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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Black Christmas (25th Anniversary Ed.)

Black Christmas – 25th Anniversary Edition


PLEASE NOTE: This is a DVD that can only be operated on machines capable of playing back Region Free/0/Zero DVDs in the NTSC format, and can be ordered from our friends at HKFlix.com through their website:




They have this and hundreds of other great, usually very hard to get titles that are often long overdo to his the U.S. DVD market, including two editions of this title.  Be sure to visit their site for more details on that as well.




Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extra: C     Film: B+



The final of three key Horror genre films Canadian director Bob Clark made in the 1970s is his influential 1974 thriller Black Christmas.  At least as much as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, and the original Exorcist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it is the film most responsible for John Carpenter’s Halloween (oh, those holiday titles), the film is not hurt by endlessly unnecessary sequels and holds up extraordinarily well.


Our story focuses on a sorority house on Christmas Eve, with the girls and their closet alcoholic mentor Mrs. MacHenry (Marian Waldman) celebrating.  Lately, they have been getting obscene phone calls from ‘some creepy guy’ who will not leave them alone.  The girls (including Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder and Andrea Martin among the recognizable faces) are trying not to let it faze them, but Jessica (Hussey) has an annoying boyfriend (Keir Dullea) who she seems to be ready to dump.  Unbeknownst to any of them, someone has entered the house and is hiding in the attic, ready to kill.  Can even an aggressive police lieutenant (John Saxon) save anyone when the first dead body surfaces?


This is the template for so much of the slice & dice films, yet is not as graphic, though usually scarier.  The issue of technology is interesting because even when some of it is old, it is also forgotten, so a whole new kind of suspense is here even Clark and writer Roy Moore could not have expected.  There are a few story flaws here and there, but the film is so well made, you keep watching.  The women characters are not the usual type in the genre and the men are a series of beiger oddballs than you would expect, even in authority, though the film is too naturalistic and realistic.  The energy level is pitch perfect and it pretty much is an unacknowledged classic.


The full frame 1.33 X 1 image is supposed to be the entire frame the film was shot in, according to a note on the DVD wrapper, but a later Critical Mass Special Edition made a 1.85 X 1 letterboxed image available, with a Dolby Pro Logic 2.0 Stereo remix.  The only sound available here, also on the new set, is Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono.  Though we are curious about the difference between the two editions, I was very surprised how good and film-like this version tended to look.  The sound was also very nice and clear, more so than we usually get for Dolby in this form.  If you do not want to spend the extras money on the newer edition, this will satisfy your needs more than you would expect.


Cinematographer Reg(inald H.) Morris does an exceptional job of shooting this film, with an effectiveness that will bring to mind Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) and it is fair to say this is a soft matte film like that in that it is meant to be seen from 1.33 X 1 to 1.85 X 1 aspect ratios.  That would include 1.66 X 1 and 1.75 X 1 in England, and definitely (by default) for widescreen 1.78 X 1 televisions.  The newer edition is not anamorphic, so you might want to consider this edition if you have an HDTV, as when you zoom in on the image, you will get more picture image fitting the set perfectly.  Stan Cole’s editing is another plus.  For another good film shot by Morris, see my review for Clark’s Murder By Decree elsewhere on this site.  Morris continued to lens many of Clark’s films henceforth, and for good reason.


The score by Carl Zittrer is also really good, subtle, effective and powerful in building suspense like the best suspense scores.  However, Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells from William Friedkin’s Exorcist is also slipped in, as well as some holiday standards.  I would love to see an uncompressed 6.1 remix for this film when an HD version surfaces.  Extras on this edition are few, but include text filmographies of the cast, a trailer with narration by an uncredited James Mason, and two short interview clips with John Saxon.  The Special Edition offers much more, but this 25th Anniversary Black Christmas is as valuable and for serious Horror and film fans, it is a must have.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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