Silent Night, Bloody Night (1973)

R | 87 or 90 mins | Horror | 1973

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HISTORY

The film's working title Zora and, according to a fall 1973 CineFantastique article, had a limited release in 1972 under the title Night of the Full Dark Moon . The exact wording of the story writing credit for Jeffrey Konvitz and Ira Teller was not discernable on the print viewed. The wording of Gershon Kingsley's music credit was similarly illegible. Although the Sep 1973 Box review listed a release date of Feb 1973, the only contemporary reviews found for the film were from late 1973 and early 1974. The 4 Mar 1974 Cue review stated that the film was then showing "on 42nd Street at the bottom of a double bill" but that the film "was kept hidden for a few years."
       In a 16 Aug 1972 letter to the editor of Var , director Theodore Gershuny wrote that, at that time, he and editor Tom Kennedy were still completing the dubbing, scoring and sound effects on the film. The Box review noted that the film was shot on location in Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY. Although there is a 1972 copyright statement in the opening credits for Zora Investment Associates, the film was not registered for copyright.
       The end credits contain the following written acknowledgment: "Special thanks to G. T. Norris, Inc." Contemporary news items suggest that the film began production on or around 30 Nov 1970. Silent Night, Bloody Night opens with shots of "Diane Adams" (Mary Woronov) walking through the woods as her voice-over narration recounts the 1950 death of "Wilfred Butler" (Phillip Bruns), who mysteriously ... More Less

The film's working title Zora and, according to a fall 1973 CineFantastique article, had a limited release in 1972 under the title Night of the Full Dark Moon . The exact wording of the story writing credit for Jeffrey Konvitz and Ira Teller was not discernable on the print viewed. The wording of Gershon Kingsley's music credit was similarly illegible. Although the Sep 1973 Box review listed a release date of Feb 1973, the only contemporary reviews found for the film were from late 1973 and early 1974. The 4 Mar 1974 Cue review stated that the film was then showing "on 42nd Street at the bottom of a double bill" but that the film "was kept hidden for a few years."
       In a 16 Aug 1972 letter to the editor of Var , director Theodore Gershuny wrote that, at that time, he and editor Tom Kennedy were still completing the dubbing, scoring and sound effects on the film. The Box review noted that the film was shot on location in Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY. Although there is a 1972 copyright statement in the opening credits for Zora Investment Associates, the film was not registered for copyright.
       The end credits contain the following written acknowledgment: "Special thanks to G. T. Norris, Inc." Contemporary news items suggest that the film began production on or around 30 Nov 1970. Silent Night, Bloody Night opens with shots of "Diane Adams" (Mary Woronov) walking through the woods as her voice-over narration recounts the 1950 death of "Wilfred Butler" (Phillip Bruns), who mysteriously burned to death on Christmas Eve. She then recounts that Wilfred left the estate to "Jeffrey Butler" (James Patterson), on condition that he never sell the house and leave it exactly as it was. Diane's words are heard in voice-over intermittently throughout the film. At other times, other voices, including that of Wilfred are heard, variously reading news stories and Wilfred's diary. Although the end credits list Bruns's character name as "Wilfred Butler (1929)," the scenes featuring Bruns as Wilfred take place in 1933 and 1935. The Christmas carol "Silent Night, Holy Night" is heard on the soundtrack during the opening credits as if sung by the child "Marianne Butler" and is repeated at various times throughout the film.
