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Retro Christmas Classics 2

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Something Weird
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Just as there can be no Christmas Season without its eventual end at New Years, I am telling you from experience that there is no way that a movie company is going to release a volume of Christmas filler footage in a red box with a big VOLUME 1 on the label without releasing a secondary VOLUME 2 product full of similar themed material in a green box. Now that this has been decided and you all know how grim and irrevocable the situation is, we might as well watch it together and see if these Holiday Season short subjects are as halcyon to revisit as our innermost, most personal New Year’s memory or if they just swirl together in our mind like so much unsightly maroon colored vomit in the ever spinning cinematic toilet of our film viewing habits, almost as if we have been drinking red and green wine all Dec 31st long and are too far gone to know how to say no to that final glass (or film from 2014), a choice which more than likely will make us wish we had quit while we were ahead...Oh well, Happy New Year.

Merry Christmas (1939) in this ancient short Santa appears and gives the studio audience a sly. “tapping the nose” gesture which these days is the unmistakable; universal hand sign for a character asking another “have you got any cocaine?” in a film. Apparently someone does, because Santa hits switch on a nearby console marked “Special Attraction” and Christmas trees rotate as Glitter falls and the closing bars to “Oh, Come all Ye Faithful” plays aloud. A screen crawl of text ensues assuring each and every one of us that “The Management” wishes us “the Merriest Merry Christmas”.  How very intimate and warm of “those people”.

Merry Christmas (1950) Do you remember the serial from volume 1 involving the three elves, Pepe, Zippo and Click? I guess they must of figured you all enjoyed it because they enclosed it here again in its entirety for no prudent good reason.  This is an unforgivable mistake for a 2 volume set even during this special time of year where mercy and forgiveness should reign supreme.

A Christmas Message Starring Rosemary Clooney (1950’s) My generation best remembers Rosemary Clooney as the portly middle aged woman from those Coronet paper towel commercials who sang the jingle “extra value is what you get-when you buy Coronet”.  Thirty years earlier it seems she was beautiful, had the voice of an angel and sings on behalf of Christmas Seals, encouraging you to give unselfishly.  How sad, and the tuberculosis statistics were kind of a drag too.

A Christmas Journey (1950) in this Russian Cartoon we agonize over the plight of Kolya, a young Russian boy who attempts to get his father a Christmas tree in time for Christmas.  Yet sadly this is a complicated endeavor because his dad is actually working at as a weatherman in Antarctica. Luckily Santa Claus happens to overhear of his plight and loans him his famous jet plane “The Star Shooter” (WTF?) a concept aircraft that seems to be constructed entirely out of television static.  Sadly, there is a (Cinderella at the ball/ deal with the Devil) component to this story, because it seems Kolya must complete the entire journey before midnight or else the plane will disappear.  The plane eventually disintegrates but luckily Kolya has the fortune to run into several predatory species of talking wild animal that not only do not eat him, but actually lend aid to his quest.  Eventually he reaches his destination. Despite the Cold War it seems the Russians celebrated Christmas a lot like we did in the 1950’s: with goofy, saccharine, poorly animated kid centric Christmas short subjects that suuuuck.

Merry Christmas (1954) We are treated to footage of a black and white Santa who reads us the following diatribe on the TRUE meaning of the holidays: "May your celebration be filled with all of the good things of life and may the spirit of peace and happiness love and good fellowship which is the true meaning of Christmas encompassing your entire family.” While this seems traditional, non-materialistic, perhaps even some level of poignant, the mere he fact he passes out gifts during the entire speech to an endless horde of greedy gift grabbing hands of anonymous strangers, kind of dulls the sincerity of the message and renders it kind of laughable.

Merry Christmas (1959) Similar to the short film (Christmas Rhapsody) from the previous collection (only animated this time) this tells the story of a family of pine trees accosted by a kid with an axe. The smallest tree is cut down and taken (the child) and the two larger (parent) trees follow him home just in time to see their child’s decorated carcass placed in a window. Somehow, this seems to fill them with only pride.  Inexplicable and yet somehow warranting no further synopsis.

