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Don’t Open Til Christmas (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Don’t Open Til Christmas (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: November 22nd, 2022.
    Director: Edmund Purdom, Alan Birkinshaw
    Cast: Edmund Purdom, Caroline Munro, Alan Lake, Belinda Mayne, Mark Jones
    Year: 1984
    Purchase From Amazon

    Don’t Open Til Christmas – Movie Review:

    Produced by the late, great Dick Randall and kinda-sorta directed by and starring Edmund Purdom, 1984's Don't Open Till Christmas, on the surface at least, seems like little more than a quick cash in on the holiday themed slashers that were so popular in the eighties. To write it off as such, however, would be doing the film, and yourself, a grave disservice indeed.

    The story, such as it is, takes place in eighties era London where a man dressed in a Santa Suit attending a Christmas party gets skewered through the mouth while his daughter, Kate (Belinda Mayne), looks on in horror. When, the next day, another guy in a Santa suit is slaughtered while trying to make it with a blonde he's picked up, Scotland Yard figures there's a serial killer on the loose with a grudge against old Saint Nick. Kate teams up with her boyfriend, Cliff (Gerry Sundquist), to try and figure out who could be behind all of this while the Yard's finest, Chief Inspector Harris (director Edmund Purdom), is assigned to dig deeper to find the truth. In the middle of all of this is a newspaper man, Giles (Alan Lake), but before you know it more Santa's are dead, all involved wind up suspects, and Caroline Munroe shows up as herself in a sparkly red dress to provide a song and dance number.

    Randall, who co-produced with Stephen Minasian (meaning that this film is brought to you by the producers of Pieces - for some, that will be reason enough to sign on!), has a fun cameo early on in the film, popping up on the dance floor of the opening party sequence but it's Purdom who was really responsible for this one. Agreeing to star after working on Pieces but only if he was allowed to direct, his inexperience behind the camera quickly found him replaced by Derek Ford, the writer - evidently, Ford wasn't any better and the whole thing winds up a ridiculous mess of a movie that never finds any sort of consistency outside of the murder set pieces, some of which are remarkably gory. Regardless, the film was an obvious cash-in on Black Christmas and Silent Night, Deadly Night, both made a few years prior though where those films actually work very well as serious Christmas themed slasher films, Don't Open Till Christmas does not. That's not to say that the film lacks entertainment value - Randall and company were savvy enough by this point in the game to fill the movie with enough tits and blood to make sure the audience was at least satiated on those more primal levels. But anything even remotely resembling suspense or scares? There's nothing to see here, move on…

    The film does offer up some surprisingly sleazy thrills, however - a scene in which an aging pervert in a Santa hat heads into a peepshow booth to jerk off while a pretty blonde stripper talks to him from behind the glass is a highlight, and Munroe's completely unnecessary but entirely welcome cameo is, as puzzling as it might be, a lot of fun. The kills are great, plenty bloody and always nasty (the make-up effects by Giuseppe Ferranti are impressive), while a scene that takes place on the set of a nudie photography session offers up more skin as well. There's really not much to the story, it's simply a string of strange set pieces strung together by the flimsiest of plots, but when there's this much zaniness crammed into the film, you won't mind so much. Bonus points for including a scene of castration on the toilet and for the notably strange scene in which a drunken Santa Claus is chased through a creepy old wax museum. Neither adds much to the plot, but they're both awesome regardless.

    Don’t Open Til Christmas – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Don’t Open Til Christmas to region free Blu-ray on a 50GB disc with the one hundred and one minute feature taking up just over 25.5GBs of space and framed at 1.66.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition presented newly scanned and restored in newly scanned and restored in 2K from its 35mm internegative. The picture looks very nice, boasting strong depth and detail. Some of the darker scenes aren’t lit as well as they could have been so they’re… darker, but the movie has always looked like that. Colors are handled well, they come through bright and bold without looking boosted, and skin tones look nice and natural. There are no noticeable issues with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts and while the image is naturally grainy, there isn’t much in the way of print damage to complain about at all.

    The 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track sounds fine. The track is clean, clear and properly balanced and free of any noticeable hiss or distortion. Dialogue is always easy to follow and the score is appropriately punchy when it needs to be. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras kick off with a new commentary track with film historian/author Amanda Reyes and special features producer Ewan Cant. After starting off with some corny Christmas talk and establishing some amusing ground rules that tie into a key scene in the movie, they get down to business and discuss the opening stalk and slash scene and noting who did some of the acting in that sequence, the film's shooting schedule and production history, who really did what in the director's chair, Dick Randall's involvement in the movie, how the film compares to other Christmas themed slashers, biographical details on pretty much every one of the cast members that appears in the picture (including a fun connection to Slade's feature film, In Flame!), the film's theatrical release history, where the movie does and does not deviate from the slasher movie formula, Edmund Purdom's life and times, some of the locations that were used in the shoot and lots more. It's a really good track, these two have good chemistry together and a mutual appreciation for the movie and on top of that they know their stuff, which makes this a lot of fun to listen to.

