Blu-ray Review: Black Christmas (Collector’s Edition)

The holiday season is upon us which means soon TNT will run 24 hours of Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story starting Christmas Eve. Many families let film run like a video yule log as they finish wrapping presents, baking pies and decorating the tree. The movie takes us back to the good old days when toys weren’t digital or cheap plastic. There’s a heartwarming joy as massive disasters keep screwing up Darren McGavin’s desire for a calm holiday. After the ninth hour, you want to see a darker tale that takes place at Christmastime. Turns out the director of heartwarming also made a yuletide blood curdling flick too. A decade before, Bob Clark made a slasher film with colored lights, ornaments, trees and carols. Black Christmas is not the film your parents will put on feel the joy. There’s more than the threat of someone getting their eye shot out on Black Christmas: Collector’s Edition.

A college is bustling as students finish their classes and head home for the winter break. One of the sororities isn’t ready to split up since they’re planning their Christmas party which includes inviting kids over to meet Santa Claus. Before plans can get finalized, they gather around the telephone and listen to an obscene phone caller known as Billy. Jessica Bradford (Romeo and Juliet‘s Olivia Hussey) takes the call while Barb Coard (Superman‘s Margot Kidder), Phyllis Carlson (SCTV‘s Andrea Martin), Clare Harrison (Strange Brew‘s Lynne Griffin), and several other sisters get an earful. Barb speaks up and flips out Billy. He promises he’s going to kill them all which isn’t the holiday spirit. Around this time a mysterious person sneaks up to the Sorority and climbs into the attic. The viewers don’t have a clue to the person’s identity since it’s done with a POV camera shot. One of the girl’s goes upstairs to get packed up only to find out that the strangers in the attic isn’t a boyfriend looking to surprise his gal. It’s a nasty bit of business. The next day her father arrives only to not find her ready to go. He eventually goes to the police station so that Lt. Kenneth Fuller (Enter the Dragon‘s John Saxon) can investigate. Turns out there’s another girl that’s gone missing. One of the suspects appears to be Jess’ boyfriend Peter Smythe (2001: A Space Odyssey‘s Keir Dullea). He a pianist who losing it after she tells him that she’s pregnant and doesn’t want to have the baby. She won’t let him change her mind. The missing girl’s boyfriend (The Brood‘s Art Hindle) does his best to help. As the police search for the missing sorority sister, the killer remains in the attic and isn’t done with his holiday homicides. The obscene phone calls from Billy continue. Will there be a Christmas miracle in the end? Or shall this be the blackest of Christmas breaks for the sorority?

Strange to think that the director behind such a horrific holiday film could come back in a few years with cinematic Norman Rockwell portrait of the holidays. Bob Clark truly was an innovator here with the POV killer keeping viewers guessing the true identity. There’s camera tricks that would later make the reputation of Dario Argento. His mixing of sacred songs and obscene phone calls makes sure that you can’t play this movie for your aunt who owns a leg lamp. There’s an intensity to action and mystery that makes Black Christmas still pop as a great slasher film after 42 years. Margot Kidder is perfect as the liberated college girl who won’t back down. She’s not shy when giving the sorority phone number to the police. Olivia Hussey brings a vulnerability to her character that’s making tough decisions while being stalked. The original is so much better than the 2006 remake that tried to give backstory to the obscene phone caller.

The coolest thing about Black Christmas is that this became one of Elvis Presley’s favorite films to run during the holidays. He’d gather friends and family to take in the scares. That alone should be enough to convince you that this should be a part of your holiday viewing pleasures. There’s more bonus features that can fit in Santa’s sack so you can get more out of the film than Elvis ever could. So after you’ve gotten your FDA recommended fill of Ralphie and his family, break out the Black Christmas Blu-ray for a scary holiday cheer.

