- Produced and Directed by Bob Clark
- October 11, 1974
A group of sorority sisters after receiving disturbing phone calls are stalked by a deranged killer during the Christmas season.
Black Christmas is considered a classic and from the looks of it originates or uses better than most several things which have been copied multiple times since. Some consider it the first real slasher film though I am not sure about that. I would call it the first real slasher film of the 70s.
It has all the usual elements you might expect in your standard slasher. There is the attractive group of young individuals. There are the calls coming from inside the house where all the victims are. There is the indifferent police department. I have seen such things in dozens of films-many of which were similarly themed made after this.
And perhaps that is why this movie is considered a classic. Personally I am only just now becoming acquainted with it and while I enjoyed it, I would not call it really great or consider it a definitive classic. I am going to admit though that my view may be colored a bit by having seen it after so many other movies have copied what was done here.
For me the most interesting cast member was Olivia Hussey as central character Jess. She was known internationally previously for the role of Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s film version of Romeo and Juliet. The role that comes to mind the most for me though is her as Mary in the classic miniseries Jesus of Nazareth. Apparently before that she played Jess, a college girl waiting to get an abortion when she got knocked up by her boyfriend. It is mostly the Catholic in me that finds going from this to that very surprising.
Keir Dullea, perhaps best known as David Bowman in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey and its 1984 sequel 2010: The Year We Make Contact, plays her boyfriend Peter. Dullea is 15 years older than Hussey and truthfully he looks too old for the part here. And compared to the previously mentioned films, his performance here is not that good. His emotions do not really match the moment making things rather odd when onscreen.
We also have Margot Kidder in here as Jess’s sorority sister Barb. I was completely unaware of her connection to this film prior to watching. Here she plays the equivalent of a 70s bitch which in modern times would be just the kind of irritating character. She is just obnoxiously mean.
Andrea Martin plays sorority sister Phyl. Lynne Griffin plays Clare and Arthur “Art” Hindle is Clare’s boyfriend Chris who sports a fur jacket. I thought men wearing fur jackets ended in the 1940s. And Marian Waldman is house mother Mrs. MacHenry.
And how can I forget John Saxon as Lt. Fuller. Edmond O’Brien was originally cast but was let go because it was obvious his advancing Alzheimer’s was going to prevent him from handling the role. Saxon was a great Plan B. He was a great actor that could always make the most out of what he was given.
One thing I appreciate about this movie is that they never actually show the face of the killer. There is no reveal pointing to who it actually is and you were left with one or two suspects-one of whom turns out to not be the killer. Several individuals contributed to The Prowler portrayal and none were ever filmed directly. The film ending was also left ambiguous which is rather unusual. Audiences are used to having things wrapped up rather neatly and here they never were.
Here they went for the gore and shock over any actual scares. There is also the trope of the lingering shot of the individual with horror on their face which is something that always bothered me in any film. If you have 10 seconds to look in terror, then you have nine seconds to start running away. I am not saying a person cannot be paralyzed with fear but not everybody is paralyzed with fear. Fortunately such a shot is not really in fashion anymore among directors.
Black Christmas is certainly a classic for its day and deserves its status for being an original from the time. What I do not get is why it warranted not one but two remakes both of which were very close together. I guess it is a further demonstration that Hollywood does not lack originality but lacks a desire to try to be original. Moviemaking is after all a business and it is safer to use nostalgia to make a buck than it is to be original.
Black Christmas is more interesting than most non-supernatural horror slasher films. It is worth a watch to not only see a classic but to see were many things that were used for 10 or 15 years after this movie came out came from. For the horror connoisseur this is a must see but for the general film fan it is an if you want.
2 thoughts on “The Original “Black Christmas” (originally titled “Silent Night, Evil Night” in the US)”
IU have this on an old DVD somewhere, and every December I keep intending to search it out and give this a festive re-watch (perfect double-bill with Die Hard). You never know, maybe this year…
I should do the decent/lazy thing, just buy the Blu-ray.
Whatever you do skip the remakes.