    Don't Direct Till Christmas is as new twenty minute interview with additional scenes director/writer Alan Birkinshaw where he speaks quite candidly about how he got his start working in television before then moving on to feature films, how he came to work on this picture, how he knew Dick Randall (he was the Best Man at his wedding!) and came to work with him, his relationship with Purdom, memories of some of the people that he collaborated with on the production, changes that were made to the story, Purdom's attempts to direct a dog as if it were a human, the wonky shooting schedule, not having anything to do with the Munro scenes, needing to work quickly and quite a bit more related to his work on this movie and his interesting career.

    Slashing Miss Munro runs thirty-four minutes and is a new interview with the always lovely Caroline Munro. In this piece, she discusses her status in the horror genre and thoughts on the genre, getting her start in Hammer films in the seventies, doing Maniac in the United States and then doing films in Europe, her thoughts on slasher films in particular, how she wound up appearing in Don' Open Til Christmas through a connection her husband had, shooting her musical number at the Piccadilly Theater, how the film feels like a product of the eighties, not getting to meet Purdom despite having a crush on him in her younger days, memories of Dick Randall, going on to make Slaughter High for Randall after this movie and memories from that production, working with Christopher Lee and Joe Spinell, getting along with Bill Lustig and Tom Savini and, finally, how much she truly appreciates her fans (and if you've ever been lucky enough to meet her at a convention or screening, you know she means it when she says it).

    The seventeen minute Purdom Babylonia is a new interview with Lilan Purdom, daughter of director Edmund Purdom. She talks about the influence her father had on her life, not seeing him much in her younger days, how he had four wives, how his own father was really into theater and got him into acting, how he started out doing stage work, the difficulties of his initial move to Hollywood, how he eventually got his career moving and won over the press and then more or less lost his mind and ran away to Mexico with a woman, then moving on to Italy and leaving Hollywood behind. It's an interesting story and Lilan is quite upfront about the good and the bad of her father's life.

    Birkinshaw Uncut is a lengthy, fifty-six minute archival interview with Alan Birkinshaw that lets the man talk about how he got his start in the TV industry, worked his way up the ladder and then eventually made his way into the film business. From here, he talks about dealing with international markets via outlets like Cannes, making some money with various sex comedies early on with movies like Confessions Of A Sex Maniac, moving on to horror projects with Killer's Moon and what it was like making and marketing that movie and dealing with censors. He also talks about making a few different short films, collaborating with Dick Randall and making films with him like Invaders Of The Lost Gold where he got to work with a great cast, going on to make Don't Open Til Christmas and the problems that arose during the making of the movie, having to do rewrites and direct half the picture himself and then going on to make pictures like Ordeal By Innocence, Ten Little Indians and working with Harry Alan Towers, Klaus Kinski and for the Indian government and lots more.

    A Dangerous Place For Santa is a new featurette hosted by Ewan Cant that checks out the original shooting locations of Don't Open Till Christmas. Here, over fifteen minutes, we see Piccadilly Circus, the cul de sac from the opening murder and the chestnut killing scene, the street where Sherry the sex worker is killed, the building that doubled for the mental hospital, The Piccadilly Theater where Munro's scene was shot and a few other London locations used in the movie.

    Carried over from the Mondo Macabro DVD release is and awesome fifty-two minute long featurette called The Making Of A Horror Movie that goes into detail on the making of this cinematic oddity. Made while the film was in production and shot on video, this piece contains loads of footage not only of the cast and crew at work but also of the instantly recognizable Dick Randall, hanging out on set, cigar glued to his mouth the entire time. A narrator puts all of this into context, explaining how various scenes were reshot and how Purdom was relieved of his directorial duties during the shoot - and hey, Caroline Munroe is even interviewed here about her part in the film. It's a pretty great documentary, really, and it's definitely the highlight of the supplements on this release.

    Finishing up the extras on the disc is a selection of sixteen minutes of deleted and extended scenes from a never-before-seen rough cut of the film taken from Birkinshaw's personal archives presented in standard definition without any music of effects (we get a different scene with the cops visiting Kate, an alternate scene with Kate and Cliff, an extended scene with Powell finding Giles poking about the police station, an extensions of the scene where Harris and Powell question Sharon, a cut scene where Kate meets Dr. Bridle at the hospital, and alternate version of the scene where Cliff is brought to the police station and a scene where Harris' housekeeper is implicated), a behind-the-scenes still gallery, the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options. This release comes packaged with some nice reversible cover sleeve art.

    The disc also includes menus and chapter selection and comes packaged with some reversible cover artwork. It’s also worth pointing out that the first 5,000 copies ordered from Vinegar Syndrome’s website come with an embossed slipcover designed by Robert Sammelin that features a nice magnetic flap on the front that, when opened, offers up a holiday greeting from the label. It’s a small thing, but it’s a fun touch.

    Don’t Open Til Christmas - The Final Word:

    It might not always make sense or show any regard for logic, but don't let that phase you - Don't Open Till Christmas is minor masterpiece of inept filmmaking and it's and because of that it's an absolute blast. It's never scary but it's frequently sexy, often bloody, and always entertaining. Vinegar Syndrome’s special edition Blu-ray release presents the film in an excellent presentation and on a disc absolutely stacked with extras that do a great job of exploring the film’s history.


    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Don’t Open Til Christmas Blu-ray screen caps!

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