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Archive for the HOLIDAY CHEER Category
MEALS FOR MONSTERS: SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1972)
Special Christmas Review and recipes by Jenny Orosel
There are a ton of Christmas horror movies to liven up the season. For every disgustingly sweet animated special with singing toys and perky reindeer, there is a psychopath in a Santa suit screaming about “garbage day,” or a homicidal, wise-cracking snowman. But a truly scary horror film, those are harder to come by. Recently, though, I discovered SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1972), and it saved my sanity from the season’s twentieth bad cover of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”.
Something happened in the Butler mansion on Christmas Eve, 1935. Little is known, other than the mansion had been converted into an asylum in order to provide treatment for Wilfred Butler’s teenage daughter. Neither of them survived, and the asylum was shut down. Fast forward three decades and Butler’s grandson is trying to sell the old house. The city’s elite want it destroyed. And people connected to the house are dying at the hands of a masked killer. Who is it, why are they massacring the town one by one, and what does it have to do with that fateful Christmas Eve?
SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT could have easily been a horrible movie. Let’s face it, a psychotic killer and a mental hospital setting are hardly original. Yet somehow writer/director Theodore Gershuny manages to make it as realistic as it can be, consistently suspenseful, and rather unpredictable. The performances were pretty good as well, especially from genre favorites John Carradine and Mary Woronov. There wasn’t much of a budget, but BLOODY NIGHT didn’t need it. The scares came from the great pacing not fancy special effects, so I rarely noticed. It might be that I expected so little going into it but I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had with BLOODY NIGHT. So much fun, in fact, that I made it the Christmas Meals for Monsters column.
The Christmas Eve of 1935 included a huge feast with champagne flowing freely. In honor of one of the stars, I’ve named the cocktail:
THE GINGER WORONOV:
You can’t have a feast–especially a Christmas Eve feast–without a roast. The traditional beef rib roast or Chateaubriand can get pricey VERY fast, and would hardly fit the budget of BLOODY NIGHT. An eye of round is a relatively inexpensive beef roast, and can still be delicious if done right.
CHRISTMAS EVE ROAST BEEF:
DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Soak the herbs in water while the oven heats. When the oven is ready, put the herbs in the roasting pan underneath the rack. Salt and pepper to taste. Put the roast in the hot oven for a half hour. Turn off the oven but DO NOT open the door. Leave the roast in the oven for an hour and a half. This will make it medium doneness. If you prefer your beef more cooked through, increase the initial cooking time. Serve sliced thin.
The Christmas Eve scene included a cameo by Candy Darling, one of my favorite “superstars” from Andy Warhol’s stable of actors. Her role was small and added very little to the overall plot, but she was memorable and a nice little addition to the flick. As a nod to her and her inclusion:
CHRISTMAS CANDY DARLING (aka Peppermint Bark)
Smash the unwrapped candy canes until well pulverized. Line a 9×9 square cake pan with wax paper. In the microwave, heat the dark chocolate in 30 second intervals, stirring in between each, until completely melted (you will be tempted to heat it for longer increments. DON’T DO IT! Trust me.) Pour melted chocolate into the pan, spread evenly, and refrigerate until solid. Heat the white chocolate in the same manner. Pour over the cooled dark chocolate and, before setting in the fridge, sprinkle evenly with the candy cane pieces. Once the candy has hardened, break apart into wedges. Will stay good for weeks, as long as it isn’t stored on a radiator.
SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT is in the public domain and easy to get a hold of. Getting a hold of a decent copy, though, is much more difficult. The copy I watched was from Alpha Video and, while grainy, was not unwatchable. And there’s something fun about it, amid the Martha Stewart level of neatness and precision abounding during the holidays, to watch something with flaws and scratches. So relax, let your hair down, and blow off all that holiday season steam with some good, old-fashioned lunatics.
© Copyright 2012 by Jenny Orosel
Bill’s Bizarre Bijou
William D. Carl
This Week’s Feature Presentation:
“They’re not working for Santa anymore.”
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk-till-awn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open. Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes!
Ah, Christmas . . . a time to relax on the couch with a cup of warm cocoa (with mini marshmallows, of course), a time to bring the family together to view one of the great holiday films from yesteryear that always brings a tear to your eye and a lump to your throat. What is it to be this year? IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)? MIRACLE ON 34th STREET (1947)? The Mexican atrocity SANTA CLAUS (1959)? No, this year good cheer and warm cockles will be brought to you via the 1989 horror/fantasy film, ELVES. You’ve never heard of it? Well, there’s a reason. Several reasons, in fact.
