Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

Poster for Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) by #TheodoreGershuny

w/#PatrickONeal #MaryWoronov #JohnCarradine

A man inherits an old mansion which once was a mental home and is soon stalked by an ax murderer.

“The mansion… the madness… the maniac… no escape.”

#Xmas #Horror
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

I used to walk over to Jumbo Video with my friends (or sometimes alone) in the middle of the night. It was the first video store we had that was open 24 hours – and that seemed unreasonably cool to us. Sometimes you’d go to a late movie and then walk home and you’d realize that you were in the mood to watch two more movies and order pizza – but it was already after midnight! In the old days you’d be stuck watching whatever was on TV or – if you were lucky enough to have any – whatever VHS tapes you had in your collection. But truth be told, we didn’t really have collections yet.

VHS and Beta tapes were super expensive to buy – when they were available at all – and previously viewed movies hadn’t really been invented yet.

So, we rented movies whenever we could.

As I may have mentioned before, Jumbo Video had a horror castle – which was a room full of more horror films than anyone ever knew existed – and we always spent a lot of time wandering around inside of it. If we had rented a movie every day it would have still taken us years to see all of these obscure gems. And there were new ones being added all the time. Put simply, this castle was a horror junkie’s paradise.

VHS box for Christmas Evil (1980)I remember a little mini section of Christmas horror films on one of the shelves. This was before I had seen any of them, and my friends and I wold look at the boxes and laugh. Yes, we would laugh at the idea of Christmas being the subject of a scary movie. Halloween made sense to us. Friday the 13th made sense to us. Even Prom Night made sense, as we were all a little bit afraid of school dances. But titles like Christmas Evil (1980), Black Christmas (1974), and Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984) just seemed a little silly to us.

We knew about Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), and how it had been pulled from the theatres due to some moral outrage – but we had not seen the movie yet. We could, however, see its influence as there were similar titles on the shelf, like Silent Night, Evil Night (which it turns out was a retitling of Black Christmas), and Silent Night, Bloody Night – which it turns out was made twelve years before the notorious Santa Claus slasher film.

VHS box for Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)I eventually saw Silent Night, Deadly Night and I liked it. Then I saw Black Christmas (1974) and loved it. After that I watched every Christmas related horror film that I could get my hands on. This led me to eventually, pick up an old beat up VHS copy of Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) and I thought it was pretty good. It had Mary Woronov in it, who I knew from Eating Raoul (1982) and a few other films.

Honestly, I think I found Silent Night, Bloody Night a tad confusing the first time I saw it. It probably didn’t help that it was a bad film print which had been cropped and transferred to a cheapo VHS tape (which had likely been somewhat abused before I bought it). The image was dark and fuzzy, and the sound was slightly muffled. Still, there was something I liked about the movie, so I kept it in my collection.

It grew on me over the years, as I watched it a few more times. Then I picked up a nice widescreen DVD that was almost in good shape – and it was like a whole new movie to me. I felt like I appreciated it more than I ever had before. Maybe I had simply finally seen it enough times, or maybe that widescreen image made all the difference. Whatever the case, I can now honestly say that I love this movie. And watching it last friday – on Christmas Eve – really confirmed that for me.

Don’t get me wrong. Black Christmas (1974) is still the greatest Xmas horror film of all time, in my opinion. And Christmas Evil (1980) is also very special to me – but that’s another story.

Silent Night, Bloody Night actually has some things in common with Black Christmas (1974). It’s kind of a proto-slasher film. I have to wonder if the filmmakers were influenced by some of the great giallos that had come before it. It has a great location/setting (the mansion that used to be a mental institution). It has some really great horror atmosphere, as only the movies of the early 1970s seem to have. It has suspense, and a sense of dread. And it has John Carradine instead of John Saxon – both genre legends whose films run the gamut from masterpieces to trash. 

Other interesting facts:

Mary Woronov was one of Andy Warhol’s superstars – and there are at least two others in Silent Night, Bloody Night: Ondine & Candy Darling. Woronov was also apparently married to the director, Theodore Gershuny, at one time. 

Lloyd Kaufman, legendary filmmaker and co-founder of Troma, was an associate producer of Silent Night, Bloody Night – or Ass Prod as I once called him on Twitter, to which he responded: “yes I was “ass producer!”… I still an “Ass Producer” check out @Return2NukeEm vol1″ – but I digress.

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema that could bring the merry good times to any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn – particularly one that falls on or around Xmas Eve. I know that I will continue to enjoy it for many years to come.

