Thursday, August 6, 2015

Making of a Horror Film, The (1984)

Directed by:
None Credited / Unknown

This is a really fascinating curio item: A 52-minute documentary centered around the production of DON'T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS (1984), a tasteless, gory, sleazy, mean-spirited and rather inept little British shocker about a psycho going around London viciously murdering men playing Santa Claus. The narrator informs us we're about to see “A day in the life of Dick Randall, motion picture producer” and then we see Randall (who proves to be quite the character here) sitting in a movie house watching the action on the big screen with another man as they view interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the actual film. Two girls dressed in Santa outfits expose their breasts for no apparent reason and then we're treated to a collage of some of the gory special effects featured in the film. The narrator then informs us that the film will have more to offer than just blood and guts. It will also offer plenty of “feminine pulchritude.” Edmund Purdom, former matinee idol of the 50s, would be making his directorial debut with the film. So what would attract him to such a sleazy, bloody film? Well, according to Purdom himself he became fascinated with horror and suspense movies after one of the four ex-wives attempted to electrocute him in the bathtub with a hair dryer! Next up we meet aspiring actress Allison, who'll be making her big screen debut as a peep show stripper in the film. After taking forever to film a simple scene, it's worth noting that Allison did not make the final cut and the role was later recast.

Back in the theater, Randall tells the guy interviewing him that anyone watching this are probably most wanting to see gore, so we next see a special effects scene as a Santa's neck gushes blood all over the place. Purdom can be heard dryly directing both the fx technician (“Pump. Pump. Pump.”) and the actor (“Hands. Hands. Hands.”); describing the blood-soaked aftermath as “Lovely.” The actor playing Santa in this footage is not the same actor who appears in the finished film. The narrator then informs us that Purdom was also later replaced by another director. Up next it special effects director Peter Litten, who talks about how they did a scene where a music box explodes in Purdom's face. 

Randall is then seen with American “money man” Steve Minasian, who's announced as a “co-producer of the successful Friday the 13th.” Minasian talks about working his way up from film distributor to  film producer and discusses the successful “Vomit Bag” gimmick that helped to make Mark of the Devil (1970) a big hit. He claims they spent over 100,000 dollars making the bags. Minasian says “People want to see blood” and also discusses his future plans on making a Last House on the Left sequel, which never happened.

Disguised in a wig and dark glasses, Valerie Ford (wife of the film's writer, Derek Ford) is then seen going to a butcher shop to order up “special effects” like sheep's entrails, a sheep's eye, some calf's liver and “the nearest meat really to, uh, human flesh” like “a piece of scrap venison.” To add to the indignity, she's then asked to go to a sleazy porno shop to find a dildo for a castration scene (“I'm, uh, I'm looking for a penis but, uh, I want a really natural-sized one... Can you wrap it, please?”). The butcher shop findings are then put to work in a scene where a Santa gets the top of his head blown off. The actor recruited to play the part claims they found him at a pub and are paying him with 2 bottles of scotch. The make-up artist captures a stray cat on the set that's supposedly been “... eating all of our special effects” and takes it outside.

Caroline Munro performs a musical number that's used in the film and is briefly interviewed, where she admits she enjoys more fantasy-oriented horror like Hammer's Dracula films to the gore-fest she's just signed on to appear in. Actors Gerry Sundquist and Belinda Mayne both describe the roles they play in the film and we get some more behind-the-scenes footage of on-location filming at a market where several street musicians perform, including one who sings several Elvis songs. Randall meets with a few studio musicians to have them work on a theme song that sounds like “a cross between 'Silent Night' or 'Jingle Bells' and something ominous.” 

A miserable-looking actor playing one of the Santa victims painfully attempts to get the latex make-up off after filming his scenes while Paula Meadows (who'd later go to America to appear in hardcore porn) discusses doing a “very painful” scene where she's hung upside down by her ankles while topless. Max Roman, who plays the department store Santa who gets his dick cut off while taking a piss, discusses his part and horror films in general. We even get to see a scene that didn't make the finished cut where a Santa gets Christmas lights forced into his mouth and then is electrocuted. At one point, a Margaret Thatcher impersonator flashes on the screen and Randall claims he found her at “the ugly agency.” He then reveals the film took “almost a year to make” and jokes about the possibility of the film becoming a banned video nasty and getting arrested for making it.

This mysterious production has no credits at all aside from the title written on a pane of glass with lipstick. The director is unknown. The producer is unknown. The guy conducting the interviews is unknown. Hell, the true intentions of this film aren't even known. It appears to be a promotional video for Don't, but it's so tongue-in-cheek and self-mocking it almost approaches mockumentary status. Randall and the interviewer / narrator frequently even poke fun at the film they're trying to promote, but I guess “fun” is the key word here. This is frequently hilarious and somehow manages to make Don't look like it will also be a fun film to watch, even though actually sitting through it is another story entirely. Even if this “Making of....” documentary amounts to little more than a few people taking the piss, I still had way more fun watching it than the full feature it's covering.

I don't know if this was ever seen prior to the 2005, when it was released as an extra on the Mondo Macabro DVD release of Don't. It also may have been edited together years after the fact. The title theme song for one of Randall's final productions; THE URGE TO KILL (1989) aka Attack of the Killer Computer, plays over some of the footage.


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