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Showing posts with the label Classic

Hell's Heroes (1929)

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As far as I can tell, this is the earliest feature-length Christmas talkie that still exists. There's a movie released earlier in 1929 called "Auld Lang Syne" which I'm assuming was holiday themed, but no copies are believed to have survived, and I can't find so much as a synopsis online. If anyone knows anything about that movie or any other Christmas movies from the 1920s with sound, please   reach out . But as far as extant Christmas movies featuring synchronized sound with talking, this appears to be the first. I know that sounds like a lot of qualifiers, but I think the addition of synchronized sound - particularly sound with dialogue - is functionally the boundary between an earlier art form and modern movies. I don't want to disparage silent pictures in any way: they are a fascinating medium in their own right, and I have every intention of tracking down more silent Christmas films. But watching them is a very different experience than watching a film w

A Christmas Carol (1971)

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This 1971 British TV special was subsequently given a brief theatrical showing, making it eligible for the Academy Award for an Animated Short, which it rightly won. It's easy to see why - with all due respect to Mickey's Christmas Carol, I've got a new favorite animated adaptation. It's directed by Richard Williams, the genius who handled the animation side of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and spent decades working on The Thief and the Cobbler, a legendary animated production that was never properly finished. Ken Harris and Chuck Jones worked on this as well, in case being directed by one of the greatest animators in history wasn't enough. Stylistically, this is based on illustrations accompanying classic versions of Dickens's book. To put it another way, you will recognize these characters. In a similar vein, they got Alistair Sim to reprise his role as Scrooge from the 1951 production. This is, without a doubt, the most impressive half-hour version of A Christmas C

Scrooge (1951) [Revisited]

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I reviewed this once before, way back in 2011 (a.k.a.: year two of the blog). I didn't have much to say then, mainly because I hadn't seen all that many adaptations of A Christmas Carol at the time (nor was I all that familiar with the era). This was still in the "we'll be wacky and watch a bunch of Christmas stuff for no reason" phase of the blog.  At the time, I basically summed it up as fine for what it was, but still kind of boring to sit through. After watching the 1935 version with Seymour Hicks , I wanted to give this another viewing to see what I'd missed. Turns out, there was quite a bit.  I've seen this version called the best adaptation out there, a claim that.... Look, I want to be fair here, and - to the extent possible - objective. As a straight adaptation, I think there's a case to be made. This version is faithful to the source material, deviating only to expand the story. I want to take a moment and focus on something that differs bet

A Christmas Carol (1938)

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This 1938 MGM version of A Christmas Carol is notable (among other reasons) for being the first Hollywood adaptation of Dickens' classic with sound, though a British version starring Seymour Hicks beats it by three years and is, in my opinion, a far better film. That's not to say this one is bad - parts are fantastic - but the 1935 is difficult to beat. Tonally, this is far more comedic than its predecessor or most subsequent theatrical adaptations. I'll cover the changes in depth in a moment, but as a rule of thumb most of the darkest bits are excised, and the additions favor light, family-friendly fare. When it's not going for laughs, it skews towards lessons. This version is somewhat more instructive than I'm used to, often outright lecturing on morality, rather than having the protagonist come to his own conclusions. This story deviates significantly from the source material, perhaps more so than any major live-action version prior to the 2019 miniseries . As I

Scrooge (1935)

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For those of you trying to keep track, this British production is the first feature-length adaptation of A Christmas Carol with sound. It stars Seymore Hicks as Scrooge, and despite leaving an imprint on subsequent versions, it seems to be widely dismissed as inferior to the 1951 movie of the same name . I don't at all agree with that - I prefer this one, and not just because it's shorter (though that doesn't hurt: I'm a believer most modern adaptations of A Christmas Carol are too long). I think Hicks is fantastic as Scrooge. He looks and acts very different than the version that's become the norm. Hicks is quite a bit stockier than most versions of Scrooge, and he's a little wilder in appearance and in his mannerisms. To me, this makes his eccentricities a little more believable. At the beginning, he feels like a curmudgeonly old man who's not quite right in the head. Frankly, he's an angry conservative, rather than a cliché villain. Then, after his tr

