When a Stranger Calls (1979)

35mm film, colour, 1.85:1
mono, English

An American horror film directed by Fred Walton.

Plot Summary

Jill Johnson is babysitting one night when a series of increasingly malicious phone calls culminate in the caller asking her “Have you checked the children lately?” The police confirm that the calls are coming from inside the house but by the time they arrive, it's too late – the children are dead, though the killer is apprehended. Seven years later, still traumatized by the events of that evening, Jill prepares to leave her own children in the care of a babysitter – but the killer is back and has come looking for Jill…


Directed by: Fred Walton
© MCMLXXIX [1979] by Simon Film Productions, Inc.
Melvin Simon Productions presents a Barry Krost production. A TMC development
Executive Producers: Melvin Simon and Barry Krost
Produced by: Doug Chapin and Steve Feke
Associate Producer: Larry Kostroff
Written by: Steve Feke and Fred Walton
Director of Photography: Don Peterman
Editor: Sam Vitale
Music by: Dana Kaproff
Production Sound Mixer: Martin Bolger
Costume Supervisor: Dick Bruno
Makeup Artist: Bob Mills
Hairstylists: Ruby Ford, Billie Laughridge, Edie Panda
Special Effects: B & D Special Effects
Production Designer: Elayne Barbara Ceder

Charles Durning (John Clifford)
Carol Kane (Jill Johnson)
Colleen Dewhurst (Tracy)
Tony Beckley (Curt Duncan)
Rachel Roberts (Doctor Monk)
Ron O'Neal (Lieutenant Charlie Garber)
Steven Anderson (Stephen Lockart)
Rutanya Alda (Mrs Mandrakis)
Carmen Argenziano (Dr Mandrakis)
Kirsten Larkin (Nancy)
Bill Boyett (Sergeant Sacker)
Heetu (houseboy)
Michael Champion (Bill)
Joe Reale (bartender)
Ed Wright (retired man)
Louise Wright (retired woman)
Carol O'Neal (Mrs Garber)
Dennis McMullen (maintenance man)
Wally Taylor (cheater)
John Tobyansen (bar customer)

Alternative Titles

Das Grauen kommt um Zehn – Germany
Quando chiama uno sconosciuto – Italy

When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)

When a Stranger Calls (2006)

Extracts included in
Terror in the Aisles (1984)

See also
Door-to-Door Maniac (1961)
Nightmare (1981)
Scream (1996)



  • Cinefantastique vol.9 no.2 (Winter 1979) p.33 – review
  • CinéMag no.26 (12 November 1979) pp.18-19 – review
  • Fangoria no.146 (September 1995) pp. 56-61 – illustrated article (Retrospective: Telephone terror: remembering When a Stranger Calls by Keith Bearden)
  • Film Bulletin vol.48 no.6/7 (September 1979) – review
  • Film Review November 1997 p.64 – note (Film fax: your questions answered by James Cameron-Wilson)
  • Films in Review vol.30 no.9 (November 1979) pp.565-566
  • Halls of Horror no.27 p.29 – note
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.253 no.41 (20 October 1978) p. – credits
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.254 no.11 (17 November 1978) p.15 – note
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.47 no.557 (June 1980) p.116 – credits, synopsis, review
  • Screen International no.245 (14 June 1980) p.19 – credits, review
  • Sight & Sound vol.4 no.5 (May 1994) p.71 – video review
  • Variety 5 September 1979 p.20 (USA) – credits, review


  • Anatomy of the Slasher Film: A Theoretical Analysis by Sotiris Petridis pp.16, 58, 72, 135, 141
  • Aurum Encyclopedia of Film: Horror by Phil Hardy (ed.) pp.340, 341 – illustrated credits, review
  • Columbia Checklist, The: The Feature Films, Cartoons, Serials and Short Subjects of Columbia Pictures, 1922-1988 by Len D. Martin pp.387-388 – credits
  • Columbia Pictures Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films, 1928-1982 by Michael R. Pitts pp.278-279 – credits, review
  • Film Review 1981-1982 by F. Maurice Speed p.170 – credits, review
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films IV p.555 by Donald C. Willis – credits, review
  • Horror Films by Subgenre: A Viewer's Guide by Chris Vander Kaay and Kathleen Fernandez-Vander Kaay p.201 – note
  • Horrorshows: The A-Z of Horror in Film, TV, Radio and Theatre by Gene Wright p.35 – credits, review
  • The Pocket Essential Slasher Movies by Mark Whitehead p.90
  • Retro Screams: Terror in the New Millennium by Christopher T. Koetting pp.322-329; 389-390 – illustrated essay; credits
  • Screen World vol.31 (1980) by John Willis p.75 – illustrated credits