Combustible Celluloid
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With: Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Keir Dullea, Olivia Hussey, Marian Waldman, Andrea Martin, James Edmond, Doug McGrath, Art Hindle, Lynne Griffin, Michael Rapport, Leslie Carlson, Martha Gibson, John Rutter, Robert Warner
Written by: Roy Moore
Directed by: Bob Clark
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 98
Date: 10/11/1974

Black Christmas (1974)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Slay Bells

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This dark holiday classic ranks as one of the screen's very first slasher flicks. I love it because it understands the concept of maneuvering between relaxing scenes and frightening scenes, and what better time to relax than at Christmas (in a sorority house, with lots of booze)? A maniac makes weird obscene phone calls and someone starts hacking some of the girls up in the attic. (The most famous murder ulitizes a plastic bag over a girl's head.) Directed by Bob Clark, who would go on to make the beloved A Christmas Story, the film features top-shelf acting from Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey) and the gorgeous Olivia Hussey (Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet). Clark intercuts one gruesome upstairs murder with shots of kids singing Christmas carols at the front door. In spite of itself, it has become a holiday favorite of mine. (Note: the actor who plays the police sergeant is named "Douglas McGrath," not to be confused with the director of the same name who made Infamous.

DVD Details: The 2002 Collector's Edition DVD from Critical Mass came with commentary tracks, mini-documentaries, trailers, radio spots, and a reversible cover sleeve. Critical Mass and Somerville House re-released it for 2006, but they have created a supplemental DVD. If you already own the previous one, you won't want to swap it for this new one. First of all, the new one is mastered in 5.1 Dolby Digital, while the original only has 2.0 stereo. There's also a midnight screening Q&A with director Clark and star Saxon, as well as two new, recently uncovered vocal soundtracks for two specific scenes. The new disc also comes with a brand-new documentary and new interviews, but doesn't have the commentary tracks recorded for the original, nor does it have the trailers and ads, or the "Dark Dreamers" television show with Saxon. I'm going to keep both copies.

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