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Showing posts with the label 60's

Carol for Another Christmas (1964)

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As the name suggests, A Carol for Another Christmas is an updated take on Dickens's classic, here intended for the modern world. And when I say "modern," I of course mean modern as of 1964, when it was made. Unfortunately, that's half the problem, as it's more than a little dated now (not just because it's in black and white). Actually, it feels like it might have been a bit dated when it came out, which is the other half of the problem. Let's jump into the story, which follows Dickens's outline pretty closely, at least until the conclusion. The Scrooge analog is "Daniel Grudge," a retired US Commander with a massive amount of influence in politics and media. Standing in for Marley is [checks notes] still just a guy named Marley (feels a little lazy, if I'm being honest). Okay, technically it's "Marley Grudge," Dan's late son, killed in a war. While we're on the subject of characters whose names haven't changed,

Morozko [Father Frost/Jack Frost] (1964)

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Like a lot of foreign movies we look at, Morozko has a few titles it's been released under in the US. "Jack Frost" appears to be the most common - that's the name from its 1966 release and from when it appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It's also sometimes called "Father Frost." I don't think either are horrible, though I'll be sticking with the Russian title, Morozko. First, it's worth noting this is more accurately described as an alternative to a Christmas film. The title character (who doesn't appear until after the halfway point) is one of many midwinter mythological figures loosely tied to Santa Claus. The movie itself is based on a folktale, though it's been expanded and made a bit more kid-friendly. The folktale is pretty simple: two stepsisters live together, with the mother spoiling her bratty biological kid and abusing the other, despite the fact she works hard and never complains. Eventually, the (step)mother makes

Period of Adjustment (1962)

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The bare premise of this film - two couples in crisis nearly separate on Christmas Eve but finally reconcile - could be a Hallmark movie. In practice, it's something much more unusual and uneven.  The movie is based on a play by Tennesee Williams. A bit of research tells me that he wrote it as a "serious comedy," partially in response to criticism that his works were too dark. It's been a while since I've studied any of his plays, but the man isn't exactly known for happy endings, and it shows here. These are deeply unhappy people, each with their own neuroses, and it seems unlikely that these "happy-ending" reconciliations are for the long term.  The movie opens with a montage without dialogue showing the whirlwind romance of a nurse (Isabel) and one of the young veterans under her care (George). She realizes that she has made a terrible mistake when a hearse (a "great car" according to George) appears as their honeymoon vehicle, and thing

The Flintstones: Christmas Flintstone (1964)

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Until this started, it didn't occur to me that it's probably been at least thirty years since I actually watched an episode of The Flintstones in its entirety. Honestly, I'd be happy going another thirty before repeating the experience. The show isn't bad, so much as dated. Half the joke was in the premise, which lacks the same impact if you've grown up thinking of it as an institution. For me, The Flintstones have always existed, so the knowledge it was somewhat revolutionary in its day feels academic. It also doesn't help that the central conceit of merging the stone age with cutting-edge designs is sort of lost now that those designs look antiquated themselves. I wonder if the next generation of kids look at The Simpsons the same way. Speaking of which, it's probably not an accident the premise for The Simpson's pilot mirrors this episode. The plot of the sole Flintstones Christmas episode centers on Fred taking a second job in a department store to e

Ma nuit chez Maud [My Night at Maud's] (1969)

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I'm going to be upfront about this: I'm a little out of my element here. French New Wave isn't a genre I'm familiar with, so if you stumbled across this review searching for any kind of informed analysis of this classic film, you might want to look elsewhere. That being said, this is absolutely a Christmas movie, so our quest to watch and discuss literally every important holiday movie in existence wouldn't be complete without it. So whether it's a good idea or not, I'll dust off my philosophy degree and try to describe the 1969 French film, Ma nuit chez Maud  or My Night at Maud's, as the subtitles helpfully explain. The movie is... well, let's start with this: it's good. It's very good, very well made, and - if you're used to literally any other kind of movie - very slow. I wouldn't personally use the word "boring," but I suspect it's an adjective commonly invoked in reference to this film. Stylistically, the movie is