During a typical Christmas movie title sequence, I discover the star is none other than Grizzly Adams himself, Dan Haggerty (Haggerty was the star of THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GRIZZLY ADAMS from 1977 – 1978). This does nothing to instill confidence in the director’s choice, but he does sort of resemble a coked-up Santa with his bulging belly and golden beard.
Next, we meet three typical 80’s chicks, complete with big hair, Spandex outfits, and candles. Their leader, Kirsten, played by Julie Austen (EXTREME JUSTICE – 1993) claims they’re the Sisters of Anti-Christmas, and they decry the holiday as a commercialized, media-driven event. Well, duh. Kirsten displays a piece of nearly pornographic art called ‘The Virgin of Anti-Christmas,’ and they try out a satanic ceremony so one of the girls can obtain the attentions of a boy. They hurry home as a thunderstorm approaches (at Christmas-time?), while something scrawny and wrinkled and rubbery tracks our naughty artist to her home, where she’s bitch-slapped by her German grandfather (Borah Silver, who played Prince on the KOJAK television series from 1973 – 1978). It’s his spell book the girls were using. In the stark lighting of the home, we can plainly see this ‘girl’ is at least forty years old. We also meet her mother, played by Deanna Lund (Valerie on THE LAND OF THE GIANTS TV show from 1968 – 1970), who looks both younger and prettier than her daughter, and she threatens to clean out the girl’s baby-sitting money from her bank account. Cue shower scene, where little brother peeks on Kirsten. When discovered, Sis calls him a pervert. He calmly replies, “I like looking at naked girls. And you’ve got f—-g big t—ts, and I’m gonna tell everyone what I saw!” Meanwhile, the rubbery creature conjured out of the ground watches as sister and brother make up and wrestle inappropriately on her bed. What is with this family?
Anyway, the elf creature breaks a window with its wobbling little rubber fist and we’re treated to two minutes of blurry elf-vision until the gremlin rip-off straddles the foul-mouthed kid brother. Sadly, it doesn’t kill him.
Our hero, Mike McGavin, played by Haggerty, walks into the local department store after giving a few shekels to the Salvation Army outside, so you know he’s a good guy. Due to the prevalence of elf-vision POV shots, we ascertain the creature is following Kirstin to her work in the department store cafe. Behind her, Mike is pleading with the store manager for a job, any job. I think we all see where this is going. The ‘teenaged’ girls get in line and wait to sit on Santa’s lap, where Kris Kringle cops a feel up her leg and talks dirty. Back at home, Mom drowns her daughter’s kitten in the toilet. Why? Just to be mean, that’s why! Joan Crawford had nothing on this evil witch!
Santa’s mild gropings get him fired, and he is promptly castrated by a rubbery knife in a little rubbery hand while he is snorting cocaine. Merry Christmas, everyone! Slay bells ring!
Kirsten arrives home and says, “It was a rough day at work. Santa got murdered.” Grizzly Adams—I mean, Mike—arrives home to his trailer and finds it padlocked. When the girl sees a little monster peeking in her window, her grandpa goes crazy and interrogates her. He speaks to his daughter in German and she screeches, “Don’t start in on those elves again!” Again? Is this a typical conversation in ANY home?
Mike makes friends with Kirsten at the department store, and he’s spotted by the manager. Soon, he’s the new Santa, getting peed on by infants and with a changing room with a bloody chalk-outline on the floor. Luckily, he used to be a detective, so he can investigate the death of the previous St. Nick.
Grandpa has another German friend from the old days, Ruebenkreutz (I’d love a Rueben with kraut, please) who gets really excited when he finds out Grandpa’s granddaughter has been “chosen” by the elf. Grandpa, however, seems less than thrilled.
After investigating in the local library (“Section 666”), Camel-smoking Mike discovers a link between the Nazis and the murder. You see, Hitler ordered his scientists to create a race of supermen (feeble little rubbery guys?), but they must mate with a virgin to achieve their true superpowers. Mike heads back to the store, where he plans to sleep, and the trio of girls break into the place for a party in the lingerie department. Yowza! Three boys show up to join the party. So now we have three bubble-headed, big-haired girls in fancy underwear, Grizzly Adams, an oversexed boy band, and the Elves of the Third Reich all in the same cheap location. Trouble is definitely brewing. And this is before the house detective is killed and three robbers in bad suits (also Nazis) show up. Several people are killed, and the store manager declares “It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow. You think anyone’s gonna want to shop here with blood stains on the floor?”
