Black Christmas – Canada, 1974 – reviews

blackchristmas1974

‘If this picture doesn’t make your skin crawl… it’s on TOO TIGHT.’

Black Christmas – also released as Silent Night, Evil Night and Stranger in the House – is a 1974 Canadian slasher horror feature film co-produced and directed by Bob Clark (Deathdream; Murder by Decree) from a screenplay by A. Roy Moore. The movie stars Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder and John Saxon.

The film follows a group of college students who must face a deranged serial killer lurking in their sorority house. The movie was inspired by an urban legend called “The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs“, but was also largely based on a series of murders that took place in Quebec, Canada around Christmas time. It is generally considered to be one of the first North American slasher films.

A remake of the same name, executive produced by Clark, was released on 25 December 2006.

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Disc 1:
• NEW2016 2K scan of the negative (1.85:1) – DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
• Audio Commentary with director Bob Clark
• Audio Commentary with actors John Saxon and Keir Dullea
• Audio Commentary with Billy (actor Nick Mancuso)
• Audio interview with director Bob Clark

Disc 2:
• 2006 Critical Mass HD Master (1.78:1) – DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
• Film and Furs – Remembering Black Christmas with Art Hindle
• Victims and Virgins – Remembering Black Christmas with Lynne Griffin
• Black Christmas Legacy
• 40th Anniversary Panel at FanExpo 2014 featuring John Saxon, Art Hindle, Lynne Griffin & Nick Mancuso
• On Screen!: Black Christmas featurette
• 12 Days of Black Christmas featurette
• Black Christmas Revisited featurette
• Archival Interviews with Olivia Hussey, Art Hindle, Margot Kidder, Bob Clark, & John Saxon
• Midnight Screening Q&A with Bob Clark, John Saxon and Carl Zittrer
• Two scenes with a new vocal soundtrack
• Original Theatrical Trailers (English and French)
• Original TV and Radio Spots
• Alternative Title Sequences
• Still Gallery

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Plot:

A sorority house is terrorised by a stranger who makes frightening phone calls and then murders the sorority sisters during Christmas break….

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Reviews:

“What really makes this film are the scares. The first attack is a great seat-jumper, and from there Clark delivers one powerful jolt after another. The close-ups of the killer’s eyes, reminiscent of The Spiral Staircase, are guaranteed to induce chills, and the wintry Canadian setting spotted with colorful splashes of Christmas lights manage to create a shuddery, chilling effect…” Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital

“The killer frequently makes haunting, sickening phone calls to the sorority house, composed of multiple voices and sound effects that had me squirming in my seat. And the first murder is definitely going to churn a few stomachs, that’s for certain. Sure, plot holes abound, and the blood effects are downright laughable…” Jonathan Persinek, CineBomb

“A languid middle act flirts with tar-heeled pacing while setting up red herrings via Art Hindle in a fur coat and Keir Dullea sweating at a piano recital.  “Black Christmas” never really goes for a full-on murder mystery despite these setups, though the purposefully unresolved conclusion can leave modern audiences scratching scalps in frustration.” Ian Sedensky, Culture Crypt

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“Bob Clark, Black Christmas‘ director, not only managed to create one of the few truly frightening films, but also successfully managed to inject it with humour. Mixing horror and humour usually results in a trite mess – the film typically being neither horrifying or funny. However Clark understands the one basic rule of using both in a horror film – the scary parts should never be played for laughs.” Hysteria Lives!

“This is a film more about atmosphere than body counts, and there’s more disturbing content in Billy’s schizophrenic, threatening phone calls than in any of the few scenes of violence. It is this creepiness that makes Black Christmas a widely regarded horror film that should be of interest to all horror fans no matter what nationality.” Canuxploitation

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” …the atmosphere of the goings-on are dark and serious and we truly know and care about the characters involved. The key to the whole film’s success, however, is “Billy.” The mysterious caller is not only one of the scariest on-screen presences ever committed to film, but also his menacing presence is felt even when he’s off-screen, throughout the entire film.” Wes Ray, DVD Drive-In 

Black Christmas is a pretty smart film and deserves to have a wider viewing.  It is a little dated stylistically, but it still holds up.  The twist ending isn’t bad, but also has possibly the worst police work in the history of movies.” JP Roscoe, Basement Rejects

” …a browner’s sycophantic effort to sidle up to lower US taste for cheap thrills and fast cash […] anti-female stock horror caper.” Natalie Edwards, Cinema Canada, January 1975

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Cast and characters:

  • Olivia Hussey … Jess Bradford – It (1990); The Cat and the Canary
  • Keir Dullea … Peter Smythe – Full Circle;
  • Margot Kidder … Barbara Coard – The Reincarnation of Peter Proud; Sisters
  • John Saxon … Lt. Kenneth Fuller – Night Caller from Outer Space, A Nightmare on Elm Street; Cannibal Apocalypse
  • Marian Waldman … Mrs. MacHenry – Deranged
  • Andrea Martin … Phyllis Carlson – Cannibal Girls
  • James Edmond … Mr. Harrison
  • Douglas “Doug” McGrath … Sergeant Nash
  • Arthur “Art” Hindle … Chris Hayden
  • Lynne Griffin … Clare Harrison
  • Michael Rapport … Patrick Cornell
  • Leslie “Les” Carlson … Bill Graham
  • Martha Gibson … Mrs. Quaife
  • John Rutter … Laughing Detective
  • Dave Clement … Cogan
  • Julian Reed … Officer Jennings
  • Bob Clark … Billy’s Shadow [uncredited]
  • Nick Mancuso … Billy / Phone Voice [uncredited] – Lost Souls; Death Ship; Nightwing

Release:

Black Christmas was officially released on October 11, 1974, in Canada through Ambassador Film Distributors, and in the United States on December 20, 1974, through Warner Bros., where it grossed $4,053,000. It was released in October 1975 in New York City and Chicago, and previously played under the title Silent Night, Evil Night in Virginia in July 1975. It grossed over $4,053,000 internationally, managing to earn more than the film’s budget of $620,000.

For its release in the UK, the BBFC censored several sexual references during the first obscene phone call.

Trivia:

The film’s original title was Stop Me

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Black Christmas DVD

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