My Bloody Valentine (film)

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My Bloody Valentine
My bloody valentineposter.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by George Mihalka
Produced by John Dunning
André Link
Stephen Miller
Screenplay by John Beaird
Story by Stephen Miller
Starring Paul Kelman
Lori Hallier
Neil Affleck
Don Francks
Cynthia Dale
Alf Humphreys
Keith Knight
Patricia Hamilton
Music by Paul Zaza
Cinematography Rodney Gibbons
Edited by Gérald Vansier
Rit Wallis
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • February 11, 1981 (1981-02-11) (U.S.)
  • February 13, 1981 (1981-02-13) (Canada)
Running time
90 minutes (1981 theatrical cut)[1]
93 minutes (extended cut; released 2009)[2]
Country Canada
Language English
Budget $2.3 million
Box office $5,672,031[3]

My Bloody Valentine is a 1981 Canadian slasher film directed by George Mihalka and written by John Beaird, starring Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, and Neil Affleck. The film tells the story of a group of young adults who decide to throw a Valentine's Day party only to incur the vengeful wrath of an assailant in mining gear who begins a murder spree.

Released during the height of the popularity of the slasher genre of the late 1970s and early 1980s, it is considered an example of the horror slashers reminiscent of popular slasher films such as Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980). It was shot on location in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, Canada. Upon its release in February 1981, the film received mixed reviews.

My Bloody Valentine is infamous for having had a total of nine minutes cut by the MPAA due to the amount of violence and gore. Though co-producer Dunning confirmed that the excised footage still existed, attempts to release it proved difficult as Paramount Pictures refused to offer an uncut version. Lionsgate subsequently secured DVD rights to the film (as well as several other Paramount features including Loving You, The Conversation, Meatballs, Hamburger Hill and The Phantom) and on January 13, 2009 released a version of the film with three minutes of the uncut footage restored (Lionsgate soon after released the remake into theaters).


Inside a mine shaft, a female miner takes off her gear in front of another miner. When the woman performs a striptease, the miner pushes her onto a mining pickaxe, killing her.

Mayor Hanniger of mining town Valentine Bluffs reinstates the traditional Valentine's Day dance, which has been suspended for twenty years. The dances stopped after an accident in which two supervisors left several miners in the mines to attend the dance. Because they forgot to check methane gas levels, there was an explosion that trapped the miners. Harry Warden, the only survivor, resorted to cannibalism to survive and became insane. He murdered the two supervisors who left them there, and vowed further attacks if the Valentine's Day Dance ever occurred again. Warden was placed into an asylum and the accident was forgotten, so the dance resumed. A group of young residents are excited about the dance: Gretchen, Dave, Hollis, Patty, Sylvia, Howard, Mike, John, Tommy, and Harriet. Sarah, Axel, and the mayor's son T.J. are involved in a tense love triangle.

Mayor Hanniger and the town's police chief Jake Newby receive an anonymous box of Valentine chocolates containing a human heart, and a note warning that murders will begin if the dance proceeds. That evening, resident Mabel is murdered by a mining-geared killer, and her heart removed. Newby publicly reports that she died of a heart attack to prevent a panic. He contacts the mental institution where Harry Warden was incarcerated, but they have no record of him. Hanniger and Newby cancel the dance but the town's youngsters decide to hold their own party at the mine. A bartender warns them against it but is killed by the miner.

At the party, the miner brutally kills Dave and Sylvia. Newby rushes into the mines with police to rescue the remaining teenagers. The miner impales a large drill into Mike and Harriet, and shoots a nail gun into Hollis's head. Horrified, Howard flees. The remaining four try to climb to the top with a ladder, but discover a dead beheaded Howard.

While finding their way out, Axel and Patty are killed by the miner. The miner chases T.J. and Sarah and a fight ensues. The miner is revealed to be Axel, who faked his demise. A flashback shows that Axel's father was one of the supervisors. As a child, Axel witnessed Harry Warden murdering his father, which traumatized him. The tunnel begins to collapse from the fight, and traps Axel while Newby and the police arrive to rescue T.J. and Sarah. It is revealed that Harry Warden had died five years earlier. T.J. and Sarah hear a rescuer shout that Axel is alive and rush back to the scene. Sarah sees an insane Axel freeing himself from the debris by amputating his trapped arm. He runs deeper into the mine shouting threats to murder everyone in town, and mumbling about Sarah being his “bloody valentine.” The film ends with a maniacal laugh being heard.


