It's common knowledge among horror geeks but likely an obscure factoid to most classic and modern classic film fans that Bob Clark, director of the beloved holiday perennial A Christmas Story (1983), is also responsible for the proto-slasher film Black Christmas (1974).  " /> It's common knowledge among horror geeks but likely an obscure factoid to most classic and modern classic film fans that Bob Clark, director of the beloved holiday perennial A Christmas Story (1983), is also responsible for the proto-slasher film Black Christmas (1974).  " /> It's common knowledge among horror geeks but likely an obscure factoid to most classic and modern classic film fans that Bob Clark, director of the beloved holiday perennial A Christmas Story (1983), is also responsible for the proto-slasher film Black Christmas (1974).  " />

A Cruel Yule: Black Christmas (1974)

BC onesheetIt's common knowledge among horror geeks but likely an obscure factoid to most classic and modern classic film fans that Bob Clark, director of the beloved holiday perennial A Christmas Story (1983), is also responsible for the proto-slasher film Black Christmas (1974).  While these two Yuletide tales are as alike as day and midnight, they do share a surprising number of commonalities in texture and tone – which shouldn't be too surprising, considering they were both shot by cinematographer Reginald Morris.   
Dialing down the candied hues of most sugar-coated Christmas movies, A Christmas Story set its narrative in a grubby, working class milieu that minimized the treacle oozing from 9 out of 10 Christmas movies that vie for the status of holiday classic.  A similar vein pulses within the dark heart of Black Christmas, in which a campus sorority house is terrorized over the holiday break by a deranged killer.  Although the town-and-gown setting is streets away from A Christmas Story's suburban sprawl, there's a shared feeling of loneliness and defeatism, with an ironic counterpoint provided by the omnipresent drone of dirge-like Christmas carols and their nattering about merriment, peace and (prophetically) silent nights.  That the killer seems to be a case of arrested development, a retarded man-child who secrets himself in an attic filled with mouldering nursery toys, makes Black Christmas not only unremittingly creepy but undeniably sad, revealing as it does the common ground shared by its pathetic predator and his alienated, disillusioned prey.  The lineup of comely victims and their chowderheaded boyfriends, the subjective camera work and a consistent tone of nastiness set the stage for John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), while a key piece of suspense business involving the tracing of a threatening telephone call found its way into When A Stranger Calls (1979) five years down the pike.  Clark's cast is first rate, with a pre-Superman (1978) Margot Kidder, Second City TV alum Andrea Martin and Lynda Griffen (Strange Brew… and more recently Mrs. Claus to George Wendt's Jolly Old St. Nick in Santa Baby) numbering among the unlucky collegiates, Olivia Hussey (Romeo & Juliet) as The Final Girl, Art Hindle (The Brood) as Useless Boyfriend #1, John Saxon (taking a break at the time from Italian crime movies and spaghetti westerns) as the cop on the case and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) star Keir Dullea as the Prime Suspect.  Uncredited as the voice of the killer is Canadian actor Nick Mancuso, later the star of such films as the excellent cult drama Ticket to Heaven (1981) and Bobby Roth's underrated Heartbreakers (1984), as well as the short-lived TV series StingrayBlack Christmas (which was also released under the alternative title Silent Night, Evil Night) has tremendous street cred with horror film fans of a certain age and has recently been remade… but the eerie magic of Bob Clark's original can never be duplicated.  TV broadcasts are rare these days but a deluxe, 2-disc collector's edition DVD has just been released by Critical Mass.  Now that's a stocking stuffer.

   

6 Responses A Cruel Yule: Black Christmas (1974)
Posted By Junior Kinski : December 6, 2006 5:22 pm

I particularly love the ending to this film and the fact that you never actually seen or learn who the psychotic killer is! I'm hearing that the remake has added a backstory on the psycho, thus killing off any sense of mystery for the audience. Hollywood dumbs it down again! Don't bother and rent the original instead. Still a lot of fun and still creepy after all these years.

Posted By Junior Kinski : December 6, 2006 5:22 pm

I particularly love the ending to this film and the fact that you never actually seen or learn who the psychotic killer is! I'm hearing that the remake has added a backstory on the psycho, thus killing off any sense of mystery for the audience. Hollywood dumbs it down again! Don't bother and rent the original instead. Still a lot of fun and still creepy after all these years.

Posted By white dawg : October 31, 2007 3:46 pm

WHITE DAWG!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted By white dawg : October 31, 2007 3:46 pm

WHITE DAWG!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted By TCM’s Movie Blog : December 12, 2008 5:08 pm

[...] of holiday-themed horror movies.  I quote myself in saying that I found BLACK CHRISTMAS had an eerie magic present in very few slashers new or old and that SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT was and remains an a [...]

Posted By TCM’s Movie Blog : December 12, 2008 5:08 pm

[...] of holiday-themed horror movies.  I quote myself in saying that I found BLACK CHRISTMAS had an eerie magic present in very few slashers new or old and that SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT was and remains an a [...]

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