Argued by many to be the first true slasher, agreed by all to be a horror and Christmas classic, Black Christmas has certainly made its mark in the cinematic landscape. It may have been remade twice, but there’s no topping the iconic original (we even an official showdown here).
So as we celebrate this horror classic turning 45 years old, let’s bask in the yuletide joy and look at 45 merry facts about Black Christmas!
1. Despite being considered one of (if not the) first slasher films, Bob Clark always considered it to be more psychological horror, and even toned down some of the more violent content in earlier scripts.
2. A series of real life murders around Christmastime in Montreal served as inspiration to Roy Moore, who wrote the original script.
3. Early titles of the film were “The Babysitters” and “Stop Me”, which was based on the real life murders of William Heirens (aka the “Lipstick Killer”). He allegedly wrote “stop me” at a crime scene in order to taunt police. He eventually was caught and died in prison after many decades.
4. Malcolm McDowell was originally offered the role of Peter, but turned it down. He’s since admitted that it’s a huge regret of his.
5. Not only did Bob Clark direct this movie, but he also directed another holiday classic, A Christmas Story. His filmography also includes Porky’s and Baby Geniuses.
6. While its status as the first true slasher is very much up for debate, its status as the first holiday themed horror film is certain. This would help pave the way for Halloween, My Bloody Valentine, April Fool’s Day, Mother’s Day, Uncle Sam, and countless other holiday horror gems, as well as Hulu’s entire horror series Into the Dark!
7. The iconic Billy POV shot was done just a couple years before the Steadicam. So camera operator Albert J. Dunk had to strap the camera to himself with a body brace.
8. My Bloody Valentine director George Mihalka admitted that the POV shot in Black Christmas inspired him to do the same for his film.
9. The concept of “the calls are coming from inside the house” may have appeared in this film a full five years before When a Stranger Calls. But the idea behind it was a urban legend dating all the way back to the 1950’s.
10. For years, a rumor has persisted that Halloween was originally meant to be a sequel to Black Christmas. The truth is simply that John Carpenter had a discussion with Bob Clark about what a sequel to Black Christmas would look like.
Clark supposed that the next natural place to take the story would be for Billy to be locked in an asylum, only to escape. Then, Carpenter utilized this very basic story concept for what would become Halloween.
11. Clark’s idea of Billy escaping an asylum did eventually come to fruition with the 2006 remake.
12. There was also a novelization by Lee Hays (oddly released two years later), which went deeper into the characters and backstories. However, it’s currently out of print and virtually impossible to find a copy of.
13. Despite countless evidence that this was a Canadian horror film (hockey, cold weather, accents), they tried very hard to make it look like America, especially with the flags in the police station.
14. Black Christmas has had such lasting cultural impact that there are at least four documentaries solely devoted to discussing/analyzing it.
15. For the infamous eye scene with Billy, no one actually knows whose eye it really was. Even Bob Clark forgot years later.
16. One of the main reasons Margot Kidder was cast was because she was Canadian, and the filmmakers knew that the more Canadians that were in it, the better chances they would get tax breaks for filming.
17. While filming, Kidder allegedly claimed that she was going to marry Paul McCartney.
18. Olivia Hussey accepted the role of Jess at the advice of a psychic, who told her that she would be offered a part in a Canadian movie that would end up making a lot of money.
19. Years later, when Hussey auditioned for Roxanne with Steve Martin, he told her that she was in one of his favorite movies. She assumed he was referring to 1968’s Romeo and Juliet, but it was actually Black Christmas. Martin is a huge fan of the film, and has seen it many times.
20. Speaking of celebrity fans of this movie, Elvis Presley himself apparently loved it, and screened it at his home every year at Christmastime. Sadly though, he only would have been able to do this in 1975 and 1976, before his death in the summer of 1977.
21. For its initial release in the US, Warner Brothers retitled the film Silent Night, Evil Night because they thought that Black Christmas would make audiences think it was a black exploitation film, which were popular in that decade.
22. Nick Mancuso, while recording Billy’s lines, stood on his head to give him an unusual sound by “compressing his thorax”.
