About Christmas TV History

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

RiffTrax Christmas Shorts program

I went to my local movie theater tonight to see the latest RiffTrax release--that's an older film given the Mystery Science Theater 3000-style audio-commentary. Tonight's program was Christmas-themed shorts so I was eager to see which classic shorts were to be riffed. There were several Christmas-themed Castle Film releases, a cartoon and two non-holiday themed shorts as well. It was fun. I was hoping they would give commentary for the several shorts that I mentioned in the book but they didn't. But they did a good job of mocking and spoofing the shorts they chose.

One of the shorts they riffed on is called "A Christmas Dream" and it contains scenes of a hand-sewn sock doll that comes to life while a little girl sleeps. Rightly the audio-commentary crew played up how creepy the doll looks and how weird for the little girl to be so amused by the creepy doll that is now ALIVE.

I was hoping that they would spoof on "A Christmas Fantasy" a short I discuss in the macabre/horror chapter in the book. It too is a public domain, black-and-white short that is easily available on cheap DVDs. The story is clearly intended to be an idyllic scene with two beautiful, innocent children that fall asleep in front of an elaborately decorated Christmas tree. The two tots dream of a Scandanavian (there's windmills?!) winter landscape with ice skating dolls and white snow. Santa's arm reaches into their dream to snatch the dolls and place them on the children's laps as they peacefully sleep. Then the camera cuts to Santa Claus--and suddenly this idyllic dream turns into a nightmare! The film production crew had obviously cut corners on the costume budget and his suit is lumpy and dirty-looking. Santa wears a full face-mask in addition to his beard. And this deranged Santa is hovering over these beautiful, sleeping children!! It's the most frightening Santa I've seen. It's hilarious.

I'd also loved to have seen Santa Claus' Story--also mentioned in my book. This one depicts two adorable children catching Santa Claus coming down their chimney on Christmas Eve. So Santa decides to stay awhile and tell a story to the youngsters. However, the story he tells is just weird footage of monkeys and chimps!? The monkey footage looks like it's newsreel footage of monkeys in a zoo fighting over food. The other sequences are chimpanzees with their handlers playing dress-up and doing ridiculous things for the camera. It's just stupid fun to watch and makes no sense whatsoever! Like Santa has nothing better to do on Christmas Eve....

But there's something even weirder about this short--something I never mentioned in the book. The next time you watch it, pay attention to the character named Virginia (there's a little boy, Jackie and a little girl, Virginia). She's played in one brief scene by an actress that is a little girl and in the other scenes, she's played by an adult little person in a wig!? I can't make this stuff up.

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