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December 13, 2011

Don't Open Till Christmas

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Edmund Purdom - 1984
Mondo Macobro All Region DVD

The most fascinating part about Don't Open Till Christmas is the "Making of" supplement. What makes this of interest is that there are bits of deleted scenes and a scrapped song, suggesting that there could have been alternative versions of the film. The song, a vocal by an unknown female, has lyrics about being insane, and actually is pretty good, better than much of the pop vocals one would usually find in a low budget horror film. One of the scenes involves some rats who are actually fatter than most of the guys wearing Santa Claus outfits. Another scene, that didn't quite work out, had one of the victims electrocuted by Christmas lights. There is also one scene that was reshot with different actors, although why that scene needed to be redone is never explained. It's to Mondo Macabro's credit that no one tries to disguise the fact that no matter what was originally intended, Don't Open Till Christmas is in their words "a patchwork".

This bit of cinematic Christmas cheese is a holiday themed slasher movie, based in London, with the victims all men in Santa Claus suits. The killer, as a young lad, saw Mommy schtupping Santa Claus. Variety being the spice of life, the killer employs various means each time - gun, straight razor, knife, garrote, among other implements. That's not chestnuts roasting in an open fire, it's Santa's face!

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The best scene in the film, and one that almost appears to have been inserted from another movie, was shot on location at The London Dungeon. Santa is chased around by the unknown killer, surrounded by various displays of horror, torture, depravity and some brazen sexuality. If I ever visit London, I'm going to visit this place. It's not that the scene is any more suspenseful, as much as it is more elaborate and more atmospheric. I can't say for certain, but I'm assuming this was one of the parts of the film not directed by Edmund Purdom.

For those too young for the name to mean anything, Edmund Purdom's Hollywood star shone as bright and as long as a Forth of July sparkler. For overviews of Purdom;s career, there is this fairly respectful obituary, and a view that further explains the unintended humor to be found in his films. Purdom probably shouldn't have taken all the blame for the failures of the films he was expected to carry, and the guy was nothing, if not tenacious enough to make a lifelong career of acting, taking what appeared to be anything that came his way, big or small, big budget or no budget. As it turned out, Purdom's one shot at directing turned out to be so bad that even though he is given solo credit, about half of the released film was actually shot by Alan Birkenshaw under the name of Al McGoohan, given screen credit for writing and directing additional scenes.

Caroline Munro appears briefly to strut her stuff, and show off her singing ability, cut shot when a dead Santa appears on stage. One of the other DVD supplements covers the career of producer Dick Randall, the kind of show biz character from a time when movies could be made for a few dollars and lots of promises.

Don't Open Till Christmas is more curio than classic. Drink enough spiked egg nog and I'm certain several of the plot holes and incongruities will be easily overlooked, providing the viewer a mildly scary little Christmas.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 13, 2011 09:40 AM