Christmas Time In Toyland (1939) As if to somehow separate itself to the countless Christmas Shorts that feature shambly, shaky  stop motion animation, this one is a veritable completest collection of motorized toys, each and every one of them as shambly and shaky as their earlier brothers featuring Christmas critters animated purely through primitive film trickery.  Several toys are featured which would be priceless today, including mechanized toy animals that actually drink liquor and smoke cigarettes, thus proving that Santa was probably pretty badass before he too sold out to the big toy companies and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Merry Christmas (1955) The management and staff of this theater wishes you a Merry Christmas. As do the individual members of a 1950’s stereotypical family.  No surprises here, but no horrors either.

The Christmas Visitor (1961) what starts out as the possible third retelling of The Night Before Christmas in this series (thus far) goes terribly awry.  A few verses in the voice over narration stops entirely as Santa himself pauses in somebodies house to drink the wine they left out for him and smoke a cigar. His toys spill out randomly and the Navy doll, and Jack in the Box engage each other in a violent combat for the affections of the music box dancer using all other toys as weapons or collateral damage. Wow, I bet you thought your family had “stupid fights” around Christmas time. 

The Lights of Christmas (1956) what better film medium to capture the color, vibrancy and multi-hued natural splendor of Christmas displays than grainy black and white film stock from half a century ago? Next… 

A Visit From St Nicholas (1950s) A Night Before Christmas told once again, this time with an animation style so cheap that it made those old Clutch Cargo cartoons look like they were rendered in CGI.

Cordial Holiday Greetings (1950’s) The management of this picture extends Cordial Holiday Greetings with sincere wishes for a “very Merry Christmas” from a half a century ago.  Oh, do you mean it?

Christmas Tree (1960) A remarkable, simple albeit highly fulfilling story about how a Christmas tree gives it’s life so starving woodland animals could have something to eat and a shelter which to live in. This is a voiceless, non-denominational stop motion testament to the power of “Christmas giving” that looks like it was created entirely from your grandmothers craft cabinet.

Christmas Legends (1957) From the English Yule Log to the German Christmas tree it seems there are many ways that different countries celebrate Christmas from all over the world, but one thing is certain; and never-changing. And that is the fact that for the fifth time: “The management and staff of this theatre wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas.”

The First Noel (1961) a storybook narrating the first Christmas and the story of baby Jesus. Over fifteen minutes in length it is not exactly a “short subject”, but it is a sound, earnest storybook telling of “The greatest story ever told”.

The Fallen Angel (1950) a color animated cartoon of a young, disorganized child angel who gets in trouble for causing some innocent ruckus in Heaven because of his less than exemplary appearance, perpetual truancy and attention to details. I remember seeing this one in Catholic school as a lad and for the first time in this whole set, at least of one of the shorts brought me a sense of nostalgia bordering on a cultural flashback of my own. I have to admit it was real cute little story and with a message of inclusion that was incredibly understated but evident.

Liberace’s Christmas Special (1954) Liberace plays Christmas songs for about a half an hour. The less said about this the better. 

In the end, I can’t say Volume 2 was a total let down.  Some of the more meaningful, religious entries might readily appeal to modern, traditional Christian households who always take time to celebrate the “Christ in Christmas”, but as always in matters of faith, these messages of spirituality will not appeal to everyone, which is why you will never see any of these broadcast in public ever again in our largely secular society.  I think Something Weird should release a disk containing the more spiritual favorites from these volumes (minus most of the goofy puppet shows) on to a single disk and I could at least recommend it as a moldy collection for persons of faith. As it stands, this volume may not be fresh, trendy or particularly amusing.  But this New Year’s it nonetheless might be a fitting way to waste an evening, provided you “want to party like its 1959”.

Special Features Include Nothing.


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