       There are several flashbacks within the film, all shown in muted black-and-white, some narrated by Woronov and others by Bruns. The final resolution of the mystery is somewhat inconsistent with other facts established earlier in the film, and it is never specifically revealed that Wilfred was the mental patient who escaped from the asylum in the early part of the film. In his role as "Charlie Towman," John Carradine only spoke once, as if the character had lost his larynx, and communicated primarily by ringing a small call bell. No reason was given within the story to explain his affliction.
       According to a 22 Nov 1970 NYT news item, Broderick Crawford was being sought for a role in the film. Character actor Walter Abel, who periodically worked on stage and in television, had not appeared in a feature film since Mirage , released in 1965 (see above), and made only one additional screen appearance, in Grace Quigley , released in 1985. Gershuny and Woronov were married during the time of production of Silent Night, Bloody Night . According to a 6 Jul 1988 Var news item, Zora Investment Associates sued distribution company Cannon Films "for failing to return the film after expiration of a [1972] distribution agreement." The disposition of the suit has not been determined. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30 Nov 1970.
---
Box Office
3 Sep 1973
p. 4619.
CineFantastique
Fall 1973.
---
Cue
4 Mar 1974.
---
Daily Variety
23 Jun 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Nov 1970.
---
New York Times
22 Nov 1970.
---
Variety
16 Aug 1972.
---
Variety
6 Jul 1988.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A film by Theodore Gershuny
DISTRIBUTION COMPANIES
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Pres
Prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Based on a story by
Based on a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Equipment
Asst cam
Grip
1st elec
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATOR
Props
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Title des
Title des
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Transportation
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Asst to the prod
Prod secy
SOURCES
MUSIC
"La Paloma" by Sebastian Yradier.
SONGS
"Silent Night, Holy Night," music by Franz Gruber, lyrics by Joseph Mohr, English lyrics, anonymous
"In the Garden," music and lyrics by C. Aus­tin Miles.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Zora
Night of the Full Dark Moon
Release Date:
1973
Production Date:
began 30 November 1970 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
DeLuxe with b&w seq
Duration(in mins):
87 or 90
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On Christmas Eve, 1950, Wilfred Butler dies from burns he suffered after becoming engulfed in flames in his mansion in East Willard, New York. Amid rumors that it is haunted, the house remains vacant, in fulfillment of Butler’s will, which left everything to his only grandson and heir, Jeffrey Butler, on condition that the estate remain intact. Two days before Christmas, 1970, the same day that a homicidal maniac escapes from a nearby insane asylum, married New York attorney John Carter arrives in East Willard with his mistress, Ingrid, and informs the town council that he is representing Jeffrey. Carter relates to Mayor Adams, Sheriff Bill Mason, switchboard operator Tess Howard and newspaper editor Charlie Towman that Jeffrey wants a quick sale and is thus willing to sell the property to the town for $50,000, far below the market value, if he can have the cash the following day. John, who is puzzled by the eccentricities of some of the council members, refuses their offer of a motel room, insisting that he will spend the night on the estate. Soon John and Ingrid arrive at the house, which has been kept in perfect condition. After having dinner, John and Ingrid go to bed, but as they begin to make love, someone breaks into their room and hacks them to death with an axe. Immediately after, the killer places a call to Bill, then calls Tess at the switchboard. In a low whisper, he addresses Tess by name, claiming to be "Marianne," then says that it is lonely at the house and asks her to come. Unnerved by the ... +


