Movie News

A Movie A Day: A STRANGER IS WATCHING (1982)
The book that described it is now the movie that shows it.

Published at: Dec. 29, 2008, 8:03 a.m. CST



Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Finally, I’m able to catch up on my AMADs with today’s A STRANGER IS WATCHING, directed by FRIDAY THE 13TH’s Sean S. Cunningham. We follow the great Rip Torn over from previous AMAD Payday. This film isn’t exactly better, per se, but it is certainly far more up my alley than yesterday’s tale about 3 days in the life of a shady country singer. Cunningham followed up FRIDAY THE 13TH with this flick, more of a thriller from a novel by Mary Higgins Clark. It certainly does have dark horror elements… hell, it opens with a little girl waking up, hearing a struggle downstairs. She goes down to investigate and sees her mother raped and bludgeoned to death by a hammer. It’s not as ‘70s graphic as something like JACKSON COUNTY JAIL or I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, but it’s not exactly tame either. We cut forward 2 years and the girl and her father are trying to get over the death of the mother. A delivery boy is sentenced to death for the rape and murder, thanks to testimony from the girl, who is still haunted by that night. But if you’ve seen the DVD cover you know this poor kid didn’t have anything to do with it and that Rip Torn is the evil sumbitch in his Fievel hat. Torn shows up, stalking this girl.

A STRANGER IS WATCHING then turns into a kidnapping movie, which I didn’t expect. From the cover, director and cast, I expected it to be a typical stalk and slash, but less than half an hour in Torn nabs the girl and her dad’s new girlfriend, Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), tosses them in his white, window-less kid-toucher van, bags them and carries them through Grand Central Station, down into the subway and into his underground lair where he holds them until he can make his ransom demands. Young Shawn von Schreiber plays little Julie Peterson, the kidnapped girl. As far as I can tell Schreiber didn’t act in anything else, which is a pity because she’s one of the better child actors I’ve seen in films recently (both AMADs and current theatrical releases). She’s able to be both childlike and adult, but not in the creepy Dakota Fanning way. Adult more in that she’s not screaming her lines and can deliver them with some subtlty. Mulgrew is fine here as well, looking incredibly young… not used to seeing her in her younger, sexier days. Not that I was a big Voyager fan, either. I kind of stopped watching Trek after TNG ended, but Captain Janeway is a figure I recognize and that’s how I mostly know Mulgrew as a personality. Rip Torn is fantastic, as expected. They make him out to be a monster, and he is, at the beginning, but the more we hear from him the more humanity he gains. It’s not that he’s more sympathetic, but when he’s not kidnapping innocent young girls and raping and murdering women he almost has a Michael Douglas FALLING DOWN-ish quality. He’s a grumpy old bastard and that’s endearing to me, especially when it’s Rip Torn being said grumpy dick. Also of note is William Hickey in a small damn near cameo-sized role as a gay homeless man. I love, love, love William Hickey. His voice, demeanor and line delivery always takes me back. And hearing him demanding to see Rip Torn’s pecker is worth the 90 some minutes of this movie alone.

FRIDAY THE 13TH cinematographer Barry Abrams returns to shoot this film, giving a real grit to the visual design of the movie. Harry Manfredini is left scoring the Voorheeses while Cunningham moved on to classic composer Lalo Schifrin. I love Schifrin’s work, but I can’t say his score for this film caught my ear. Final Thoughts: It’s hard to find a lot of steam to write up a longer review. I liked this movie, but didn’t love it. It’s not bad enough to rant and rave, but not good enough to gush. I will say it’s far better than mediocre, but not to a degree that I want to shout my love of this flick to the heavens. Rip Torn is the reason to watch this movie… well, that and gay hobo William Hickey cameo. But seriously, if Rip Torn hadn’t delivered such a creepy and threatening performance the movie would have just been dull. He elevates the film to an enjoyable level.



Here are the final run of A Movie A Day titles: Monday, December 29th: THE NEW KIDS (1985)

Tuesday, December 30th: SERIAL (1980)

Wednesday, December 31st: THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1970)

Thursday, January 1st: IRMA LA DOUCE (1963)

Friday, January 2nd: THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE (1974)

Saturday, January 3rd: THE GOODBYE GIRL (1977)

Sunday, January 4th: LOST IN YONKERS (1993)

Monday, January 5th: THE SUNSHINE BOYS (1975)

Tuesday, January 6th: CALIFORNIA SUITE (1978)

Wednesday, January 7th: A BRIDGE TOO FAR (1977)

And there’s the last of the AMAD line-up in total. We march steadily on to the end, continuing tomorrow with another Sean S. Cunningham ‘80s thriller: THE NEW KIDS. See you folks tomorrow for that one! -Quint quint@aintitcool.com



Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
November 2nd: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
November 3rd: Flying Tigers
November 4th: Executive Action
November 5th: The Busy Body
November 6th: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World
November 7th: Libeled Lady
November 8th: Up The River
November 9th: Doctor Bull
November 10th: Judge Priest
November 11th: Ten Little Indians
November 12th: Murder On The Orient Express
November 13th: Daniel
November 14th: El Dorado
November 15th: The Gambler
November 16th: Once Upon A Time In America
November 17th: Salvador
November 18th: Best Seller
November 19th: The Holcroft Covenant
November 20th: Birdman of Alcatraz
November 21st: The Train
November 22nd: Gunfight At The O.K. Corral
November 23rd: Mystery Street
November 24th: Border Incident
November 25th: The Tin Star
November 26th: On The Beach
November 27th: Twelve O’Clock High
November 28th: Gentleman’s Agreement
November 29th: Panic In The Streets
November 30th: The Hot Rock
December 1st: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
December 2nd: The Day of the Dolphin
December 3rd: Carnal Knowledge
December 4th: The Cincinnati Kid
December 5th: Pocketful of Miracles
December 6th: Mikey & Nicky
December 7th: Two-Minute Warning
December 8th: The Sentinel
December 9th: How To Steal A Million
December 10th: What’s New Pussycat?
December 11th: Being There
December 17th: The Party
December 18th: Casino Royale
December 19th: The StrangerDecember 20th: Brother Orchid
December 21st: The Petrified Forest
December 22nd: Moontide
December 23rd: Notorious
December 24th: The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
December 25th: The High Commissioner
December 26th: The Silent Partner
December 27th: Payday

Readers Talkback

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  • Dec. 29, 2008, 8:09 a.m. CST

    Well, you could be forgiven ...

    by Shan

    ... for thinking it sounded like a slasher, given the title, director's recent previous work and the opening part of the film ...

