Take One: The Sentinel (1977)
Watching Michael Winner’s high-pitched horror The Sentinel has two great side effects: one, you get some great ‘70s New York apartment porn (with the bonus of having Ava Gardner as your guide); two, you’re treated to one of Meredith’s most under seen and relishable performances. It came a year after his Supporting Actor Oscar nod for his signature role as Mickey in Rocky. He plays Cristina Raines favourite new neighbour Charles Chazen, a dotty, slightly effete, amiable and – oh yeah – imaginary elderly resident in the suspiciously cheap waterside Brooklyn Brownstone.
He lives happily with his parakeet, Mortimer (also imaginary), his cat Jezebel (the meows sound real), and a blind priest sentry guarding the apartment block from all the demons of hell. So, yes: he leads a simple, gentle life.
The Sentinel sits very much in Rosemary’s Baby’s shadow; it’s the Xmas cracker version of Polanski’s tenant-terror movie but it has charms to recommend it. But dismay occurs halfway in: Meredith disappears from the film for a considerably baffling amount of time.
There are many other notable on-the-way-up and on-the-way-out actors in the movie. Deep breath now: Chris Sarandon, José Ferrer, John Carradine, Ava Gardner, Eli Wallach, Sylvia Miles, Arthur Kennedy, Christopher Walken, Beverly D’Angelo, Jeff Goldblum, Martin Balsam, Jerry Orbach and Tom Berenger. It may well be the best ‘70s cast outside of a Poseidon Adventure or a Towering Inferno. But Meredith is the one you miss when he's gone. His part is slightly more prominent due to the role Chazen plays in the grandly dark scheme of things. He pops up, when we least expect but most want him to, to summon forth a legion of misshapen hotel guests of the dead, and then exits the film in style. Meredith invests The Sentinel, mad as it already is, with just a touch more senior tomfoolery; he also gives it its gaga ambience. Much of the film’s silly brilliance comes from him.
Take Two: Batman (1966)
Out of the four actors who played masked arch foes in the 1966 big screen adaptation of the Batman TV series, Meredith ended up with the longest career after. [The Penguin awaits after the jump]