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Showing posts with the label 50's

Scrooge (1951)

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There have been many, many adaptations of A Christmas Carol. This isn't the first we've looked at, and assuming this blog pops up again next Christmas, I don't think it'll be the last.

The 1951 version starring Alastair Sim is generally recognized as the best of the bunch. I haven't seen nearly enough to render that verdict, though this is certainly better than the Jim Carrey vehicle that came out a few years ago. If we're counting parodies, though, it's not even close to Blackadder's Christmas Carol or Scrooged, and I actually prefer Mickey's Christmas Carol if only because it's shorter.

But if we're just talking about versions that are relatively accurate to the source, aren't parodies, and don't replace the characters with anthropomorphic animals, then yes: this is the best I can think of.

The depiction of the various characters is about as close as is humanly possible. Sim's Scrooge is particularly well done, both as the cur…

The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)

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What an odd film. I think I enjoyed it, although it certainly had its share of boring, slow, and inexplicable bits.
The Lemon Drop Kid is a holiday film starring Bob Hope based loosely on a Damon Runyon story. It's mostly notable for being the source of the song “Silver Bells”.
I've read some Runyon stories, and find them fascinating. His work is the inspiration for Guys and Dolls, and The Lemon Drop Kid plays off similar tropes: gangsters both fierce and puppyish, money owed, bets, strong-minded dames, and tangled schemes. The Lemon Drop Kid is closer to the tone of the original stories than Guys and Dolls; it's more bloody-minded, though not by too much.
The central plot follows con-man Kid (Hope) as he tries to raise ten thousand dollars he owes to a murderous mobster named Moose Moran. The scheme he finally hits on involves establishing a charity for elderly women so he can get a license to collect on the street, then conning a bunch of soft-hearted grifters into rais…

Lassie: The Christmas Story (1958)

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This thing was hilarious.

The special starts with Lassie, Timmy, and the parents in town for some Christmas shopping. Across the street, a young girl rolls a toy ball into the road in an apparent attempt to lure Lassie into the path of an oncoming truck. When she realizes that he's not that dumb, she tries larger bait, running out after it herself.

Lassie leaps into action, knocking the petulant child out of the way and taking a potentially lethal blow to the head in the process. The heroic dog is then whisked away to the doctor's office, where a waiting newsman pounces on the story.

But... will Lassie die? Cue the solemn Christmas music. How about dramatic close-ups of Timmy praying for her recovery, a parade of supporting cast members and their pets visiting, and as much dramatic tension as the producers could wring out of this half-hour melodramatic episode.

Lindsay and I laughed out loud.

The best part, in my humble opinion, was when Timmy prayed to God, asking him to con…

Howdy Doody's Christmas (1957?)

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This eight minute short came as part of a DVD collection I bought cheap on Amazon, but apparently it's easy to find on Youtube, too. Come to think of it, just about everything in that collection appears to be on Youtube.

At any rate, this has to be one of the strangest artifacts we've come across. I've never actually seen an episode of Howdy Doody before, though of course I know what it is. Or at least I thought I knew: now, I'm not so sure.

First off, let's talk about the horror.

See, every character in this thing, with the exception of Buffalo Bob, is outright creepy. Imagine Chucky but not as cute: that's Howdy Doody. And remember the clown from It? yeah, apparently his older brother's name was Clarabell, and he's in this. Then there's Ugly Sam. I guess he wasn't scary, just weird.

This thing starts a few minutes before midnight, with most of the above characters decorating a tree. They hide at midnight, so Santa won't see them (it's…

Amahl and the Night Visitors (1955)

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This was an interesting artifact to track down. Apparently, it was aired live in 1951, and then performed again in subsequent years to decent success, making it one of the first, if not the first, actual television Christmas specials to become a yearly tradition. This is the recording of the 1955 performance.

Watching it now is... odd. Erin flatly hated it, while I found it amusing.

Amahl and the Night Visitors is an opera about the Three Kings stopping to rest with a poor family on their way to find Jesus. Except that it's a light opera, so much of the kings' behavior is played for laughs. Amahl and his mother are destitute, but somehow have this building big enough to have a dance in, that has no furniture. I guess what I'm trying to convey is that any logic in the situation is somewhat lacking.