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 8:16 a.m. CST

    Rip Torn. Greatest name ever.

    by IAmMrMonkey!

    I hope he has a son called 'Pulled Apart'.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 8:21 a.m. CST

    William Hickey rocks

    by DANNYGLOVERS_DICKBLOOD

    I'll always remember that old bastard from Pete and Pete. <p> I like his half drunk approach to acting.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 8:22 a.m. CST

    oh shit and Hickey in Christmas Vacation....

    by DANNYGLOVERS_DICKBLOOD

    ....thats right! Love that guy.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 8:28 a.m. CST

    Larry Craig biopic?

    by EvilWizardGlick

    Well?

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 8:32 a.m. CST

    Sorry, I meant Max Mosley

    by EvilWizardGlick

    Formula One motor racing chief Max Mosley is battling to keep his job today after it was revealed he had taken part in a Nazi-style sex orgy with five prostitutes.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 8:34 a.m. CST

    Oh fuck, I meant the MI5 guy whos wife was involved.

    by EvilWizardGlick

    He was the one liked watching.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 9:37 a.m. CST

    Can Dec. 31st be the last "A Movie A Day"

    by Trazadone

    Seriously, it depresses me to see someone having so much free time on their hands. Okay, you showed us that you could watch a movie/day, we get it. Wasn't it kind of a long and pointless journey? For all the time this must take up in your life it doesn't appear that very many are even reading it. This should not be in "Latest news" it should be in a different category ("old news"?)

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 11:30 a.m. CST

    Trazadone is like an Assistant Vice Principal sort of cocksucker

    by DANNYGLOVERS_DICKBLOOD

    ...he's not clever or entertaining, he is just ugly and dull. And I fucking love these cunts that take the time to write up a paragraph pointing fingers at others for wasting their time/life on this site. Uhhhh, at least he is getting paid motherfucker. Whats your excuse? And before you ask, here's my answer. I have a boring ass office job that affords me the ability to fuck off online all day. Fun, eh? Now whats your story? <p>P.S. Gargle my semen as you see yourself out.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 11:54 a.m. CST

    Never saw "A Stranger is Watching"

    by Drunken Rage

    Has a good premise, though. Saw "The New Kids" when it first came out based soley on Cuningham's name. Quint, I hope you enjoy "Serial"-- funny, funny movie but incredibly dated.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 12:17 p.m. CST

    got a little Simon run coming up

    by Bloo

    I like Neil Siimon but I LOVE what Micheal Moore said, "I'll watch any movie except Ninjas and Neil Simon"

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 1:31 p.m. CST

    California Suite

    by Lou C.

    A fine choice. It's a very funny and underrated comedy. Particularly great is Walter Matthau and his hilarious, accidental adventure with a prostitute. It's also tons of fun to see Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor together. There's a boatload of chemistry there. Maggie Smith and Alan Alda also are fine. Great movie, great cast.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 1:34 p.m. CST

    I had chili for lunch.

    by Godovhellfire

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 2:51 p.m. CST

    Trazadone

    by Toonol

    How long will you bitch? You've been complaining for months, since the column started, and you're consistently wrong. This column is generally considered to be one of the highlights of the site.<p> Which, of course, means that it is NOT a waste of Quint's time. You know, it's his JOB?

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 5:56 p.m. CST

    Full circle

    by Napoleon Park

    began with Harper, a flick my dad and I saw at the vista drive in starring the great paul Newman, one of my dad's favorite stars.<p>going out with California Suite and A Bridge Too Far - two very different films that happened to be two movies my dad really loved.<p>Hey, works for me.<p>Great ride, Q - best thing at AICN this side of a 10,000 post Lost talkback.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 9:14 p.m. CST

    RIP TORN'S COUSIN IS

    by alice 13

    Slice N. Dice.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 9:39 p.m. CST

    For some reason I've never seen

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    The Goodbye Girl either. I do remember seeing the are you decent line. Too bad AMAD is ending, but I don't blame Quint. What was supposed to go on a month has gone on and beyond, and so has Quint.

  • Dec. 30, 2008, 2:04 a.m. CST

    Cant believe this is ending

    by djscott95

    You have some great movies lined up for the next few days Quint, but I was one of the people that was praying this would last a year. You gotta do what you gotta do, but there are those of us that will miss this column. You have done a fine thing, my friend, and I have enjoyed the entire journey.

  • Dec. 30, 2008, 7:16 p.m. CST

    This film reminds me of "Spinetinglers" ....

    by DallasGoodbar

    on Saturday afternoons in CT on WPIX Channel 11. They would show scenes from this film in the opening montage before the actual film began. Didn't realize Rip Torn was the villian. William Hickey was the shit. Hard to believe he's no longer with us anymore. He was a honored by HB Studios' Theater not too long ago.

  • Jan. 4, 2009, 7:11 p.m. CST

    we're not hosting an intergalactic keger

    by The Amazing G