Silent Night, Bloody Night

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Silent Night, Bloody Night
SilentNightBloodyNight.jpg
Original trade ad under Deathouse title
Directed by Theodore Gershuny
Produced by Ami Artzi
Jeffrey Konvitz
Lloyd Kaufman
Frank Vitale
Screenplay by Theodore Gershuny
Jeffrey Konvitz
Ira Teller
Story by Theodore Gershuny
Jeffrey Konvitz
Ira Teller
Starring Patrick O'Neal
James Patterson
Mary Woronov
John Carradine
Music by Gershon Kingsley
Cinematography Adam Giffard
Edited by Tom Kennedy
Production
company
Armor Films Inc.
Cannon Productions
Jeffrey Konvitz Productions
Zora Investments Associates
Distributed by Cannon Films
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
November 1972
Running time
83 minutes (original cut)[1]
87 minutes (uncut)[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $295,000 (estimated)

Silent Night, Bloody Night is a 1972 American horror film directed by Theodore Gershuny and co-produced by Lloyd Kaufman. The film stars Patrick O'Neal and cult actress Mary Woronov in leading roles, with John Carradine in a supporting performance. The plot follows a series of murders that occur in a small New England town on Christmas Eve after a man inherits a family estate which was once an insane asylum.

Many of the cast and crew members were former Warhol superstars: Mary Woronov, Ondine, Candy Darling, Kristen Steen, Tally Brown, Lewis Love, filmmaker Jack Smith and artist Susan Rothenberg. It was filmed in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York in 1970 but was not released theatrically until 1972 under the alternate titles Night of the Dark Full Moon, and in 1981 as Death House (sometimes stylized as Deathouse).[3]

Although it is attributed to Zora Investments Associates in the credits, the film was never registered with the United States Copyright Office, and thus fell into the public domain.

Plot[edit]

Silent Night, Bloody Night (full film)

On Christmas Eve 1950, a man named Wilfred Butler, engulfed in flames, runs out of his mansion near East Willard, Massachusetts. His death is ruled accidental, and the house left to his grandson Jeffrey.

Twenty years later, lawyer John Carter arrives in East Willard on Christmas Eve with his assistant and mistress Ingrid, having been charged by Jeffrey Butler to sell the house. Carter meets with the town's leading citizens: Mayor Adams; Sheriff Bill Mason; Charlie Towman, who owns the local newspaper; and Tess Howard, who operates the town's telephone switchboard. They all agree to buy the Butler mansion on behalf of the town for the bargain price of $50,000, which Jeffrey Butler requires to be paid in cash the next day. Carter and Ingrid stay the night at the Butler mansion, unaware that they are being watched. After dinner, they retreat to a bedroom to have sex. Their unknown stalker enters the bedroom and brutally murders them both with an ax, and then reads from a Bible before placing a crucifix in Ingrid's hand. The killer calls the sheriff, asking him to come investigate Carter's disappearance, and introduces himself as the house's owner. While talking with Tess, who forwards his call, he calls himself "Marianne".

Jeffrey Butler arrives at the mansion to meet with Carter, but finds it locked and empty. He drives to the mayor's home, where he meets Diane, the mayor's daughter. The mayor has gone to the county's bank to obtain the required cash for the payment, so she redirects Jeffrey to the sheriff's office. At the same time, the sheriff is heading to the mansion, but stops at Wilfred Butler's disturbed gravesite, where he finds Butler's diary, then he's attacked and killed with a shovel.

Failing to find the sheriff, Jeffrey goes back to the mayor's, where Diane tells him she's received some calls for her father by a certain "Marianne", who said to be waiting at the mansion. Puzzled by the strange events, Jeffrey and Diane decide to drive to the mansion, but stop after they find the sheriff's abandoned car. They instead go find Towman at the newspaper. Towman, who can't speak due to laryngectomy, manages to explain that Tess also drove to the mansion. Jeffrey and Towman go after her while Diane does more research in the archives. After a call from "Marianne" tells her to look up the events of Christmas 1935, she pieces together Wilfred's story. In 1930, his wife died of tuberculosis. In 1933, his daughter Marianne, who was 15 at the time, was raped and got pregnant; the son she gives birth to is Jeffrey, whom was sent away to California. In 1935, Wilfred turned the mansion into a mental hospital and had Marianne committed. The rest of the story has apparently been redacted.

At the mansion, "Marianne" greets a visibly frightened Tess, then repeatedly bashes her over the head with a candlestick. After an unfruitful trip to Tess's house, Jeffrey goes back to Diane, who fills him in about her discoveries, particularly the fact that his mother didn't die giving birth like Jeffrey thought. They head to the mansion. On their way there, they pass Towman's car, which has been set on fire. Further down the road, Towman throws himself at Jeffrey's car and Jeffrey runs him over, killing him. Examining the body, he realizes somebody cut his hands off. At the mansion, Jeffrey finds his grandfather's diary, where it's revealed he was the one who got Marianne pregnant. The diary recounts how Wilfred grew hostile toward the complacent hospital staff, so freed the hospital's patients, causing a massacre that resulted in Marianne's death as well. He then ended up faking his death in 1950 and he's been living anonymously in a nearby mental hospital ever since.