The Detective (1968)

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First of all, The Detective is not in any way, shape or form, a Christmas movie. It's not set at Christmas, and it isn't about Christmas, and I'm not claiming anything to the contrary. So. Why am I talking about it? While this isn't a Christmas movie, it is indirectly connected to one of the most significant Christmas movies ever made. The Detective is based on a book by the same name, and that book has a sequel called Nothing Lasts Forever which would be adapted into a movie two decades after this one. Unlike The Detective, the name "Nothing Lasts Forever" didn't survive the adaptation: they changed it to Die Hard. In other words, The Detective is John McClane's origin story. Well, sort of. The main character in The Detective was named Joe Leland, and several details about his relationship with his wife were notably different. But other details, like him being a New York police detective who breaks rules, are consistent. In some ways, I fou

Cash on Demand (1961)

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It's a few days before Christmas and bank manager Harry Fordyce (played by Peter Cushing) is making his employees' lives hell. It's not difficult to see the connections between Scrooge and Harry - hell, it's impossible to miss them as he quibbles over every trivial discrepancy and outright ignores their planned holiday party. Instead of a ghost, he gets visited by a robber masquerading as an insurance investigator. The thief reveals his true identity to Harry and also tells the manager why he should cooperate: his conspirators have abducted Harry's wife and son and are threatening to torture them. If Harry wants them released safely, he'll have to ensure the robbery goes off without a hitch. The movie is set almost entirely inside the bank, as Harry is forced to help the criminal outmaneuver his own security protocols. But in the process, Harry also realizes the same lessons Scrooge did a century earlier: that people matter more than money. It turns out

Book Review: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

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On Her Majesty's Secret Service Ian Fleming, 1963 So when we were researching Christmas espionage for the podcast, I realized I never wrote a review of this novel. And that was an oversight that could not stand. I need to start by saying that I enjoy the Bond books. They are dated. They are sometimes awful. But I love the style, and I love how much more complex they are than the films. For one thing, the series, taken as a whole, is the story of a man who has a thankless, terrible job that forces him to be a heartless weapon. The books very seldom glamorize the life of a spy. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service , Bond is tired of it all. He's ready to chuck the whole career in the bin, and he grasps at his whirlwind romance with Tracy as one bright thing, a light at the end of the tunnel. When we meet her, she's traumatized and suicidal after being abandoned by a husband and the death of a child. Bond is drawn to her need for rescue, but we never see whether

Pocketful of Miracles (1961)

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We didn’t know much about this movie when we turned it on, but I was met with two delightful surprises right in the opening credits. First, Peter Falk is in it. Cool, I thought, I love Peter Falk! Second, the movie is based on a previous screenplay, which was in turn based on a short story by Damon Runyon. Immediately I knew what to expect. Damon Runyon, for the uninitiated, wrote short stories in the 20s and 30s about New York City under Prohibition. These stories are generally about gangsters and other people on the illegal side of society, often somewhat sentimental with a rough edge, and highly stylized. Adaptations generally turn up the sentiment slightly and enjoy leaning into the style. The most well-known adaptation is probably the musical Guys and Dolls. Most of the characters from this movie could be dropped right into that show with no problem. The lead is Dave the Dude, a speakeasy owner and gang leader who’s on the rise, possibly due to his habit of buying “lucky”

Get Smart: Our Man in Toyland (1965)

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Get Smart was an espionage parody about counterintelligence agents battling an organization of international spies and criminals. Mel Brooks is credited as a co-creator, so it probably shouldn't be surprising to hear this show completely holds up. It's bizarre and quirky, and even more than fifty years later, the antics of Don Adams (who'd later voice Inspector Gadget) remain hilarious. "Our Man in Toyland" was only the fourth episode aired. It should be noted that its inclusion here is somewhat questionable. Logically, the episode must take place during the holiday season, but the show is intentionally illogical to the point, I'm not sure the justification was anything more than a joke. The premise of the episode is that KAOS, the aforementioned SPECTRE stand-in, is using a department store as a front to sneak state secrets out of the country. CONTROL (a.k.a.: the good guys) send in a handful of agents to determine how they're accomplishing this