The Blood On Santa’s Claws

The Blood On Santa’s Claws is a very short (about 15 minutes) play originally written for a evening of theatre called Six Twisted X-mas Tales. It was intended as an homage to Christmas horror films, like Black Christmas (1974) and Christmas Evil aka You Better Watch Out (1980). In fact, every Christmas horror film that existed in 1995 was studied in an attempt to create a crazy, compact little comedy which would combine all of the best (and worst) elements of these movies. Call it a satire, call it a tribute, The Blood On Santa’s Claws stands on it’s own as a fun, funny comedy about Christmas, greed, lust, murder, and two very different, very insane serial killers.

Unfortunately, Six Twisted X-mas Tales. was canceled, due to scheduling problems, and The Blood On Santa’s Claws disappeared into the deep dark abyss of unproduced scripts.

A couple of years later Angus Kohm wrote his most popular and successful play, Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical, which continues to be produced regularly in Canada and the USA. What people don’t realize, is that The Blood On Santa’s Claws was kind of like an early, forgotten version of Sorority Girls… Perhaps a close cousin, of sorts.  Because The Blood On Santa’s Claws was never produced, and had all but vanished, Kohm borrowed a couple of things from it when he wrote Sorority Girls… Most noticeably, the character of Alvin appears in both plays. They are not the same guy, of course, but they could be close relatives. Those who know Sorority Girls… will recognize a few other similar details. The two plays are ultimately very different, but fans of Sorority Girls… will find that reading (or seeing a production of) The Blood On Santa’s Claws will give them a whole new bit of insight into how the later play started to develop. It might even make an interesting curtain raiser for groups presenting Sorority Girls…

In December of 1999, The Blood On Santa’s Claws was given its first public presentation by Cherry Red Productions of Washington D.C., as part of their Christmas Special – exactly four years after the play had first been intended for production (and two years after Sorority Girls… had taken the fringe festival circuit by storm).

The Blood On Santa’s Claws
by Angus Kohm
Short One Act Comedy;
4 Characters: 2 Female, 2 Male
Running Time: 15 minutes;
Can be produced on a bare stage;
Few props; simple costumes;
________________
Copies of the script are available for $4.95 each.
Professional and Amateur Performance Rights are available.
Royalty Fees will be applicable, but the exact amount will depend on the details of each individual production.
________________

To find out more, contact the author (address below).
Please include information such as:
1) Where your production would take place
2) When it would take place
3) How many performances there would be
4) How many seats there are in the theatre
5) Ticket prices

To Order Scripts, Scores, CDs, etc.,

or for information on obtaining the professional or amateur rights to The Blood On Santa’s Claws contact:

Angus Kohm c/o SWAK Productions:
205 – 21 Roslyn Road
Winnipeg, MB
R3L 2S8
Canada

Or send an e-mail

Make cheques (or money orders) payable to Angus Kohm.
Shipping charges may be applicable, and may vary due to shipping location and size of order.
E-mail or snail mail to find out more.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Tales from the Crypt (1972)

I recently recounted the story of my earliest interactions with VCRs (not here, but for a another project that you’ll be hearing about in the months to come). It made me realize that one of the most important moments in my development as an aficionado of obscure, weird, horror and other B-movies was the purchase of my family’s first VCR. My parents had been a little slow to come around to the idea that we needed to OWN one, and in fact had resorted to renting a VCR a few times. But, after a few successful VCR rental weekends – and a lot of begging from me – my parents finally decided that it might be more economical – and less annoying – to buy one.

My mom took me down to Adi’s Video, one of the closest and most successful movie rental stores in the neighborhood. Adi’s wasn’t just renting movies in those days, they were also selling VCRs – and they had both VHS and Beta. My Mom asked the man in the store (I don’t think it was Adi), which format was the best. He did not hesitate to tell us that Beta was far superior to VHS. So, my Mom bought a Sony Betamax. It came with a wired remote control and a free Beta t-shirt (which I wore for a couple of years). I have to say, that machine worked really well. And even after Beta lost the war to VHS, I continued to use it to tape movies off the TV. In fact, I still have it hooked up to my TV today – and it still works (almost 40 years later). On the other hand, my family went through several VHS VCRs over the years. Some of them died after only a couple of years. Coincidence? Who knows…?

I have a really strong memory of the guy who sold us that Betamax, standing there in his “Beta #1” t-shirt, and I am certain that he is the one from whom I rented Tales from the Crypt (1972) – on Beta, of course. It must have been on the same day we bought the VCR. I remember the “Beta #1” guy so vividly, taking the movie box from my hand and examining it, approvingly.