23. Some of the more graphic and extreme sounds were performed by Bob Clark himself.
24. The building used for the police station is actually a community center in Toronto that is still very active today.
25. There’s a popular fan theory that Eugene from Behind the Mask: The Rise and Fall of Leslie Vernon is actually an older, retired Billy from Black Christmas.
Eugene discusses what it was like “slashing” in the 60’s and 70’s, and how he was never caught or killed. If this theory holds true, then it also means that Black Christmas exists in the same universe as the Hatchet series!
26. Ironically this film takes itself more seriously than the 2006 remake. The latter feels more grindhouse than the 1970’s original!
27. The remake also delves much deeper into Billy’s backstory, something Bob Clark claimed he had thought up for the original. But he thought it better left unsaid.
28. Clark remained a producer of the remake, and was even still planning on doing a sequel, until his tragic death in 2007. A drunk driver collided with him head on, killing both Clark, and his son.
29. Gilda Radner was originally offered the role of Phyllis, but had to back out close to shooting when she was offered a part on the (new) Saturday Night Live series on NBC.
30. When the film was going to be aired on NBC, a series of real life murders had been occurring at Florida sorority houses, which would later be revealed as the work of infamous serial killer Ted Bundy.
Due to these tragedies, the governor of Florida personally called the President of NBC, requesting that something else be aired in in FL at that time, to which NBC obliged out of respect.
31. Surprisingly for a 70’s horror film at a sorority house, there is no nudity or sex scenes.
32. The reason for this is because Bob Clark felt that high school and college students were too often portrayed as one dimensional and sexist. So he decided that his film would portray them as real people and well-developed characters, something that the film has always garnered praise for.
33. Both Clark and Hussey have claimed that despite the subplot of Jess and her boyfriend debating whether to keep the pregnancy was never meant to have any pro-life or pro-choice agenda. Merely it was meant to give the characters extra tension to deal with while everything else was happening.
34. For the 2006 remake, Andrea Martin was the only actress from the original to return, this time playing the house mother.
35. Keir Dullea managed to pull off playing a college student, despite being 38 at the time of filming!
36. One of the main reasons Dullea accepted the role was because he was living in London at the time, but his parents lived in New York. So traveling to Canada would give him a chance to be closer and visit them.
37. Warner Brothers hated the ending, and wanted Bob Clark to give a definite reveal/ending of Billy.
38. The musical score was done by taking objects like combs, forks, a knives, and plucking them against piano strings.
39. Lynn Griffin was quite shocked when saw the final film, because Billy’s lines, once recorded in post-production, were far more graphic and vulgar than what had been said on set while filming.
40. It wasn’t a huge success initially, but gained a cult following as the decades went on, which came as a huge surprise to Margot Kidder.
41. Kidder herself admitted that she hates horror films, and even called The Amityville Horror a “piece of sh*t”.
42. Her behavior on set was reportedly very similar to that of her drunken character. Sadly, Margot Kidder struggled with substance abuse, mental illness, and even homelessness throughout her life. Eventually, she tragically took her own life in 2018.
43 In another sad behind the scenes story, famed actor Edmond O’Brien was cast as the police lieutenant, but when he arrived in Toronto, he was very confused and having trouble functioning. It was clear to Bob Clark that O’Brien was suffering from early-mid stages of Alzheimer’s.
Given the frigid cold temperatures and late night shoots, they felt it might be too much for him. So he was unfortunately let go and replaced with John Saxon, who only had 48 hours from being offered the part to arriving on set to film.
44. Allegedly actor Doug McGrath truly didn’t know what the meaning of “fellatio” was when Margot Kidder’s character said it to him. He knew it was clearly something inappropriate, but used his lack of knowledge as an advantage, so he could play the character more legitimately naïve.
45. While it is an incredibly different film, the 2019 remake pays homage to this original classic when the main character uses plastic wrap as a weapon against the killer.
Which ones surprised you? Which ones did you already know? Tell us in the comments below! For more reviews, rankings, and other fun horror content, follow Halloween Year-Round in Facebook and Twitter!