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HISTORY

       A 23 Jul 1974 HR news item announced that Universal Pictures had acquired the film rights to producer Jeffrey Konvitz’s novel, The Sentinel, and Konvitz was currently writing the script; however, he is not credited onscreen as a writer.
       On 26 Mar 1975, DV reported that Don Siegel would direct the film and Richard Alan Simmons had been hired to write the screenplay. Art director George Webb and production manager Joe Cavalier were scheduled to scout locations in New Orleans, LA, but none of the four appear in onscreen credits. A 7 Apr 1976 Var article noted that writer-producer-director Michael Winner had replaced Siegel, and that Winner had also written a script. Although Winner received sole onscreen credit for the screenplay, an Academy Award submission form, dated 18 Apr 1977, found in AMPAS library files, listed both Winner and Konvitz as screenwriters. Army Archerd’s DV column on 11 Mar 1976, 26 Mar 1976, and 1 Apr 1976 mentioned actors Nick Nolte, Susan Blakely and Ann Turkel for roles in the film, but none are credited onscreen. A 27 Jul 1976 DV article stated John Williams would score the film, but his name does not appear in onscreen credits, and a 25 Oct 1976 Box news brief reported Gil Mellé would compose the music.
       Various sources including the 8 Apr 1976 HR stated principal photography was scheduled to begin 21 May 1976 in New York City, and a 31 Aug 1976 HR item reported a budget of $4 million.
       According to a 28 Feb 1977 DV news ... More Less

       A 23 Jul 1974 HR news item announced that Universal Pictures had acquired the film rights to producer Jeffrey Konvitz’s novel, The Sentinel, and Konvitz was currently writing the script; however, he is not credited onscreen as a writer.
       On 26 Mar 1975, DV reported that Don Siegel would direct the film and Richard Alan Simmons had been hired to write the screenplay. Art director George Webb and production manager Joe Cavalier were scheduled to scout locations in New Orleans, LA, but none of the four appear in onscreen credits. A 7 Apr 1976 Var article noted that writer-producer-director Michael Winner had replaced Siegel, and that Winner had also written a script. Although Winner received sole onscreen credit for the screenplay, an Academy Award submission form, dated 18 Apr 1977, found in AMPAS library files, listed both Winner and Konvitz as screenwriters. Army Archerd’s DV column on 11 Mar 1976, 26 Mar 1976, and 1 Apr 1976 mentioned actors Nick Nolte, Susan Blakely and Ann Turkel for roles in the film, but none are credited onscreen. A 27 Jul 1976 DV article stated John Williams would score the film, but his name does not appear in onscreen credits, and a 25 Oct 1976 Box news brief reported Gil Mellé would compose the music.
       Various sources including the 8 Apr 1976 HR stated principal photography was scheduled to begin 21 May 1976 in New York City, and a 31 Aug 1976 HR item reported a budget of $4 million.
       According to a 28 Feb 1977 DV news story, a local movie theater in Provo, UT, pulled the film because it violated a 1975 obscenity law.
       The 11 Feb 1977 DV review called the film “a grubby, grotesque excursion into religioso psychodrama.”
       A 31 Jul 2003 DV item reported that Universal Pictures hired Scott Rosenberg to write a new version of the The Sentinel. As of 2013, the proposed remake has not been produced.
      End credits include the following statement: “Produced in association with Jeffrey Konvitz Productions, Inc.”
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
25 Oct 1976.
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Box Office
19 Feb 1977.
---
Daily Variety
26 Mar 1975.
---
Daily Variety
11 Mar 1976.
---
Daily Variety
26 Mar 1976.
---
Daily Variety
1 Apr 1976.
---
Daily Variety
27 Jul 1976
p. 7.
Daily Variety
11 Feb 1977
p. 3, 24.
Daily Variety
28 Feb 1977
p. 1, 23.
Daily Variety
31 Jul 2003
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Aug 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 1977
p. 3.
LAHExam
11 Feb 1977.
---
Los Angeles Free Press
18 Feb 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Feb 1977
p. 23.
Motion Picture Production Digest
2 Mar 1977.
---
New West
28 Feb 1977.
---
New York
28 Feb 1977.
---
New York Times
12 Feb 1977
p. 12.
