Get your geek on with the aid of Retro Slashers’ time-coded trivia track – the perfect accompaniment to your next viewing of the original My Bloody Valentine. Spoilers ahead, obviously, and please make sure you’re watching the extended cut or the times won’t match up!
00:00 – The studio logo appears. Paramount (still riding the success of Friday the 13th) greenlit the movie in September 1980, leaving director George Mihalka, producers John Dunning, André Link and Stephen Miller, and writer John Beaird only five months to crank it out in time for the next Valentine’s Day. Production ran from September 22nd to November 9th, and the completed movie was released on February 11th, 1981.
00:12 – Our first sight of the gloomy Hanniger Mine, not a studio set but an authentic location provided by Princess Colliery in the town of Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia. In an interview with The Terror Trap, George Mihalka reveals that the pit was specifically picked for its run-down appearance, having been closed since 1975. Unfortunately, the townsfolk spent $50,000 restoring the mine to its former glory when they heard about the filming, forcing the crew to spend a further $75,000 returning it to its derelict state!
01:31 – Here’s John Beaird’s credit as screenwriter. He also worked (uncredited) on the same year’s slasher Happy Birthday to Me, before his death aged only 40 in 1993.
02:35 – Secret Film Co, the production company identified in the opening credits, is named after the movie’s working title, The Secret, which was used in the hope that no one else would steal the idea of setting a slasher movie on Valentine’s Day before the movie could be released.
02:40 – This caption states that the story begins on “Thursday, February 12th”. One slight problem: in 1980, when the movie is apparently set, February 12th actually fell on a Tuesday. The 12th did fall on a Thursday in 1981, however, making the timeframe spookily accurate for audiences watching the film on its opening weekend.
04:59 – During filming of this scene, as the guys leave the mine and hurry to the dancehall, one of the cast members reportedly lost control of his car, skidding on the gravel and hitting someone else. This particular actor walked with a cane throughout the rest of filming. To figure out who it was, look for anyone limping during the rest of the movie.
05:28 – The sign tells us that Valentine Bluffs has a population of 3,785. By the end of the movie, this has been reduced to 3,775.
05:55 – As Howard bursts into the dancehall with a loud blast of his air horn, a poster on the wall behind him reads, “It’s a noisy world – wear your hearing protection”.
06:44 – Launderette owner and Valentine party-planner Mabel Osborne is played by TV veteran Patricia Hamilton, who would later star in an episode of Friday the 13th: The Series entitled “Shadow Boxer”, concerning a pair of deadly boxing gloves.
07:07 – Music at the dance is to be provided by the rather dubious-sounding “Mr Clive Barnett & the Valentine Country Singing Chorale”, according to this poster. Since the dance is ultimately cancelled, we’ll never know what we missed – but they surely can’t be any worse than Felony, the band that provides the criminal roller-boogie soundtrack to the same year’s Graduation Day.
07:17 – FALSE SCARE #1! Howard startles Mabel on the staircase. A so-called goof on the IMDb complains about the continuity of Mabel getting from the top of the stairs to the bottom so quickly here. However, if you watch carefully – and in widescreen – you can actually see her ducking down the steps on the extreme left.
09:26 – OOPS! The sight of a torn-out heart in a candy box is enough to stop anyone in their tracks… but when exactly did Chief Newby stop the car?!
09:29 – And now look – the view from the driver’s window has changed!
09:59 – We now join the drinkers at The Cage. The real-life location of this bar seems to have fallen into obscurity, but some reports suggest it was an establishment on Atlantic Street called The Drive-In Club, which was demolished in the 1990s.
10:01 – Our first glimpse of “Happy”, the barman at The Cage and general Voice Of Doom. But this wasn’t actor Jack Van Evera’s first appearance in a slasher… That was seven years previously as a member of the search party in Bob Clark’s classic Black Christmas. The shot also provides us with UNMISTAKABLY CANADIAN MOMENT #1 – a neon sign above the bar advertising Moosehead beer.
10:45 – No classic slasher is without a flashback sequence, and this one, narrated in ominous fashion by Happy, is a doozy: two-and-a-half minutes of criminal negligence, cannibalism, and blood-soaked candy boxes, topped off with a strangled cry of “IT COULD BE YOU!”
