Black Christmas

Black Christmas (1974)

Cast: Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey, John Saxon
Extras: John Saxon Interview, Theatrical Trailer, Filmographies

Those of you who couldn’t get enough of Bob Clark’s classic ’A Christmas Story’ during it’s 24-hour marathon on TNT over the holidays, you may want to check out Clark’s earlier take on the holiday season with 1974’s ’Black Christmas’. This film is distinctive for several reasons. One, it’s full of familiar faces. Two, it’s none by several titles, such as ’Silent Night, Evil Night’ and ’Stranger in the House’. And three, it was clearly an influence on the slasher films of the late seventies and early eighties.

’Black Christmas’ takes place in a sorority house of a unnamed college. Most of the sorority sisters go home for the holidays, while Barb (Margot Kidder), Jess (Olivia Hussey) and Phyl (Andrea Martin) stay behind. At the outset of the film, we see a killer enter the house and hide in the attic. He then begins to kill the sisters one by one, with each murder being followed by a disturbing phone call in which the killer screams in multiple voices. I won’t be as presumptuous as some critics and say that ’Black Christmas’ influenced John Carpenter’s style for ’Halloween’, but it is safe to say that some of the plot was lifted for ’When A Stranger Calls’. Assumptions aside, Clark fills the film with tons of atmosphere and makes a great use of the background in many shots. The finale is very exciting and you’ll either find the climax very scary or very stupid. The problem with the film is that, when compared to the films that came after it (especially ’Halloween’), it hasn’t aged very well. It would appear that Bob Clark was gearing up for ’Porky’s’, as ’Black Christmas’ has bits of sophomoric humor, which totally wreck the horror aspect. However, the film is genuinely creepy in parts and horror fans will have fun spotting the actors who went on to be in Cronenberg films.

The newly released DVD of ’Black Christmas’ is labeled as a ’25th Anniversary Edition’. Well, better late than never. The film is presented full-frame and the DVD box carried this message; ’While this transfer is not letterboxed, no information is cropped and the film’s compositional sense is not marred. As the film screened (sic) theatrically in various cropped frame sizes, we felt it appropriate to release the full image as it was originally shot 25 years ago.’ OK, I’ll take their word for it. The image is somewhat dark in spots, but is overall pretty crisp and clear. There is some subtle grain and some noticeable defects from the source print. The digital mono audio is a disappointment, but the dialogue is clear and audible. The DVD includes the theatrical trailer for ’Black Christmas’, which runs over four minutes, gives away most of the film and is just bizarre! We also have filmographies for the main actors and a short (three minutes) interview with John Saxon (which is broken up into two parts for some reason) in which he discusses his work on the film. This may not have all the attributes of a special edition, but it’s great to see this film on DVD.