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George At 

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When a Stranger Calls

A massive box office hit back in 1979, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS grossed $21 million against a $1 million budget.

Most famous for its opening 20 minutes, which audiences of the time found terrifying, it opens with a young Carol Kane (Taxi, Annie Hall) as a babysitter who starts receiving menacing phone calls.

The heavy breather will only say, "Have you checked the children?", which of course she doesn't do for quite awhile.

The film then flashes forward and turns into a police procedural drama for the next 60 very boring minutes.

Charles Durning (Sharkey's Machine, Tootsie) is a private detective on the trail of the dialing murderer when he escapes from the mental institution he's been at for seven years.

The killer is kind of boring, fine actors like Colleen Dewhurst and Rachel Roberts are wasted in poorly written roles and ANY episode of "Law and Order" generates more excitement in any ten minutes than this lumbering dinosaur does in its entire meandering midsection.

The film wraps up with a slightly better coda to its opening scene, but its too little, too late.

"Have you checked the children?"

Yes, I think they died of boredom.

It's amazing this cinematic mis-dial was such a hit. I've been more entertained by robocalls.

I'll give it a D.

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