THE MOVIE SOMNAMBULIST #1: Don't Open Till Christmas
"Suddenly it's Christmas, right after Halloween/Forget about Thanksgiving, it's just a buffet in between."--Loudon Wainwright III
Someone's killing Santas in London. Okay, it's Giles the newspaper guy. It turns out he's the brother of Inspector Harris, played by the movie's director, Edmund Purdom.
Don't look at me like that. This isn't really a mystery movie; it's just pretending to be one because it's English. You can't spoil a movie like this. In fact, spoiling it makes it better. If this were made in America, hell Italy even, you'd get the child scarred for life scene at the beginning and then let the killings inevitably follow. This is a slasher film. In slasher films, you don't wonder why the killer is doing it unless it helps sort out who is doing it or who's going to get it in the neck next.
The dreamlike Christmas party of boozy adults and only two children is creepy enough; when little Giles gets his swiss army knife for Christmas and twirls it in his hands like Santa just brought him a cleaner, more powerful penis, you know it's on. When Giles wanders upstairs for bed, he finds his dad dressed like Santa and banging one of the guests in his own little bed. His cries bring up his mother, who, naturally, objects. Dad/Santa/Root of all Crazy shoves Mom down the stairs to her death. Little Giles pounces with his Swiss army knife. Now if this were made today, the kid would have gutted the both of them. But here's your British touch: he jabs at Daddy ineffectively and gets shoved aside.
THIS is how you begin a movie like this. But this is, alas, about three minutes before the end of the movie. Edmund Purdom directed only one movie in his life, and acted in about a zillion other's including Sergio Martino's genius 2019: After The Fall Of New York. If you're cranky that I spoiled this movie, go watch that one; I won't say a word.
Nine Santas in all go to meet Jesus before Giles kills his brother with an exploding music box right before the credits roll. I'm telling you this stuff because despite the endless pointless gabby bits with Kate and Cliff and the skeevy photographer and the other inspector (Powell) pretending there's a solvable mystery here, there's some great bits to this thing; I don't want you to get all distracted and disappointed when the reasoning turns all crap on you. You get kills by spear to the back of the head, some gut stabs, one stabbing with a boot knife (Rosa Klebb-style!), a slashing where the eye slides off the dead Santa's face, even one extra-special murder. How special? Allow me to quote my notes: "New Santa is department store guy--looks more the part than any so far HE CUT OFF SANTA'S COCK WITH A RAZOR! While peeing!"
I know what you're thinking; sure there's killings, but what about boobs? Yes, Virginia, there are boobs aplenty. In a marvel of twisted logic, Cliff, the original main suspect who plays flute for spare change in the Underground and is the boyfriend of the daughter of the second dead Santa, ends up locked out of his buddy the skeevy photographer's place with a model wearing a Santa-style topcoat and a pair of panties. A pair of bobbies see them standing together, and Cliff panics, telling the model "Run! They'll think we're couple of gays!" You're never gonna be able to run away from that, Cliff.
But Cliff bolts and the model runs off and of course runs into the killer, you remember, Giles. Giles opens her coat to give us all a long look and then slides a straightedge harmlessly along her bits and leaves her be. There is no explanation, except that to my eye she was a dead ringer for the lady Santa/Dad/Root of all Crazy was diddling in the flashback.
One of the more interesting Santa deaths is the one who catches a knife to the neck while with an Experience Girl. That's how the credits refer to her. It's a classic peepshow setup with a full window and telephones. it's a combo of phone sex and peep show. There seems to be no end of old English actors ready to play helpless skeeves to young ladies. The Experience Girl is the best actress in the movie, which makes sense; she's what they now call the Final Girl of the piece. There are a couple surprise kills, fulfilling the Joe Bob Briggs rule of Drive-In Movies--"Anyone can die at any time". I won't even tell you who they are.
Stayed awake for the whole thing, so five wide awake eyes for this one. (One eye equals 15 minutes of runtime.) Oh, and it also features Caroline Munro "as herself". Seems she had a singing career in mind, at least until that dead Santa appeared on stage.
John Ira Thomas writes graphic novels for Candle Light Press. He also took a shot at writing the sequel to HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS. He's sleepy now. Talk later.
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