Scrooge (1901), A Christmas Carol (1910), Scrooge (1913), A Christmas Carol (1914), Scrooge (1922), and A Christmas Carol (1923)

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As you've probably guessed from the heading, this covers six separate silent adaptations of A Christmas Carol. As far as I can tell, this is the entirety of surviving footage from that era. To be clear, there are several other known versions that have been lost, including "The Right to be Happy," a 55-minute film from 1916. Not all of the films discussed here are available in complete forms, either. If you're curious about any, they're all readily available for free online - just go to YouTube and search by name and year. Before I get to my individual reviews (to the extent the term even applies here), I'll give a brief overview for those of you who'd rather not wade through four thousand words of text about a bunch of movies 100+ years old. That's all of you, right? I'm grouping these together as a single post, because I can't imagine anyone would be in the least bit interested in seeing these appear one a day for a week. In general, these mov

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 Shop Around the Corner (1940)

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The Shop Around the Corner is an extremely influential black and white romantic comedy. It's based on the same source material that was updated and adapted into "You've Got Mail," which I should probably watch one of these days. Like most movies of its era (or at least the ones that have endured), The Shop Around the Corner is a bit complicated. It's well regarded - Rotten Tomatoes has it at 100% - but it's also dated. Do I even need to say that the gender politics in a movie made in 1940 are less than ideal? I suppose they could be a lot worse. The male lead manipulates and lies to the woman for half the movie, and in the end, she's just glad to end up with him. But aside from that, she's generally portrayed as intelligent and capable. The premise requires that the two fall in love with each other's minds, rather than their bodies, though there are definitely some awkward jokes around their concerns as to what their mysterious love interests l

Mon oncle Antoine (1971)

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Apparently, Mon oncle Antoine is considered one of the best Canadian films ever produced. Honestly, I lack anywhere near enough cultural background to offer an informed opinion on that claim. For what it's worth, I found the movie interesting enough, despite an intentionally slow pace and meandering point-of-view. For all intents and purposes, the plot doesn't even kick in until about halfway through. Prior to that, it feels like you're watching a series of vignettes about a few different groups of people living in rural Quebec in the 1940's. An asbestos mining operation serves as the backdrop and is pretty clearly significant to the movie's point, but you really need some knowledge of Canadian history to understand the connection. I skimmed a few Wikipedia articles after watching the movie, but I suspect the film would have had more impact if I had a more personal connection. The short explanation is that there was a major asbestos strike in 1949 that effecti

Meet John Doe (1941)

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Even going by our standards, Meet John Doe qualifies as a Christmas movie on something of a technicality. Only the last few minutes actually occur around the holidays, and even then they're almost incidental. However, the movie goes out of its way to tie the season into its premise in order to build something of a heavy-handed metaphor. I'll cut to the chase: Meet John Doe is a Christmas movie because "John Doe" is Jesus. Well, sort of. It's slightly more complicated than that, but not as much as I'd have liked. The movie has a relatively strong opening, centering on Barbara Stanwyck's character, Ann. She plays a newspaper columnist who's just been laid off. As her final act, she writes a fake editorial letter written by an average Joe, who's fed up with the way "the little guy" is treated in society. The letter concludes with "Joe" vowing to jump off of City Hall on Christmas Eve. The letter gets a huge amount of public

Christmas in July (1940)

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Christmas in July is an extremely odd black & white comedy written and directed by Preston Sturges, who adapted it from a play he wrote in the 1930's, which wouldn't actually be produced on stage until 1988. Astonishingly, all of that is less convoluted than the movie's plot. That isn't a criticism (though I will have a few later on) - the movie's refusal to follow convention makes it more interesting than most comedies I've seen from the period. Apparently, Sturges is remembered as something of experimental filmmaker, testing his boundaries and playing with structure in his comedies, at least if I'm understanding the Wikipedia article I just skimmed. That certainly seems fair: Christmas in July definitely played with expectation, tone, and theme. The story centers on Jimmy, a young man interested in advertising who has entered a contest to create a slogan for a coffee company. The contest carries a twenty-five thousand dollar prize, but the movie