Black Christmas (aka Silent Night, Evil Night) DVD Review
Written by Peter West
DVD released by Somerville House
Directed by Bob Clark
Written by Roy Moore
1974, Region 1 (NTSC), 98 min, rated R
DVD Released 5th December 2006
Synopsis from Somerville House: It was the night before Christmas and all through the house, a creature was stirring...In Bedford, several unsuspecting people are about to receive Season's Greetings - of terror.
An all time classic horror film, sorority sisters are having a Christmas Party (for those that don't know what that is, they are now called "Holiday Parties") before the university shuts down for the holidays. The festivities are interrupted by obscene phone calls from a psychotic stranger. While they've received calls like this before, this time the girls provoke the caller...
One by one, girls disappear and the police don't seem that interested. However when 13 year old girl is found dead in a park across the street, the police led by Lieutenant Kenneth Fuller (John Saxon) setup a wiretap and surveillance. Secrets and dark relationships are exposed, do the girls know the caller? Will any of them survive Black Christmas?
I was very excited when this little classic showed up in the mail a couple of weeks ago. I first saw this film during it's initial release back in 1974, the weekend before Christmas under its Silent Night, Evil Night title. I didn't see it again for probably another 15 years or more, but that one viewing left quite an impression upon me. Black Christmas has developed a huge cult following through the years and it's richly deserved. Bob Clark had made a few small horror films (Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things and Deathdream) prior to this one, however Black Christmas is the one that returned big on it's investment and led to Clark directing the Porky's films and of course A Christmas Story.
For sheer suspense and terror, Black Christmas was way ahead of its time. Every "Stranger in the House" type film can thank Black Christmas for paving the way in that type of horror. This was the first time that director Clark had "name" talent to work with, Olivia Hussey had received wide acclaim for her performance in Romeo and Juliet (1968) and Margot Kidder had recently received a big career boost from her role in Brian DePalma's Sisters (1973).
Black Christmas is a film that should please horror fans of any generation. While a hair dated for gore, it makes up for it in suspense and as the cover of the DVD goes... "If this film doesn't make your skin crawl... It's on too tight!" I highly recommend the film and the DVD.
Video and Audio:
Black Christmas is presented for the first time in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen which was the intended aspect ratio for the theatrical release. While shot on 35mm film, it is a film that is 32 years old... While this is the cleanest version I have ever seen, overall it's a very grainy, gritty image. Seriously I don't think without a very expensive restoration that it can be cleaned up any better than what we see here. I should mention that I view films uploaded to a HDTV via 1080i. resolution. Unless you are viewing this film on a very high resolution monitor like I am, you will not be nearly as critical as me.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Black Christmas has a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track, as well as English and French mono tracks. Don't get too excited by that though. While the sound is crisp and clear, free of any distortion, it was not composed for surround, so while you will hear rear channels during parts of the film, you don't have the separation of sound that modern films do. This is quite typical of older films that have been converted to surround. The producers at Somerhill House do have to be applauded though for this effort. I listened to parts of the film in mono and the surround track does increase the listening pleasure!
I see a lot of DVDs of older films that are listed as "Special Editions" that don't live up to the billing. This release of Black Christmas in my opinion does live up to the hype! For a thirty two year old film of modest means, Somerville House has dug up and created a slew of goodies for you on this one. Here's a list from the company website:
- Digitally re-mastered anamorphic Video and newly created 5:1 Surround Stereo Audio
- Two original scenes with a new vocal soundtrack that were recently uncovered
- "The 12 Days of Black Christmas", an all-new documentary featuring current interviews with Art Hindle, Doug McGrath and Lynne Griffin among others
- Separate interview segments with Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder
- Midnight Screening Q & A session with John Saxon, Bob Clark and Carl Sitter
I often say some movies have more special features than they deserve... In this case, I feel it's appropriate.