Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas review

dont open til christmas

By David Dent

A home grown UK seasonal slasher, this extraordinary film has a similarly odd production history.

Originally dreamed up by US producer and writer Dick Randall, who brought us the infamous Spanish horror Pieces (1982), the movie lists jobbing actor Edward Purdom as director (his sole directing credit, Purdom also ‘stars’ in the film, and incidentally was also in Pieces), but his finished version of the flick was reportedly so awful that other more reliable professionals were called in to recue it, including Brit sex king Derek Ford.

And indeed DOTC has the feel of a low rent Brit sex movie, but with a lower boob count (if you don’t include Purdom).

We’re in London and someone is picking off the Capital’s Father Christmases! Methods of despatch include spears through heads, castration and burning to death after being held face down on a roast chestnut brazier. Inspector Ian Harris (Purdom) is baffled.

As is Kate, who with boyfriend Cliff busk during the day (he, flautist, she cap in hand for loose coppers) and by night try to solve the mystery of Kate’s father’s death (he is the first Santa to be offed in the film, at a very 1980s party).

Meanwhile the red coated body count rises. When a Santa is picked off in a Soho peepshow booth, dancer/sex worker Cherry (mysteriously credited as ‘Experience Girl’ in the credits) helps police with their enquiries and is abducted and imprisoned for her trouble. What’s going on? I have no idea, but it’s great fun nevertheless.

And here’s Alan Lake (in his last role before his suicide, following the death of his wife Diana Dors) as news hack Giles Harrison, who seems to want to implicate Harris in the killings. Hang on, Harris? Harrison? Is there a connection?

Yes, DOTC is a terrible mess. It’s set at Christmas, and part of the movie was shot in the winter of 1983 – everyone looks freezing. But the shoot dragged on and they were still filming the following summer. Hence the Christmas feel being a bit uneven; at one point we see tinsel nailed to the wall in Kate’s flat – a rather tragic nod to the birth of Christ, that.

It’s also a great London movie. Most of the location shooting – Portobello Market, the original London Dungeon, Oxford Street – was clearly done on the hoof with no permissions, and reminded me of the Italian giallos of the 1970s that all had scenes shot on the fly in London town.

And it’s got Brit scream queen Caroline Munro in it. Singing. Well, sort of singing. And screaming (she had a short lived career in music).

Just see it.

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