Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

Fifty Years ago today, the film Silent Night, Bloody Night premiered under the title Night of the Full Dark Moon, it was rereleased in 1981 as Death House. I think I was first introduced to it when it was either on Elvira’s Movie Macabre or Fright Night. Add it to your holiday movie playlist! It is in the public domain, the entire film is below.

Title: Silent Night, Bloody Night
Directed by: Theodore Gershuny
Screenplay by: Theodore Gershuny, Jeffrey Konvitz, Ira Teller
Produced by: Ami Artzi, Jeffrey Konvitz, Lloyd Kaufman, Frank Vitale
Starring: Patrick O’Neal: James Patterson, Mary Woronov, John Carradine
Cinematography: Adam Giffard
Edited by: Tom Kennedy
Music by: Gershon Kingsley
Production Companies: Armor Films Inc., Cannon Productions, Jeffrey Konvitz Productions, Zora Investments Associates
Distributed by: Cannon Films
Release date: November 17, 1972
Running time: 83 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $295,000

On Christmas Eve 1950, Wilfred Butler dies in a burning accident outside his mansion in East Willard, Massachusetts. The residence is bequeathed to his grandson, Jeffrey. Twenty years later, in 1970, lawyer John Carter arrives in East Willard on Christmas Eve with his assistant and mistress Ingrid, having been charged by Jeffrey to sell the house. Carter meets with the town’s leading citizens: Mayor Adams; Sheriff Bill Mason; the mute Charlie Towman, who owns the local newspaper; and Tess Howard, who operates the town’s telephone switchboard. They all agree to buy the Butler mansion on behalf of the town for the bargain price of $50,000, which Jeffrey requires to be paid in cash the next day. Carter and Ingrid spend the night at the Butler mansion, but are brutally murdered in bed with an axe by an unseen assailant. After the murders, the killer places a crucifix in Ingrid’s hand and proceeds to phone the sheriff, introducing himself as the house’s owner and asking him to investigate Carter’s disappearance. While talking with Tess, who forwards his call, the killer calls himself “Marianne”.

At nightfall, Jeffrey arrives at the mansion to meet with Carter, but finds it locked and empty. He drives to the mayor’s home, where he meets Diane, the mayor’s daughter. The mayor has gone to the county’s bank to obtain the required cash for the payment, so she redirects Jeffrey to the sheriff’s office. Simultaneously, the sheriff heads to the mansion, but first stops at Wilfred Butler’s disturbed gravesite, where he is beaten to death with a shovel. Failing to locate the sheriff, Jeffrey returns to the mayor’s home, where Diane tells him she has received phone calls for her father from someone named “Marianne” who beckons her to the mansion.

Puzzled by the strange events, Jeffrey and Diane decide to drive to the mansion, but stop after they find the sheriff’s abandoned car. The two stop by the newspaper office, where they meet Charlie, who informs them Tess has also gone to the mansion. Jeffrey and Charlie go after her while Diane researches the Butler house’s history in the archives. Diane manages to piece together the Butlers’ story: In 1930, Wilfred’s wife died of tuberculosis. In 1933, his 15-year-old daughter Marianne was raped and got pregnant; the son she gives birth to is Jeffrey, who was sent away to California. In 1935, Wilfred converted the mansion into a mental hospital and had Marianne committed. The rest of the story has apparently been redacted.

Tess arrives at the mansion and finds the sheriff’s car running outside. In the foyer, she is greeted by the unseen killer, who bludgeons her to death with a candlestick. Jeffrey meanwhile arrives at Tess’s house and finds it empty, after which he returns to Diane at the newspaper office. Diane tells Jeffrey that, based on her research, his mother did not die during his birth like he had thought. Jeffrey and Diane depart together to the mansion. En route, they pass Charlie’s car, which has been set on fire; moments later, Charlie throws himself at Jeffrey’s car and Jeffrey runs him over, killing him. Examining the body, Jeffrey realizes someone has cut Charlie’s hands off.

At the mansion, Jeffrey finds his grandfather’s diary in the foyer, which reveals he was the one who got Marianne pregnant. The diary recounts how Wilfred grew hostile toward the complacent hospital staff, so on Christmas Eve 1935, he freed the hospital’s patients, causing a massacre that resulted in Marianne’s death as well. He then ended up faking his death in 1950 and has been living anonymously in a nearby mental hospital ever since before escaping. Jeffrey tells Diane that his grandfather/father is still alive, and that the sheriff, Tess, Towman and the mayor were all former inmates Wilfred sought revenge on for the death of Marianne. The mayor arrives at the mansion armed with a rifle, and he and Jeffrey open fire, killing each other. The killer, revealed to be the elderly Wilfred Butler, finally appears, and Diane grabs Jeffrey’s gun and shoots him dead.

A year later, Diane takes one last look at the Butler mansion before it is destroyed by a bulldozer crew.

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