Black Christmas (1974 film)

Black Christmas (1974 film)

:otheruses4|the 1974 film|the 2006 remake|Black Christmas (2006 film)Infobox Film
name = Black Christmas

caption = Theatrical release poster
director = Bob Clark
producer = Bob Clark
writer = Roy Moore
starring = Olivia Hussey
Keir Dullea
Margot Kidder
John Saxon
Marian Waldman
Andrea Martin
music = Carl Zittrer
cinematography = Reginald H. Morris
editing = Stan Cole
distributor = Critical Mass, Inc.
Warner Bros.
released = December 20, 1974
runtime = 98 min.
country = flagicon|Canada Canada
language = English
budget = $620,000
gross = $4,053,000
amg_id = 1:5838
imdb_id = 0071222

"Black Christmas" is a 1974 Canadian horror film, directed by Bob Clark, which has a very large cult following. It was written by Roy Moore, and based largely on a series of murders in Montreal, Canada, around Christmas time. "Black Christmas" stars Olivia Hussey as a young college student who must deal with a deranged killer lurking in her sorority house. It also features Margot Kidder and Andrea Martin, before either had gained fame in the United States, John Saxon and Keir Dullea round out the cast. The film's score is by Carl Zittrer, and was marketed with the tagline "If this movie doesn't make your skin crawl... It's on too tight!"


Opening at a sorority house for a private school during a party, an unknown man walks towards the house, climbs up it and goes through the open attic window. We are introduced to the sorority girls, the main ones being Jess Bradford, Barb Coard and Phyllis Carlson. The prowler heads outside of the attic into the house and creeps through upstairs. The girls get a phone call from someone they call "The Moaner". The call starts out sexual in nature, but it grows more macabre, with the man on the other end saying strange things in different voices. The shyest sorority girl, Clare Harrison, goes upstairs to pack up; as she does she hears something in her closet. Going in to investigate, the Killer dives out and wraps a plastic bag around her head, asphyxiating her. The sorority girls downstairs give their present to Ms. Mac, the house mother. With all of the commotion no one hears Clare screaming. Later that night, Jess knocks on Clare's door, and nobody answers. The now-dead Clare is seen in the attic on a rocking chair with the plastic bag wrapped around her head, while the Killer is singing.

The next day, Clare's father arrives to pick her up, but she isn't there. Nobody has seen her since the night before. Jess talks to her boyfriend Peter. Jess is pregnant and they discuss whether or not they should become parents. Peter suggests they get married, but Jess tells him she doesn't want to marry him, or have the baby. Jess, at the house, gets another obscene phone call from the Killer. The sorority girls and Ms. Mac are at the police station to report that Clare is nowhere to be found. Peter, obviously distraught from his earlier conversation with Jess, fails at playing an important piano recital before judges. Later he is shown in the room smashing the piano.

Back at the house, Ms. MacHenry gets ready to leave, but hears the cat Claude meowing from somewhere in the attic. Ms. Mac peers into the attic and sees Clare dead and the Killer holding a crane hook directly in front of her. The hook hits her in the face, killing her instantly and pulls her up into the attic. The sorority girls, still outside, are assisting in a hunt for a missing girl who is found dead, murdered by an unknown assailant. Jess, returning to the house, gets another obscene phone call from the Killer. After the call, she meets Peter who wants to talk to her about the baby. She tells him she has decided to get an abortion, Peter begins to behave strangely and becomes emotionally distraught. A police officer is outside keeping an eye on the house, and Peter stays outside behind a tree looking at the house.

Barb, having drunk far too much, heads to bed and the Killer leaves the attic. As Jess and Phyllis listen to carolers outside, the Killer grabs a glass unicorn and stabs Barb repeatedly with her screams being drowned out by the carolers' singing. Phyllis checks on Barb and, as she enters the room, the killer closes the door and murders her.

Jess gets another obscene phone call. After that, the police call her and tell her that the calls are coming from the inside of the house and to get out. She arms herself with a fireplace poker and goes upstairs to get Barb and Phyllis. Upstairs she opens the door and sees their dead bodies. She sees the Killer's eye through the doorwhich, she closes it on him and runs to the door which is locked. She gets chased by the Killer with a notable shot of the Killer grabbing Jess' hair. She manages to escape and hides in the basement. She then sees Peter who breaks through the basement window. Jess now believes that Peter is the killer. He slowly approaches, asking if she is okay while she grips the fireplace poker. Outside, the police arrive and hear a loud scream. When they enter the basement, Jess is seen alive and stunned with a bloodied Peter laying against her. Jess has killed Peter with the fireplace poker.

