Dec 25, 2015

13 Things You Didn’t Know About 'Black Christmas'

Article By: Tyler Doupe

Tis the season for spending time with your loved ones gathered around a warm fireplace, all the while hoping a psycho killer isn't lurking outside waiting to pick you all off one by one. Yes, on this very merry day, we're going to take a closer look at the 1974 holiday horror classic Black Christmas. The film is one of the first slasher movies, predating Halloween by 4 years, and it has endured on as cult classic that inspired its own remake in 2006. Read on for 13 Things You Didn't Know About Black Christmas.

1. The title of 'Black Christmas' was changed to 'Silent Night, Evil Night' during the film’s US theatrical release.

The distributor was concerned that the name Black Christmas may be confusing to audiences, in the sense that they might mistake the picture for a ‘Blaxploitation’ film rather than a horror movie. The name has since been changed back to Black Christmas for the film’s various home video releases. 

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2. When Bob Clark was shooting the phone conversations between the girls and Billy, there was no one on reading lines on the other end of the phone.

Clark was standing off camera shouting obscene remarks at the ladies to elicit a startled reaction from them. Apparently, what he was hollering at the young actresses pales in comparison to the dialogue that was added in during postproduction. The conversations took nearly three weeks to stage and record during post. 

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3. Three or more people provided their vocal talents for the obscene phone dialogue.

Bob Clark has confirmed that he voiced Billy along with help from long time character actor Nick Mancuso (Death Ship) and at least one other unknown performer. 

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4. It’s been reported that Gilda Radner backed out of the film due to her commitment to 'Saturday Night Live' but that’s not quite correct.

Black Christmas was released in December of 1974 and Saturday Night Live didn’t begin to air until October of the following year. So, while must have led to Radner backing out of the project, it was probably not her involvement with SNL as the series would not have conflicted with the production of Black Christmas.

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5. Actor Keir Dullea never actually met Margot Kidder during the film’s production.

Though Dullea appears in various scenes throughout the film, he was only on set for a week. Since the film was shot non-sequentially, all of the segments in which he appears were shot back to back over the course of those seven days. Since he was on set for such a short time, he reportedly never crossed paths with Margot Kidder during production. 

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6. 'Black Christmas' is loosely based on actual events.

There has been controversy over whether or not Roy Moore drew inspiration for his screenplay from a series of real murders that took place in Quebec. According to a featurette included on the Black Christmas Blu-ray, Moore did draw inspiration from a series of murders in the Westmont section of Montreal. But the film takes only a modicum of inspiration from the Westmont murder spree. The vast majority of the picture is entirely fictitious.

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7. Composer Carl Zittrer used a variety of unusual methods in the composition of the film’s score.

The composer tied forks, knives, and combs to the internal mechanisms of his piano while he was playing it. In addition, Zittrer also applied pressure to the reels of the audio system during the recording process in order to create even more noise distortion. 

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8. John Saxon almost didn’t play Lieutenant Fuller. The role nearly went to Edmond O’Brien.

Bob Clark says that he initially wanted John Saxon to play the role but Saxon had a scheduling conflict. As such, Edmond O’Brien was offered the role of Lt. Fuller. When O’Brien had to drop out of the production, the role was again offered to John Saxon and this time, Saxon was able to work the film into his schedule.

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9. 'Black Christmas' was extremely successful in Canada but did not do nearly as well during its US release.

The film was promoted heavily across various mediums for its Canadian release but when it was brought to the US, it did not receive the same level of promotion and thus did not realize the same financial success as it had during its Canadian exhibition. It wasn’t until Black Christmas was released to home video that it really connected with US audiences. 

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10. Margot Kidder was confused by the way the film ended.

Kidder admitted in an interview that while the film was shooting, she didn’t fully understand the way that it ended. She didn’t completely comprehend the ending until production had wrapped and she was able to then watch the picture in its entirety.  

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11. Bob Clark had an extensive backstory for Billy and Agnes in mind and it’s fairly similar to what was explored in the remake.

Clark imagined that Billy and Agnes’ parents abused them and that Billy had killed them and kept Agnes locked up for years. In a Q & A at the Nuart, Clark spoke positively of the remake, the storyline, and the creative team behind it. 

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12. The snow in the film is made of foam.

The winter during which Black Christmas was filmed resulted in very little snowfall. As a result, the production team used Styrofoam to create the appearance of snow for the exterior shots. 

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13. Olivia Hussey didn’t watch the film upon its initial release.

Hussey says that she is terrified of scary movies and it wasn’t until many years after the picture was released that she actually sat down to watch it. But upon seeing it, she was very proud of the finished product and she thinks that Bob Clark is a genius director. She now regards Black Christmas as a classic in the horror genre. 

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