Back home, Gramps is determined to protect Kirsten from his wheelchair, but Mom doesn’t believe in any of his “stupid myths.” Mike enlists the aid of a professor who provides all the exposition necessary . . . and it deals with Noah’s Ark, God, and elves. He’s smart, you know, because he smokes a pipe. He even says about the Nazis, “If you ignore their brutality, they were just a bunch of crackpots.” What?
Mom goes a bit crazy when her daughter says she wants her father. “Go down to the study,” she screeches, harpy-like. “He’s your grandfather and your father!” I waited for the slapping to start (“He’s my father. He’s my grandfather. He’s my father.”) Gramps explains how Mom wasn’t harmed at all, that he needed to sleep with his daughter in order to produce a Kirsten – a receptacle for elf sperm. (All I can say is. . . Ewww!)
Mike tracks down another exposition-spouting John Waters look-alike professor to explain the very last pieces of the elf puzzle to him, and he’s off to the rescue. Racing to Kirsten’s house at an amazing forty miles per hour, his car is possessed by an elf spirit (what the what?) and blows up just as he leaps from the vehicle. But will he make it in time to prevent the master race from being created or even to stop the elf from getting his floppy hands on Kirsten’s virgin (Ha!) body? You’ll have to watch till the ludicrous apocalyptic ending to know for certain, but I really wanted to shout out “Oh, mighty Isis!”
Dan Haggerty must have been in his pre-Betty Ford Clinic days when he made this. He slurs his lines in a barely intelligible manner that sounds like Brando with a bag of marbles in his mouth. He’s pretty bad, seemingly bored out of his probably stoned skull.
And let’s take a moment to talk about the Elf himself. Despite his crinkled, scary face, the little beastie doesn’t look like he could chase down a double amputee. He’s weak, powerless, and if the elf-o-vision POV is any indication, he’s nearly blind. All he can do is sneak up on the clods in this move and attack them by surprise, because these schmucks don’t even try to fight back. At one point, the elf is actually frightened by a wind-up plush toy pig. They look like the kind of thing you can pick up at any Halloween City to decorate your lawn. Some poor P.A. is probably under it moving it around a bit. And what’s with the plural nature of the title of the movie? There’s only one damn elf in it!
Despite all these problems, ELVES moves quickly from point A to point B, with plenty of quotable dialogue, ugly violence, pretty girls with giant hair and 80’s slang, an extended nude scene by Deanna Lund in a bathtub, a throbbing synth score, car wrecks, scary faces inside Christmas trees, drugs, bad puppetry, and some seriously messed-up family situations. It’s never boring! With a bit of help from a few alcoholic beverages, this would be a laugh riot to watch with friends during the holidays. Peppermint Schnapps would probably be perfect.
More good lines:
“What’s going on? Are we going to be all right?” “No, Grandpa’s a Nazi.”
“Now that Hell is full, I wonder where you will go?”
“Santa said oral.”
A sick and twisted no-budget movie that’ll have you in stitches, this little wonder of ickiness is a cool antidote to all the syrupy Christmas films available, but I wouldn’t rush out to try and locate a copy. Good luck if you do, because it is tough to find.
I give it two incestuous Nazis out of four.
© Copyright 2011 by William D. Carl
BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)
Review by L.L. Soares
Who would have guessed that the guy who gave us PORKY’S back in 1982 would also be the guy to give us two Christmas classics. Yes, TWO. The first one that comes to mind for most people is the movie Bob Clark made in 1983, and which has gone on to become a Christmastime juggernaut – A CHRISTMAS STORY. The story of Little Ralphie and his BB gun seems to be playing in a constant loop in the latter part of December. It’s become as much of a holiday staple as IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and A CHRISTMAS CAROL. And I’ll admit, it’s a fun movie, as long as you don’t sit in front of the television for days on end watching it 150 times in a row.
But Clark also gave us 1974’s BLACK CHRISTMAS (also known as SILENT NIGHT, EVIL NIGHT), one of the first of the Christmas slasher films. And one of the best.
It may be the most famous of Clark’s early horror movies, probably because it was remade (badly) in 2006.
In BLACK CHRISTMAS, a deranged killer breaks into a sorority house, hides in the attic, and takes his time killing some of the girls who are left behind during the holiday (most of the girls have gone home to see their families). The killer has contacted them before this— by way of obscene phone calls that have plagued the house for a while. The killer says his name is “Billy” and his phone calls are pretty damn weird: he speaks in different voices and seems to be totally wacko.
One of the girls, Claire (Lynne Griffin) disappears, just before her father (James Edmond) comes to the college to pick her up, so he goes to the police, who are at first not very helpful, but grow more concerned as other murders pile up.
