Quantcast

Black Christmas – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Black-ChristmasBlack Christmas is a film that I’ve spent many years referring to as underrated, underseen, underappreciated, forgotten, unknown…you know the drill.  But, as I review this Blu-ray and I look back at it, I wonder if it really is any more.  If you’ll look at the bonus material, you’ll see there are a TON of interviews and retrospective documentaries on the film.  You don’t get that if people aren’t interested in seeing that sort of thing.  There was also a remake of the film.  You also will see many articles on it throughout the given year as a part of lists for horror things and seasonal tidings.  The film has also been remade, which is saying something too.  In 42 years since it’s release, I think its finally crossed the boundary and IS the great horror classic it has always been.  And for me, I’ve always called it one of my favorite slasher films, one of my favorite horror films, one of my favorite Christmas movies.  But, its time I cross a boundary and just say its one of my all time favorite films.  And its always exciting when one of my favorite films gets such a definitive release like this one.

Black Christmas 1

Film 

The college town of Bedford is receiving an unwelcome guest this Christmas. As the residents of sorority house Pi Kappa Sig prepare for the festive season, a stranger begins to stalk the house.  A series of obscene phone calls start to plague the residents of the sorority and it becomes clear that a psychopath is homing in on the sisters with dubious intentions. And though the police try to trace the calls, they discover that nothing is as it seems during this Black Christmas.

While I think Halloween is the film responsible for “getting it down” or “nailing it” or whatnot, Black Christmascould indeed count as the first real slasher film.  It does and doesn’t fit the whole mold.  But at the same time, this really is a fantastic little thriller, that if you haven’t seen it, I think you should go back and give it a shot.  The film features some inventive kills and humor that actually gets you laughing out loud pretty good.

While Black Christmas may be able to claim “first”, most people never saw it.  Halloween was the little film that picked up steam and scared the world.  Black Christmas was a Canadian film that got a smaller release, came and went.  It wasn’t until after the slasher boom of the early 1980s and also the rise of VHS that people were able to go back and see it.  It then gained a lot more popularity and cult status and people were able to be surprised something like this existed prior to 1978.
And then came the late Bob Clark’s little tale.  He would attend screenings and meet fans and such and share a story seems to be him mistaken or is a fabrication maybe due to some jealousy over Halloween being a bigger success than his film and receiving tons of accreditation for creating the slasher genre.  Clark touted that after Black Christmas came out he met a young man by the name of John Carpenter that was a huge fan of the film.  He claims the man said that Clark should make a sequel to it.  And if he did he proposed that this time the killer struck on Halloween and the movie should be called as such.  Cue hammy mug toward the audience.  I do believe Carpenter drew some inspiration from Black Christmas with Halloween, the first scene in the film says as much.  However, Carpenter didn’t come up with the basis for the film.  It was producer Irwin Yablans that came up with the general premise of a man with a knife stalking and killing babysitters.  It was titled The Babysitter Murders going into preproduction.  And then later on, it was Yablans again that came and gave the title Halloween.  So, I really don’t know if you can really take too much to home with Clark’s tale.
Clark shouldn’t have gloated like that.  He made a damn fine slasher film.  The film boasts very rich character work and logical motivations, complete with legitimate red herrings.  It borrows the whole “caller in the house” urban legend and does the concept miles better than the latter When A Stranger Calls would (although the opening scene in that movie is dynamite).  The cast here is colorful and fun.  This is my favorite all time performance of Margot Kidder.  She’s an absolute riot as the nasty loudmouth drunk Barb.  And she’s not in the “I can’t wait til that bitch gets it” type role either, you actually enjoy her presence because of the humor she brings.  The only cast member that I think is weak is our “final” girl, played by every middle school youth boys’ first set of boobs seen in school, Olivia Hussey (it seemed in my generation we all had to sit through her in Romeo & Juliet in which she went topless and it was a big deal to us middle school guys).  Hussey just doesn’t come across as likeable.  I like the character and I really think the abortion dilemma subplot is fantastic, she’s just not coming across as sympathetic or moreso likeable.
The film surprisingly finds itself a fine amount of humor that actually works.  There are as many laughs, if not more, as tense moments in the film.  If more people had seen this movie and it been a hit, I really could see this thing being one of the more quotable films of all time.  Like I said before, Margot Kidder steals this movie.  If you were ever on the fence with her, or don’t care for her (yet still sat through 4 Superman films), check this film out and maybe you’ll see why I’ve always kinda liked her.  The police even get to have some fun here.  And the killer is so raunchy at times, its comes off as both creepy as hell and also a little bit funny sometimes.
The film isn’t directed near as well as Halloween, but that doesn’t mean it’s any sort of slouch.  The bag over the head kill has become pretty iconic.  There’s also the POV shots with breathing, where Halloween ribs most.  I really like the almost “clean grindhouse” aesthetic the film has.  There’s a level of comfort I get when I see films that look like this.  The script is also pretty smart too.  The police aren’t dummies (well, one gets a gag pulled on him, but when it comes to his job its different).  They also put out a missing persons search almost immediately.  The red herrings are present without being super obvious that that’s what the script is trying to set up.  And then it has a wonderfully creepy ambiguous ending to boot.
Black Christmas is in my all time favorite slasher films.  Its largely bloodless, but plays in suspense and mystery.  One of its larger triumphs is that it tells jokes that are actually funny.  It also has deep, rounded characters, that even the most one note stereotype seems wealthy in details.  If you like Halloween or really the golden age slasher films, go back and check this one out.  Because its better than a lot of those.  And yes, I’ll agree, it was first in what it was doing.  But it wasn’t the best 😉
Black Christmas 5