The Avengers: Too Many Christmas Trees (1965)

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Not to be confused with Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers was a British spy series from the 60s which cycled through a number of iterations and styles. We've looked at a later episode, " Take-Over ," that sort of fit our loose definition for Christmas in July (absurdly loose: Take-Over was set in February, and the holiday elements only appeared briefly). "Too Many Christmas Trees," on the other hand, was far more entrenched in holiday fare. It was also a more iconic example of the series, featuring Emma Peel, by far the best known of John Steed's partners. In this one, they're pitted against a team of psychics attempting to steal national secrets from Steed's mind by eroding his sanity through a series of yuletide nightmares. This should already be obvious, but I loved the hell out of this episode. All of this is set at an English mansion where Peel was invited for a Christmas party. She invites John after the idea to bring him jus

Gilligan's Island: Birds Gotta Fly, Fish Gotta Talk (1964)

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Sometimes the best way to tell where you stand with someone is the quality of the gift they give. Is is thoughtful? Is it well-chosen? For the holiday, this pile of garbage got you a clip show. The episode opens with the castaways listening to a little Christmas music on the radio. Gilligan makes a wish that they would be rescued for the holiday. Just then, an announcement breaks into a broadcast. A rescue ship is heading for the island to save them! (Why this is on the general radio is sort of unclear, although there's some hand-waving about it being a holiday-timed human interest story.) They bustle about to create a signal fire, and, as they are expecting to be rescued any minute, begin reminiscing about their first day on the island. Cue the flashbacks. To be fair, my internet research indicates that some of this was footage from the pilot and some was reshot because the cast changed after the initial pilot was filmed. Apparently the pilot was never aired during the ori

Dennis the Menace Christmas Episodes (1959 - 1961)

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I know I saw a few episodes of this as a child, but I really can't remember any specifics. My assumption when we turned this on was that it was going to be painful - things from this era usually are, and I've burned by quite a few family-friendly comedies in the past. However, this one left me pleasantly surprised for the most part: two of the three episodes were pretty good. The Christmas Story (1959) This episode from the series' first season revolves around Dennis's attempts to see his Christmas gifts early. Almost immediately, we're told that Dennis manages to find and examine his gifts early every year, which removes any sense of mystery. This year, his father's decided things will be different: rather than hiding Dennis's presents in their house, he brings them next door to Mr. Wilson's, who's more than happy to help thwart Dennis. But all this backfires when Dennis concocts a plan to locate his presents. Since his parents won't

The Andy Griffith Show: The Christmas Story (1960)

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Assuming Wikipedia isn't lying to me, this is the only Christmas episode of The Andy Griffith Show, a 1960's sitcom about a sheriff in a small American town. I honestly don't know whether this is the first time I've seen an episode of this show - I can't recall ever having watched it, but it feels oddly familiar. That could easily be due to decades of parody and homage, however. This one starts with Andy and his deputy, Barney (Don Knotts), opening Christmas cards and getting ready for Andy's aunt's Christmas party. Barney points out he won't be able to attend, since one of them will need to stay behind and watch the prisoners. Andy, however, reasons the sheriff's station is really like a school, so the prisoners should get out for Christmas. He sets them free, and they run off. Surprisingly, the episode is not about the consequences of releasing all the prisoners. Before Andy and Barney can go, Ben Weaver (who I gather is a recurring chara

The Avengers: Take-Over (1969)