Newsweek
28 Feb 1977.
---
Time
23 Feb 1977.
---
Variety
7 Apr 1976.
---
Variety
27 Jul 1976
p. 7.
Variety
16 Feb 1977
p. 17, 24.
Women's Wear Daily
11 Feb 1977.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Michael Winner film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus ed
SOUND
Re-rec
Sd ed
Dial ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
MAKEUP
Spec make-up
Spec make-up
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz (New York, 1974).
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 February 1977
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 11 February 1977
Production Date:
began 21 May 1976 in New York City
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, LLLP
Copyright Date:
11 February 1977
Copyright Number:
LP48514
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed with Panavision® equipment
Duration(in mins):
92
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24707
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In northern Italy, a group of Roman Catholic clerics meet and Monsignor Franchino portends danger. Meanwhile, in New York City, elite fashion model Alison Parker seeks her own apartment, but her boyfriend, lawyer Michael Lerman, wants to get married. In Baltimore, Maryland, Alison’s father dies suddenly and she returns home, where she recalls being so traumatized from walking in on her father participating in an orgy that she attempted suicide. She collects a cross that her father tore from her neck during the incident. Alison’s mother tells her she stayed with Mr. Parker because she had nowhere else to go. Back in New York City, Alison rents a furnished apartment in Brooklyn Heights. On the top floor of the building lives a blind, senile priest named Father Halliran, who stares blankly his window. After fainting during a photo shoot, Alison is visited by an eccentric neighbor, Charles Chazen, who drops by with his pet cat and bird and tells Alison about the other tenants in the building. When he leaves, she notices a photograph of Charles in her apartment. That night, at a party, Michael again presses Alison for marriage. In the morning, Alison meets two more neighbors, Gerde and Sandra, who are lovers. At a commercial shoot, Alison again collapses. Charles throws a birthday party for his cat and Alison meets more of her strange neighbors. Later, she has a disturbing dream and is awakened by noise from the supposedly empty apartment above her. Alison meets with Miss Logan, the real estate agent who rented her the apartment, and learns that aside from the priest, the apartment building has been empty for years and the building is owned ... +


In northern Italy, a group of Roman Catholic clerics meet and Monsignor Franchino portends danger. Meanwhile, in New York City, elite fashion model Alison Parker seeks her own apartment, but her boyfriend, lawyer Michael Lerman, wants to get married. In Baltimore, Maryland, Alison’s father dies suddenly and she returns home, where she recalls being so traumatized from walking in on her father participating in an orgy that she attempted suicide. She collects a cross that her father tore from her neck during the incident. Alison’s mother tells her she stayed with Mr. Parker because she had nowhere else to go. Back in New York City, Alison rents a furnished apartment in Brooklyn Heights. On the top floor of the building lives a blind, senile priest named Father Halliran, who stares blankly his window. After fainting during a photo shoot, Alison is visited by an eccentric neighbor, Charles Chazen, who drops by with his pet cat and bird and tells Alison about the other tenants in the building. When he leaves, she notices a photograph of Charles in her apartment. That night, at a party, Michael again presses Alison for marriage. In the morning, Alison meets two more neighbors, Gerde and Sandra, who are lovers. At a commercial shoot, Alison again collapses. Charles throws a birthday party for his cat and Alison meets more of her strange neighbors. Later, she has a disturbing dream and is awakened by noise from the supposedly empty apartment above her. Alison meets with Miss Logan, the real estate agent who rented her the apartment, and learns that aside from the priest, the apartment building has been empty for years and the building is owned by the Holy Diocese of New York. Meanwhile, Father Halliran is visited by Monsignor Franchino. Michael Lerman asks private investigator James Brenner to check out Alison’s building. Alone the next night, Alison hears more noises and investigates. She sees Chazen’s cat eating the pet bird and is pursued by an apparition of her father, whom she stabs repeatedly. Alison flees into the street, where she is found, covered in blood, by residents of nearby buildings. The next day, two detectives, Gatz and Rizzo, visit Michael and question him about his dead wife Karen’s suicide and a