Released by: Mondo Macabro
Released on: December 6, 2012.
Director: Edmund Purdom
Cast: Edmund Purdom, Caroline Munroe
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Produced by the late, great Dick Randall and kinda-sorta directed by and starring Edmund Purdom, 1984’s Don’t Open Till Christmas, on the surface at least, seems like little more than a quick cash in on the holiday themed slashers that were so popular in the eighties. To write it off as such, however, would be doing the film, and yourself, a grave disservice indeed.
The story, such as it is, takes place in eighties era London where a man dressed in a Santa Suit attending a Christmas party gets skewered through the mouth while his daughter, Kate (Belinda Mayne), looks on in horror. When, the next day, another guy in a Santa suit is slaughtered while trying to make it with a blonde he’s picked up, Scotland Yard figures there’s a serial killer on the loose with a grudge against old Saint Nick. Kate teams up with her boyfriend, Cliff (Gerry Sundquist), to try and figure out who could be behind all of this while the Yard’s finest, Chief Inspector Harris (director Edmund Purdom), is assigned to dig deeper to find the truth. In the middle of all of this is a newspaper man, Giles (Alan Lake), but before you know it more Santa’s are dead, all involved wind up suspects, and Caroline Munroe shows up as herself in a sparkly red dress to provide a song and dance number.
Randall, who co-produced with Stephen Minasian (meaning that this film is brought to you by the producers of Pieces – for some, that will be reason enough to sign on!), has a fun cameo early on in the film, popping up on the dance floor of the opening party sequence but it’s Purdom who was really responsible for this one. Agreeing to star after working on Pieces but only if he was allowed to direct, his inexperience behind the camera quickly found him replaced by Derek Ford, the writer – evidently, Ford wasn’t any better and the whole thing winds up a ridiculous mess of a movie that never finds any sort of consistency outside of the murder set pieces, some of which are remarkably gory. Regardless, the film was an obvious cash in on Black Christmas and Silent Night, Deadly Night, both made a few years prior though where those films actually work very well as serious Christmas themed slasher films, Don’t Open Till Christmas does not. That’s not to say that the film lacks entertainment value – Randall and company were savvy enough by this point in the game to fill the movie with enough tits and blood to make sure the audience was at least satiated on those more primal levels. But anything even remotely resembling suspense or scares? There’s nothing to see here, move on…
The film does offer up some surprisingly sleazy thrills, however – a scene in which an aging pervert in a Santa hat heads into a peepshow booth to jerk off while a pretty blonde stripper talks to him from behind the glass is a highlight, and Munroe’s completely unnecessary but entirely welcome cameo is, as puzzling as it might be, a lot of fun. The kills are great, plenty bloody and always nasty (the make-up effects by Giuseppe Ferranti are impressive), while a scene that takes place on the set of a nudie photography session offers up more skin as well. There’s really not much to the story, it’s simply a string of strange set pieces strung together by the flimsiest of plots, but when there’s this much zaniness crammed into the film, you won’t mind so much. Bonus points for including a scene of castration on the toilet and for the notably strange scene in which a drunken Santa Claus is chased through a creepy old wax museum. Neither adds much to the plot, but they’re both awesome regardless.
Mondo Macabro’s uncut 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer presents the film in great shape and in what appears to be the proper aspect ratio. Detail is strong, colors are nice and accurate looking and if the black levels aren’t always reference quality, at least they’re pretty good. For slasher film now approaching thirty years old, you’d have to be pretty picky to take issue with the image quality, as it’s clean, colorful and sharp.
Audio chores are handled by a Dolby Digital Mono track, in English, with no alternate language or subtitle options offered. The track is clear and well balanced throughout, and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to report. Be sure to turn it up during Ms. Munroe’s musical number and just try not to get up and boogie around the room.
Amazingly enough, as far as the extras go, Mondo Macabro have supplied an awesome fifty-two minute long featurette called The Making Of A Horror Movie that goes into detail on the making of this cinematic oddity. Made while the film was in production and shot on video, this piece contains loads of footage not only of the cast and crew at work but also of the instantly recognizable Dick Randall, hanging out on set, cigar glued to his mouth the entire time. A narrator puts all of this into context, explaining how various scenes were reshot and how Purdom was relieved of his directiorial duties during the shoot – and hey, Caroline Munroe is even interviewed here about her part in the film. It’s a pretty great documentary, really, and it’s definitely the highlight of the supplements on this release. It was previously included on the Living Doll DVD, but if you haven’t seen it before, definitely take the time to check it out.
Aside from the featurette, there’s also the The Wild, Wild World of Dick Randall half hour documentary included here. Carried over from the French Sex Murders DVD, this is pretty great stuff. Through interviews with his widow and many of the people who worked with and knew the eccentric producer Mondo Macabro gives us some fascinating background information on the man and his work.
Rounding out the extras on the disc are some production notes regarding the film and those who worked on it, the Mondo Macabro promo reel, menus and chapter stops.
The Final Word:
It might not always make sense or show any regard for logic, but don’t let that phase you – Don’t Open Till Christmas is minor masterpiece of inept filmmaking and it’s and because of that it’s an absolute blast. It’s never scary but it’s frequently sexy, often bloody, and always entertaining and Mondo Macabro’s DVD does it up right.