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (Disc 1) / 1.78:1 (Disc 2 Critical Mass Version)

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Scream Factory’s Black Christmas comes with a brand new 2K transfer of the original negative.  They’ve made it clear that they have not touched or done anything extra to it.  It does feature some heavy grain and print damage, though overall this is a much better experience than the original.  Its presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio because that’s how it screen in theaters in the US.  While Black Christmas, I just don’t think is ever going to look pristine (Unless there’s someone like a JJ Abrams out there that could Phantasm it), this still looks genuine and has some very impressive moments in spots.  The image is softer, but it also retains some more detail and manages to keep a consistent timing with color and skin.  Those who are fans of glossed up, over done slick post work done on vintage titles aren’t probably goign to fancy this, but I get a kick out of the slight grindhouse aspect to it.

Depth:  The depth work is a little improved on what was a little bit of a flatter image overall.  Characters movements are cinematic and very smooth and more confident than they were before in the previous Blu-ray.  Background imagery lacks in detail when the focus is dropped but actually pulls some decent stuff when its in some focus.

Black Levels:  Blacks are very deep and more grain appears in darker scenes and dark areas like clothing or dark spots in a low lit scene.  Details still come through, but there are plenty hidden in the shadows or in hair, clothes or surfaces.  No crushing witnessed on this viewing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are much better this time around.  They are stronger and have a more varied palette. They no longer bleed into one another and are sharper in holding into their own ground.  Yellows, golds and oranges look pretty strong and impressive.  Blood is a standout too, of course.  Brightly lit scenes provide some more vivid (for this transfer) looking colors.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout surprisingly.  This is one of the biggest steps up from the previous release as the skin tones were all sorts of bad (pink, flushed out, etc), flickery and different scene to scene.  Facial details are best in close-ups but still pretty discernible from a medium shot.

Noise/Artifacts:  Heavy grain, some streaks, print damage and a couple parts have a very thin looking image.  Its a bit grindhouse-y but a decent enough step up.  Its not like those modern fake grindhouse movies.

Black Christmas 3

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA, Original Mono 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The English 5.1 track is the same one from the previous release.  What’s new here is the original mono track.  And that one truly gives a vintage feel to everything, but be warned as it can be a bit rough.  Its very light on the low end and does feature plenty of hiss/pop distortion with things brushing up.  Home theater junkies will probably not care for it, but purists will love it.  But guess what?  You get to choose what you want to listen to, everybody wins!

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The 5.1 tracks gets more into it, which features some scoring moments and jumpy bit getting the deep thumping treatment.  Its not a film that asks for a lot, but when it does, the track manages to be able to deliver.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a more front-laden 5.1 track, but there are some good, cool winter airy ambient presences lurking in the rear speakers.  Movements and volume placements are both accurately tracked here in the mix.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are clear and clean on the 5.1  and 2.0 track based off of that one.  On the original mono that are a bit rougher and raspier with S’s being pretty sharp and hissy.