  • Paul Kelman as Tom Jesse "T.J." Hanniger
  • Lori Hallier as Sarah Mercer
  • Neil Affleck as Axel Palmer
  • Cynthia Dale as Patty
  • Don Francks as Chief Jake Newby
  • Keith Knight as Hollis
  • Alf Humphreys as Howard Landers
  • Terry Waterland as Harriet
  • Thomas Kovacs as Mike Stavinski
  • Helene Udy as Sylvia
  • Rob Stein as John
  • Patricia Hamilton as Mabel Osborne
  • Gina Dick as Gretchen
  • Larry Reynolds as Mayor Hanniger
  • Jim Murchison as Tommy Whitcomb
  • Carl Marotte as Dave
  • Jack Van Evera as Happy
  • Peter Cowper as Harry Warden/The Miner


Director George Mihalka, on the strength of his earlier movie Pick-Up Summer, was approached by Cinepix Productions, headed by André Link and John Dunning with a two-movie contract. Mihalka was asked to direct a horror/slasher story, presented to Dunning by Stephen Miller in mid-1980, and, after Mihalka agreed to direct, John Beaird was bought in to write the screenplay.[4]

The film was originally entitled The Secret, however, the producers decided to change it to My Bloody Valentine, so to overtly reference the holiday serial killer trend[5] with which the slasher genre was becoming increasingly popular, through films such as Black Christmas, Halloween and Friday the 13th.[6]

Shooting on My Bloody Valentine began in September 1980, taking place around the Princess Colliery Mine in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia,[7] which had closed in 1975.[8] Two mines were considered for the setting, the other in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. The production company decided on the Sydney Mines location due to "the exterior [being] a dreary, cold and dusty area [with] no other buildings around it so it looked like it was totally in the middle of nowhere."[4]

Upon arrival at the town for principal photography, the crew found that the townspeople, unbeknownst to them, had redecorated the mine so to make it more presentable, thus destroying the dark atmosphere that had convinced the production company to base the film there. The cast therefore spent a few days staying in Sydney Mines, encouraged by the director to get a feel for the small-town location.

Mihalka has said since making the movie that the most difficult element of My Bloody Valentine was filming in the mines. Located 2,700 feet underground, filming in the mine was a lengthy process, as, due to limited space in the elevators, it would take an hour to assemble the cast and crew underground. Also, due to the methane levels, lighting had to be carefully planned as the number of bulbs that could be safely utilised was limited.[4] Producer Dunning recalled that the production spent an estimated $30,000 painting portions of the mine to achieve a darker atmosphere. Dunning referred to the shoot as "horrendous."[8]


The movie grossed USD$5,672,031 at the United States box office upon its February 11, 1981 release.[9]

Critical reception[edit]

My Bloody Valentine received mixed reviews from critics. Contemporary review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes shows the film has a 50% approval rating, with an average rating of 4.8/10.[10]

Upon its release, critic Dan Scapperotti of Cinefantastique praised the film's cinematography, writing: "[it] is beautifully photographed, and the utilization of the mine creates powerful imagery."[11] Tom Buckley of The New York Times gave the film a negative review, however, writing: "My Bloody Valentine probably won't make you shiver with fright, but it's almost certain to make you squirm, first with irritation and then with revulsion."[12]

In a March 30, 2007 issue of Entertainment Weekly, the film was ranked 17 in a list of guilty pleasures, listed among such films as Dawn of the Dead and Escape from New York, and called "the most criminally underappreciated of the slasher genre." Popular filmmaker Quentin Tarantino called it his all-time favorite slasher film.[13] In a retrospective assessment, film historian Adam Rockoff wrote that the film was "easily one of the best and most polished slasher films."[14]

In another retrospective assessment by scholar Jim Harper in his book Legacy of Blood: A Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movies, he notes that the film distinguishes itself from other slashers by moving outside the "typical teen based scenario," instead focusing on a group of twenty-something adults in a working class community, and relying on a notable "atmosphere dread."[15]


My Bloody Valentine was significantly censored in North America.[16] For the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to award the movie with an R-rating, cuts were requested to every death sequence in the film; producer Dunning said the film was essentially "cut to ribbons" in order to achieve an R-rating.[8] Even after cutting the film to match the requirements made by the MPAA, it was again returned with an X-rating and further cuts were demanded. Stills of the trimmed footage were published in Fangoria magazine whilst the film was still in production, though the sequences were excised from the theatrical version;[17] even today the complete uncut version has not been released (though a 2009 DVD and Blu-ray release by Lionsgate reinstated three minutes of excised footage).[16] The standard North American theatrical cut of the film ran approximately 90 minutes. In the United Kingdom, the film was passed for theatrical release by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) on March 30, 1981; according to the BBFC catalogue, this version ran at 90 minutes and 55 seconds.[18]

