Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Twas The Night Before Christmas (1974)

Twas The Night Before Christmas (1974)
Reviewed By: The DarkSider 7/1/09
As part of Christmas In July 2009

THE PLOT: Back in the 80s when I was a little DarkSider, there were many forms of holiday entertainment that made the lead up to Christmas well worth the wait. The first being the ton of holiday specials that came on for that specific time of the year. You see kids, in a time before video web sites and family channels on cable, we didn’t have the opportunity to watch Christmas specials repeatedly. You were either there when Rudolph came on, had the VCR set to tape or you were simply a big pile of reindeer sh*t out of luck.

Speaking of Rudolph, many of the great specials were brought to us in some form by the team of Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. Its because of these guys I can watch The Year Without A Santa Claus any time of the year with a goofy smile on my face.

Secondly making the season bright, I always loved hearing Clement Moore’s classic piece Twas The Night Before Christmas. There is something about Moore’s writing that is magical to me until this day. The poem’s wording, although simple, inspire awe about a man’s simple encounter with Santa Claus. So in 1974 Bass and Rankin brought us a TV special I’m about to take on which features two of my favorite holiday elements.

I know this film has a following but I’m not going to sugar coat it. I disliked this one as a kid and quite frankly dislike it more as an adult. If you’re a fan of it, best stop reading now. First off, I’m not a fan when a short story or poem is used as a backdrop for a feature presentation. I mean really, that’s like building a skyscraper with popsicle sticks. Come to think of it, this is why so many video game movies have failed. But I digress, on with the review.

We begin with a shot outside of a clock shop. Someone starts to read the lines of Moore’s famous work and we get a vision of the children in bed. I have to stop right here to talk about the film’s animation. For some reason the people, more or less the children, creep me the hell out in this show. They have buck teeth, chins that could cut glass and ears that stick out like Alfred E. Neuman’s. Where some people could argue the “cute” factor, I argue the “terrifying” side.
The guy in the voice over is shop owner Joshua Trundle who happens to be reading from…Twas The Night Before Christmas. For me this would be the equivalent to an actor reading a script to the movie they are currently in. Anyhow, Trundle is freaking out about something and we find deep within his walls, a mouse is freaking (I’d say stirring but the show stole that lame joke opportunity from me) out too in his little house. The mouse, who’s never officially given a name other than Father Mouse, tell us that he and the boss have big issues before midnight. Yes, he called Trundle “boss” because Trundle apparently has him on the payroll. You see, in this town mice socialize with humans. Either that or Trundle is like Willard. Anyhow, Trundle and Father Mouse don’t know for sure if Santa is coming to town.

Flashback a little bit where we find out letters, mouse and human alike, to Santa are being returned. Gasp…this causes people to march on City Hall because…well…I don’t know. Meanwhile, Father Mouse rings the North Pole and demands an explanation. The mouse operator on the other side talks of an unflattering letter published in the town’s paper. Back to City Hall where Trundle unveils his plan to gain Santa’s favor again to the idiotic powers that be. No, not a couple of hot blondes and a case of beer. A plan for a clock that sings a shrilly kid’s song at the stroke of midnight.

"Dude...don't bogart the LSD..."

Back to the Mouse family who are reading the letter in the paper. Basically the letter says that the townsfolk don’t believe in Santa and to stick his reindeer where they don’t shine…or something. The letter is signed “all of us” which makes me think the editor of the paper should have had his resume checked more thoroughly when he applied for the job. The Mouse family find out their little brainy son Albert wrote the letter.

Albert gives some wise ass responses to Father Mouse’s questions which prompts a song about how Albert should open that big brain of his more to fantasy. It’s the only song I’ve ever heard “stupid” and “cupid” rhymed. After the song and dance bit, Father Mouse takes Albert around to see how he f’d up everyone’s Christmas. After witnessing several sad children, Father Mouse tells Albert about Trundle’s clock plan which intrigues Albert.

A few days later, Trundle’s clock proves to be a malfunctioning disaster at the ribbon cutting ceremony. This causes a severe backlash against Trundle’s business which sends his family into near poverty. I have to admit this village is loaded with a-holes. While everyone was b*tching about what to do about Santa, at least Trundle tried. What the hell is everyone’s problem? Trundle, who is much nicer than me apparently, sings to his starving children about a miracle will happen but sometimes it needs a hand. Um…I thought miracle happens out of the blue for mostly no reason.

Meanwhile, Albert overhears the song inside Father Mouse’s mouse hole. A tearful Albert tells his father that he screwed up the clock due to his curiosity. Father Mouse then whips the hyde off his little mouse tail and sends him to bed without supper. Ok…so it didn’t happen that way but he does explain that Albert should try to fix the situation. Albert does just that a few seconds after midnight thus making the clock go off in time for Santa’s arrival. Side note, if I was woken up on Christmas Eve by a singing clock I’d be rather PO’d.

Santa arrives on time looking rather…um…scary. I’d have to say with the exception of the Santa in Gumby’s Christmas special, this has to be one of the most frightening Santa’s ever drawn. This gives way to the much needed link to Moore’s poem. Trundle recites it in his head (or something) while Santa acts it out. The show ends much like the poem with Santa whishing everyone a happy Christmas.

Although many may love this one, it kind of falls by the curb for me. Most Christmas specials from back in the day gave us great songs to sing along with along with tons of quotable dialog. This one does neither for me quite frankly. Where Frosty and Rudolph has stood the test of time, this one simply looks dated on all levels. Matter of fact I tried showing this to my three year old and he kind of walked away.

Where the show excelled for me is in the voice department. It actually features Academy Award winner Joel Grey as the voice of Trundle. George Gobel plays is great as father mouse as well..

Oh well…lets wrap things up with Santa’s opinion on the film…

"Yeah I used to look like that. What...did
you think plastic surgery was exclusive to
the likes of Joan Rivers?"

(the A-Holes of the film get their moment)


Albert is like one of those nerdy kids you went to school with who you would have love to beat up. However, he’d be the kind of kid who had all the teachers wrapped around their finger because he fixed their computers for them. In other words, you didn’t bother beating him because you would have been expelled.


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