Sunday, 10 October 2010

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

“Cross your heart and hope to die”

Residents of the quiet mining town of Valentine Bluffs are busy with preparations for their first Valentine’s Day dance in twenty years. A dark cloud has hung over the date and town since the events of two decades previous when a methane gas explosion at the Hanniger Mine killed six workers. The only survivor, Harry Warden, spent six weeks trapped underground before being rescued. Unfortunately for Harry the experience drove him insane and he was committed to a nearby asylum. On the first anniversary of the accident Harry escaped to wreak a murderous revenge upon those whose negligence had caused the explosion.

Whist the majority of the town welcomes the impending celebration the Mayor is conscious that the celebrations will rekindle dark memories of the past and he fears the worst after receiving a human heart wrapped inside a valentine gift box. The accompanying card reads “From the heart comes a warning, filled with bloody good cheer, a reminder what happened, as the fourteenth draws near”. Shortly afterwards dance organiser Mabel is discovered dead seemingly boiled alive in one of her own tumble driers!

Eager to postpone the dance but without causing alarm to the townsfolk, the Mayotr and Police Chief suppress the truth behind Mabel’s demise and announce that the dance will be cancelled as a mark of respect. Meanwhile back at the asylum, there appears to be no records for a patient named Harry Warden…

Disappointed with the cancellation of the dance a group of miners decide to hold their own celebrations on site in their staff room. Despite protestations from the Mayor’s son TJ (who has recently returned to the town to discover girlfriend Sheila has taken up with rival Axel) the gang gets the party started. Tensions between TJ and Axel inevitably boil over and an annoyed Sheila joins a group heading off to explore the mine shafts, unaware of the fully garbed miner that is making short shrift of amorous partygoers with his pickaxe! Has Harry Warden returned to exact a terrible revenge upon those foolish enough to celebrate Valentine’s Day or is there another motive for murder? Is TJ the killer, upset at Sheila affairs with Axel? Does Axel have murder in mind, fearing TJ’s return and his displacement in Sheila’s affections? Could it be practical joker Howard? Or bitter bartender Hap? Or even the jittery Mayor?

Ably directed by George Mihalka My Bloody Valentine is a thoroughly enjoyable slasher movie. Although hardly breaking new ground (even by 1981’s standards) I still found the eerie isolation of the mine shafts, subtlety enhanced by Paul Zaza’s atmospheric score, to be an effective setting with several memorable sequences and killings – surely the yardstick by which any good slasher is measured!

My Bloody Valentine is a film with a substantial history on home video. Prior to cinema release the numerous death scenes were trimmed to satisfy the MPAA however the film was still presented with a dreaded ‘X’ rating - a rating synonymous with pornography and usually meaning a commercial kiss of death due to the substantial number of theatres that would not accept X rated movies. Further cuts were made to secure a lower rating and that truncated version was the only one available worldwide on tape, laserdisc and later DVD with Mihalka alleging the film had been trimmed by some nine minutes. When a proposed European DVD release was vetoed by Paramount at the turn of the century it looked as if gorehounds would never get to behold what had become one of the Holy Grails of stack and slash cinema. However, in early 2009 prior to the release of the 3-D remake Paramount surprised everyone and finally issued a Special Edition DVD that reinstated the cut footage! Well worth digging out!

Rob Bewick

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