Like many an independent horror film, Black Christmas has been fairly mistreated on home video for the past couple decades. Nothing looks good on VHS, so the various incarnations that surfaced (sometimes under its other titles) had to suffice, but once DVD and then Blu-ray came along, things should have improved. Alas, non-anamorphic transfers, some at the wrong aspect ratio to boot, were the order of the day, and the Blu-ray releases often stemmed from poor transfers as it was never properly remastered (a 2006 release was given a new HD transfer, but for DVD - the same transfer was used for subsequent Blu-ray releases, so it wasn't as impressive as other films of that era as it wasn't a true 2K transfer). In addition, the various releases would pick and choose from existing extras while creating new ones, which kept the film from ever having a really complete edition. The closest it ever got was the "Season's Grievings Edition" last year, which was released by Anchor Bay Canada and had pretty much every extra of note - but inexplicably dropped the film's original mono audio track, allowing only a 5.1 track that wasn't particularly well mixed. Sure, interviews and documentaries are nice, but we kind of need the movie's presentation to be up to snuff, you know?
Well, Scream Factory knows better, and will be offering a new disc just in time for the holiday, December 13th to be exact. Not only does it also retain just about all of those extras, best as I can tell*, but it also - AT LONG LAST - has a brand new 2K transfer specifically created for this release. No more recycling from older releases! Oddly, it still DOES include the 2006 HD transfer on a 2nd disc, presumably for purists (the aspect ratios are slightly different - one's at 1.85:1, the other is at 1.78:1), but only the new one has the mono track (as well as the 5.1 one). And because it's Scream Factory, of course there are some new features as well, offering new interviews with actors Lynne Griffin (Clare, the victim of the famous plastic bag death) and Art Hindle, who played her boyfriend. That might seem skimpy compared to their usual list of new features, but let's not forget - not only has the movie been special edition'd several times over the years, but it's also over 40 years old. Many behind-the-scenes participants have since died (including director Bob Clark and writer Roy Moore, plus virtually all of the producers), and if someone hasn't done an interview yet, they sure as hell aren't going to start now. I don't know about you, but as much as I love extra features, I don't get too excited about "20 minute interview with the sound mixer" because that's all they could find and wanted to have another bullet point on the features listing. New or old, every surviving person you'd actually want to hear from is here, and that's what's important.
Plus it'll take you hours to go through the "old" extras, some of which are probably new to you as they were created for last year's Canadian release (which many fans, myself included, skipped buying due to the price and lack of a new transfer). There's a 40 minute reunion panel from a horror con, some retrospective docs, more interviews (including two with Clark - one audio only), and three audio commentaries - you won't feel underserved as a Black Christmas fan, that's for damn sure. It's also got the usual extras that have appeared on most of the releases, such as the alternate title sequences (it was also released as Silent Night, Evil Night and Stranger in the House), two deleted scenes, and the collection of trailers and other marketing material. Following the tradition of newer releases like The Thing and Carrie, the bulk of the extras are on a second disc, allowing Scream Factory to use as much of the first disc's storage space as possible for the film itself - I hope this becomes the rule, not the exception, for their bigger special edition releases.
Also, after a number of entitled assholes complained, they have revised the previously revealed cover art to re-darken Billy's face, as it was originally shown more clearly. The chief complaint was that it "spoiled the mystery", which might be the dumbest goddamn thing I've ever heard in my life. There's no way to "spoil" the mystery (er, "spoiler" for a 42 year old movie ahead), as there's no answer to it - Billy is not revealed to be another character (i.e. Peter, the angry boyfriend played by Keir Dullea, who does have a resemblance to the actor playing Billy), so seeing his entire face doesn't mean anything. Plus, again, it's 42 years old and the film has been re-released on disc several times over - there can't be much, if any, of a middle section in the Venn diagram of "People who haven't seen Black Christmas yet" and "People who are excited about this release". And even if there were, again, there's nothing to "spoil", so the face wouldn't mean anything to them anyway. The people who comment on SF's Facebook page have me shaking my head every time I look at it, but even by their standards this one was completely asinine and petty. But since Scream does care about its fans and want to do right by them, they went ahead and "fixed" the artwork, so these whiny brats can claim victory (or, more likely, just find something else to complain about, as the label's "fans" are wont to do). Apparently my idea for these offended parties, which was to take a Sharpie and darken the slipcase themselves, was not considered viable.
But like I've said before, I couldn't care less about their covers - I take the disc out and watch what's on it, not stare at the artwork. And in that department, Scream has rarely let me down, and they also know when they have to be on their A-game. As I've written about before, Black Christmas fans are very protective of the film (just ask poor Glen Morgan), and considering how angry they got about the stupid cover, I wouldn't even want to imagine what they'd do if the transfer was botched somehow. Luckily, it would almost literally be impossible to be WORSE than anything we currently have, so they shouldn't have much to worry about. As I only have a non-anamorphic DVD (!) of the film**, I couldn't be happier that I will finally be upgrading, as I am confident this one will measure up and give us the release of the film we deserve. Now, if they could only get a hold of the remake...
*It lacks the screenplay, but if you, like me, just want to keep one release on the shelf, there's no reason to hold on to the disc for that, as it's just a PDF that you can copy off the disc via your PC's disc drive, which is how you'd have to access it anyway. There have also been multiple interviews with John Saxon over the years, and I can't determine which one it includes - but if you've ever seen one, you've seen them all, as he always tells the same stories anyway.
**I am blessed in that I live near the New Beverly, which screens the film annually every December - so I rarely need to watch it at home, therefore I never bothered to upgrade the DVD I bought before I even had an HDTV to care about its non-anamorphic status in the first place. I look forward to finally chucking it.