“This is a good movie,” he said. “Jacqueline Bisset is great in it…” then he turned the box over and looked at the back. “Oh, wait,” he said, “It’s Joan Collins who’s in this. I get them mixed up.”

My Mom reacted, physically. “I wouldn’t want to be confused with Joan Collins,” she said, judgementally.

This comment has remained burned in my brain for all these years. My Mom thought it was an insult to Jacqueline Bisset that “Beta #1” thought she was Joan Collins. Or, rather, that he thought that Joan Collins was her, as the case might be. I never asked for clarification of that remark, because I assumed that it was because Joan Collins was the “bad woman” Alexis Carrington on Dynasty (1981-89) in those days. I was a little surprised, because I didn’t think my Mom even watched Dynasty – she was much more of a Dallas (1978–1991) fan.

In any case, because I can remember this moment so clearly, I know that my Mom was there, at Adi’s, when I rented Tales from the Crypt. After that first day, when we bought the (surprisingly heavy) VCR and took it home in the car, I don’t think my Mom was ever at the store when I rented movies. I would generally walk over with my brother, or with a friend. So, this means that Tales from the Crypt may hold the distinction of being the first movie that I ever watched on my family’s first VCR. As you might imagine, this makes it a seminal viewing experience for me.

I suppose it’s possible that my Mom came with us to rent movies at some point, but if she did, it would have been very early in our VCR owning days. So, either way, Tales from the Crypt is a movie that goes way, way back for me. It was, I’m certain, the first Amicus horror anthology that I ever watched. It wasn’t quite the first anthology, I don’t think. That distinction may go to Creepshow (1982), which I was lucky enough to see in the theatre. In fact, Creepshow may have given me the idea to rent Tales from the Crypt, but I’m not sure. I also saw Dead of Night (1945) on TV as a kid. I’m not sure exactly when, but my memory of it is pretty hazy, so I must have been pretty young. 

I loved Tales from the Crypt instantly. Every story worked for me, and felt fresh to me. The first one, And All Through the House, starring the aforementioned Joan Collins, was probably the first Christmas horror story I ever saw – and the first time I saw a murderer dressed up as Santa Claus. This would, of course, become a much more familiar sight to me, as I saw movies like Silent NIght, Deadly Night (1984). But in some ways, this short story was more effective, more clever and scarier than any of the other killer Santa movies. Even when they remade the same story for the TV series, Tales from the Crypt (1989–1996), it failed to be as scary as this original movie version.

I actually wrote a short play back in 1995 called The Blood On Santa’s Claws, which was meant to be a satire/homage to Christmas horror films. And All Through the House was one of my main inspirations. Interestingly, the play was part of an anthology of Christmas plays called Six Twisted Christmas Tales. Sadly, the show was cancelled and the play went back into my desk drawer to rot. A few years later, a theatre company called Cherry Red Productions in Washington D.C. found out about the play and asked me if they could do it as part of their Christmas extravaganza. Cherry Red Productions was once described by the Washington Post as “D.C.‘s only theater company dedicated to smut,” so of course I was thrilled. Sadly, they folded in 2012.

The problem with many horror anthologies is that they are uneven; a mixed bag of good, bad, and indifferent stories. This is partly due to the fact that the majority of them seem to be made by a bunch of different filmmakers. And I can understand that temptation. Hey, here’s four, or five, or ten interesting filmmakers. Let’s get ’em all together and have ’em make short films on a theme (or not). Even if they all do good work, the clash of their different styles often makes the whole seem like less than the sum of its parts.

All five of the stories in Tales from the Crypt were directed by Freddie Francis, and they are excellent as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched this movie over the years, but it never fails to entertain me. I hesitate to call it #NotQuiteClassicCinema, because it is certainly a classic in my book. But, just as the original comic books that inspired it would not have been called great literature by the critics of the day, so this movie would have been maligned by people who think they have good taste. But as Pablo Picasso once said, “The chief enemy of creativity is good taste.” And I have always prided myself on being at least a little bit creative…

If you’ve never seen Tales from the Crypt (1972) – or even if you have – do yourself a favour and slot it into your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. You won’t regret it.

Friday night at the home drive-in: Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989)

I didn’t see Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989) when it first came out. In fact, I saw Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991) before I ever saw this one. I think I had probably been turned off by Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987), which had seemed to be nothing more than an excuse to retread footage from the original Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984). Having recently re-watched Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 on Joe Bob’s Red Christmas, I have discovered a whole new appreciation for it… but that’s another story. Continue reading