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When a Stranger Calls (1979) Poster

Trivia

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The character of the disturbed killer Curt Duncan was based on a college acquaintance of director Fred Walton who somehow could just enter a room and automatically make others in the room uncomfortable. Yet Walton felt enough sympathy for this person that the character of Duncan is treated with a fair amount of sensitivity.
Fred Walton originally shot this film as a short entitled 'The Sitter', which was essentially the opening 20 minutes of 'When A Stranger Calls'. However after the huge success of Halloween (1978) Walton saw the potential of expanding the short into a full-length feature. The script was then expanded into a feature length film about the pursuit of villain Curt Duncan.
Wes Craven was a fan of this film, particularly because of the iconic opening 20 minutes, and paid tribute to this film in the opening 12 minutes of his teen slasher flick Scream (1996).
Star Tony Beckley was terminally ill throughout the production, because of this he did not fit the description of the killer but Fred Walton refused to recast him as they were good friends. He later passed away just after the principal photography was shot. Director Fred Walton dedicated the film's 1993 sequel 'When A Stranger Calls Back' to the memory of Beckley.
The opening 20 minutes of the film are number 28 on Bravo Channel's 100 Scariest Movie Moments as they are repeatedly called one of the scariest openings in horror film history.
In an interview for the film, Carol Kane stated that while watching the film in the theater that people were screaming and talking to the screen during the iconic opening 20 minutes.
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The film is based on the infamous babysitter-and-the-man-upstairs urban legend, which has been an element in several horror films but is most closely associated with this film.
This was Tony Beckley's final film before his death on April 19, 1980 at the age of 50.
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The phone number of the house where the character Jill Johnson (played by Carol Kane) is babysitting, (555-2368) is the same house phone number used in Jamie Lee Curtis's house in the movie Forever Young (1992) starring Mel Gibson.
During the first part of the movie in which Jill is at the Mandrakis' house babysitting, she can be briefly heard humming the chorus of Don McLean's song "American Pie".
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The film marked Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Donald Peterman's feature film debut as director of photography.
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Throughout the opening segment, director Fred Walton gradually increased the feeling of suspense by making each subsequent phone call ring a touch louder than the previous one. They escalate from eerie to jarring and finally infuriating.
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The script to the film's original shooting draft specifies that the setting is supposed to take place in 1971.
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The film's German title is 'Das Grauen kommt um Zehn', meaning 'The Horror Comes at Ten'. The French title 'Terreur sur la ligne' translates to 'Terror on the Line'.
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Ron O'Neal (Lt. Charlie Garber) had his real life spouse Carol Tillery Banks appear in the film to play his character's wife.
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This film would land Fred Walton the directors chair for the similarly-themed TV thriller 'I Saw What You Did' (1988). Both films are about young women menaced by a killer on the phone.
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The traced call lasts approximately 1 minute and 52 seconds.
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Carol Kane plays a babysitter who is harassed and stalked by a serial killer, ironically she herself would go on to play the killer in another slasher movie, Office Killer (1997), where she stalked and attacked an office full of employees.
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The film stars the actresses Carol Kane and Colleen Dewhurst. The two share no scenes. The two actresses previously appeared in Annie Hall (1977), in which they also shared no scenes.
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Although he did not give a proper review for the film at the time of its release, Roger Ebert described the movie as "sleazy" in a 1980 episode of Sneak Previews.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The film's legendary opening 20 minutes of Jill getting harassed on the phone by a killer only to find out that the calls are coming from inside the house were inspired by a similar sequence in the original Black Christmas (1974). Both films took inspiration from the urban legend "The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs", though this film is more of a direct adaptation of the myth.
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The Classification and Rating Administration had originally voted unanimously for a PG rating (5 years before the PG-13 rating was available for use). However, CARA chair Richard Heffner then viewed the film and called the board for further discussion to consider voting for an R rating instead. Although the theme of a film could potentially be accommodated within a PG rating, Heffner argued that this film's treatment of its theme was too unsettling for most parents to want it to be freely available to unaccompanied children (as the killer murders two children with his bare hands in the first act even though it happened off-screen). A majority vote was then received to assign the film its R rating.
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As this movie was made because of Halloween (1978)'s success, it bears many similarities to the movie. Both movies start out with an infamous murder scene ending with the killer being apprehended and sent to a mental institution. After a time gap of several years, the killer breaks out of the institution, with someone who has known him since his arrest (In Halloween (1978), it's the killer's former psychiatrist, in this film, it's the killer's arresting officer) pursuing him with the intent of killing him rather than apprehending him, despite objections from coworkers. The killer begins to stalk a female (in this film, it's not only the female lead, unlike Halloween (1978)). The killer narrowly avoids getting caught by the male lead several times. Both movies also end with a showdown between the female lead and the killer, with the killer beginning to overpower the female lead, but the male lead suddenly appears and guns down the killer. (However, in this film, the killer dies from the gunshot wound. In Halloween (1978), the killer survives)
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