To the tune of "Here Comes Santa Claus": "Let’s kill Santa Claus, Let’s kill Santa Claus in so many ways.", "There’s lots of knives and guns galore, let’s murder him today."
If you’re looking for more of that song, sorry I’m not a lyricist, but I tried. Please don't tell Santa to put coal in my stocking! Oh wait. Santa's dead!! “From the Producers of PIECES” the DVD box art screams. Well, I guess they know their audience because the only people I could imagine enjoying this movie would be people who genuinely like Pieces.
I will say that at least Pieces is so bad that it’s good, where as Don’t Open Till Christmas just isn’t very good, or even interesting. It’s another bandwagon film to ride the coattails of many holiday themed horrors kicked off by Black Christmas and Halloween in the 70's.
The plot of the film is pure slasher. Someone is killing men dressed as Santa Claus and a bunch of not so smart cops and people related to the victims are trying to figure out who it is. The first victim’s daughter, Kate (Belinda Mayne) takes up with inspector Ian Harris from Scotland Yard (Edmund Perdom) to figure out whodunit. Kate’s fiancée Cliff (Gerry Sundquist), who happens to be a street busker whom plays the flute also joins in on the fun!
So let’s see, we have a murderer killing men dressed as Santa Claus and a mystery about who did it. Sounds OK on paper right? Well tear that paper up and flush it in the toilet. How can you have a mystery that is so dull and uninvolving? That is the cardinal sin of this script. Nothing is really going on in terms of the investigation, you don’t know much about the characters, and so in turn you can only care so much. The writers/producers know what side their bloody bread is buttered on and they make the kills the most important aspect of the film. The DVD box boasts “14 unforgettable kills”. Well they’re right on the count, but they’re not all that unforgettable. To mention a few: one has a spear put into the back of his head, another is burned in a trash can fire, but the best is a castration in a public toilet.
The production had some problems and it shows. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the film changed directors several times over the course of its shooting. The credited director Edmund Purdom also stars as the Scotland Yard detective, but he was replaced with the screenwriter whom was replaced by the editor shortly after. The piecemeal nature of the shoot and then post-production really are evident in its schizophrenia. It doesn’t ever really feel like a cohesive piece. But a random bit of fun, Caroline Munroe shows up as herself singing in a theater looking like she was screen testing for a live action film of the 80’s cartoon Jem. Truly outrageous, indeed!
The fine folks at Mondo Macabro have presented this film in a clean 1.66:1 transfer. I doubt the film looked this good in the editing room or whoever’s living room wall it screened on upon initial release before being dumped onto video. This transfer taken from the original film elements is miles above the grungy VHS tapes of this I have seen over the years. On the audio side of things, the soundtrack for the most part is clear, but there are a few instances of muddy dialogue.
Mondo Macabro has given us some nice bonus features: An almost hour long making of documentary that is “hosted” by Dick Randall and one of his cohorts is much more fun than the movie. It appears to have been made around the time of the film itself. It’s a fun look at the process of making a super low budget feature film, which most I think would enjoy. A half hour documentary about Mr. Randall is the next large bonus here, and is mostly made up of discussions about the man by his colleagues and widow. A theatrical trailer, production notes, and an assortment of trailers from other Mondo Macabro titles wrap up this package.
In closing, the title warns you “Don’t Open Till Christmas”*. Take heed.
Film Score: 1/5 Disc Score: 4/5
*The opening title card reads Dont Open Till Christmas. Really? You can’t even get that right? I give up.