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Drive-In Dust Offs: The Sentinel (1977)

In regards to his filmic output, director Michael Winner was wildly inconsistent at his worst and wholly divisive at his best (and vice versa). The remarkable thing is that those two extreme opinions can be about the same film; some find the kinetic sleaze of Death Wish (1974) powerful and disturbing, others find its ham-fisted social grazing problematic and off-putting. But it was a big hit, so naturally Universal let him ride the satanic tide with The Sentinel (1977), a Good vs. Evil, Portal to Hell potboiler that warms this Fulci-loving heart three years before Lucio even set foot in New Orleans.

Given a limited release in January stateside, The Sentinel barely broke even on its $4 million budget, and the critics hated it, deeming it lurid, reprehensible trash. Which it is; but it’s also ridiculously entertaining and has a few truly haunting moments. Turns out Winner could do horror—and yet

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