Judge Daryl Loomis wears his Santa suit every month except December.
T'was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…they were all dead!
It's that time of the year once again. The weather's getting colder and the nights are getting longer, the tree is up and the presents are wrapped. What does it all mean? That's right, 'tis the season for holiday horror. While there's really only ever been one holiday-themed horror film: Bob Clark's original Black Christmas, there's still a certain delight in movies that are completely antithetical to the spirit of the season. This year, I got a special gift. From producer Dick Randall (For Your Height Only), one of the last of the old school exploitation distributors/grifters, we have a real piece of work called Don't Open Till Christmas.
Facts of the Case
Christmas in London should be a magical time for kids and families, but a psycho slashing Santas is sucking the life out of the season. Scotland Yard has no clue where to turn, but they finally get a lead when the boyfriend of the daughter of one of the victims always seems to be in the wrong place and a reporter starts asking a lot of weird questions. Unfortunately, for all their supposed progress on the case, the killing continue until, for the lead detective, the evidence points very close to home.
If there's something good to say about Don't Open Till Christmas, it's the creative kills. Our Santa slayer doesn't have one specific mode of offing good Saint Nick; he utilizes everything from a pedestrian stab to the gut and a spear through the mouth, to an old fashioned castration. It's truly a gruesome bit of nastiness. Randall was one of the true kings of exploitation and here, in one of his final productions, he lets it all hang out. By no means does that make the film good; indeed, it's barely watchable. But if you like the idea of the red stuff making Santa's suits even redder, you'll get it here in spades.
It's a bit ridiculous to call a Dick Randall film a doomed production, but I'm sure the producer expected more from the film than what he got. In order to secure the services of star Edmund Purdom (Herod the Great), who plays the inspector, Randall had to allow the actor to direct. It became clear almost immediately that he had no idea what to do behind the camera. While he retained the credit, three other people had to come in at different times to pick up the slack. This causes absolutely awful continuity problems and ridiculous changes in tone that completely sink the film. Outside of a healthy body count, there's truly nothing good to say about the film.
Mondo Macabro, in their endless quest to bring the world of sleazy cinema, delivers another good product in their release of Don't Open Till Christmas. The full frame transfer doesn't look that great, but it's probably the best it's ever going to be. There's damage to the print and a lot of dirt, but the colors are generally pretty strong and even the darker scenes have decent clarity. The stereo sound fares similarly, with a fair bit of noise in the background, but generally clear dialog and sound. The DVD shines in its special features, though. Outside of the standard trailer bank and some cast and crew biographies, we have two extended, excellent featurettes, one new and one old. The new piece is entitled "The Wild, Wild World of Dick Randall" runs thirty minutes and looks at the career of the producer. His friends and associates discuss virtually every aspect of his working life, from his early days buying up foreign exploitation to the end of his days producing bottom barrel horror. The older making-of featurette runs nearly an hour and is very much worth sitting through. It was made at the time of the film's production, which is strange to me; who would have thought in 1984 that anybody would be interested in how this thing was made. It may as well have been called "Heart of Awfulness," as it describes all the trouble with the production. It's a very good piece, much better than the movie, and the disc has way more than the film deserves.
There's very little redeemable about Don't Open Till Christmas, but for exploitation die-hards, Dick Randall's productions are always worth watching for a lot of blood, sex, and a few laughs.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Mondo Macabro
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