12:27 – More heart-shaped boxes dripping with blood, but not the first time the human heart candygram gag has shown up in a horror film: Theatre of Blood found Vincent Price swapping the chocs for a decidedly less appetising (and soggy) soft-centred treat back in 1973.
14:50 – Who is Bertha McCarton? And why is her brain sitting in a jar on a shelf in the Centerville Morgue?
16:14 – Either the handwriting on this poster is terrible, or the dance is going to be held on Saturday the 19TH of February…
20:53 – OOPS! TJ is pointing at Axel with his left hand here but, after the cut, it’s the other hand he’s holding up.
21:47 – It’s now Friday the 13th, according to this caption, obviously referencing another classic slasher.
21:57 – Mrs Raleigh, the receptionist who explains over the phone that no records exist for a mental patient named Harry Warden, is played by Marguerite McNeil. This was her first film role – and her last until 1995, when she popped up again in the Demi Moore vehicle The Scarlet Letter.
25:13 – Special Makeup Effects Designer Ken Diaz explains that the gruesome effect of Mabel’s head flopping loosely around on her shoulders in the still-spinning dryer was achieved using a chain connecting the fake corpse’s neck.
27:23 – Chief Newby is determined to tell everyone that Mabel died of a heart attack… Well, that’s one way of describing a pickaxe to the chest!
27:51 – “It happened once. It happened twice. Cancel the dance or it’ll happen thrice!” Not one of Axel’s better Valentine verses but, then, he’s known for his skills with a pickaxe rather than a pen… Does anyone ever use the word “thrice” outside bad poetry?
29:22 – OOPS! Where did those passers-by behind TJ’s car come from? The street was empty a moment ago!
29:38 – And now, as the car pulls away, the guy in the blue jacket has jumped all the way back to the far end of the street!
31:30 – Nova Scotia is home of dozens of historical lighthouses. You can make out the light from one of them in the background (probably at the nearby town of Sydney) as TJ and Sarah kiss.
32:53 – FALSE SCARE #2! This is a pretty good one: we’ve been conditioned to fear the arrival of the killer’s distinctive helmet torch, allowing Chief Newby’s handheld flashlight to make a neat shock appearance here.
36:30 – Happy’s pickaxe-popping-out-the-eye-socket demise was achieved, according to Special Makeup Effects Designer Thomas R. Burman, with a collapsible pick attached to the actor’s face, which would pop up when activated by a shot of air, also nudging out a fake eyeball.
36:40 – OOPS! You can actually get a look at the murderous miner’s face at this point, as the black eyepieces seem to be missing from his mask.
36:56 – As Happy’s dead body is dragged away, that’s a real pickaxe and a fake body, Ken Diaz explains – just in case you thought it was the other way around.
37:47 – Check out Howard’s little stunt as he throws the party supplies behind him: his aim with the loaf of bread that comically hits Dave on the head is pretty amazing!
40:55 – Death by hot water and hot dogs… According to actor Carl Marotte, his boiled-face makeup (achieved using a thin layer of plastic) looked so disgusting that no one would sit with him during lunch until filming of this sequence had finished.
41:50 – From hot dogs to… wild dogs! Roving packs of feral canines like this one are still a problem in Nova Scotia, as this news story proves.
42:55 – Howard jokes about snorting Coke after sticking the straw of a soft drink up his nostril. Of course, Coca-Cola really did contain cocaine when it was launched in 1886, but this ingredient had been removed by 1903.
49:25 – Ken Diaz’s favourite kill in the movie. He and Burman created a full prosthetic of Sylvia’s body in order to convincingly impale her on the showerhead, and this was intercut with shots of actress Helene Udy hanging from a harness.
50:50 – A little homage to Psycho here, as the water from the shower sprays out of Sylvia’s mouth and into the camera, echoing a similarly-designed shot before Marion Crane’s famous murder in the Hitchcock classic.
54:50 – The mine train ride lasts just over a minute in the movie. In reality, each journey took fifteen minutes during filming, meaning that it often took over an hour to get all the necessary crewmembers underground.
1:00:41 – FALSE SCARE #3! Howard swings down unexpectedly from an overhead pipe. Berating him for losing the blanket, Hollis tells him he’d “forget his head if it wasn’t tied on with rope” – which turns out to be an eerily prophetic comment considering Howard’s ultimate fate.