Jeffrey tells Diane that his grandfather/father is still alive, and that the sheriff, Tess, Towman and the mayor were all former inmates Wilfred sought revenge on for the death of Marianne. The mayor arrives at the mansion armed with a rifle, and he and Jeffrey open fire, killing each other. The elderly Wilfred Butler finally appears, and Diane grabs Jeffrey's gun and shoots him. A year later, Diane takes one last look at the Butler mansion before it is destroyed by a bulldozer.

Cast[edit]

  • Patrick O'Neal as John Carter
  • James Patterson as Jeffrey Butler
  • Mary Woronov as Diane Adams
  • Astrid Heeren as Ingrid
  • John Carradine as Charlie Towman
  • Walter Abel as Mayor Adams
  • Fran Stevens as Tess Howard
  • Walter Klavun as Sheriff Bill Mason
  • Philip Bruns as Wilfred Butler (1929) (as Phillip Bruns)
  • Staats Cotsworth as Wilfred Butler (voice)
  • Jay Garner as Dr. Robinson
  • Donelda Dunne as Marianne Butler (age 15)
  • Michael Pendry as Doctor
  • Lisa Blake Richards as Maggie Daly
  • Grant Code as Wilfred Butler (age 80)
  • Debbie Parness as Marianne Butler (age 8)
  • Charlotte Fairchild as Guest
  • Barbara Sand as Guest
  • Candy Darling as Guest
  • Ondine as Inmate
  • Tally Brown as Inmate
  • Lewis Love as Inmate
  • Harvey Cohen as Inmate
  • Hetty MacLise as Inmate
  • George Trakas as Inmate
  • Susan Rothenberg as Inmate
  • Cleo Young as Inmate
  • Kristeen Steen as Inmate
  • Jack Smith as Inmate
  • Leroy Lessane as Inmate
  • Bob Darchi as Inmate

Production[edit]

Principal photography for Silent Night, Bloody Night began on November 30, 1970 in Oyster Bay, New York.[2] The film originally had the working title Zora,[2] which was the title of an unrelated screenplay owned by Cannon Films.[4] Post-production took place in the summer of 1972, with director Gershuny and editor Tom Kennedy completing dubbing, scoring, and sound effects.[2]

Star Mary Woronov recalled of the production: "Silent Night, Bloody Night was terrible. We were given a weird script, and Ted [Gershuny] tried to spark it up. He tried to make it an artistic statement, but it didn't work. It didn't even make much sense. Most people couldn't understand what was going on–which is not good, particularly for a horror film."[1]

Release[edit]

Theatrical distribution[edit]

According to an article in Cinefantastique from the fall 1973, the film was given a limited release in the United States in the fall of 1972 under the title Night of the Full Dark Moon through Cannon Films.[2] It was released once again in 1981 by Cannon under the title Death House,[5] stylized as Deathouse in some advertisements and on the film's title card.[a]

In the ensuing years, the film was shown on Elvira's Movie Macabre, part of WWOR-TV's Fright Night beginning in 1978, and became a staple of late-night television in the November and December months.[7] Despite the film's dark subject matter and depictions of violence, the network chose to air it at Christmastime each year. Executive Larry Casey commented on it, saying, "Don't get me wrong. I loved White Christmas and traditional holiday movies. But how many times can you watch those things? We always pushed the envelope on Fright Night, and Silent Night, Bloody Night was a great fit. WOR never got any complaints for showing it that I heard about."[8]

Home media[edit]

Although there is a 1972 copyright statement in the opening credits for Zora Investment Associates, the film was not registered for copyright,[2] and since its release has fallen into public domain.[9] After the film's video release by Paragon Video in the 1980s, it was acquired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and the original negatives remained in their vault for decades.[4]

The film is available on DVD from various entertainment companies that specialize in public domain films, though many of the prints on these editions are of extremely poor quality.[10] The majority of the prints used on DVDs were sourced from the VHS transfer released by Paragon Video.