Black Christmas 4

Extras 

Black Christmas – Collector’s Edition is a 2-Blu-ray Disc set that contains reversible cover artwork featuring the original poster design.

Disc 1

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Bob Clark
  • With Actors John Saxon and Keir Dullea
  • With Billy
  • Interview with Director Bob Clark (Audio plays over film)

Disc 2

2006 Critical Mass Version (HD, 1:38:05) – This is the transfer used in the original Blu-ray release.  So, if you’re not a fan of the look of the film on disc 1, you’ve still go this to hold on to.

Film and Furs: Remembering Black Christmas (HD, 26:11) – An interview with Art Hindle. He talks about what seems like a fun shoot to him, as well as sorta where he was in his career and what it was like to go out for a film like this.  My favorite is his anecdotes regarding his hockey scene, which I’m not sure I’d heard anything about before.

Victims and Virgins: Remembering Black Christmas (HD, 26:35) – An interview with Lynne Griffin.  Shy and secretive about her age when she was shoot, the actress recalls her own experiences on the film.  She also points out how retroactively Black Christmas manages to defy the tropes of the era of slasher films it would later lump in the 1980s.

Black Christmas Legacy (HD, 40:22) – The full on retrospective from the previous Blu-ray release of the film.

40th Anniversary Panel at FanExpo 2014 (HD, 18:02) – Features John Saxon, Art Hindle, Lynne Griffin & Nick Mancuso talking at a Canadian convention.

On Screen! Black Christmas (SD, 48:41) – A vintage featurette featuring people from the film as well as others in the Canadian film and entertainment industry discussing Black Christmas and its legacy.

12 Days of Black Christmas (SD, 19:48) – Narrated by John Saxon, cast and crew from the film discuss how Black Christmas was first and set the stage for what would later come in the slasher film and how it was ahead of its time.

Black Christmas Revisited (SD, 36:25) – Another vintage retrospective with cast and crew discussing the film.

Archival Interviews (SD, 1:41:30) – Featuring Olivia Hussey, Art Hindle, Margot Kidder, Bob Clark and John Saxon. These are the full takes from interviews used in the other featurettes from previous releases.

Midnight Screening Q&A (SD, 20:21) – With John Saxon, Bob Clark and Carl Zittrer.  This is where Bob Clark tells his John Carpenter story.

Two Scenes With a New Soundtrack (SD, 3:04) – These are a couple discoveries made when mixing the 5.1 that have sounds that weren’t present in the final cut.

Theatrical Trailers: English and French (SD, 8:16)

Original TV & Radio Spots (SD, 3:09) 

Alternative Title Sequences (SD, 2:47) – “Silent Night, Evil Night” and “Stranger In The House”

Photo Gallery (HD, 4:33) – Posters, lobby cards, articles and a few promo shots.

Black Christmas 2

Summary 

Scream Factory’s Black Christmas is easy reason to retire any previous edition you still have of the film.  They’ve included pretty much every damn thing that’s come before.  They also give you two new interviews.  What’s awesome is you get the new 2K transfer from the negative as well as the older transfer in case you don’t fancier a little rougher (truer) appearance.  AND AND AND, its coming out just in time for the holidays.  Don’t hesitate, don’t make lewed phone calls instead, don’t tell Agnes what you’ve done, just get out and order this thing as its a great release for a great film.

Black-Christmas-Blu-ray

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

5 Responses to “Black Christmas – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Good thing they darkened the cover. I was really worried about spoilers there… 😉

  2. Jon

    Any info on the audio commentaries? They weren’t on the old DVD/BD. Curious.

  3. Jay

    Aaron, it wasn’t a spoiler originally; if anything, it was misdirection. Yes, you could see a character’s face, but the movie makes it clear at the end that character is not the killer. Besides, the movie is 42 years old. I don’t think “spoilers” apply.

  4. Aaron Neuwirth

    #Sarcasm

  5. Jamie Tate

    The mono mix was sourced from an optical track, hence the overly sibilant sound. Scream Factory has gotten complaints so they are now offering a replacement blu-ray that uses the mono mix from the previous blu-ray instead.

    Send a proof of purchase to info@shoutfactory.com and include the subject line: BLACK CHRISTMAS REPLACEMENT PROGRAM