There are two reasons that are frequently attributed to the extreme cutting of the film. It has been suggested that Paramount Pictures was keen to remove the offending footage due to the backlash they had received from releasing Friday the 13th the previous year. The second reason, that Mihalka attributes, is that the movie was cut due to the murder of John Lennon in December 1980, stating that there was a major backlash against movie violence in the wake of his death.[4]

Known cut scenes[edit]

The following scenes are known to have been trimmed or re-edited to avoid an "X" rating from the MPAA:[16]

  • Some seconds of gore was cut from the pre-credits sequence where the woman is pushed backwards onto a pickax.
  • Mabel's mutilated body was originally on screen for much longer.
  • In the flashback, Harry Warden is shown cannibalizing a severed arm, in the edited theatrical release, he is simply shown picking the arm up.
  • The scene where the bartender is playing peek-a-boo with the Harry Warden dummy was edited so that no blood is shown. He was pickaxed up his chin and out his left eye, then dragged along the ground with his eyeball hanging out.
  • The face-boiling of Dave was shortened so you don't see the after-effects while he is dying.
  • Graphic head-on shots of Sylvia's shower impalement were deleted.
  • Michael's and Harriet's death was originally on screen. The killer enters and shoves a drill bit into his back. The "R" rated version only shows the killer entering the room and the aftermath later.
  • A stock footage close-up of the miner's light being shone at the camera replaces the bulk of a shot of Hollis' bleeding face after he has been nail-gunned twice in his head. In the widely seen release, the scene picks up after Hollis has mostly turned away.
  • Howard's hanging is shortened. In the original print, he was decapitated. The decapitation was cut out, so it looks like his body just falls, stops short when the end of the wire is reached, sprays blood all over Patty and Sarah, and then resumes falling. Not only do the cuts imposed render the scene senseless, but they also make it so there's no payoff to Hollis' earlier comment that Howard would lose his head if it weren't attached.
  • Patty's death scene, who is killed by the mining pick near the end, was edited of all blood.
  • The flashback of Axel's father being murdered originally showed the miner ripping out his father's heart. In the "R" rated version, all we see is a brief, non-bloody shot of the pick ax going in.
  • Axel's left arm gets trapped under rocks in the cave-in at the end. He rips it off to get away, leaving his severed limb behind to horrify everybody else. But since the key footage of the arm removal all had to be removed itself, it is hard to see exactly what happened.

Restoration efforts[edit]

An uncensored cut of My Bloody Valentine remained unavailable to the public for nearly thirty years after its original theatrical release.[19] When Paramount released the film on DVD in North America for the first time in 2002, the studio claimed that the purported "missing" footage did not exist.[17]

In 2008, Lionsgate acquired the rights to the film after producing a feature film remake, and in the process, acquired excised footage never-before seen in the standard theatrical cut of the film.[17] In January 2009, Lionsgate and Paramount co-released an unrated Region 1 "Special Edition" DVD featuring this footage.[19] This DVD allows viewers the option to watch the standard R-rated version of the film, as well as an uncensored version in which excised violent footage is reinstated. Despite this, three scenes play in their unrated form regardless of which version is being viewed: the flashbacks of Axel's father's death, and Harry Warden with the arm.[19] Commenting on the release, director Mihalka said: "[with this DVD] we have it back to 80% of the image back and 95% of the impact back."[20]

The 2009 "Special Edition" DVD reinstates approximately two-and-a-half minutes of previously-unreleased footage back into the film, which contradicts an earlier claim by director Mihalka that it had been trimmed by 8–9 minutes.[21] It has been argued that the so-called uncut DVD still has some sequences missing, particularly the double-impalement of Mike and Harriet which the director recalls filming. It is thought that the remaining footage appears to be composed of expository scenes, such as dialogue and other non-violence related material. This is given credence by the fact that Mihalka gave his seal of approval to this release, and a written introduction by him precedes the beginning of the special edition DVD, stating that this version was the way that the film was meant to be seen.[16]

Home media[edit]

My Bloody Valentine was released to both videotape and LaserDisc in the 1980s.[22]

The film made its DVD debut on September 3, 2002 from Paramount Home Video;[23] this was a standard widescreen release of the theatrical cut, and it contained no bonus materials.[23] The same disc was re-issued as a DVD double feature with April Fool's Day (1986; also a Paramount title) in March 2008.[24]

