February 11, 2013

Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart - My Bloody Valentine (1981)

My Bloody Valentine (1981) heart in a candy box
       Fewer than half a dozen times in my entire adult life has Valentine's Day not been miserable for me.  It's a cynical non-holiday formulated to sell greeting cards and torment the lonely.  If you're with someone it's an obligation to try to bludgeon your sweetie with sentiment on a day fraught with expectations.  Do too much and humiliate yourself in the eyes of someone who doesn't care as much.  Do too little and reveal yourself as a callous jerk with no romance in your heart.  Well,  Valentine's Day can kiss my hairy heart-shaped ass.  Thank God for My Bloody Valentine (1981).

     I wasn't always this bitter.  In fact, when I first saw My Bloody Valentine as a fresh-faced 11 year old I fell in love with the iconic look of the pickaxe wielding killer rather than the movie's sour view of Valentine's Day.  My appreciation of that aspect came with adulthood, and it grew with each passing year like the clog that undoubtedly festers in my aortic artery.

the miner strikes a pose in My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Completely badass, right?

     In my youth, though, I always wondered why My Bloody Valentine didn't spawn a franchise like so many of its calendar based brethren.  I now know it was the victim of unfortunate timing, a topic that director George Mihalka elaborates upon nicely in the extra features on the Special Edition disc.  All of the goriest footage was left on the cutting room floor to ensure the movie made its release date without becoming mired in a ratings battle with the MPAA.  Then, of course, the footage was lost - for twenty-eight years.

My Bloody Valentine (1981) Special Edition Bluray
The version to have - beware the still circulating Paramount release!

     Lionsgate reinstated most of that newly rediscovered gore footage when they released the Special Edition to capitalize on the release of director Patrick Lussier's 2009 3D remake.  The elements for the footage is understandably rougher looking than the rest of the movie, and yet the degradation serves to enhance the authenticity of the gore effects in a pleasingly grindhouse fashion.  Though not all of the lost footage was recovered, director Mihalka says the new cut represents about 85% of what was intended.  I can honestly say I had never been more excited to see the extended cut of a movie, and the footage truly delivers.

My Bloody Valentine (1981) pickaxe through the eye socket
A little taste of the gorey goodness reinstated for the My Bloody Valentine Special Edition.

     The theatrical cut that I saw as a child was already a favorite, and the reinstated effects serve to push the movie into the realm of greatness.  I contend that if this version had made it into theaters in 1981 that My Bloody Valentine would have spawned a franchise to rival the long running dominance of the Friday The 13th series.  Slasher movies just don't get any better.

     I was open to Lussier's remake because I saw it primarily as an opportunity for My Bloody Valentine to get a do-over and at last become the success it should have been the first time.  Though successful at the box office, the 2009 remake has yet to produce a sequel.  I'm brokenhearted once again.  At least the remake itself turned out to be a rousingly good  time in 3D.  The only major misstep was letting the miner spend too much time out of the mine.

My Bloody Valentine 3D custom cover
A custom cover for Lussier's remake.  Break out your anaglyph 3D glasses - it's totally worth it!

     The original made the mine itself a major character, and the dark and claustrophobic mine shafts add immeasurably to the effectiveness of My Bloody Valentine.  All of the underground footage was shot at Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, often as much as 900 feet underground.  The movie benefits greatly from the verisimilitude.

     Often overlooked in discussion of My Bloody Valentine is the well delineated love triangle at the heart of the movie.  The star crossed lovers are more identifiably human than usual for horror movies of this era, and that aspect lends the final reveal of the killer's identity a level of pathos absent from most other slashers.  *Spoiler*  That triangle is still intact at the end of the movie, which makes it even more heartbreaking that there was never a sequel.

My Bloody Valentine keychain
For the key to my heart?  You can actually order this here.

     So if you find yourself alone this Valentine's Day, my heart truly goes out to you.  As oxymoronic as it sounds, you're actually not alone because so many of us are alone with you.  Do what I do each and every year, and make a date with My Bloody Valentine.  I hear she's a sure thing . . .



  1. This is one of my favorite slashers. I'm not sure if it suffers for me without the extra footage, except for in one scene: when I saw it for the first time, it was the bare bones DVD without the scenes re-added, and I really was hoping to see blood pouring out of that pipe that the girl was impaled on in the shower. It just seemed like it was an effect that was sure to happen, and then it didn't. Luckily when I got the special edition DVD that was added in. Great write up! I could seriously see how someone who hates V-Day could be cheered up by this film.

  2. I am glad you gave a nod to the remake. That was the first of the new generation of 3D films. When I saw it in theaters, I was amazed at the depth the effect provided for the aerial shots of the mining town. Plus, the story wasn't bad.
    It's been so long since I have seen the original, and now you make it a priority.

  3. Erin, I was always pretty happy with the theatrical cut myself. Still, relative to other movies of its type at the time, I think the added footage really puts it over the top. The kills are brutal rather than cartoonish, and the practical FX were really quite bleeding edge for their day. *Spoiler* I particularly like Howard's head snapping loose from his suspended body in the ladder shaft.

    I had a lot of fun with the 3D remake, too. I saw it on opening night with an enthusiastic packed house, and it worked like a charm.

    I've been having so much fun with the Gore-A-Thon that I'm beginning to feel an all slasher movie event. Would anyone else be down with that?

  4. Awwww... not one joke about poutine! I was robbed.

    No, seriously Awesome article.

    If you want my take on it, head on over here.


  5. Harry Warden is my favorite horror move killer, the 1981 move beats the remake by a long shot and was filmed in my hometown, Sydney Nova Scotia. I even have a copy of the full soundtrack used during filming, which has never been publicly released and I "rescued" the only recorded copy from Sydney, I love this movie but hate Valentine's Day.

    1. It's funny you mention that soundtrack. I created a mix for Halloween a couple of years ago (http://www.moviesatdogfarm.com/2013/10/building-perfect-beast-pre-halloween.html), and I was determined that I wanted a copy of The Ballad Of Harry Warden on it. I never did find one, and I ultimately just made an MP3 file of the song as it played over the end credits. Totally worth the effort, though.

      Thanks for visiting the Dog Farm!


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