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That's the British Avengers - a pair of super-spies - not their American counterparts. These Avengers predate Lee and Kirby's team by a couple of years. I'm not 100% certain of this, but I think this is the first full episode of the classic series I've ever seen. It won't be the last - there's an actual Christmas episode from 1965 that's on our list. I have, however, seen the 90's movie, which I kind of love despite the fact it's an awful movie. Apparently, the one we just watched isn't the best to start with. Both tonally and structurally, it's a long way from the norm. The episode opens with Steed and Tara going separate ways. Tara, filling in for the more iconic Emma Peel, is barely present at all: other than this scene and a few at the end, this is a solo adventure for John Steed, who's going to visit some old friends to celebrate Christmas in February. Quick aside: I think we've already made it pretty clear that we're

The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood (1965)

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Wow! Late in the season, a tip came through about a crazy-looking little-known TV special, so we tracked it down. And it was unexpectedly delightful! This musical-comedy-fantasy is the type of thing that wasn't uncommon on television in the 60's, although it's all but unknown today. It stars Liza Minnelli and Cyril Ritchard. (If you don't know the latter, he won a Tony in 1955 for playing Captain Hook on Broadway. If you don't know the former, I don't know how to help you.) From the start this is a bit of a subversion: the wolf is the narrator of this piece, here to explain 'what really happened.' He's living in a cage in the zoo, but he's sick of being ostracized from society because of the Red Riding Hood story. Ritchard as the Wolf is exquisite. His dialogue is snappy, his mannerisms right on that line between charming and creepy. His costume includes big sleek sideburns, large pointed ears, and a furry suit jacket. He introduces the p

Green Acres: An Old-fashioned Christmas (1966)

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If I were more charitable, I'd say this aged poorly, but I don't think that's the case. Instead, I suspect this was always boring. The series is about a successful New York attorney who moves away from the city to try and live a simpler existence as a farmer. He drags his wife along with him - she's a wealthy Hungarian immigrant who wanted to stay in New York. The show mainly uses her as comic relief, portraying her as a dimwitted fool, but at least she had the common sense to want to stay put. I've lived in New York, and it's far better than the dump they ended up in. This episode is about the husband, Oliver, wanting an old-fashioned Christmas. That's the title, premise, theme, and most of the plot synopsis. It opens with the couple shopping for a Christmas tree in New York a few years earlier. This is done mainly to establish that Oliver wants an old-fashioned Christmas, complete with a real, old-fashioned Christmas tree, unlike the flocked and/or

The Apartment (1960)

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What an unexpectedly bizarre and brilliant movie. We found this on some list of holiday movies or another and added it to our Netflix queue. By the time it reached us, we couldn't remember whether we'd added it because it was supposed to be good or bad - just that it showed up and was 55 years old. It actually feels a little older thanks to a decision to shoot in black and white, something of an anachronism at the time. We popped it in the DVD player, having no idea what we were about to see. And, for more than half of the movie, we still didn't know. It was interesting from the start, though its tone was so unusual and its subject matter so precarious, we weren't sure whether to expect the best or the worst. Tonally, it walked a line between comedy and drama - I honestly wasn't sure whether it was heading towards a happy ending or a tragedy. The premise, put simply, is that C.C. Baxter, a single office worker, loans out his apartment to his married superior

101 Dalmatians (Animated - 1961; Live Action - 1996)

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When you think of classic Christmas movies, Disney's animated 101 Dalmatians doesn't jump to mind, which is actually a little odd. Setting aside the first couple of scenes, the entire movie takes place immediately before Christmas, the majority of the film is about the titular dogs wading through a blizzard, and the finale occurs on Christmas day. Oh, and it's about getting a family back together. It is, in fact, a Christmas movie through and through. It just doesn't act or feel like one. Most of that discrepancy can be tied to fact the movie isn't interested in Christmas. Until that last sequence, the holiday is only name-checked once, and then in an ambiguous manner. Likewise, we don't see any decorations during the dogs' quest. The 1996 live-action remake is a little more complicated. It's difficult to say for certain, but the timing of the movie seems to be slightly offset. The scene before the dogs are kidnapped has "The Christm