1:03:15 – Here we get perhaps our clearest view of the Valentine Bluffs town crest, as seen on the door of the Chief’s police car. Quite brilliantly, it’s a blood-red heart containing a pickaxe and shovel.
1:03:42 – UNMISTAKABLY CANADIAN MOMENT #2 comes courtesy of Tommy, who cries: “There’s a bunch of kids trapped in the mine and Axel and TJ are trying to get them OOT!”
1:03:43 – Wow, that’s a large amount of mucus on John’s face.
1:04:40 – FALSE SCARE #4! TJ suddenly rounds the corner wearing… a miner’s helmet!
1:06:20 – An unwritten rule of the slasher genre requires that a character should stumble over the body (or bodies) of someone we didn’t realize was dead. In this case, it’s poor Mike and Harriet, found literally screwed to death thanks to a giant drill bit. Although no footage of their actual murder showed up in the uncut DVD release, interestingly, the director does recall filming it.
1:07:00 – Hollis’s murder is an unusually protracted and realistic slasher-movie kill, as he stumbles about in confusion with several nails protruding from his skull. Nail guns also become deadly weapons in The Toolbox Murders (1978/2004), The Nail Gun Massacre (1985), and Final Destination 3 (2006), while heads like pincushions feature prominently in the Hellraiser series.
1:15:50 – Is it me, or is Axel wearing a big cheesy grin as he climbs the ladder? It’s almost like he can’t wait for Howard’s body to come falling down…
1:17:06 – Which it does moments later. This is perhaps the moment that suffers the most in the original theatrical cut; without the full, unedited shot of Howard’s decapitation by rope, it appears as if his body stops falling for no reason other than to spray blood over the girls before continuing its descent.
1:21:51 – The effect of Patty taking a pickaxe to the stomach was created using a simple retractable pick and a mouthful of fake blood. Ken Diaz perfected one of his recipes for realistic-looking blood whilst working on My Bloody Valentine; he now produces 20 different varieties which he sells to filmmakers all over the world.
1:22:18 – If I was Sarah and had just witnessed the violent murder of my best friend, I’d run a little faster here!
1:23:03 – FALSE SCARE #5! The classic “hand grabs shoulder from behind” – in this case, TJ’s hand on Sarah’s shoulder.
1:25:03 – A very nice touch: as TJ defends himself against the killer’s pickaxe using a shovel, together the crossed tools form the town crest seen throughout the movie.
1:25:17 – Here’s an extremely rare incidence of a slasher heroine actually picking up a discarded weapon (TJ’s dropped shovel). Well done, Sarah!
1:27:56 – This final flashback gives us a glimpse of Young Axel, as played by Jeff Banks, a child actor whose only other movie credit was playing Tom Skerritt’s son in the Canadian drama Silence of the North, also released in 1981.
1:30:37 – This shot of Axel hacking off his own trapped arm to escape the cave-in was initially cut by the MPAA, but somehow managed to find its way into the original British release. James Franco took a similarly drastic course of wrist-lopping action when trapped by a falling boulder in the 2010 survival story 127 Hours.
1:30:42 – Listen to that hilariously inappropriate “Aww!” from the crowd as Axel’s arm comes off in Sarah’s hand. It’s definitely dubbed – and seems to include female voices, despite the fact that the rescue crew are all men. Look closely and you’ll also see a crewmember’s hand poking the severed arm through the hole.
1:30:54 – OOPS! Axel calls out “Harry, I’m coming!” as he disappears into the darkness… It’s just a shame his mouth isn’t moving.
1:31:03 – Axel speaks the movie’s title (“Sarah, be my bloody valentine”). The phrase was borrowed two years later by Irish alternative rockers My Bloody Valentine, when singer Dave Conway decided they “seemed like some good words” for a band name.
1:31:18 – Paul Zaza’s awesome “The Ballad of Harry Warden” kicks in with the chilling lines: “Once upon a time, on a sad Valentine, in a place known as Henniger Mine; A legend began, every woman and man, would always remember the time…” More of Zaza’s slasher soundtrack work can be heard in Prom Night (1980), Ghostkeeper (1981), Curtains (1983) and Popcorn (1991).
Ahh, 93 minutes of slasher heaven… Now, who’s up for the remake?!