Jess is sedated and left in a bed upstairs. The police, confident the Killer was Peter, leave the house as Clare's father faints from the enormity of the situation (and the fact that Clare has still not been found). As Jess sleeps alone, the camera pans slowly down the hall and upstairs to the trapdoor of the attic, where we see it open slightly. Inside the attic, the two bodies of Ms. Mac and Clare remain undiscovered. We discover the Killer is still alive, and is not Peter, and says "Agnes, it's me, Billy." There is an abrupt cut to the outside of the house, where a lone police officer stands guard on the front porch. The camera pans back and we see Clare, who's face is covered in plastic, sitting in a rocking chair right in front of the attic window. As the credits roll, the phone begins to ring.


*Olivia Hussey as Jessica Bradford
*Keir Dullea as Peter Smythe
*Margot Kidder as Barbie Coard
*John Saxon as Lt. Kenneth Fuller
*Marian Waldman as Barbara "Ms. Mac" MacHenry
*Andrea Martin as Phyllis Carlson
*James Edmond Jr. as Mr. Harrison
*Doug McGrath as Sgt. Nash
*Art Hindle as Chris Hayden
*Lynne Griffin as Clare Harrison
*Bob Clark (uncredited) as Prowler Shadow / Phone Voice
*Nick Mancuso (uncredited) as The Prowler / Phone Voice

Production and history

Working from a budget of $620,000 and an eight week shooting schedule, the film was shot in 35mm format utilizing Panavision cameras and lenses in and around Toronto during the winter of 1974. Annesley Hall National Historic Site was used for some scenes. When originally released in the United States, Warner Bros., fearing that audiences might confuse it for a blaxploitation movie, changed the title to "Silent Night, Evil Night". It performed poorly until its title was changed back to "Black Christmas". It was later retitled "Stranger in the House" for television broadcast.

Though John Carpenter's "Halloween" (1978) is generally credited with popularizing the main motifs of the contemporary slasher film genre, many genre aficionados contend that "Black Christmas" invented many of them four years earlier. For example, the film features shots from the perspective of the killer, replete with muffled breathing noises. Also, like "Halloween", it is centered around a holiday.

Upon its original release, the film did well in comparison to its budget, grossing $4,053,000 in the USA alone. Critics' reviews were mixed -- for example, "Variety" felt the film was heavily cliched and that "Black Christmas", a bloody, senseless kill-for-kicks feature, exploits unnecessary violence in a university sorority house operated by an implausibly alcoholic ex-hoofer. Its slow-paced, murky tale involves an obscene telephone caller who apparently delights in killing the girls off one by one, even the hapless house-mother." [ [] - Review in "Variety" magazine, 1974.] The film has however, become a cult classic in the years since its release and often a perverse staple of Horror channels throughout the Christmas season.

DVD Releases

Eclectic DVD has released two editions of "Black Christmas". The first was a bare-bones release that hit shelves on November 6, 2001. This was then followed by a collector's edition released on December 3, 2002, that featured a making-of documentary and two commentary tracks (some of the commentary material was obviously taken from interviews for the documentary), among other features. On December 5, 2006, Critical Mass and Alliance Atlantis released a new "special edition" disc that offers a featurette titled "The Twelve Days of Black Christmas" and two deleted sound scenes, in addition to interviews with Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder and clips from a Q&A sessions at a midnight screening with the makers of "Black Christmas".


* It is the first horror film to use the "the calls are coming from inside the house" plotline. The later film, "When a Stranger Calls" was based largely on this concept. The film's heroine, Jill Johnson, even uses a fireplace poker to defend herself like the heroine does in "Black Christmas".
* John Saxon's scenes were filmed separately from the leads, yet they appear to be in the same room.
* Edmund O'Brien was originally supposed to play the character that Saxon played. According to the documentary feature "On Screen" (produced for the Canadian cable network Space), O'Brien was removed from the picture when he began showing signs of Alzheimer's disease; Saxon filmed his first scenes only two hours after arriving in Toronto.
* Originally scripted as "The Babysitter", the title was changed to "Stop Me", and eventually produced as "Black Christmas".
* The original script was written by Canadian Roy Moore who had read about a similar story happening in major cities around the world in a 12 month period. This was never proven. Apparently the Westmount section of Montreal was the closest story to home.
* Director Bob Clark, in the "On Screen" documentary, claims that he came up with the basic idea of "Halloween" (including its title) as a hypothetical sequel to "Black Christmas"; he later gave the idea to John Carpenter.
* This film was #87 on Bravo's "100 Scariest Movie Moments" for the scene with a dead girl sitting by a window.
* According to director Bob Clark, screen icon Bette Davis was offered the role of Mrs. Mac, the alcoholic, comic relief housemother (played in the film by veteran Canadian actress Marian Waldman).
* Actress Andrea Martin (who plays Phyliss) plays the Mrs. Mac housemother role in the 2006 remake of "Black Christmas".
* Bob Clark would later go on to direct one of the most popular Christmas-themed movies of all time, "A Christmas Story".

External links


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