Showing posts with the label 60's

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the sixth James Bond movie, based on the tenth James Bond book. It’s a quieter movie than a lot of the others, it follows Bond’s relationship with one woman, Tracy, and an unaffiliated mission to track down Blofeld. This is the only movie starring George Lazenby as Bond, and there are a couple internal nods to the fact that this is the same character with a different actor.

The romance between Tracy and Bond is fairly poignant, if occasionally as over-the-top as the rest of the movie. The action plot revolves around Bond posing as a genealogist to infiltrate Blofeld’s stronghold in the Alps. Blofeld has a fairly silly plot to use a bunch of hypnotised young women to damage the world’s food supplies (this made slightly more sense in the book), but the important thing for our purposes is that it’s Christmas! So there is a ski chase which is sometimes very exciting and sometimes a little too obviously blue-screened, and a chase through a ice-skating Ch…

The Twilight Zone: Five Characters in Search of an Exit (1961)

We watched another Christmas-themed Twilight Zone episode last year, and thought it was pretty decent. This one was slightly less good, but still okay.

Actually, knowing that this is a Christmas episode has a decent shot at giving away the twist, but it’s not that awesome of a twist. The plot, such as it is, follows five amnesiac strangers who are trapped in a featureless room together. They know their occupations, they know a little about the world, but they don’t know who they are or how they got there. The Army Major is the most recent one to arrive, and he pushes the others to try various crazy escape plans. The rest of them seem rather content to just pass the time.

Some of the acting is pretty interesting, the clown and the dancer have some neat moments, but the major has too much over-the-top bluster. He’s a bit one-note, and he’s the main character. We did really enjoy the characters working through all the obvious and not-so-obvious theories about where they were.

It’s not a…

Twilight Zone: The Night of the Meek (1960)

One of the things I like most about The Twilight Zone is how earnestly everyone plays their lines. It can verge on melodrama, but in this context it just causes me to completely accept the reality of the characters' experience.

This is a particularly sweet and fuzzy episode for this series.

The episode follows Henry Corwin, a drunken Department Store Santa who wishes that he could see some actual kindness and giving for the season. He gets fired from his job, then finds a sack that seems to contain an unlimited supply of Christmas presents. He proceeds to grant wishes for the poor and downtrodden, and anyone else he meets. He runs briefly afoul of the law in a very funny scene, but there's not really much suspense to be had here.

I could have used a slightly less corny or more ambiguous ending, but this tale of a poor man getting his wish to make others happy activated my holiday warmth centers.

Go in aware that it's pretty straightforward - just a short exercise in the h…

The Little Drummer Boy (1968)

Ugh. I don't have a lot to say about this lame television special. It was boring, banal, and badly produced.

The animation is pretty sub-par, even by the Rankin-Bass standards. The voices are terribly chosen, just incredibly boring. Poorly written dialogue, weird lighting mistakes, completely forgettable musical numbers, and not much more to this.


Okay, I guess you can have a few more details. So, in this highly padded story, the Little Drummer Boy (Aaron) hates humans. We know this because the narration tells us approximately six hundred times, and Aaron says it a few more times for good measure.

Hates. Humans. All Humans. Hates them.

Why does he hate humans? Because his parents were killed, by HUMANS! Yeah, this kid's logic was a little shy of becoming Batman rather than a pint-size misanthrope. Pity - the special could have been a lot more interesting.

There are a lot of awkward phrases and lines in this thing. Like "Show Caravan". It's a traveling cir…

The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Alan Brady Show Presents (1963)

Watching this episode was an odd experience, to say the least. I had watched The Dick Van Dyke Show in re-runs as a child, and remember it fondly. Erin had never, to his knowledge, seen an episode.

And thus we discovered that if you aren't familiar with the show, this episode makes absolutely no sense.

The premise of The Dick Van Dyke Show is that it follows the lives of the writers of a television comedy skit show, primarily focusing on the relationship between the head writer and his wife. The loose plot of this Christmas episode is that the characters perform a series of skits on the show themselves, in the spirit of the holidays. It's not exactly a great example of the series, more of a weird one-off that they did for fun. Wikipedia tells me that it's one of the few episodes that wasn't filmed in front of a live audience. The characters sing and tell jokes, and I found it kind of cute, but not generally that interesting. The costumes and skits are fine, but nothin…

Bewitched Season 4: Humbug Not to be Spoken Here (1967)

I went in expecting the worst and was pleasantly surprised. Actually, this was kind of engrossing. I haven't seen a full episode of Bewitched since... well, since I was far too young to remember it.

