Sunday, January 5, 2014

Chilling at Christmas: Silent Night, Bloody Night (Theodore Gershuny, 1973) - 40th Anniversary Restored DVD Review

Happy New Year y'all! 

Well, 2013, like most years, was a bit of a funny one, with its various highs and low... and on the film front it was a bit of a contradiction too... on the one hand I somehow managed to get through the entire year without ever once stepping into a cinema (my last visit was for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in December 2012), yet I also ended up watching more new (as in new to me) movies than I have during any previous year. Yup, this was the year I became a complete and utter movie marathon maniac.

Now, I realise I'm stretching this a bit, seeing as Christmas is pretty much dead and buried now, but apparently it's Twelfth Night so I can just about get away with this. I'd originally intended to get quite a few posts out during December but frankly working in retail during the festive season, maintaining some semblance of a social life and keeping one's blog regularly updated was probably a tad overambitious.... oh well, there's always next year... 

For now though here's some thoughts on the recently released, restored DVD of a movie that celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, and one we looked at briefly during my last post... Silent Night, Bloody Night...

For the uninitiated (and without giving anything away about the plot... sorry folks, if you want a synopsis hit up IMDb or something) this is a proto-slasher with giallo elements that pre-dates both Halloween and Black Christmas. In fact, some have suggested this is the first fully formed example of what the slasher would become, a notion which I'd be hard pressed to disagree with. Though having said that, this is perhaps something of an oversimplification as it still feels somewhat unique... even after seeing ten million movies that came after and used many of the same tropes...

Part of this is, I think, due to the fact that the film is, as I said in my previous post, more complexly structured than most slashers; as I also mentioned before, in this respect it feels more in line with two other American movies of a similar vintage, Let's Scare Jessica to Death and Messiah of Evil, in that all three utilise a flashback framing device with an accompanying voice-over. They also arguably share a similarly doomed, melancholic atmosphere. And add to all this the fact that it sort-of calls forward to a couple of Fulci films (namely The House by the Cemetery and The Beyond) and you have yourself a slasher with an almost singular atmosphere... 

I watched this movie for the first time in early December, and then twice more later in the month. The first two viewings were courtesy of the full-frame copy found in the Mill Creek Chilling Classics 50 movie pack, and the last was via this restored version. 

Now, this new edition isn't exactly revelatory or anything, but it's certainly an improvement... for one, it's nice to now be able to see it in widescreen. There are some segments which still look a bit rough, and there are one or two bits that still display some serious damage... but having said that, I don't think it's anything that will spoil your enjoyment of the movie. And on the flip side, there are plenty of parts which look very clean and free from wear and tear. A mixed bag to be sure but at any rate this is a must buy for slasher and giallo fans, whether you've seen it already or not.

Finally, here's some (spoiler-free) screen-caps from said DVD for your delectation...


  1. Is the sound better on the restored version? The old public domain copy I have (or copieS, this is one of those good movies that inexplicably makes it to all the 50 packs along with a load of crap) you can hardly hear anything.

    1. Excellent question, I totally forgot to mention about the sound so thanks for asking :)

      It's a bit harder to call than with the image, which is for the most part remarkably cleaner than on the old PD copy I have (I've no idea if they're all the same or not, I'm going off that aforementioned Mill Creek copy), but after a bit of quick skipping around and comparing/contrasting the two just now (something I really should have done before this review) I think it's fair to say it's a definite improvement, as for one it fixes a major sound fuck-up (53/54 mins in) that was on the PD, but it's still not anything amazing... I mean I can hear everything just fine, but it feels like it could be louder, and there's still an odd bit of hissiness/crackling here and there ... though again on the positive side I think the dynamic range of the audio might be slightly better on this new copy.

      At any rate this I'd say this is worth picking up, especially if you haven't seen a cleaned up widescreen version... I really didn't sing the praises of the general image improvement enough during this post... as I said, there are still flaws, but it really showcases what a beautifully filmed movie this is, now you can actually see the whole image clearly.