second suicide attempt by Alison, implying that he is involved in the previous night’s incident. Meanwhile, police find nothing suspicious in Alison’s apartment and match the blood type on her nightgown to her own. Michael discovers that Mrs. Clark, one of the supposed guests at Chazen’s cat’s birthday party, was the name of a convicted murderer, who was executed in 1949. Later, Brenner, the private eye, is found stabbed to death in his car and his blood type matches Alison’s. Detective Gatz connects Brenner to Michael and suspects that Michael hired the investigator to kill Karen and is now trying to drive her insane. When the detectives arrive at Michael’s apartment to confront him, Alison leaves her boyfriend’s home for a walk and stops by a Catholic Church. There, she confesses to Monsignor Franchino that she has committed adultery, twice attempted suicide, and is feeling suicidal again. The monsignor assures her that if she embraces Jesus and returns to the church, the feelings will vanish. When Alison returns to Michael’s apartment, he suggests that she may not have imagined the events and they visit her apartment in Brooklyn Heights. There is no evidence that Alison killed anyone there, but she says that some of the things in the room, such as the carpet, are different. In a book, Alison sees the same Latin phrase on every page, but Michael only sees English. When Alison writes the text, Michael takes it to Professor Ruzinsky, who reports that it is a passage from Milton’s Paradise Lost. Alison returns to the church and meets the rector, who tells her he does not know of the priest she claims to have met there earlier. Meanwhile, Michael visits Monsignor Franchino under the pretense that he has a bequest for Father Halliran. Franchino tells him that Halliran has been retired since 1952, suffers from palsy and is unable to accept visitors. Michael shows Franchino the excerpt from Milton, but the monsignor claims not to recognize it. Franchino refuses Michael’s request to make a copy of Father Halliran’s file. That night, Michael asks Alison’s friend, Jennifer, to stay with her while he attends to business. Michael meets a man named Perry and pays him some cash to assist with breaking into the diocese to look at the official files on Halliran. Michael discovers that Halliran was originally named O’Rourke, and, after a suicide attempt, disappeared and re-emerged as Halliran. Michael finds files on people who attempted suicide, gained new identities and became priests or nuns. When one dies, another takes his or her place. A file for Alison states that Halliran will die the next day and Alison will become a woman named Sister Theresa. Meanwhile, detectives Gatz and Rizzo determine that the eight people Alison claims were at the birthday party for the cat were murderers executed long ago. Michael has Alison attend a party at Jennifer’s while he investigates the apartment in Brooklyn Heights. At the party, Alison faints and her friends put her to bed, but at midnight she sneaks away. In Brooklyn Heights, Michael discovers a hidden portal. Father Halliran appears and tells him it is the entrance to hell. Michael pursues the priest upstairs and demands answers as he attempts to strangle him. Alison arrives at the building and is met by Michael, who calmly explains that the Latin they found was a warning from the angel Gabriel to the angel Uriel, stationed at the Gateway to Eden. Since that time, a series of sentinels have stood watch, guarding against evil. Currently, it is Father Halliran, but that night, Alison is to become the next sentinel. The people Alison met in the building, the murderers, were actually reincarnated devils, who could only stop her from becoming the next sentinel by driving her to suicide. Michael goes on to explain that he is dead, killed by Monsignor Franchino for trying to strangle Halliran. He is damned to eternal hell for his sins, including hiring Brenner to murder his wife, Karen. Michael turns his head, revealing a gaping wound, and his head splits open. Alison flees downstairs where Chazen and the demons confront her. She returns upstairs and sees Gerde and Sandra feasting on Michael’s brain. Among the demons, Alison sees her father and Chazen, who urges her to join them by killing herself; he gives her a dagger. Franchino and Halliran appear bearing a cross and drive back the demons. Chazen exhorts the demons to fight, but Alison takes the cross. The devils fade into the walls and the monsignor leads Father Halliran away. Later, the building is demolished and Miss Logan, the real estate agent, shows a young couple an apartment in a new building. They ask about the neighbors and are told that one is a musician and the other is a reclusive nun. In that apartment, Alison sits silently, wearing a habit and staring blankly out the window, holding the cross. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.