On Christmas Eve, 1950, Wilfred Butler dies from burns he suffered after becoming engulfed in flames in his mansion in East Willard, New York. Amid rumors that it is haunted, the house remains vacant, in fulfillment of Butler’s will, which left everything to his only grandson and heir, Jeffrey Butler, on condition that the estate remain intact. Two days before Christmas, 1970, the same day that a homicidal maniac escapes from a nearby insane asylum, married New York attorney John Carter arrives in East Willard with his mistress, Ingrid, and informs the town council that he is representing Jeffrey. Carter relates to Mayor Adams, Sheriff Bill Mason, switchboard operator Tess Howard and newspaper editor Charlie Towman that Jeffrey wants a quick sale and is thus willing to sell the property to the town for $50,000, far below the market value, if he can have the cash the following day. John, who is puzzled by the eccentricities of some of the council members, refuses their offer of a motel room, insisting that he will spend the night on the estate. Soon John and Ingrid arrive at the house, which has been kept in perfect condition. After having dinner, John and Ingrid go to bed, but as they begin to make love, someone breaks into their room and hacks them to death with an axe. Immediately after, the killer places a call to Bill, then calls Tess at the switchboard. In a low whisper, he addresses Tess by name, claiming to be "Marianne," then says that it is lonely at the house and asks her to come. Unnerved by the call, Tess telephones her replacement, Maggie Daly, and demands that she come immediately. Moments later, a man drives away from the mansion in John's Jaguar and goes to the Adams house. Fearing that the man, whom she saw that afternoon standing beside a disabled car, is the escaped mental patient, Mayor Adams’ daughter Diane draws a gun before allowing him into the house. The man then reveals that he is Jeffrey, proving his identity by showing his California driver’s license. After Jeffrey relates that he had tried unsuccessfully to find the sheriff to obtain the key to the mansion, a relieved Diane gives Jeffrey directions to the home of the deputy to retrieve the key. Meanwhile, as Tess leaves the switchboard, she orders Maggie to call the mayor immediately if she does not return within an hour. At the same time, when the sheriff arrives at the Butler estate, he is quickly bludgeoned to death. A short time later, Jeffrey returns to the mayor’s house to tell Diane that he could not find the deputy. Diane then invites Jeffrey to have a drink and reveals that someone claiming to be Marianne keeps calling the house asking for her father, who is not at home, and asking him to meet her at the house. When Jeffrey decides to drive back there, Diane joins him. Approaching the house, they see the sheriff’s car and discarded sunglasses, but cannot find him. Frightened, Diane suggests that they drive back into town for help. They then go to the newspaper office, where Towman, who cannot speak and communicates solely through hand signals and a call bell, lets them know that Tess has a key. Leaving Diane at the newspaper, Towman and Jeffrey then go to the switchboard, where they learn that Tess has already left for the house. Fearful because he knows that Tess hates the house and would never go there willingly, Towman gets into his car and drives away, leaving Jeffrey at the switchboard. In the newspaper office, Diane receives another call from Marianne, who whispers that she should tell her father “Christmas Eve, 1935.” Meanwhile, as Tess enters the Butler house calling for Bill, the lights suddenly go out and a spotlight is shined on her face. The voice from the telephone asks her to take his hand, then hacks her to death. Back at the newspaper office, Diane passes the time by reading about the Butler family: Wilfred, his wife and their daughter Marianne move into the newly built mansion in 1927. After a brief period of happiness, Mrs. Butler dies of tuberculosis in 1930, then, in 1933, fifteen-year-old Marianne is brutally raped. In 1935, after the daughter dies in childbirth and her baby is sent to California, the house is turned into an insane asylum. As Diane continues to read, Jeffrey arrives, and she relates that additional articles about his family have been cut from the newspaper. When he reveals that his mother was Marianne, they decide to return to the house. Unknown to them, Towman had also driven toward the house but was forced to stop when his car caught fire. Jeffrey and Diane see Towman standing in the middle of the road, but cannot stop and run over him. Looking at the dead body, Jeffrey sees that Towman’s hands had been cut off. Diane keeps repeating “you killed him,” but Jeffrey coerces her back into the car and drives toward the house at about the same time that Mayor Adams, who also has received a call from Marianne, drives toward the estate with a loaded shotgun. Jeffrey leaves Diane in the car, then enters the house, where he finds his grandfather’s diary and reads what really happened so many years before: After Wilfred’s wife dies, he rapes Marianne and fathers Jeffrey, whom he sends away to California. Marianne does not die in childbirth but never recovers from the rape. Remorseful and desperate to help her, Wilfred decides to turn his home into an asylum and hires a large staff of doctors. On Christmas Eve 1935, Wilfred observes the hedonistic, greedy doctors and their girl friends enjoying a raucous party and decides to free Marianne as well as the rest of the inmates, who are cruelly confined to an outbuilding on the estate. The inmates then enter the house, where the revelers have fallen into drunken stupors, and kill them all with axes, shovels and other garden tools. Unknown to Wilfred, Marianne has slipped away while he is getting his car and, mistaken for one of the asylum workers, is brutally killed. Later entries in the diary reveal that Wilfred has been living as an animal since that time and for him, every season is a season of vengeance. Frightened because Jeffrey has taken the car keys, Diane enters the house, where Jeffrey reveals that Wilfred is still there and that her father, Tess, Towman and Bill were four of the inmates who killed Marianne. He also reveals that the body burned in 1950 was actually a vagrant whom Wilfred set ablaze to fake his own death. Just then, the mayor enters the house with his shotgun drawn, and, seeing Jeffrey, mistakes him for Wilfred. In an instant, both men shoot and kill each other. A year later, as bulldozers level the estate, Diane muses that they can destroy the house but will never destroy her memories. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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