Christmas Evil (1980) Englewood and Montclair, New Jersey
Not only is Lewis Jackson's Christmas Evil (a.k.a. You Better Watch Out) one of my favorite Christmas-themed horror movies of all time, it's also one of my favorite movies of all time.
Santa-obsessed toy factory employee Harry Stradling (Brandon Maggart) keeps a list of who's been naughty and nice in his neighborhood, while struggling with the pressures of working for a company that, in his eyes, makes sub-standard toys. He finally snaps, donning a Santa suit and doling out old-fashioned holiday justice by passing out stolen toys to needy children and brutally murdering anyone who's wronged him.
Watch for "Walking Dead" star Jeffrey DeMunn as Harry's brother, "Home Improvement" star Patricia Richardson in a small role, and appearances by character actors Peter Friedman, Mark Margolis, and Raymond Barry, and E-Street band member Danny Federici. Maggart was a regular on the first season of "Sesame Street," and is also Fiona Apple's father.
The film was produced by former stockbroker Burt Kleiner and Pete Kameron, who had managed The Who and the founded of L.A. Weekly. Another producer, Ed Pressman, is the son of Pressman Toy Co. owner Jack Pressman (Pressman's factory appears in the film).
In honor of our impending trip to San Juan, here is the trailer for Robert Gaffney's Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster, which was filmed in Long Island and Puerto Rico. Watch for Bruce Glover (Crispin's dad) as one of the aliens (and allegedly as the space monster, too). I first saw this in an 8mm condensed (and silent) version from Castle Films.
To call Andy Milligan an acquired taste would be an understatement of immense proportions; suffice it to say that the films of New York's king of underground sleaze will either leave you gaping in wonderment or highly offended, or possibly just sleepy. Seeds of Sin (available on a DVD from Something Weird with Milligan's The Ghastly Ones) is actually a recut version of Milligan's original film Seeds, but with hardcore inserts shot by producers Allen and Rosily Bazzini (owners of a New York restaurant called The Grotto).
It features a standard Milligan plot: A family of dysfunctional oddballs and perverts gather on Christmas Eve to argue, preen, fondle and eventually die in horribly ironic ways. What better way to spend the holidays? As a bonus, the Something Weird disc includes two reels of Milligan's original workprint of Seeds, including footage the Bazzinis snipped to create their hardcore version.
According to Milligan biographer Jimmy McDonough, Milligan married star Candy Hammond on the set of Seeds (it was a fairly short-lived union). Seeds is almost all that remains of Milligan's early career making black-and-white sexploitation films, and I couldn't find any clips available online, so I've opted to post The Ghastly Ones trailer instead. For more of Milligan's early work, you can check out Vapors (1965) on the Something Weird DVD for The Body Beneath (1970).
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) Garden City, Long Island, New York
The kiddie matinee classic, brought to you by busy TV director Nicholas Webster and executive producer Joseph E. Levine. There was also a book and record set (see below) so that kids could read and sing along at home.
The movie was shot over the summer of 1964, and hit theaters that November, and was still playing every winter through the late 1960s. It has since been turned into a musical, and is presented each year at the Maverick Theater in Fullerton, Calif.
Silent Night, Bloody Night (1974) Oyster Bay, Long Island
This weird, fascinating, and somewhat confusing early slasher film has unfortunately slipped into the public domain, so I have a feeling that we may never get to see it in any form other than the murky prints populating so many horror-themed multi-movie DVD sets. It's still worth checking out.
The film details the bloody history of a former madhouse, the return of its mysterious owner, and an accompanying murder spree. It's a moody, atmospheric film marred by a confusing script, a few missing scenes (at least it appears something has been cut from the prints available), and Mary Woronov's somewhat disengaged performance. The cast is also a lot of fun, and includes Hollywood vets Patrick O'Neal, John Carradine and Walter Abel, along with Warhol Factory refugees like Ondine and Candy Darling.
Late director Theodore Gershuny (who was married to Woronov at the time), filmed this in 1972. Associate producer Lloyd Kafman worked with Gershuny again on Sugar Cookies (1973), and went on to found Troma Films. Both Kaufman and Frank Vitale (another producer on this film) also worked with Oliver Stone around the same time.
Producer and writer Jeffrey Konvitz was an entertainment attorney also wrote both the novel and film The Sentinel (1977), and produced Spy Hard (1996).
From the Uniontown, Pa., Morning Herald-Evening Standard, Aug. 8, 1974:
The Dead Next Door is a blog about regional or "backyard" horror and science fiction films made from the late 1950s to the earlyl 1990s (and beyond). These films were released during the peak years of independent film production, created by a motley crew of seasoned pros, gifted amateurs, and enthusiastic genre fans, along with dozens of eccentric dreamers -- doctors, lawyers, insurance salesmen, publishers, commercial filmmakers, TV production crews and moonlighting pornographers -- all looking for their big break or a fast buck or both.