The other “girls” include Jessica (Olivia Hussey), the sensible lead; Barbie (a young Margot Kidder—most famous as later being Louis Lane in the Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN movies—and I have to admit she’s pretty hot in this movie!), who likes to drink too much and tell dirty stories; Phyllis (known as “Phil” and played by Andrea Martin of SCTV, in a rare dramatic role) who is the nerdy one; and house mother Mrs. Mac (Marian Waldman), who’s always sneaking drinks and shouting for her cat. And the cop who investigates the case, Lt. Fuller, is played by genre icon John Saxon.
The movie is unique for its camera work (the killer is never shown, and the camera is often from his point of view in his scenes) and weird sound effects (the killer’s phone calls are downright weird and unsettling). This is one case where the killer actually seems frightening and totally unhinged. The fact that not much is explained actually works to the story’s benefit, building suspense. The identity of the killer is also a source of much suspense. Is it Jessica’s boyfriend Peter (Keir Dullea), who seems a bit unstable after a piano recital that fails to impress his professors, and who is angry that Jessica plans to abort their unplanned baby? Or is there going to be a twist as the story develops?
Bob Clark had a real talent for simple little horror flicks that were also very effective. It’s too bad he didn’t seem to be a big horror fan (he treated these early films more as a way to build his film resume). His biggest successes were comedies like the PORKY’S movies and A CHRISTMAST STORY. Then, later in his career, he turned out, almost exclusively, family films like BABY GENIUSES (1999) and KARATE DOG (2004).
BLACK CHRISTMAS is a classic of its kind and a real pioneer, since it pre-dates another “mysterious killer” movie, John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN. Also, its famous “the phone calls are coming from inside the house” storyline was ripped off years later in 1979’s WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (which Bob Clark seems to feel both flattered and annoyed about in a Q&A session that’s one of the extras on the DVD).
The 70s horror films Clark made (especially this one,1974’s DEATHDREAM and CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS from 1973) are all worth checking out. They’re all entertaining and suitably creepy. Clark had a very unique vision for these kinds of things, and I wish he’d made more horror films.
I think DEATHDREAM is the best of the bunch, but BLACK CHRISTMAS probably has the biggest profile of his horror work. Watch it this Christmas with someone you love (and who scares easily!).
© Copyright 2010 by L.L. Soares
Bill’s Bizarre Bijou
William D. Carl
This week’s feature presentation:
SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY (1972)
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open. Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.
The Christmas Season is well known for its holiday music and movies, but there is a dark side to the trend of luring kids into matinees to bear witness to forced holiday cheer. For every MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947), there is a SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (1964). For every IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946), there’s a corresponding SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984). Actually, there are probably more dreadful Christmas movies than good ones. Somewhere far below the schlocky entertainment offered by the likes of serial-killer turned snowman JACK FROST (1997), the Mexican drugged-out inanities of SANTA CLAUS (1959), or the hell on earth that is JINGLE ALL THE WAY (1996), there is the cesspool entitled SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY (1972/1970 – I’ll explain the date mix-up later). I’ve watched hundreds of Christmas movies over the years, but this one is the true low point, lacking anything even closely resembling entertainment or Christmas cheer. It is a gut-punch to all that is beautiful and holy. It is the first Christmas movie made for children that seems designed to suck any happiness from every starry-eyed child in the world.
You think I am exaggerating? Super glue your eyelids open and turn this baby on.
Behind the credits, kids dressed as elves in outfits made by the producer’s grandma sing an unintelligible song. The only words I can make out are “la-la-la-la-la.” They pet toys, while the credits announce “Thumbelina Insert by B Mahon!” One elf looks outside for Santa and spots stock nature footage of a herd of moose grazing in a summer field! What season is this? A female narrator who sounds like Truman Capote on downers informs us that Santa’s sleigh is stuck in the sand on a beach in Florida. It was so hot, the reindeer have all gone away, and Santa sits in the sleigh, sweats a lot, and waves his hat in front of his face. Sure enough, a too-skinny Santa sits in his sleigh looking around and perspiring, then sings a song through dubbing, “Woe is me…who will give me a helping hand…and get my sleigh out of the sand?” Yep, that half inch of sand is really keeping him trapped and preventing lift-off.
Random kids are shown doing things like skipping rope, playing with dogs, wrestling like gay Greeks, and jumping off the garage roof wearing a parachute. Then, Santa falls instantly asleep, as if his meds just kicked in. The racially diverse group of children, resembling a Benetton ad from the late 1980s, hears an echoing Santa voice calling them and run to the sleigh. Even Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer (and their pet raccoon on a string) steer their raft to the beach to a kazoo band playing Old Man River from the musical SHOW BOAT.
