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Retro Christmas Classics

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Something Weird
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Well it’s that time a year again, when we gather round the television and watch more slickly animated shorts, specials and holiday themed special programming based on Christmas myth, Holiday music or (more often than not) inspired by a popular toy line. It wasn’t always like this, in the days of yore, Christmas specials were often used as bumpers (filler) between attractions at movie houses during their Holiday Showings. Because of my inexplicable irrational attraction of ancient intermission shorts (a love apparently shared by no one) I have taken upon myself to review a disk of assorted short subjects based on this Holly, Jolly time of year.  Glad tidings to you and yours as as we look at the cinematic short subject ghosts of Christmas past.

First there is the trailer for K Gordon Murray’s SANTA CLAUS (1960) THE MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER version of this film is something I play every year.  Without the snide commentary, this ancient film makes Santa seem like an aspiring NSA surveillance aficionado who watches the earth from his outer space espionage fortress using his goofy Dr. Seuss like surveillance equipment incorporating gigantic mechanical eyes, noses, mouths and other human sensory organs. Of course, he needs all this equipment, because he is fighting the Devil, you see. Of course he is...

Next is a “MERRY CHRISTMAS” intermission feature which depicts Santa’s workshop and his three trusty elves Peppy, Zippo and Click. Inspirational, and by that it shows you how to circumvent child labor laws by dressing up ordinary kids in shabby elf costumes and giving them nonsense elven names. A nice family singing religious hymnals awaits Santa at the end, which makes it a rare mix of commercialism and Christian spirituality.

Next is a short for Christmas Seals (1957) starring Clark Gable. I have seen this before included on one of the intermission time videos, but at least Tuberculosis has actually been cured in most developed countries as of 2014, unlike every other star endorsed “charity” ever featured in public service announcement from decades ago. Let’s hear it for Easter Seals….again.

A Christmas Dream:  A little girl gets new toys and wisely abandons her old doll, a despicable, yarn man who seems completely naked except for a bowtie and “Sideshow Bob” hair. In order to show his “value” to his old mistress the doll plays the piano, skates and eventually wrecks up the place by turning on the ordinary fan in her room which apparently is hooked up to the engine of a DC-10 jet engine. Amidst the carnage, the little girl wakes up from her dream state and the evil thing is right where she tossed it earlier, alone, unloved in the corner-where it will stay forever. Fade to credits. How senti-mentally ill?

A Present for Santa Claus: A boy and a girl come up with a racket.  By bribing Santa with hot cocoa, they get every item on their list, including a puppy; a gift which most people who donate their time to animal causes (such as me) will tell you is the worst possible idea.

Rudolph The Red nosed Reindeer, I hope you weren’t expecting the Rankin/Bass holiday themed stop motion spectacular. This Rudolph was created by Max Fleisher, the animator to “Let’s Go Out To The Lobby”, inarguably the most well-known intermission feature of all time.  It goes exactly as you would expect with Rudolph lighting both the way for Santa’s sleigh as well as generations of insipid kid’s specials about “the power of being yourself” and how sometimes being “different” can let you be part of a group, provided of course you let them exploit your unique gifts for the gain of others. Bah Humbug!.

The Snow Queen: (trailer) 1959.  I will say one thing for Disney, they always have top notch animation and hand rendered backgrounds, A fact which becomes readily apparent when you see the full length features of lesser animation studios like this one. Blah-humbug.

The Night Before Christmas: a black and white vignette accompanied by a verse by a narration of the popular holiday short story. This is still the classic version of the story, where Santa still smokes a pipe. In the revised version (as of 2012) he does not anymore.  The purist in me insists that you not only enjoy the classic “traditional version” with your friends and family this Holiday season but that you also read it while enjoying a litany of any number of quality American tobacco products.  Santa would have wanted it that way.

Silent Night: This one took me back to my own strict Catholic upbringing. A delightful “follow the star” sing-along that hearkens back to a more communal era when you were actually encouraged to join the stranger in the next seat singling the spirit of Christian Spiritual unity, not merely ratting him out to the usher and get him thrown out for talking on his cell phone. Very nostalgic, spiritual and probably the closest thing to midnight mass I have seen in a while.

