Black Christmas

Black Christmas

DVD Rating: ***

Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Read Keith Hennessey Brown's film review of Black Christmas

This Region 2 DVD from Tartan, released under their Terror imprint, presents Black Christmas in a newly remastered anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer, with a choice of the original sound mix and a new 5.1 remix. But for an ever slightly unstable opening credits sequence, the visuals are of good quality, with solid tones and little damage evident. The audio is suitably disquieting even in 2.0, with a good balance between dialogue, score and ambiences.

While somewhat dry, the feature commentary with director Bob Clark is informative and refreshingly self-critical, explaining the rationale behind specific shots - "If I hadn't shown at least one hockey scene, I would have been asked to leave Canada" he wryly remarks - and highlighting aspects of the film that don't quite come off.

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Though failing to explain much in the way of context to the film, either with regard to his career, or the giallo and slasher genres, Clark does give his take on the relationship between Black Christmas and Halloween. Not wanting to do another horror film, he had suggested what happened next to [director]Carpenter[/director, but adds that if the Halloween director had taken inspiration from this, he moulded the resultant film into something entirely his own.

The retrospective documentary starts off badly in a "Hi, I'm Troy McClure..." way, with co-stars/hosts Lynn Griffin and Art Hindle revisiting the Toronto house that served as the Pi Kappa Sigma sorority. Fortunately things soon improve, with useful interview contributions from the likes of sound designer Carl Zittrer, who explains how the film's unsettling score was influenced by avant-garde composer John Cage and his use of the prepared piano, and John Saxon, explaining his last-minute casting as Lt Fuller after the intended actor, Edmond O'Brien, proved not to be up to the role. All told, a useful piece that nicely supplements and counterpoints Clark's commentary to provide an alternative, broader, perspective on Black Christmas's production.

Next up, Black Christmas fan and webmaster of, Monte Cohen, takes us on another tour of the house - rather more fun for him than us, one suspects.

The package is rounded off by alternative title sequences for the film as Silent Night Bloody Night and Stranger In The House, both framed in 4:3 and running one minute 20 seconds, trailers and radio and TV spots, a stills gallery and a trailer reel for other Tartan Terror releases - Bundy, Ed Gein, Society, Trauma, Pumpkinhead, and Bride Of Re-Animator.

All told, a good presentation of the film and a solid package of extras that augurs well for future Tartan Terror releases, though, at the same time, fans with access to a region free player may prefer the Eclectic DVD release, with its second commentary track featuring John Saxon and Keir Dullea.

Reviewed on: 10 Dec 2003
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Killer on campus causes girl fright four years before Halloween.
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Product Code: TVD3452

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 mixes

Extras: Commentary track with director Bob Clark; retrospective documentary; location tour; gallery; alternate credits sequence; trailers and promo spots.

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