My Bloody Valentine (1981) theatrical poster

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Rating:

Canada. 1981.

Crew

Director – George Mihalka, Screenplay – John Beaird, Story – Stephen Miller, Producers – John Dunning, Andre Link & Stephen Miller, Photography – Rodney Gibbons, Music – Paul Zaza, Makeup Effects – The Burman Studio, Art Direction – Penny Hadfield. Production Company – Secret Film Co/Canadian Film Development Corp/Famous Players

Cast

Paul Kelman (Jessie ‘JT’ Hanniger), Neil Affleck (Axel Palmer), Lori Hallier (Sarah), Don Francks (Chief Jake Newby), Keith Knight (Hollis), Cynthia Dale (Patty), Alf Humphreys (Howard Landers), Patricia Hamilton (Mabel Osborne), Helene Udy (Sylvia), Rob Stein (John), Tom Kovacs (Mike Stavinski), Sandy Leim (Ben)


Plot

The small mining town of Valentine’s Bluff decides to hold a Valentine’s Day dance for the first time in twenty years. On the last occasion they did, several miners were killed in a methane explosion when the shift overseer left them unsupervised to attend the dance. The only survivor Harry Warden went crazy, killing people and leaving a terrible warning if another dance was ever to be held. When dead bodies start turning up, the police chief orders the dance cancelled. A group of youths defy this and decide to hold their own party down in the mine. There however Harry Warden is waiting to kill them.


My Bloody Valentine was another film that was clearly mounted to cash in on the success of Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980), which between them created the 1980s fad for the slasher film. This led to a whole spate of identical holiday-titled slasher films mostly made between 1981 and 1983 that included the likes of Christmas Evil/You Better Watch Out (1980), Graduation Day (1981), Mother’s Day (1980), Prom Night (1980), Happy Birthday to Me (1981), Hell Night (1981), New Year’s Evil (1981), Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), April Fool’s Day (1986) and Rush Week (1989). In fact, this cleverly situates its Valentine’s Day, February 14th, on a Saturday so that its Friday falls on the 13th.

My Bloody Valentine was even bankrolled by Paramount, the distributors of Friday the 13th, who gave money to Canadian filmmakers with orders to make another film in the same vein. The set-up has an improbability, the least of which is its far-fetched reasons to get its characters down to the central location – a decision to hold a party in a mine! At least once there, the location comes with an oppressively gloomy claustrophobia. Compared to most of the other tedious films to jump aboard the slasher trend, George Mihalka has – for a film that was made soon after the release of Friday the 13th – absorbed the formula quickly and serves the elements up with a more than reasonable degree of competence.

My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Slasher film in a coalmine

George Mihalka gives the film its share of unique moments – like the weirdly fetishistic opening that bears absolutely no relationship to the rest of the film, with a half-naked girl going down into the mine with a guy dressed in full mining gear, caressing the gas mask of his air hose as absurdly amplified deep breathing mounts on the soundtrack, whereupon he impales her on a pickaxe just where she has a heart tattooed on her breast. The ending with the psycho of the piece disappearing off into the mine ranting: “Hanniger, I’ll be waiting in Hell for you. Harry, I’m coming. This whole fucking town’s going to die, we’re coming back. Sarah, be my bloody valentine”– has something quite spooky to it.

Part of the legend of My Bloody Valentine is how it as originally cut. As producer Stephen Miller tells, the film was submitted to the US ratings board days after the John Lennon shooting in December 1980. This cast a sombre pall over events where the board ordered the film cut, not wanting to be seen to promote violence on screens. As a result, many of the gore-drenched scenes that George Mihalka had been given carte blanche to direct by Paramount ended up being curtailed or cut altogether. These include scenes such as Patricia Hamilton’s gored body being found in a laundromat dryer; Carl Marotte having his head shoved into a vat of cooking oil; Harry Warden being seen devouring a human arm; Helene Udy having her head impaled through a shower head; and the killer ripping off his arm to get free from the fall-in at the end. All of these scenes are restored in the 2009 director’s cut on dvd and make for a much better film.

The film was later remade in 3D as My Bloody Valentine (2009).

George Mihalka has made a number of other genre films including The Blue Man/Eternal Evil (1985), Psychic (1992), Relative Fear (1994), Watchtower/Cruel and Unusual (2001) and Race to Mars (tv mini-series, 2007).



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