Among other aspects, I was kind of surprised by the show's portrayal of Samantha's magic, which she secretly uses against her husband's wishes. For some reason, I'd assumed this would be portrayed as a negative (i.e.: the man knows best), but in reality, he was kind of a bumbling - though well intentioned - fool, while her powers were effective. Anyone know off hand whether her powers were intended as a metaphor for the squandered potential of women in the era? There was a genuinely touching interaction between her and her magical daughter at the end regarding their shared secret that hinted at some larger themes. Or maybe I'm reading too much into a light sitcom.

Regardless, the plot was sort of a Scrooge template, with Samantha standing in for any ghosts, and San…

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

This is the last of the "four pillars" of the classical animated Christmas specials.  No, wait.  It's the last of the four AMERICAN animated Christmas classics.

There is... another.  But we'll leave that ominous assertion for another day.

Rudolph is a tough nut to crack.  It's a decent special, but it certainly lacks the consistency or quality control of How the Grinch Stole Christmas or A Charlie Brown Christmas.  This is a flawed gem, that much is certain.  There are some slow spots, some weak writing, and some songs that are hard to sit through year after year.  Plus, all character growth takes place off screen: between scenes, Rudolph miraculously decides he can't run away from his problems, even as everyone at Santa's workshop realizes they were ripe bastards.

Despite all that, it's really intriguing.  It's just so damned imaginative, it's impossible not to like.  Between the elf wanting to be a dentist, Yukon's team of show dogs, a…

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is about as close to damn-near perfect as any Christmas special is going to get.  Which makes it all the more shame that I'm kind of getting jaded with the thing.

Oh, I still enjoyed watching this, and I can't help but smile at the animation.  My issue - if the word even applies - on this viewing was actually with the music.  Now - before you start yelling - let me explain.  I love the music in this special.

Actually, that's the problem.  I love the music so much, I've been listening to various interpretations of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" almost nonstop since I started this holiday experiment.  It's one of the few holiday songs I have that mitigates the relentless cheer of the countless carols and classical pieces I've been listening to.

But, as an unfortunate side effect, it seems to have watered down the effect the song has on me when I heard it in context.

Like I said, I still enjoyed every minute of the sp…

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

I don't think it's possible to deny this is one of the four pillars of animated Christmas Specials, along with the Grinch, Frosty, and Rudolph.

Of those, I think this and the Grinch stand a little above the other two.  I like both Rudolph and Frosty, but I think they have some serious flaws.  Personally, I'm of the opinion that A Charlie Brown Christmas is more or less perfect.

There are a few things that really impress me.  The first is that, by rights, I shouldn't be interested in this.  My love of Christmas is almost entirely founded in the fantasy aspects of the holiday: Santa Claus, magic, and all that.  The Christian elements have no inherent interest to me.  I'm not religious now, and I never have been.  In almost every case but this one, the "Christmas Story" bores the hell out of me.

But not here.  When Linus gets up on stage and the music goes silent, my eyes and ears are glued to the screen while he delivers his monologue.  The line, "Tha…

Babes in Toyland (1961) - A Second Opinion

This one hurt a bit.

I don't think I've ever actually seen this before, at least not in its entirety.  It's not exactly a bad movie, but it's got a lot of problems, starting with the pace.  This movie crept along at a painfully slow pace, and I was ready to slam my head into a brick wall before this was a third of the way through.

Unfortunately, that wasn't part of the deal.  I said I'd watch it, so watch it I did.  Through the slow-moving songs, the cheesy villains, and the entire swirling technicolor nightmare.

The sad thing is that I can actually respect this.  Sure, it's slow and tedious, but it's also quite beautiful.  The sets are incredibly inventive (even if they do look like a closed-down amusement park), and the ingenious use of animation to weave comic-book like sound effects into the imagery predates similar techniques in movies like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Speed Racer by half a century.  On some level, this represents a…

Babes in Toyland (1961)

Oh, I love old technicolor musicals. I love the silliness, the energy, the big dance numbers.  If you do not love old technicolor musicals, then by all means skip this one.

