Monday, 30 June 2014

Bloody Birthday (1981)

Some movies should be preserved because they are examples of great art, others because they are examples of great storytelling. Still more may showcase fine acting, production design, or music.  88 Films’ Blu-ray release of BLOODY BIRTHDAY should be preserved for no other reason than it provides a fascinating snapshot of the popular culture of the time. Of course it’s also a deliriously barking mad slasher movie, one that I’d not had the chance to catch up with until now.
Three children are born during a solar eclipse. Ten years later they suddenly develop homicidal tendencies - strangling teenagers, bashing the local sheriff’s brains in, and shooting Susan Strasberg (perhaps they think she still has THE MANITOU growing in her back). The explanation for all this is as barmy as the children themselves. It’s something to do with the planet Saturn governing emotion, and because it was obstructed during the eclipse these children are now sociopaths. Perhaps “popular UK astrologers” (that bit’s for US readers) Russell Grant or Mystic Meg could explain it to us, and then again probably not. 

Aside from the novel idea of ten year olds shooting people, locking them in refrigerators or poisoning them, BLOODY BIRTHDAY delivers in several areas many other slasher films shy away from. There’s no shortage at all of topless young ladies, at least one of whom (Julie Brown) dances around for an inordinate amount of time before reaching for the feather boa I’m sure every self-respecting teenaged girl owned back then. However, it probably won’t be Miss Brown’s charms that will have you frowning at the screen, but more the eventual realisation that yes, that really IS a poster of Erik “CHIPS” Estrada in the background. Cultural icon spotters will also be well served between the killings with the opportunity to look out for the images of Deborah Harry, Ted Nugent and others plastered on bedroom walls.

Director Ed Hunt tries to ape some of the setups from HALLOWEEN but sadly he’s no John Carpenter. He does manage to convince Jose Ferrer to pop in for a cup of tea and deliver a few babies though, so there is that to his credit. BLOODY BIRTHDAY is not going to top anybody's 'best of' list but it is an diverting ninety minutes, probably best enjoyed on a double bill with Carlton J Albright's THE CHILDREN, or Tom Shankland's THE CHILDREN, or anything else with killer kiddies in it. 

88 Films’ Blu-ray transfer has a few scratches on the frame at one point, but overall this is a very good looking print of a very low budget film. Extras include a commentary track by Julian Kerswell (author of Teenage Wasteland) and an audio interview with director Ed Hunt that lasts just over fifty minutes. There’s also a ten minute interview with star Lori Lethin and the featurette A Brief History of Slasher Movies which is just that. There’s also a reversible sleeve, a booklet and a trailer. Sadly not on this disc is the interview with (uncredited) executive producer Max J Rosenberg where he describes director Hunt as a f*cking nut, but you can’t have everything. 

88 Films released BLOODY BIRTHDAY on Region B Blu-ray on 23rd June 2014

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