4K UHD Review: Deadly Games: Dial Code Santa Claus



Are you already overwhelmed by the sweetness of Hallmark Channel Christmas movies? They start right before Halloween with a wave of actors you remember from the ’90s finding that holiday spirit. What you really want is something edgy and deranged with a touch of a Santa that will scare you Aunt Anna into leaving for Midnight Mass a few weeks early. But you also want a holiday film that’s a bit classy. Well reach into Santa’s bag to find a brand new copy of Deadly Games: Dial Code Santa Clause. This French treat from 1989 sadly never made it to America which is a shame since it could have been a holiday treat at your local art house.

Thomas de Frémont (Alain Lalanne) is a bit of a hyperactive child prodigy. The kid lives in a mansion with his busy widowed mom (The Man Who Loved Women’s Brigitte Fossey), his elderly grandfather (The Double Life of Veronique’s Louis Ducreux) and his dog. We open up on the kid pretending he’s Rambo on a mission. He’s ready for action on his mission. But before things get too wild, he has to have lunch with his mom. She’s going to be working late at the giant department store that she runs. She leaves Thomas in charge of the house and off she goes for a massive pre-Christmas sale. Her son is setting up a computer program tied into the security system to prove if Santa is real. Back at the store, a creepy character (Patrick Floersheim) has been hired to be one of the multitudes of Santa’s covering the vast floorspace. The creep isn’t a good Santa. Thomas’ mother has to fire the guy when he breaks character in an extreme way. He wants his revenge and discovers a shipment of gifts being sent back to her house. He smuggles himself onto the delivery truck while still inside his Santa suit. While this could be slapstick, we quickly learn the creep is out for blood. Thomas has to use all his smarts and devices to save himself and his grandfather from the homicidal Christmas night intruder.

This plot might sound a bit familiar. A left smart son left home alone having to fight off an intruder on Christmas Eve. But this is not a case of a foreign film swiping a Hollywood blockbuster plot. Deadly Games: Dial Code Santa Clause came out a year before John Hughes made Home Alone. Writer/Director René Manzor had threatened to sue over his feeling that Home Alone was an American remake of his film. The film didn’t play in America. Hughes claimed he came up with the idea when he wrote a list of things to take on vacation and realized he left off his kids. But in Home Alone, the family was going to spend Christmas in Paris. Coincidence? Home Alone does comes off as a cute and bloodless when compared with the action in Deadly Games. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern aren’t nearly as frightening as Patrick Floersheim when it comes to coming after the pesky kid.

Even though he’s a child when the film was made, Alain Lalanne belongs in the Mullet Hall of Fame for his haircut. Who knew mullets were a thing in France at the end of the ’80s. You can easily believe he’s a computer genius who can kick ass with a hairstyle that rivals anything worn by Patrick Swayze.

Deadly Games: Dial Code Santa Clause is the perfect messed up Christmas movie for 2020. Sure it might have taken 31 years to make it over, but there’s no better time to watch a psychotic Santa. The violence is ramped up for this tale of a boy fighting off an intruder on Christmas Eve. You sense by the end of this film that’s all Thomas wants for Christmas is a body bag for Santa.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 4K transfer was taken from the original camera negative. It image looks so sharp. The film has a fine winter glow. The audio is DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo in French. The film is subtitled in English so you can follow along.

Forbidden Toys (88:46) interviews director René Manzor on what appears to be the French countryside. He goes into how the movie came about.

To Become a Man (40:50) catches up with actor Alain Musy, who went by Alain Lalanne as a child star. He speaks of his early days making movies and how he had worked on Manzor’s previous film. He has a connection to the director.

Extensive still gallery with director commentary (18:13) gets us to understand the photos of the set, crew and cast.

Three storyboards & scene comparisons allow us to see how things were planned out in advance.

Simon Says Roll Sound (8:47) gives a bit of vintage behind the scenes action.

“Synapse” (5:21) is a short film by René Manzor made in 1981. It’s animated.

Pre-trailer model shots (2:40) show the castle/home as the camera flies around the modle.

Bonnie Tyler music video for “Merry Christmas” (2:54) has the singer of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Holding Out For A Hero” singing with clips from the film. The director’s commentary is subtitled.

Trailers are provide for French (1:41), English (1:23) and Italian (2:35) markets. The movies is sold on action, excitement and Santa. The English trailer only has a narrator speaking English so there’s no hint that it was dubbed.

French teaser trailer & TV spots (1:04) promises a big new way to view the holiday.

Vinegar Syndrome presents Deadly Games: Dial Code Santa Clause. Directed by: René Manzor. Screenplay by: René Manzor. Starring: Alain Lalanne, Louis Ducreux, Brigitte Fossey, Stéphane Legros, Patrick Floersheim & François-Éric Gendron. Running Time: 91 minutes. Released: November 24, 2020.

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