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WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979) – Episode 144 – Decades of Horror 1970s

“Jill, this is Sergeant Sacker. Listen to me. We’ve traced the call… it’s coming from inside the house.” You’ve all run into that situation, right? Join your faithful Grue Crew – Doc Rotten, Chad Hunt, Bill Mulligan, and Jeff Mohr – as they revisit an urban legend as depicted in When a Stranger Calls (1979).

Decades of Horror 1970s
Episode 144 – When a Stranger Calls (1979)

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


When a Stranger Calls is Jeff’s pick and he is surprised and impressed by nearly everything about the film, giving him a much greater appreciation after this viewing.  Bill finds the structure interesting in which Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) is the central character for the first and third acts but disappears during the second act. He also points out that the telephone is almost a character and even though you know the punchline in advance, the first twenty minutes is very effective. This is the film Chad always thinks of when he thinks of Carol Kane and he describes the first twenty minutes as iconic. He goes on to call  When a Stranger Calls incredibly scary and, even though there isn’t much blood, pretty gruesome. Doc, too, only remembered the first twenty minutes and is impressed with how well the entire film holds up. He goes so far as to say When a Stranger Calls is a far more important film than he’d given it credit for, calling it a film most horror fans should reconsider.

As of this writing, When a Stranger Calls is available to stream from Amazon Prime and on physical media as a Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror 1970s is part of the Decades of Horror two-week rotation with The Classic Era and the 1980s. In two weeks, the next episode in their very flexible schedule will be The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) with Martin Sheen and Jody Foster, chosen by Bill! Be sure to join us for that one. 

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Jeff Mohr
Jeff lives smack dab in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and is a long-time horror fan. His first remembered encounters with the genre were The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan gorilla chases, and watching the first broadcast of The Twilight Zone episode, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." While he now qualifies as an old fart, he strives to be an Old Boy. Paraphrasing Robert Bloch, he has the heart of a small boy. He keeps it in a jar on his desk. Jeff has written for and SQ Horror Magazine. He currently writes for Gruesome Magazine and is a co-host of the Decades of Horror podcasts - The Classic Era, 1970s, and 1980s - and the Gruesome Magazine Podcast.