A Visit to Santa: Dick and Ann write a letter to Santa wanting to see his workshop.  He immediately sends a helicopter for them and whisks them to the North Pole where we see Santa hard at work riding in parades, riding on tugboats and living in his 1970’s basement where his seemingly pants less child dwarf Flobby waits his every beck and call. Yes Really. A shameless mix of stale Santa footage and public holiday displays retrofitted into authentic “North Pole” sights and sounds into a detailed, ponderously impossible travelogue for kiddies who barely have journeyed out of diapers. Kids back then just seemed dumber and happier.  And then some things explain themselves.

Santa’s Christmas Circus (1966): Whizzo the Clown is taking your kids on a Holiday adventure! Actually, he is taking other kids on a Holiday adventure while you get to buy a theater ticket and watch what happened.  This Christmas season won’t you let Whizzo the clown piss all over your notions of fourth wall/ first person entertainment and suspension of disbelief in what looks like a ghetto version of the Bozo show? I didn’t think so. Good choice.

Santa and The Fairy Snow Queen: An abject version of holiday hell and stupidity on par with the Star Wars Christmas special and about as much fun as hypothermia. Snoopy, a brownie who seems to be perfectly designed to channel the quiet, subtle comedy styling’s of “Mr B Natural” tells the story of the time Santa invited The Snow Queen over for sugar cookies but fell asleep.  So she did what any bored sprite would do. She plays God, animating the dolls from his toy box and they suddenly become sentient; aware, gifted with the exact live action personalities you would expect them to in a bastardization of the Twilight Zone episode: “Five Characters in Search of an Exit”.  One of them, the jack in the box who repeats the past few words of what every other character says like a brain damaged fucking parrot pissed me off more than any character I have seen in any child’s film since the Hunters from “BAMBI” (seen as a child).  Before Santa can command that the dolls “souls” be stripped at once, before some sort of “pain in the ass” ethical debate occurs, two of the dolls fall in love and there must be a resolution made which accommodates their instant and impossibly sincere love for one another. There is just so much wrong with this one, I could have written a fifty page hate filled dissertation on it. With a soundtrack largely stolen from “the Nutcracker” I suppose it is suitable viewing for just about anyone with a child’s sensibility (or a wooden fucking head).

The Three Little Dwarves: This little tale of Santa’s three helpers. Keep an eye on Joe, (the one Santa “loves so”). Between the lyrics to this Holiday classic to the “money shot” at the end, this has more homoerotic imagery than a Mapplethorpe painting. At least it’s got a song that will linger in your head as long a head cold. Watch it in its entirety here

Santa in Animal Land.:”  It seems there is no such thing as Santa, not when you are a poorly rendered animal puppet.  But it doesn’t stop this gang of unsightly oven mitts roughly resembling God’s lesser creatures. Kitty Cat goes to the North Pole and becomes the Santa of all the animals.  At this exact moment of indescribable triumph, I looked over at my Chihuahua and saw him dispassionately licking his neuter scar which somehow summed up my sentiments exactly toward this development.

The Spirit of Christmas: Once again it is THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, but this time the action is depicted by a bunch of creepy marionettes. How creepy? Do you remember the grim puppet show Outerscope from the seventies TV show Vegetable Soup? Double that. That’s how creepy.

Christmas Rhapsody (1948): A little fir tree pines (haha) for the day when he can become as important as the larger trees growing around him (that will be used as beams for houses and masts for sales). But luckily for him a family spies him and chops him down at once, leaving his arbor carcass to slowly decay in their house after they have suitably decorated it with lights and finery. I just love happy endings.

While it should be said that while obviously I wasn’t the target audience for this DVD I can’t say that it might have helped much.  Case in point I brought this DVD along when I spent Thanksgiving with friends; nice church going people with bright eyed children (for my dog to chase and nip at). I remember being so proud of the fact there was at least on DVD of film sent to me in 2014 that could delight a moderate audience of all ages.  Well, after ten minutes of this the kids wandered away and went to do something else. After 45 minutes of it even the polite adults were telling me to “turn that awful oldy off because someone brought Thor 2”.

I think you would have to be pretty old to have experienced some of these ancient serials in the 50’s and 60’s as a small child.  If so, odds are you are probably blind, deaf and senile now. Strangely enough, that shouldn’t affect your enjoyment of this product whatsoever.

As for the rest of us?

One Skull. Extras include Nothing. Get this abomination here

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