Produced by the late and super great Dick Randall, Don’t Open Till Christmas is the sole directorial effort from actor Edmund Purdom (star of many films but most importantly 1982’s Pieces). It’s about a maniac that kills people dressed as Santa Claus. Everything about Don’t Open Till Christmas excites and confuses me. On paper, it reads like a potentially great feel-bad Christmas experience. But will Don’t Open Till Christmas enter the likes of Silent Night, Deadly Night and Black Christmas as one of my December mainstays? The short answer is almost. Here’s the long answer…
DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS
UK, 1984, Edmund Purdom
There are flashes of brilliance to be found in Don’t Open Till Christmas. The opening shot is inspired (surprising, considering the bulk of the film is shot flatter than a mid-90s sitcom). It begins with a typical slasher film POV that pulls off some decent effects and stellar camerawork without cutting away. It takes a step away from convention as one of the victims — the Santa-suited male half of a couple — acknowledges the camera and shouts down the lens, “Fuck off!”
A store Santa is castrated while urinating. (Important Note: You don’t see his severed dick fall off at any point. This adds serious debate to whether he was actually castrated or merely stabbed in the dick area. This phallic oversight prompted fellow Mondo Exploitoer Pierre, who I watched this with, to ask, “Where’s the dick?”) Another Santa cops a bladed shoe to the crotch. (The killer clearly has a penis hangup.) One drunken Santa is stalked in a torture museum for an inordinately long time before his unremarkable death. A simpleton-Santa visits a peep show and is rather sadly throat-stabbed in front of a friendly sex worker. A different drunken Santa is shot in the mouth.
A lady dressed in a Santa outfit nearly gets killed, but the Santa killer stops when he sees her breasts and realises she is, in fact, not Santa. I found that pretty funny. This is a rarity in the slasher genre in that the vast majority of the victims are male.
Caroline Munro shows up for some reason. She is credited as herself. She sings a song and dances about on a stage. The performance is rudely interrupted by a Santa who very, very slowly has a machete smashed into his face. Poor Santa. Poor Caroline Munro.
Don’t Open Till Christmas is practically incoherent in its final ten minutes. It feels like it was edited in a single frantic night. But it wasn’t. This took two years to stitch together. And thank fuck it made out alive. It’s too convoluted to reach the rewatchability of something like Silent Night, Deadly Night, but its existence is quite the Christmas miracle. And really, if you can’t dish out a bit of love for a film that features a Santa spurting blood over a urinal from his dick wound, then there’s obviously something very wrong with you.
Don’t Open Till Christmas is both mind-numbing and exhilarating. It is an incomprehensible train-wreck trapped in a frustrating dream that goes nowhere, but with all the sleaze, boobs, and bloodied Santa outfits, I forgot to care.
Don’t Open Till Christmas is available on DVD from distribution heroes Mondo Macabro. The print is excellent considering the film’s age and budget. The DVD features a lengthy making of featurette and a documentary about the film’s prolific trash-mongering producer, Dick Randall.