It's sort of slow and boring, although as I said, the humor was okay. I mean, Amahl goes at one point between his mother and the door, telling her a king is there, she does…

1950s Hymnalogues

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I've never heard of a hymnalogue before, but apparently back in the stupid ages, these were sing-a-long video recordings with words superimposed over them. I had an opportunity to subject myself to a pair of these, one for "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and the other for "O Come All Ye Faithful."

To call these uninspired feels like an understatement. These are black holes in which inspiration is sucked then never seen again. They're vapid, boring, and pointless videos. Hey, geniuses in the 50's: you know what the advantage is of video? That it allows things to MOVE. So, next time, why not recording something that isn't standing still. Just a thought.

The audio recordings weren't bad, but neither were they impressive. Just generic, uninteresting versions of the songs.

Don't believe me? Have a look for yourself. I can't find a video of Bethlehem, but here's O Come All Ye Faithful, for your viewing "enjoyment."

Santa and the Fairy Snow Queen (1951)

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What the HELL was that?

Okay, so Lindsay and I recently ordered a collection on Amazon titled Holiday Family Classics, containing more Christmas specials and movies than you can shake the severed arm of a snowman at. One of the first was titled,"Santa and the Fairy Snow Queen", and I was curious. I mean, I like Santa Claus. I like fairies. Putting them together should be a no-brainer.

I don't know where to start. This live-action special is introduced by a brownie - not an elf, interestingly enough - named "Snoopy" (no relation - had this been narrated by a dog, it would have been far, far better). Apparently, Snoopy's no longer tasked with making toys, but is rather the brownie charged with sneaking into children's rooms late at night to talk to their toys and get information on whether kids have treated them well.

I feel it's significant that Snoopy is one of the most annoying characters to ever grace the screen. She has a high-pitched laugh that…

The Spirit of Christmas (1953)

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This goes beyond "so bad it's good" into the land of "so horrible it's great." This half-hour, made-for-TV special is brought to us by Bell Telephone, a fact that's reiterated by the Bell representative, who introduces the two segments while standing in front of a brigade of grinning phone operators.

The first half is described as telling the tale of how Twas the Night Before Christmas was written. Turns out, this guy had an idea on Christmas Eve and wrote a poem in his study using paper and ink.

This riveting tale is interrupted by the poem brought to life. When I say "brought to life," I'm lying outright, because there's no similarity whatsoever between the cold, dead marionettes on screen and anything alive. In fact, in spite of their bright paint, these resemble the walking dead, both in appearance and in movement. When Santa tilts his head to one side and looks through those cold, empty eyes, you can sense his hunger for the…

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Santa Claus (1959)

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We had barely recovered from Santa Claus (1959) the first time, when we went back in to watch MST3K go at it.  It was highly therapeutic watching others hate that stupid surreal film. 

Read Erin's post about the original movie before going on, because I am not subjecting you to another full writeup of the plot.

Some notable thoughts and quotes:

During the hideous imitation of "It's a Small World" that opens the film: the sad and bored looking children are funny for the first 3 minutes or so, then they're just depressing.

“If there is a soundtrack to Seasonal Affective Disorder, this is it”

The ethnic stereotypes joked about by the robots aren't nearly so offensive as the ones in the movie.

“Santa's laughter mocks the poor.”

The interstitial puppet segments are cute but forgettable, which is pretty common for MST3K.

FYI: This version cuts both the horrid nightmarish nutcracker rip-off dream sequence and the endless Merlin scenes.

Because it's dubbed, …

Santa Claus (1959)

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If you thought you'd have to wait a while for something "worse than the Star Wars Christmas Special," have I got a surprise for you.  I stumbled across this dubbed version of an Mexican production from 1959 on Netflix.

They also have an Mystery Science Theater 3000 version.  I haven't seen that just yet, but we're planning to get around to it next.

What really concerns me - what horrifies me - is that Netflix predicted I'd consider this a three-star movie.

I kind of wish I'd visited Wikipedia before watching this instead of afterward, so I'd have known it ranks on the IMDB's top 100 worst movies of all time list.

For the record, I would still have watched it; I just wouldn't have done so sober.

This is more a morality play than a movie.  Santa is a clear stand-in for Jesus, who gets name-dropped once or twice.  The moral of the story isn't exactly nuanced: do good, and you'll be rewarded in the end - this is actually stated a few tim…