A high-definition restored print of the film (sourced from the original master of the Death House print) was released on DVD by Film Chest on December 10, 2013.[4] The same print was also used for a DVD release by boutique company Code Red in 2013, in a limited edition double feature paired with Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972).[4]

Critical reception[edit]

AllMovie called it a "minor gem", complementing the film's "eerie atmosphere" and noting its place as a predecessor to the slasher film genre.[11] Leonard Maltin gave the film two stars, calling it an "uneven low-budgeter."[12] The film was featured in the book 150 Movies You Should Die Before You See, where it was written that the film "manages to disappoint on every level."[13]

Film historian Brian Albright referred to the film as "moody... surreal, and sometimes confusing."[14] In his book Slasher Films: An International Filmography, 1960 Through 2001, Kent Byron Armstrong wrote that the film "has a lethargic pace, but it provides enough intrigue and mystery to help a viewer retain interest."[15] In Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents (2007), Stephen Thrower wrote: "[the film is] “painfully slow... plotted for maximum irritation, with a deferred mystery structure that will have you screaming with impatience after the first hour."[16]

In a review published by The Hysteria Lives!, the film was awarded five out of five stars, with the reviewer noting: " The rather soap-operish proceedings are very involved, but suffice it to say, there's more than enough bodies to please the slasher purists while entertaining those of us who enjoy a classic macabre tale as well."[17] John Kenneth Muir noted that the film "bears all [the] reassuring tell-tale signs of a bad movie, signs that today's garbage might avoid through expense: amateur editing and filming, bad sound, bad film stock, atrocious dialogue, and the rest. Still, at least you know where you stand with a movie like Silent Night, Bloody Night. It doesn't take long to realize that you're trapped in bad movie hell."[1]

Influence[edit]

Some elements of the film have been noted as influential, particularly the killer's phone calls to victims, which was a significant plot element in Bob Clark's Black Christmas, released two years later.[17]

Related works[edit]

Remake and sequel[edit]

On December 9, 2011, the website Dread Central announced that a remake of the film would be remade by UK production company North Bank Entertainment as Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming.[18] The film was released on DVD in the United States by Elite Entertainment in February 2014.[19]

On December 29, 2014, New Wave Independent Pictures announced that the production of a sequel to the original film, titled Silent Night, Bloody Night 2: Revival, had begun.[20]

Adaptations[edit]

On December 10, 2016, the film was adapted into a play in Brooklyn, New York for a one-night-only production by One And Done Productions.[21]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Trade advertisements printed by Cannon in 1981 bear the Deathouse title,[6] as does the restored print of the film released on DVD by Film Chest in 2013.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Muir, John Kenneth (2011). Horror Films of the 1970s. McFarland. pp. 295–7. ISBN 978-0-786-49156-8. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Silent Night, Bloody Night". American Film Institute. Catalog. Retrieved December 18, 2017. 
  3. ^ Peary, Danny. Cult Midnight Movies: Discover the 37 Best Weird, Sleazy, Sexy, and Crazy Good Cinema Classics. Workman Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-761-18169-9. 
  4. ^ a b c d Smith, Richard Harland (December 20, 2013). "DON'T GET LONELY: SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT ON DVD (AGAIN)". Streamline. FilmStruck. Archived from the original on October 26, 2017. Retrieved January 9, 2018. 
  5. ^ Singer, Michael (1989). Film Directors. 7. Lone Eagle Pub. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-943-72827-8. 
  6. ^ Original 1981 trade advertisement from Cannon Films. Archived on January 10, 2018.
  7. ^ Arena 2011, pp. 56–57.
  8. ^ Arena 2011, p. 57.
  9. ^ "Silent Night, Bloody Night". Public Domain Movies. Retrieved December 17, 2017. 
  10. ^ Cotenas, Eric. "Silent Night, Bloody Night". DVD Drive-In. Retrieved December 17, 2017. 
  11. ^ Beldin, Fred. "Silent Night, Bloody Night (1973)". Allmovie. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  12. ^ Maltin 2008, p. 1250.
  13. ^ Miller 2010, p. 75.
  14. ^ Albright, Brian. Regional Horror Films, 1958–1990: A State-by-State Guide with Interviews. McFarland. p. 267. ISBN 978-1-476-60042-0. 
  15. ^ Armstrong, Kent Byron (2003). Slasher Films: An International Filmography, 1960 Through 2001. McFarland. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-786-41462-8. 
  16. ^ Thrower, Stephen (2007). Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents. FAB Press. ISBN 978-1-903-25469-1. 
  17. ^ a b "Silent Night, Bloody Night". The Hysteria Lives!. Retrieved January 9, 2018.  5/5 stars
  18. ^ "Silent Night, Bloody Night Remake Cooking in the UK". Dread Central. December 9, 2011. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  19. ^ Barton, Steve (November 28, 2014). "Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming Find U.S. Distro." Dread Central. Retrieved January 5, 2016. 
  20. ^ "Exclusive new photos: Latest Santa slayer in "SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT 2". Dread Central. December 9, 2011. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  21. ^ One and Done Productions (December 10, 2016). "Silent Night Bloody Night w/One And Done Productions". Facebook. Archived from the original on January 10, 2018. Retrieved January 9, 2018. 

Works cited[edit]

  • Arena, James (2011). Fright Night on Channel 9: Saturday Night Horror Films on New York's WOR-TV. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-46678-8. 
  • Maltin, Leonard; Sader, Luke; Clark, Mike (eds.). Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide. Plume. ISBN 978-0-452-28978-9. 
  • Miller, Steve (2010). 150 Movies You Should Die Before You See. ISBN 978-1-440-50362-7. 

External links[edit]