton’s original 1977 short film “The Sitter” (21 min)

TV Spot

When a Stranger Calls Back is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:



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