The videos is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the coldness of shooting in Toronto during winter in the early ’70s. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 which brings the holiday cheer and creepy bumps to all your speakers. There’s also a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono of the original soundtrack. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentaries include three separate tracks. Director Bob Clark gives complete background on the film’s creation. He mentions how the film influenced John Carpenter and other slasher films that featured the “killer is inside the house” reveals. Actors John Saxon and Keir Dullea are spliced together to share a track. Saxon discusses how he was originally hired, told he didn’t have the part because someone hired a different actor and then called back seeing if he was still available. Dullea speaks of his long hair that makes him look different from his time with Stanley Kubrick. The last track has Nick Mancuso who provided the voice for Billy, the obscene caller. Nick isn’t credited in the film so this is a good payback for the future star of Stingray.

Audio Interview With Director Bob Clark (26:00) is when he appeared on Movie Talk. This is from 2006 when DVD came out. He talks about developing a way to make the camera the killer as it stalks the sorority.

2006 Critical Mass HD Master (98:05) is the original Blu-ray release put out before the remake played (and died) in theaters. This hasn’t been digitally restored so you can have a deeper appreciation of what was done for the Scream Factory release.

Film And Furs – Remembering Black Christmas With Art Hindle (26:11) has him recount how he got cast in the film. He was reading Keir Dullea’s role although afterward, he found out the role. He had no idea about Bob Clark, but wanted a role. Oddly enough, he had to rehearse with Olivia Hussey in Keir’s role during pre-production. Not many John Saxon stories except that he was nice.

Victims And Virgins – Remembering Black Christmas With Lynne Griffin (26:35) reminds her how for a while she was cast as victims and virgins in numerous films. She ponders how the film flips the concept that its virgin that gets killed first instead of the sexually active sorority sisters. She discusses having to do a majority of her role wrapped plastic. Being able to hold her breath landed her the gig.

Black Christmas Legacy (40:22) is a documentary about making the film and its impact. Margot Kidder is blown away by how often people want her to sign Black Christmas stuff. The cast and crew includinng Clark in older footage (he died in 2007).

40th Anniversary Panel At FanExpo 2014 Featuring John Saxon, Art Hindle, Lynne Griffin & Nick Mancuso (18:02) asking why the film became a hit. They all miss Bob Clark. They discuss how Bob innovated camera equipment to get a traveling camera in the house.

On Screen!: Black Christmas (48:41) is a TV special about the movie. Turns out Bob moved to Canada to make films up there. Bob explains where characters evolved from. Film historians discuss the impact of the film on Canada.

12 Days Of Black Christmas (19:48) is narrated by John Saxon. The biggest innovation was to have a horror film where you never see the killer.

Black Christmas Revisited (36:25) is a tour of the locations with Art Hindle and Lynne Griffin. There’s more interviews with cast and crew.

Archival Interviews With Olivia Hussey, Art Hindle, Margot Kidder, Bob Clark, & John Saxon (101:30) are the raw footage from earlier interviews. You can make your own documentary about Black Christmas with this.

Midnight Screening Q&A With Bob Clark, John Saxon And Carl Zittrer (20:21) was shot at the Nuart during their Christmas screen in 2004. Bob promises to answer any questions although he might lie. He teases audiences with Billy and Agnes backstory.

Two Scenes With A New Vocal Soundtrack (3:04) includes tracks not heard in final cut.

Original Theatrical Trailers (8:16) includes the English And French and versions. It really sets up the fears at it mixes “Silent Night” with the murders. This goes up their with Clark’s trailer for Porky’s as amazing ways to tease a film.

Original TV And Radio Spots (3:09) promises that this won’t be a traditional Christmas movie.

Alternative Title Sequences (2:47) has the alternate titles including “Stranger in the House or Black Christmas – Silent Night, Evil Night.”

Still Gallery (4:33) goes deep into the vault for various posters and promotional stills.

Scream Factory presents Black Christmas: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: Bob Clark. Screenplay by: A. Roy Moore. Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon and Andrea Martin. Running Time: 98 minutes. Rated: R. Released: December 13, 2016.

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