On January 13, 2009, a "Special Edition" DVD version of the film was released in North American, coinciding with the theatrical release of the remake.[25] This version integrates the cut footage back into the film and features two featurettes and optional introductory sequences to the previously missing murder sequences.[19] Two featurettes are also included. Director Mihalka, cast members Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Helene Udy, and Carl Marotte, composer Paul Zaza and make-up artists Thomas Burman and Ken Diaz are all involved.[2]

A Blu-ray was released on November 24, 2009 from Lionsgate, on loan from Paramount. The disc contained the same bonus materials as the "Special Edition" DVD released in January 2009.[26] The Blu-ray is now out of print.

In culture[edit]

On their 2002 album, The Young and the Hopeless, the pop punk band Good Charlotte has a song of the same title.[27]

Irish shoegaze band My Bloody Valentine did not get their name from this film.[28]

Legacy and remake[edit]

On January 16, 2009, shortly after the uncut version of the film was released in Canada, a remake titled My Bloody Valentine 3D was released in theaters.[29]


  1. ^ Muir 2012, p. 199.
  2. ^ a b My Bloody Valentine (DVD). Special Edition. Lionsgate & Paramount Home Video. 2009 [1981]. ASIN B001KZN2IQ. 
  3. ^ My Bloody Valentine at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ a b c d "My Bloody Memories: An Interview with George Mihalka". The Terror Trap. June 2005. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  5. ^ Blake 2013, p. 116.
  6. ^ Mooney, Laura (February 13, 2013). "This day in History: MY BLOODY VALENTINE". Truly Disturbing. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  7. ^ Pike 2012, p. 186.
  8. ^ a b c Rockoff 2011, p. 106.
  9. ^ "My Bloody Valentine (1981)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 28, 2016. 
  10. ^ "My Bloody Valentine (1981)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  11. ^ Scapperotti, Dan (1981). "My Bloody Valentine". Cinefantastique. 11 (1): 48. 
  12. ^ Buckley, Tom (February 12, 1981). "'My Bloody Valentine'". The New York Times. Retrieved December 29, 2016. 
  13. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (June 23, 2006). "'House' Mates: Tarantino and Rodriguez talk Grindhouse". Entertainment Weekly. 
  14. ^ Rockoff 2011, p. 107.
  15. ^ Harper 2004, p. 128.
  16. ^ a b c d Rockoff, Adam; Mihalka, George; Link, André (2009). Bloodlust: My Bloody Valentine and the Rise of the Slasher Film (DVD) (documentary). Lionsgate. 
  17. ^ a b c Barton, Steve (December 5, 2009). "My Bloody Valentine (1981) (Blu-ray)". Dread Central. Retrieved March 13, 2018. 
  18. ^ "My Bloody Valentine (1981)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved March 13, 2018. 
  19. ^ a b c d Turek, Ryan (December 30, 2008). "My Bloody Valentine Uncut: Deleted Scenes!". Retrieved March 13, 2018. 
  20. ^ Turek, Ryan (January 17, 2009). "EXCL: George Mihalka Talks My Bloody Valentine Uncut". Retrieved March 12, 2018. 
  21. ^ McGaughy, Cameron (January 9, 2009). "My Bloody Valentine: Special Edition (1981)". DVD Talk. Retrieved March 13, 2018. 
  22. ^ "'LaserDisc Database'". LaserDisc Database. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  23. ^ a b My Bloody Valentine (DVD). Paramount Home Video. 2002 [1981]. ASIN B000069I04. 
  24. ^ My Bloody Valentine / April Fool's Day (DVD). Paramount Home Video. 2002. ASIN B0017CW5TE. 
  25. ^ Paper Magazine Staff (January 11, 2009). "My Bloody Valentine Special Edition DVD". Paper. Retrieved March 13, 2018. 
  26. ^ "My Bloody Valentine". Retrieved February 9, 2017. 
  27. ^ Tom Semioli. "The Young and the Hopeless". All Music. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  28. ^ "Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine: Interview on AOL". AOL. 7 February 1997. Retrieved 25 December 2012. 
  29. ^ Roche 2014, p. 10.

Works cited[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Mayo, Mike (2013). The Horror Show Guide: The Ultimate Frightfest of Movies (2 ed.). Visible Ink Press. ISBN 978-1-578-59420-7. 
  • Sipos, Thomas M. (2010). Horror Film Aesthetics: Creating the Visual Language of Fear. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-44972-9. 

External links[edit]