My Bloody Valentine (film)
|My Bloody Valentine|
|Directed by||George Mihalka|
|Screenplay by||John Beaird|
|Story by||Stephen Miller|
|Music by||Paul Zaza|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$5.7 million|
My Bloody Valentine is a 1981 Canadian slasher film directed by George Mihalka and written by John Beaird. It stars Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, and Neil Affleck. The plot tells about 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 killing spree.
Conceived and produced entirely over the course of around a year, the film was shot on location in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, in the fall of 1980. It was theatrically released on February 11, 1981 by Paramount Pictures, coinciding with the Valentine's holiday. Despite a mixed response from critics and grossing $5.7 million at the box office, the film has developed a large cult following over the years since its release.
My Bloody Valentine faced notable censorship, having a total of nine minutes cut by the Motion Picture Association of America 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. In 2009, Lionsgate subsequently acquired home media rights to the film and released Blu-ray and DVD editions with three minutes of additional footage restored. The same year, Lionsgate released a remake of the film.
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 went 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 in a laundromat, 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; his heart is subsequently found boiling in a pot of hot dogs being prepared in the kitchen. Shortly after, Sylvia is impaled on a shower head by the miner. When the others realize Dave and Sylvia have been murdered, they contact authorities, but several of the partygoers have already decided to enter the mines for fun. Newby rushes into the mines with police to rescue them. 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. T.J. hits Axel with a rock, resulting in the tunnel collapsing, which traps Axel as Newby and the police arrive to rescue T.J. and Sarah. The police explain to them that Harry Warden died five years earlier. T.J. and Sarah hear a rescuer shout that Axel is still alive, and they rush back to the scene. They watch as Axel frees 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 (either Axel's or Harry Warden's) as a ballad for Harry Warden plays over the film's credits.
- Paul Kelman as Tom Jesse "T.J." Hanniger
- Lori Hallier as Sarah Mercer
- Neil Affleck as Axel Palmer
- Jeff Banks as Young 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.
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 with which the slasher genre was becoming increasingly popular, through films such as Black Christmas (1974), Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980). At the time, the slasher sub-genre had seen further commercial success with the releases of Prom Night and Terror Train (both 1980).
Shooting on My Bloody Valentine began in September 1980, taking place around the Princess Colliery Mine in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, which had closed in 1975. Filming completed in November 1980. The budget was approximately $2.3 million. 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."
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 (820 m) 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. Prior to the production's arrival to the mine, the owners cleaned up the location significantly, leaving it described as a "clean and colourful Disneyland-like set." This resulted in the production team spending an estimated $30,000 to paint portions of the mine to achieve a darker atmosphere, akin to how it had appeared in its original state. Producer Dunning referred to the shoot as "horrendous."
My Bloody Valentine grossed US$5,672,031 at the United States box office upon its February 11, 1981 release. Though the U.S. gross exceeded the film's $2.3 million budget, it was considered a box-office disappointment by Paramount Pictures, returning a "derisory sum of $2.6 million." This profit amounted to less than one-third of Paramount's Friday the 13th, released the year before.
Upon its release, My Bloody Valentine received numerous reviews criticizing it for its depiction of violence and gore. Bruce Bailey of the Montreal Gazette noted the film as having an "awkward script," adding: "All that's really notable about My Bloody Valentine is that it gives you more than the usual m.p.g.p.—murders per gallon of popcorn." Tom Buckley of The New York Times echoed a similar sentiment, 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." The Detroit Free Press's Jack Mathews conversely complimented the film on delivering "on its title promise by bucketfuls," adding: "There's nothing subtle about My Bloody Valentine. A pickax to the belly, a 10-penny nail through the forehead, a granite drill through the back. There are some passing attempts at comic relief, but most of the yuks are inadvertent." Ernest Leogrande of the New York Daily News noted the film as bearing similarity to other slasher films of the time, but conceded: "Movies like this are designed to make you jump, scream, hide your eyes, hug your date and talk with glee about what bad taste the movie makers are capable of. My Bloody Valentine does all that."
Several reviewers were highly critical of the film's partial financing by the Canadian Film Development Corporation, which used taxed income from Canadian provinces to help fund its production: Among them were John Dodd of the Edmonton Journal, who lambasted the film as a "rip off" of Halloween (1978), adding: "All this perverted gore is brought to you thanks to the financial help of the Canadian Film Development Corp. which uses your own tax money to help greedy, talentless producers make a killing, you should pardon the expression." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune also noted the corporation's financing in his review, in which he awarded the film one out of four stars, deeming it a "dismal and depressing horror film," and "another entry in that most depressing of film genres, the mad-slasher-with-a-knife."
Ed Blank of the Pittsburgh Press faulted the film's cinematography and mine setting, writing that its "novelty, for the worse as it happens, is that the principal setting is a coal mine where most of the male characters work. Shooting scenes in the mine, brightened only by the miners' hats, permits Mihalka to play without a full deck. You can't tell what's going on." Dan Scapperotti of Cinefantastique, alternately praised the film's cinematography, writing: "[it] is beautifully photographed, and the utilization of the mine creates powerful imagery."
Writing for The Atlanta Constitution, Richard Zoglin noted that the film "floats along effortlessly in the current flood of schlock-horror films unleashed by John Carpenter's Halloween. But it is more restrained — even tasteful — than most. The camera averts its eyes from much of the blood and gore, and women are treated somewhat better than usual (that is, they are generally allowed to keep their clothes on before being dispatched)." While praising the film for constraining the amount of violence shown, Zoglin criticized the characters and the plot for being "uninteresting" and "predictable." Linda Gross of the Los Angeles Times panned the film for being "too convoluted, too derivative and, oddly, too ambitious to properly coagulate into the kind of exploitation movie that it tries to be." However, she conceded that the film's cinematography is "sharp" and the musical score "portentous."
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. In a retrospective assessment, film historian Adam Rockoff wrote that the film was "easily one of the best and most polished slasher films."
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."
My Bloody Valentine was significantly censored in North America upon its theatrical release. 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. 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; 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). 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.
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.
An uncensored cut of My Bloody Valentine remained unavailable to the public for nearly thirty years after its original theatrical release. 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.
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. In January 2009, Lionsgate and Paramount co-released an unrated Region 1 "Special Edition" DVD and Blu-ray featuring this footage. The DVD/Blu-ray 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. Commenting on the release, director Mihalka said: "[with this release] we have it back to 80% of the image back and 95% of the impact back."
In total, the 2009 "Special Edition" DVD/Blu-ray 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. It has been argued that the so-called uncut DVD/Blu-ray is still missing additional footage, 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/Blu-ray, stating that this version was the way that the film was meant to be seen.
My Bloody Valentine was released to both videotape and LaserDisc in the 1980s. The film made its DVD debut on September 3, 2002 from Paramount Home Video; this was a standard widescreen release of the theatrical cut, and it contained no bonus materials. The same disc was re-issued as a DVD double feature with April Fool's Day (1986; also a Paramount title) in March 2008.
On January 13, 2009, a "Special Edition" DVD version of the film was released in North America, coinciding with the theatrical release of the remake. This version integrates the cut footage back into the film and features two featurettes and optional introductory sequences to the previously missing murder sequences. 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. 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. The Blu-ray is now out of print.
Legacy and remake
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