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December 2012
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With Christmas just around the corner, the Classic Horror Campaign is getting into the festive spirit by screening a couple of true creepy classic movies at the in London this Sunday. Alongside Ealing ghost story compendium Dead of Night (1945) we are showing the ultimate seasonal cult film Black Christmas (1974).

To celebrate this event here are five fascinating facts about the terrifying…Black Christmas!

  1. Black Christmas was largely based on a series of murders that took place in Quebec, Canada at Christmastime.
  2. The role of Mrs. Mac (played by Marian Waldman) was originally offered to Bette Davis.
  3. One of the most memorable poster tags for Black Christmas was as follows: “If this movie doesn’t make your skin crawl…it’s on too tight!”
  4. Black Christmas received its UK TV premiere on BBC1 on December 11th 1983.
  5. The film was initially released in the US as Silent Night, Evil Night in case people mistook it for a blaxploitation flick – but when it flopped the name was reverted back to Black Christmas.

Buy tickets for our fear-filled festive horror double bill today!



Of all the rather strange films Hammer cranked out during their last few years (Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde, Dracula AD 1972 and The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires to name a few), Peter Sykes’ Demons of the Mind has a strong claim to being the very oddest.  The project started life as a vampire film called Blood Will Have Blood, but with the ever-baffling Christopher Wicking on screenwriting duties it soon mutated into something much more peculiar, and what the finished product lacks in werewolves it more than makes up for in mind-boggling psychobabble.

Demons of the Mind is a confusing film, but not a bad one.  For one thing it’s got a very interesting cast, combining respected thespians (Robert Hardy, Yvonne Mitchell, Patrick Magee and Michael Hordern) with a pair of former pop stars (Manfred Mann’s Paul Jones, and Gillian Hills – surely a definitive cult figure thanks to her roles in Beat Girl, Blowup and the TV adaptation of Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, as well as her career in France as a yé-yé singer) and Hammer’s resident pretty boy Shane Briant.  The backdrop they perform against is the heart of Hammerland: a vaguely Germanic village at some unspecified point in the 19th century, populated by slightly oo-arr villagers who live in fear of the castle on the hill.  This time its inhabitant isn’t Frankenstein or Dracula but Baron Zorn (Hardy, who manages the remarkable feat of being both hammy and wooden at the same time) and his children.  Legends of insanity and incest (incestity, as I like to call it) haunt the Zorn family, and, convinced they’ve been infected by it, the Baron keeps twins Elizabeth and Emil (Hills and Briant) under lock and key.  Zorn calls in primitive psychoanalyst/hypnotist Dr Falkenberg (Magee) to cure his offspring, though it’s obvious to anyone watching that he’s the truly potty one.

Meanwhile, the villagers are increasingly angered by a series of savage murders of young women in the locality that they’re convinced are the work of the Zorns, and, whipped up into a frenzy by a crazy old priest (Hordern) march on the castle with flaming torches in time-honoured fashion.  The eventual explanation for the attacks is puzzling in the extreme, as is Falkenberg’s manner of reaching it – but the ensuing high drama leads to a splendid moment of double entendre as Robert Hardy cries out “let there be no more blood on our souls!” (don’t worry, the censor probably wouldn’t have allowed that anyway).

Gillian Hills doesn’t get a great deal to do other than waft about looking a bit dazed, and as her would-be love interest Paul Jones shows his acting hasn’t improved much since his debut in Peter Watkins’ Privilege.  Shane Briant’s pretty memorable as Emil thanks largely to the tangerine silk shirt he wears which contrasts sickeningly with the ultra-pale complexion of a boy who’s been kept inside his whole life, as well as the film’s one moment of truly startling violence, when he savagely slashes his aunt/jailer Mitchell to death with her own bunch of keys.  Patrick Magee’s performance is as eccentric as ever, but then Falkenberg’s a very eccentric character, as his various bizarre experiments for drawing out the Zorns’ obsessions show.

The star of the show is cinematographer Arthur Grant, who’d been working on Hammer films since 1957’s The Abominable Snowman.  He died in 1972 and Demons of the Mind was his last job.  It looks absolutely gorgeous, and even if you can’t follow what the hell’s going on you can just sit back and enjoy the pretty pictures.  But perhaps the single most satisfying moment in the film is when Patrick Magee actually intones, in that unique voice, “Deeemons of the miiind”.  It seems to me that a lot of films could have been improved if they’d only got him in to say the title.

Review by Ivan Kirby

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