Veteran actor, and Don’t Open Till Christmas alumnus, Edmund Purdom passed away on the 1st January 2009, aged 84.
Purdom has always held a particular fascination for me, and he certainly had a career less ordinary, once groomed as a major Hollywood star of the 1950s in films like The Student Prince and The Egyptian, “studio politics” drew an abrupt end to Purdom’s Hollywood career and instead he opted for a career in Europe popping up as a jaded film star in Val Guest’s The Beauty Jungle (1964) and numerous Italian productions (from the 1960s onwards Purdom was mostly based in Rome). He also found himself in demand as a voiceover man for the English versions of Italian films, lending his vocals to narrating mondo movies (Naked England, Mondo Sex, Witchcraft 70), and other voiceover work including dubbing the hero in the English version of the 1973 giallo Torso (I also suspect he also provided Cameron Mitchell’s dubbed voice in 1979’s Supersonic Man).
It was during this period that Purdom met B-movie producer Dick Randall (who Purdom later described as “a curious American who used to buy and sell porn”) an association that lead to Purdom taking many film roles in Randall’s productions culminating in Purdom playing a chainsaw maniac in 1982’s Pieces and starring in and (sort of) directing Don’t Open Till Christmas in 1984. Stories as too what went on during the making of Don’t Open Till Christmas are colourful stuff indeed, the most believable version of events has it that Purdom was replaced as the films director after he made a mess of it, Derek Ford then took over the film only to get fired, and the film was finally finished by Ray Selfe. Purdom however later added an intriguing twist to the tale by claiming that Derek Ford blackmailed Dick Randall into letting him take over directing the film (as well as recasting and rewriting the film), after Ford discovered Randall was avoiding tax and the unions by paying the cast and crew out of his own pocket.
Alan Birkinshaw, the director of Killer’s Moon, and another player in the Don’t Open Till Christmas debacle later remembered Purdom as an eccentric and a ladies man, and even in the 1980s Purdom had certainly lost none of his abilities to pull the odd bird, as these pics from the set of Don’t Open Till Christmas show.
RIP Edmund Anthony Cutlar Purdom