Friday, December 14, 2018

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984) Blu-ray review

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) d. Charles E. Sellier, Jr. (USA)

After his parents are murdered by crook in a St. Nick outfit, young tormented Billy (Danny Wagner) is sent with his infant brother Ricky to stay at an orphanage where he is mercilessly abused by our resident Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin). After growing to adulthood, Billy (now played by Robert Brian Wilson) lands a gig at the local toy store which works out fine until he’s pressed into wearing an all-too-familiar red suit and white beard to entertain the kiddies. Predictably, this pushes him over the edge, leading to a murderous Christmas Eve rampage dressed as Santa, claiming “naughty” victims right and left.

The 1984 film’s notorious ad campaign, with iconic poster art showing Santa descending a chimney with an axe in hand, became the stuff of legend, prompting outraged parents to picket theaters and write scathing letters to distributor Tri-Star until the movie was yanked from cinemas. All the hullaballoo made Silent Night, Deadly Night a home video sensation, leading to four sequels (only the first two of which carry on the Killer Santy storyline).

But what of the feature itself? It’s actually pretty solid by slasher standards, with director Sellier and screenwriter Michael Hickey providing plenty of gore, gratuitous nudity, and several nifty plot twists. In two of the more memorable sequences, oft-topless scream queen Linnea Quigley shows off her bountiful assets before being impaled on a set of antlers, and a pair of overly enthusiastic sled-stealing bullies get their comeuppance on a wintry hillside.

Shout! Factory serves up the holiday horror classic on Blu-ray in a two-disc Collector’s Edition, the first disc being the sadly shorn 79-min theatrical version (albeit a new HD one born of the original camera negative) along with the theatrical trailer and the furor-inducing radio/TV spots. The second disc serves up the unrated bird (84 min) with all the trimmings, though the restored footage is of slightly lesser quality being derived from standard definition sources. (I am one of those weirdos who doesn’t mind the discrepancy in quality, since it’s fun to see exactly which scenes put the MPAA into a tizzy.)

(For an in-depth look at the differences between the two, visit Movie-Censorship’s page HERE)

Super slasher fan Justin Beahm delivers a satisfyingly comprehensive look back at the film’s genesis and journey into cinematic infamy, “Slay Bells Ring: The Story of Silent Night, Deadly Night.” Running just shy of an hour, the documentary features interviews with writer Hickey (who comes off as a bit above it all), co-executive producers Scott J. Schneid and Dennis Whitehead (who created the project based on college student Paul Caimi’s previously existing screenplay about a killer Santa, but declined – or were denied – story credit), editor/second unit director Michael Spence (who shot all the B-roll close-ups of decorations and ornaments that provide the film’s festive atmosphere, as well as the final-reel stalking of our unfortunate deputy at the orphanage), composer Perry Botkin (the mastermind behind the laugh-till-you-cry Christmas tunes, the crown jewel being “The Warm Side of the Door” and its accompanying montage), and our star Wilson, who warmly recalls being new to the acting game and lavishes credit on his co-star Chauvin (who also served as an acting coach) for her able assistance.

There are two audio commentaries, one ported over from the 2014 Anchor Bay Blu-ray featuring Hickey, Botkin, Schneid, and Spence, and a newly recorded track that sees Beahm moderating the conversation with Schneid and Wilson. Though informative and engaging, both host and star seem a little subdued/serious, with only Schneid bringing a much-welcomed sense of fun and energy to the chat.

There is also an audio-only interview with Sellier, who passed away in 2011. The prolific TV-producer, who served up such mainstays as The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, In Search of Noah’s Ark, and the series of Desperado films, sits down for an hour with the Deadpit Radio lads The Creepy Kentuckian (Wes Vance) and Uncle Bill (Aaron T. Frye) discussing his lengthy and varied career within the film industry. He does extensively discuss Silent Night, Deadly Night, including an amusing anecdote about Charles Dierkop trying out an Irish accent for the psycho Santa who murders Billy’s parents and the underwear-shy Quigley flashing her nether goodies at the unsuspecting cameraman as she was hoisted onto the antlers.

Speaking of Quigley, the “Oh Deer!” segment should delight fans of the amiable scream queen, although at 22 minutes it does seem profoundly padded considering her minor (though memorable) appearance. Do we really need to hear about her favorite childhood holiday memories or whether she grew up Catholic or what her character’s motivation was when letting in the cat?

There’s also a tour of the film’s Utah shooting locations courtesy of Robert Patterson’s “Set Jetters,” while “Santa’s Stocking of Outrage” offers a five-minute reel rattling off angry, hand-wringing quotes ranging from major critics to concerned parents voicing their displeasure about the film’s splattery assault on the sacred seasonal subject matter.

Silent Night, Deadly Night is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory (along with its direct sequel) and can be ordered HERE:


No comments:

Post a Comment