• When a Stranger Calls (1979) and When a Stranger Calls Back (1993) (Limited Edition) Blu-ray Review + Screenshots



    Studio: Second Sight U.K.

    Release Date: October 26th, 1979 (theatrical) (WASC), April 4th, 1993 (TV premiere) (WASCB) / December 17th, 2018 (blu-ray)

    Run Time: 97 mins (WASC) / 94 mins (WASCB)

    Region Code: FREE

    Picture: 1080p (1.85:1 aspect ratio) (WASC) / 1080p (1.33:1 aspect ratio) (WASCB)

    Sound: English LPCM 1.0 (WASC) / English LPCM 2.0 (WASCB)

    Subtitles: English (both)

    Starring: Carol Kane, Charles Durning, Ron O'Neal, Tony Beckley (WASC) / Carol Kane, Charles Durning, Jill Schoelen (WASCB)

    Written by Steve Feke and Fred Dalton (WASC) / Fred Walton (WASCB)

    Directed by Fred Dalton (both)

    Rating: R (violence, brief nudity, and some language) (WASC) / R (terror/violence, and for some nudity and language) (WASCB)

    THE FILMS

    When a Stranger Calls (1979)


    If I were to ask you what When a Stranger Calls is about, you would probably say that the film is about a disturbed man who stalks a young babysitter, mostly by harassing her on the phone. You wouldn’t be wrong, but that is only the first twenty minutes. The rest of the film focuses on a private detective trying to hunt down and capture the disturbed man who stalked that babysitter. The first twenty minutes are so strong that I wouldn’t be mad if this is what you thought the film was all about. I mean, there was a 2006 “remake” of the film that actually just remakes that first twenty minutes. In fact, Wes Craven loved the opening so much, he homaged it in Scream with his own opening. So, how is the rest of the film? I liked it, but it is a slow burn. We see how the, now killer, stalks a woman all the while, the private detective hunts him down. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is not as strong as the first twenty minutes. However, the film does pick up in the last twenty minutes and ends on a strong note. I thought the last few minutes of the film were just as strong as the opening twenty minutes. Needless to say, I do recommend this film and think that is a minor classic in the larger slasher film landscape, even though this is hardly a slasher film.

    When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)


    Made the Showtime cable channel, When a Stranger Calls Back opens much like the original did. A babysitter is harassed by an unseen man. Director Fred Walton changes things up by having the babysitter actually check on the children. The scene plays out much like the original, building tension until Walton decides to scare the audience with a very effective scare. The film picks up five years later with the babysitter still living with the fear that the unseen man is still stalking and harassing her. She lives in a small apartment and things change or a shirt shows up in her closet. She goes to the police, but they don’t believe her so they send her to see Carol Kane. Kane, of course, knows what the babysitter is going through and agrees to help her. Kane also calls in Charles Durning to help find the person who is doing all this to the babysitter. I will not say too much more because the journey is well worth it, but this is a better film than the first film. I found myself wrapped up in what was going on more than I did during the first film. The opening scene needs to be talked about more because it is really good. It isn’t as good as the original opening, but it is a worthy successor as is the film. The acting is really here and the focus of the film isn’t on the killer, but on the victim. There are some really creepy scenes here, especially the one in the hospital. When a Stranger Calls Back is a really good film that gets overlooked. Check it out if you want to have a good time watching a horror film.

    THE PICTURE 



    When a Stranger Calls: This edition of When a Stranger Calls features a “brand new scan and restoration” What does that mean? Well, this isn’t the same version of the film that has appeared on other blu-rays. This is a new scan, but what about the restoration? Well, the film looks great, but we don’t know anything about the specifics. We don’t know if it is a 2K or a 4K scan, nor do we know if the scan and restoration came from the original camera negative or a film print. The film looks great, no matter where it came from. Film grain is there throughout the entire film and it reminds us that we are watching a film (something I always like). Colors are a bit muted here, with earthy tones (browns, blacks, greys) being the predominant colors. Detail is good, especially in close-ups. Skin tones are good as well.




