Black Christmas (1974)

Directed by Bob Clark
Critical Mass Releasing, Inc. DVD

God bless Françoise Hardy. God bless Groucho Marx. And yes, God bless Black Christmas.

Popular culture owes a lot to common sense. Because the personalities, entities, and artistries that comprise our relaxing hours are the twinkle of life. They make us feel great. We immerse ourselves in these works. It’s true love forever.

“I’ll stick my tongue up your pretty pink pussy. I’m going to kill you.”

This one’s for us.

Black Christmas makes me feel alive. It’s scary and dirty, yet strangely festive. I could belch out a heap of facts, praise, and contextual details about the ground that was broken (and rarely equalled) with the release of this film, but I have yet to watch To All A Goodnight this year. Black Christmas wastes no time, so I can only afford it the same consideration. The Christmas Eve chimes are ringing, so we’ve got to be quick. Ol’ Saint Billy may be on his way as we speak.

Very few trashers, slashers, and weirdo smut films have the skill to ignore their seeming novelties and reach a much higher level of admiration beyond the usual genre shackles. Black Christmas makes it happen. Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey, Andrea Martin, our crooked friend Billy, and a gift bag full of Holiday no-nos are only half of the story. It’s no coincidence that Bob Clark filtered Jean Shepherd’s wonderful “memoirs” into the equally loveable A Christmas Story a decade after the release of Black Christmas. Both films are steeped in low-key impeccability, the pull of popular culture, and how that pull tends to emotionally peak during the Christmas season. Only, Black Christmas is our dirty little secret. No 24-hour marathons. No relatives reciting lines badly over Christmas dinner (I hope). No novelty merchandising. Just the skewed comfort that can only be admired by a lover of slasher cinema and his or her loved ones, year after year after year. Isn’t common sense wonderful?

License to confuse. A few years back, Canadian company Eclectic released a sparse, open matte DVD of Black Christmas, titled “The 25th Anniversary Edition”. It looked nice; like my beloved VHS, but cleaner. Soon after, Critical Mass introduced the film in a flat letterbox format for the first time, with the extras-crammed “Critical Mass Collector’s Edition.” I bought that one and the transfer was wonderful. Critical Mass has now issued this version of the film, billed simply as “Special Edition”. A toss-up between the company’s previous DVD in terms of quality (it’s brighter, but the blacks aren’t as deep and original film grain is more apparent), this version is anamorphically enhanced at the correct 1.85:1 matted theatrical ratio. I’ve seen Black Christmas on many different formats, including theatrically. If there are any discernable differences between all of these DVD releases, you’ve got one on me. Thankfully, the original English (or French) mono sound track is included here, as well as a newly mixed 5.1 surround version.

Unfortunately, no one was up for consolidation. None of the excellent supplements from Critical Mass’s previous release have been ported over. So you don’t get the flurry of trailers and TV spots, two commentary tracks from director Bob Clark, actor John Saxon, and actor Keir Dullea, the 36 minute “Black Christmas: Revisited” documentary, that cool reversible cover art, the John Saxon Canadian TV interview, or the brief alternate title sequences. The new stuff is fine, but not as thorough as the “Collector’s Edition” material. Weird.

With this release, we’ve got a smattering of newly produced extras. Starting out, there are a couple of alternate sound sequences (two scenes from the film with newly uncovered audio) and a few 20 minute interviews with stars Olivia Hussey (Steve Martin LOVES Black Christmas), Margot Kidder (She slept with Brian DePalma and partied a lot), and Kris Hindle (He drove a porsche). Each interview features awkward photography, but the information is solid and the actors have terrific attitudes. Margot still rips it up and Hussey remains fetching. Next up is a 20 minute “Midnight Q&A” with director Bob Clark, actor John Saxon, and sound man Carl Zittrer. This is a videotaped audience chat, which followed a screening of the film at the NuArt theater in Los Angeles. It’s comfortable and laid back. Great questions, great answers, but nothing you haven’t heard (or read) before.

Finally, “The Twelve Days Of Black Christmas” is a 20 minute documentary which recycles all of the star interviews and adds a few bits from other participants. John Saxon narrates. Again, like the other supplements, it’s enjoyable, but not all that riveting. The previous documentary took care of business in that department.

Noel, c’est l’amour! Black Christmas will enrich your life. If you have yet to purchase a copy, buy this DVD. It’s less expensive than the more obscure, out of print previous editions. The quality will suit you fine. However, if you already own the superior “Collector’s Edition” DVD and aren’t a freak about extra-extras, there’s no point. Anamorphic or not, the film itself is what really matters.