The kids rush off to find something to pull the sleigh from the half inch of sand, leaving Santa alone to sweat again for another couple of long minutes. Santa, instead of being proactive, just sits in the sleigh bemoaning his predicament. This guy gets around the world in one night delivering millions of toys? I doubt he could get to the cupboard for the Doritos.
Eventually, the kids return with various animals to help pull the sleigh out of the sand. First, a little girl brings a man in an ape suit, but the sleigh is stuck too tightly. Then, two kids bring a mule, then a screaming pig, a terrified sheep, a brown cow, and a horse. Then, Santa bitches for several more minutes about how he has to get out of the sand so he doesn’t disappoint the children all over the world, but he does nothing to actually escape!
The kids return, so Santa decides to tell the kids a story, and so begins Barry Mahon’s 1970, filmed at Pirate’s World Amusement Park film, THUMBELINA. A hippie-chick with terrifying eyebrows wanders the amusement park while a whole new set of credits play again (is Santa relaying the credits to the kids in his story?). Eventually the mini-skirted chick ends up in a room full of dioramas portraying the tale of Thumbelina, a girl no larger than a clothespin, all narrated by a disembodied voice over a PA system. A single lonely woman goes to a witch to have a child and is rewarded with a freakishly miniscule daughter. The tiny girl leaves her spinster-Mom’s home to get married to a horny frog. She escapes, lives with a woman in a mole costume and eventually falls in love with a rich old mole. They all resemble a relatively restrained furry convention. And, yes, everyone sings a lot of dull songs on semi-professional sets. To be honest, although THUMBELINA is pretty bad, it’s a typical kiddie matinee from the 1960s—no better or worse than most. These things were churned out with ridiculously low budgets and actors from local amateur theater troupes all over the world. Other examples of this odd sub-genre include THE MAGIC LAND OF MOTHER GOOSE, 1967 (directed by the Wizard of Gore himself, H.G. Lewis!), THE PRINCESS AND THE SWINEHERD, 1968, and LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD AND TOM THUMB VS. THE MONSTERS, 1965, which I would love to see! So, if you remember after the hour of Thumbelina, yes, Santa is STILL telling this story to the children on the beach!
As bad as the Thumbelina segment is, it’s like CITIZEN KANE (1941) compared to the Santa segments . . . where we are again, watching Santa sweat while the kids watch him. Nobody seems very motivated to get Santa back to the North Pole. Oh, to return to the cut-rate flower power hippie musical from Pirate’s World. The one directed by Barry Mahon, yes THAT Barry Mahon, who directed PAGAN ISLAND (1961), FANNY HILL MEETS DR. EROTICO (1969), A GOOD TIME WITH A BAD GIRL (1967), THE GIRL WITH THE MAGIC BOX (1965), and THE DIARY OF KNOCKERS MCCALLA (1969). He was the obvious choice to helm a kid’s feature based on a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale! It does, however, explain the strange erotic tension between Thumbelina and Mr. Digger, the mole.
Back to Santa in the sand. . .
The kids suddenly run away, as if learning Santa Claus was a sex offender…or an algebra teacher. Santa strips off his coat and belt, and an antique fire truck (helpfully pushed by a visible production assistant) driven by a guy in a cheap white rabbit suit arrives, and all the kids are piled up in back. It’s a vision of horror as the fire truck is shoved through Pirate’s World and down to the beach. I’m starting to see why this film was made—it’s a 90 minute advertisement for a pathetic amusement park! Yes, this could be the best WTF! moment ever in a children’s production. And it goes on forever! For. Ev. Er. Santa exclaims, “Why my old friend the ice cream bunny!” The hell-spawn rabbit, which had to terrify children everywhere, gives Santa a ride in his fire truck. Then, Santa teleports the sleigh back to the North Pole. What? Why didn’t he just do that at the beginning instead of complaining for what seemed like days about being stranded? Plus, why is this an ice cream bunny? There isn’t a scoop of ice cream to be seen!
Full of padding (including an entire film from two years previous), SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY is easily the worst Christmas movie ever made. From the terrible direction, the lousy acting and dubbing, the bad songs, and the freaky sexy vibe between tiny hippie chicks and earth-burrowing mammals, to the ridiculous ending and scary/evil rabbit suit, this is a movie that can honestly only be enjoyed under the influence of controlled substances or while RiffTrax pokes fun at it. There has never been another movie like this one. Thank God!
I give SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY one closed-down amusement park out of four.
© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl