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  Don't Open Till Christmas Suffering SantasBuy this film here.
Year: 1984
Director: Edmund Purdom
Stars: Edmund Purdom, Alan Lake, Belinda Mayne, Mark Jones, Gerry Sundquist, Kelly Baker, Kevin Lloyd, Wendy Danvers, Pat Astley, Caroline Munro, Laurence Harrington, Ken Halliwell, Ray Marioni, Wilfred Corlett, Ricky Kennedy, Sid Wragg, Max Roman
Genre: Horror, Trash
Rating:  2 (from 1 vote)
Review: In the city of London, there is trouble to be had if you're dressing up as Santa this Christmas, for there is a killer on the loose out to destroy them all. Already one Santa was attacked when he was canoodling with his girlfriend, and she ended up dead as well, so Inspector Harris (Edmund Purdom) of Scotland Yard is brought in to sort things out. Alas, he's not quick enough to prevent the death of a millionaire who was holding a party for his friends and family while dressed in the red suit - he had his head impaled with a spear, and the killer gets clean away...

Although Britain has a tradition of enjoying a ghost story at Christmas, as far as the screen went these were mainly confined to the small one, as Yuletide horrors for the cinema were not exactly prevalent. One exception to that was Don't Open Till Christmas, a misbegotten exercise in would-be shock that attempted to jump aboard the slasher bandwagon, but fell some way behind the cult favourite of the original Black Christmas. Indeed, it fell some way behind most competent films released in its year, as it took a couple of years to complete thanks to behind the scenes difficulties which included the firing of director Purdom.

Yes, the same Purdom who essayed the role of the Inspector, here apparently applying the knowledge he had learned on European giallo to try his hand at the same type of thing. What with reshoots and re-edits, the result was an unholy mess, with the script by Brit sex movie specialist Derek Ford displaying little understanding for what makes a decent horror flick - or a decent flick of any kind for that matter. Shoddy would be the best word to describe the nonsense that went on here, but for trash aficionados that poor quality was a reason to watch, not to shun, and the sheer strangeness of this has attracted more than a few viewers over the years who are not quite sure how to take the project.

Look at that plot, for a start: fine, you have the idea of someone killing Santas as opposed to a Santa killing someone which many Christmas shockers opt for, so there's an originality as far as that goes, but the actual murder sequences seem to have been crowbarred into the action with little point other than to make the Inspector look like a bumbler. The identity of the bad guy is not even a mystery: the second Alan Lake appears, we can tell that he's up to no good, and we're right (this would be Lake's final film as he committed suicide shortly before it was released, another reason why this is hard to enjoy). There is a twist in the tail, but you'd be forgiven for not noticing as its employed with next to no impact.

Although we know who the psycho is, nobody in this does, which leads to the millionaire's daughter Kate (Belinda Mayne) seeing her boyfriend Cliff (Gerry Sundquist) come under suspicion. For us, he's suspicious for other reasons, for example not only does he make his living as a flute-playing busker, but just after her father's murder he invites Kate to pose nude for sleazy photographer Kevin Lloyd, and thinks she turned him down in outrage was because she noticed a Santa suit in the room. Honestly, this is simply weird, not one thing or the other as it muddles through its cut rate suspense setpieces in a "will this do?" fashion, and throwing in novelties such as Caroline Munro "as herself" miming to a pop song on stage but being interrupted by a Santa corpse coming up through the trapdoor. Then there's the strip booth worker who looks like an incidental character yet is made to bear the brunt of the chase climax, if you don't count the parcel that, yes, has to be opened on Christmas and provides an absurd punchline. It is dreadful, but somehow compelling in its awfulness. Music by Des Dolan.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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