Black Christmas has enjoyed a barrage of home video releases, both DVD and blu-ray, over the last decade or so. These releases were fan-friendly, each usually having its own unique bonus features but the transfers tended to be quirky in various technical ways (check Mondo Digital for a full history). Thus, it’s a well-loved film that has never really had an all-around strong presentation up to now. Scream Factory has stepped in to take their crack at this title and the result is its best home video treatment to date.
For starters, you get two transfers: an older HD transfer from the film’s previous blu-ray incarnation and a new 2K transfer drawn from the negative. The new transfer is the way to go, offering a much-improved image with rich black levels, a nice level of detail that captures the vintage celluloid look and vivid colors. Lossless 5.1 and 2.0 stereo options plus a mono track are included for this transfer. The 5.1 fares best here, offering tasteful surround effects that don’t detract from the dialogue.
Fans who haven’t bought the earlier discs will be happy to learn this is a mega-set that captures the vast array of extras from editions past in one package – and throws in a few new items, to boot. Read on for a breakdown of these voluminous extras…
Commentary Track 1: This track is a solo venture with director Bob Clark. He takes the scene-specific approach, discussing the cast, stories from the shoot, the motivations behind various directorial choices and how he might do some scenes differently today. Worth the listen for filmmakers and laced with some neat trivia, like the original choice for the role played by Andrea Martin.
Commentary Track 2: This track features actors John Saxon and Keir Dullea. It sounds like it was cobbled together from separate recording sessions but it works pretty well. Both actors discuss how they got their roles and offer some commentary on their acting choices and Clark’s directorial technique. They also talk about what their careers were like around the time of this film, which results in a bit of interesting Enter The Dragon chat from Saxon.
Commentary Track 3: this is an “in character” track with Nick Mancuso reviving his role of “Billy” to comment on the film. That said, the track isn’t designed to be horrific: instead, it’s more of an experimental humor track with Mancuso riffing on the film as Billy. More of a curio that anything else but fans might find it interesting.
Commentary Track 4: not a full track per se, but a radio interview with Clark that fills the first 26 minutes and thirty seconds of this track. Clark fields standard questions on the film but there’s some interesting bits about A Christmas Story and the Black Christmas remake.
Art Hindle Interview (26:11): the first of two new interviews on this set has the actor running through his memories of the film. It covers a lot of his familiar tales – like rehearsing the Keir Dullea role with Olivia Hussey, an anecdote about Bob Clark’s filmmaking prowess – but he adds some new material. It’s interesting to hear his observations on what the Canadian film scene was like in the ’70s and he even breaks out his famous fur coat from the film.
Lynne Griffin Interview (26:35): the other new sitdown chat features the film’s first victim, a veteran Canadian actress who jokes about his history of playing virgins and victims. Like Hindle, she goes through familiar stories (her temperamental cat co-star, Clark’s playful jokes on set) but also has some interesting thoughts about various scenes and elements in the film. She closes with a nice tribute to the sadly departed Clark.
Black Christmas Legacy (40:22): a retrospective piece on the film that mixes participants (Griffin, Hindle and Clark all appear here, along with Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey, etc.) as well as a series of critics and fans, including one-time Fangoria honcho Chris Alexander and Canuxploitation expert Paul Corupe. It’s very much an appreciation on the film, with much discussion of how it introduced plot elements and techniques like POV camerawork that would become key elements of the slasher film.
40th Anniversary Panel – Fan Expo 2014 (18:02): Hindle, Griffin, Nick Mancuso and John Saxon all appear in this videotaped Q&A session from a Canadian film festival, with Corupe serving as moderator. The participants tell a lot of stories you’ll hear elsewhere but their cameraderie is fun to observe.
On Screen – Black Christmas (49:41): excellent episode of a Canadian T.V. show that is devoted to the history of the film. Clark is the key player in this piece and it’s the best at covering the making-of aspects of the film. The result offers all sorts of interesting details, like what Clark added to the script, how Clark’s idea for a sequel inspired John Carpenter to make Halloween and a spirited defense of the film as a pro-woman horror movie. Saxon, Dullea and others also appear here.
12 Days Of Black Christmas (19:48): a featurette narrated by Saxon, who also appears in the piece alongside Hussey, Hindle and Griffin. All offer memories of the shoot and appreciation for the film and Clark.
Black Christmas Revisited (36:25): a retrospective piece that intercuts Hindle and Griffin conducting a humorous tour of the film’s house location with cast and crew interviews. There’s some really good stuff with Carl Zittrer here about the film’s score and sound design and it’s fun to watch the rapport between Hindle and Griffin, who have a lot of fun clowning around here.
Archival Interviews (1:41:30): a feature-length reel of interviews with Hussey, Hindle, Kidder, Clark and Saxon. These are the uncut versions of the chats used in soundbite form on the other featurettes on this set. The Kidder and Saxon chats are really rewarding for fans as they get more room to speak freely here: Kidder in particular has a lot of interesting things to say about her early career.
Midnight Screening Q&A (20:21): Clark, Saxon and Zittrer make an appearance after a holiday screening at Los Angele’s NuArt theater in 2004. Topics covered include the remake, the “Billy” voice and the score. In a particularly amusing bit, Clark offers his frank opinion of When A Stranger Calls, a film that borrows a key plot device from Black Christmas.
Two Scenes With A New Soundtrack (3:06): two brief extracts from the film’s opening and close that appear here with new elements from an unused early mix of the film. The bit from the closing is particularly haunting.
Other Extras: English and French trailers, t.v. and radio spots, alternative title sequences and an animated photo gallery
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Black Christmas, click here.