This is particularly surreal, even for a holiday musical.  The whole thing takes place in Mother Goose Land, or something, in which Mary (quite contrary) has a lot of foster kids and a big secret inheritance.  There is a sappy love story and a mustache twirling villain, but first there is a ridiculously long song and dance number.  Overall there are a few too many songs, and many of the dances go a little too long, even for me. Plus one really odd scene that is apparently about the tragedy of a single woman not confident in her math ability.  Very odd.

After about half the movie, the action moves to the Forest of No Return, the plot gets simpler, the music more fun, and the whole thing more enjoyable.  My favorite part might be the menacing singing trees.  The costumes and sets are a lot of fun throughout.

While t…

Gumby's Seasons Greetings (Various Dates)

I stumbled across a discounted series of Christmas specials at Best Buy going for $4.99, and decided to pick them up.  Along with Fat Albert's Christmas Special, some holiday themed George of the Jungle, and Casper's Haunted Christmas (along with some bonus episodes that had nothing to do with the holidays), there were a bunch of Gumby episodes, collected under the manufactured title, "Gumby's Season's Greetings."  Of these, only four actually seemed to be Christmas-related, so I put them on and skipped most of the rest*.

I should mention that I know nothing about Gumby.  I think I saw a few episodes when I was a kid, but I wouldn't swear to that.  As such, I know nothing about the characters, their world, or the show's premise I couldn't gloss from these.

Each "episode" was about seven minutes long.  None were particularly impressive, but a few were kind of fun.  Most of these were based on an interesting premise or joke, but, with the…

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

This was a very confused movie. I'm not saying that just because I got a little tipsy before watching it, but you may want to keep that fact in mind.

The first five minutes are insipid crap, and then the action moves to Mars and I started to... enjoy the movie! The premise is, the kids of Mars are addicted to Earth TV, and they are depressed and not eating. The leader of the Martians calls up his deputies and seeks the advice of the Ancient One. The Ancient One tells him the kids are sick because with the Martian advanced learning technology, the kids learn how to be adults too fast, and never learn to have fun. He recommends seeking the specialist in childhood joy: Santa Claus.  And so the Martians set off to capture Santa.

Now, for all the inherent silliness, most (not all) of the actors playing Martians are acting just as serious about their roles as most any cast member of Star Trek, Forbidden Planet, etc. There is a serious problem on their planet, this will fix it, so they&…

Rebuttal: Frosty The Snowman (1969)

I did not like this special.

I frankly don't find the over literal interpretation of the song charming, but rather, extremely grating. For example, the children say “We just know you came to life, we just know it...” and then the narrator sings: “He was made of snow but the children know how he came to life...”  It's almost too hokey for words. Wait, I have two. Bah, and Humbug, I say.

The sound is uneven, the foley choices terrible, the animation cheaper than dirt. I was almost more surprised when the mouths matched the voices than when they didn't. It didn't look like they were even trying.

I suppose it doesn't help that I'm only occasionally tolerant of a musical genre I call “crappy old novelty”.  Rudolph is okay, Frosty is on the margin. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus is stupid. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is a crime against music.

I say skip the damn thing.

If you must, Frosty is available all over the place, including on Amazon.

Frosty the Snowman (1969)

When you filter out the sequels, knock-offs, and derivative works, I count four quintessential animated holiday specials: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman.

That isn't to say that those are necessarily the best specials out there (though The Grinch and Charlie Brown are definitely in the running), but they're the most iconic, the most "classic."

And, for years, I've been of the opinion that three out of four of them deserved that honor.  The exception being Frosty, which I considered poorly animated, cheesy, and just not particularly interesting.

When we slid the DVD in, I was wringing my hands in anticipation of ripping it apart when I wrote this article.

Then a funny thing happened.  I liked it.

Maybe I just hadn't paid attention the last few times I watched.  The writing is actually quite clever, and the pace moves along at a fair clip.  The relationship between Karen and Frost…