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When a Stranger Calls (1979)

A psychopathic killer terrorizes a babysitter, then returns seven years later to menace her again.


Fred Walton

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Carol Kane ... Jill Johnson
Rutanya Alda ... Mrs. Mandrakis
Carmen Argenziano ... Dr. Mandrakis
Kirsten Larkin Kirsten Larkin ... Nancy
William Boyett ... Sgt. Sacker (as Bill Boyett)
Charles Durning ... John Clifford
Ron O'Neal ... Lt. Charlie Garber
Heetu Heetu ... Houseboy
Rachel Roberts ... Dr. Monk
Tony Beckley ... Curt Duncan
Colleen Dewhurst ... Tracy
Michael Champion ... Bill
Joseph Reale Joseph Reale ... Bartender (as Joe Reale)
Ed Wright ... Retired Man
Louise Wright Louise Wright ... Retired Woman


High school student Jill Johnson is traumatized over an evening of babysitting by a caller who repeatedly asks, "Have you checked the children lately?" After notifying the police, Jill is told that the calls are coming from inside the house... Written by Betsy Bloomley <betsybloom@juno.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


...Fear is the Message! See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

26 October 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cuando llama un extraño See more »


Box Office


$1,500,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The script to the film's original shooting draft specifies that the setting is supposed to take place in 1971. See more »


Although it is most certainly not the actor's (Tony Beckley's) fault because he was terminally ill during production, the killer Curt Duncan looks far too physically frail to have realistically torn two children apart with his bare hands. See more »


Jill Johnson: [on the phone, after Curt calls her at the restaurant] Sharon? Please, do me a favor. Just tell me truthfully, when was the last time you CHECKED MY CHILDREN?
See more »


Referenced in The Strangers (2008) See more »


Huelga En General
Performed by El Teatro Campesino
Courtesy of Menyah Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Shame about the middle part.
6 August 2005 | by The_VoidSee all my reviews

Going into When a Stranger Calls, I was expecting something alone the same lines as Black Christmas and Halloween, due to the film's relationship with those movies. I'm not a massive fan of either of those films, but I recognise Black Christmas as an important film for the genre, and if When a Stranger Calls turned out to be as good as that; I wouldn't be disappointed. It didn't turn out to be as good, however, as despite a great opening; the film never reaches any kind of high, and on the whole; this is just another slasher. The film starts out with a babysitter looking after someone's house. It isn't long after her employers have left that she starts receiving odd anonymous calls, and it isn't long after that before she discovers that the calls are coming from inside the house! It's the classic babysitter story, and if the film had stuck to this story for it's entire running time; I would have liked it a lot more. I realise that it would have been difficult to make a feature length film with just a girl, a house and a madman upstairs...but films have been made with less.

Instead of following the babysitter story, we are presented with a story taking place seven years later. The killer has escaped from a mental hospital and is now roaming the streets, with the detective from the original case on his tail. While this film never actually becomes boring, the chase plot never gives the audience enough tension or intrigue to keep interest levels high, and if it wasn't for the smart, but abrupt, ending; it would have been hard for me to write this review without calling the film a failure. In the beginning, the film has all the elements needed for a successful horror movie in place. It's got atmosphere, suspense and a plausible plot line, which is why I cant understand why the filmmakers would ditch this for the plot that they decided the movie should take. There is very little (if any) gore in the film, as it's obvious that the director preferred the 'Halloween' approach; but this doesn't work in the film's favour as this film isn't interesting enough to not have any gory sequences. On the whole; When a Stranger Calls has a good beginning and a good end. The middle part is wholly forgettable.

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