    When a Stranger Calls Back: While the first film gets the remaster and new scan, this sequel doesn’t get the love. While the picture is in HD it isn’t remastered or given that much love. There is very little film grain seen and detail isn’t all that great. Colors are good though, as are skin tones. This looks like it was an HD transfer created for airing on TV.

     THE SOUND



    When a Stranger Calls: Presented with an English LPCM 1.0 track, the film does sound really nice. The increasing of the phone volume during the opening sounds great and the score by Dana Kaproff comes through so well. Dialogue is crisp and clear and there is nothing wrong with the track whatsoever.



    When a Stranger Calls Back: An English LPCM 2.0 track is what we have here. Just like the picture quality, the sound is good enough. Dialogue is crisp and clear, but everything else is just ok.

    THE PACKAGING

    When a Stranger Calls and When a Stranger Calls Back are brought to us by Second Sight U.K.


    The front cover features Carol Kane talking on the phone, hovering over the house from the film, the background all black and ominous. This outer box is the same kind that Arrow Video has been using for a few years now. It is a nice, sturdy box that looks and feels great.

    Inside the box is a black, double wide case housing both the blu-ray disc and cd soundtrack disc. The front cover is reversible, with the same art as the outer box, and the film’s original theatrical poster on the other side.


    NOTE: If you do decide to use the reverse side of the blu-ray case art, there is no title on the spine. I thought that this was kind of weird, but it doesn’t look that odd when everything is packaged together.


    Also, inside the box is a booklet with an essay Kevin Lyons, broken up into six chapters. There is also a list of the cast and the crew.


    Lastly, there is a double sided poster, with one side being the main art and the other side being the film’s original theatrical poster.

    Overall, this is a really nice package and well worth picking up.

    The blu-ray disc is REGION FREE.

    THE FEATURES


    The Sitter (21m 22s, HD) This is the short that Fred Walton shot before getting financing for the feature. This short is almost exactly the same as the feature with the acting and photography not being as good. It is still a good short, but it pales in comparison with the feature version.

    Directing a Stranger: An Interview with director Fred Walton (16m 55s, HD) Walton starts out by talking about the short. He and his producing partner wanted the film to become eligible for an Oscar so they had it play in a theater in L.A., but it didn’t make the cut. They then expanded on the idea and got financing pretty fast. He then talks about working with the cast. He tells a story about how Ron O’Neal didn’t take the film seriously, at first, until Charles Durning showed him how to take things seriously. He then tells a story about how the director of photography wanted to quit because he felt that his work was hurting the film. The producers convinced him to stay and he went on to become a very well known DP. He ends the interview with talk of the sequel and the remake from 2006. He isn’t mad that the film was remade but flattered. He hasn’t seen the remake and has no intention to.

    Carol Kane on When a Stranger Calls (17m 25s, HD) Kane tells a lot of stories about the making of the film. Everything from how she got the role, to working with the director is covered. She then gives her feelings on both films.

    Rutanya Alda on When a Stranger Calls (5m 18s, HD) Alda plays the mother at the beginning of the film. She talks about her time in a refugee camp in Germany after World War II. She talks about how movies changed her outlook on life and decided that she wanted to be an actor. She studied acting in New York and moved to L.A. to be in the movies. She talks about some of her roles, like in two early Brian de Palma films, Deer Hunter, and Rocky II. She talks about her short role in Stranger and working on the film.

    Scoring a Stranger: An Interview with composer Dana Kaproff (7m 47s, HD) Begins by talking about his upbringing in a musical family. He then talks about his mentorship with Bernard Herrmann. Stranger was the 2nd film he scored and loves watching the film with audiences to see how his score, and the film, effects people.



    OVERALL

    When a Stranger Calls is a good film that has such a strong beginning that the rest of the film couldn’t possibly match. Still, the film is worth checking out. The sequel is a much better film that has a great balance throughout. The blu-ray, from Second Sight, is a must own for fans. The picture quality is really great and the special features package is very nice to have. Second Sight has really done a great job with this package and urge fans to pick it up.

    MORE SCREENSHOTS:

    When a Stranger Calls (1979):









    When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)










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