Bret Wood's Efforts and Exploits

An updated guide to film and DVD work.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

And I do mean X-Mas

I recently read a lame article in Moviemaker Magazine of someone's "10 Best Anti-Christmas Movies," and was shocked at how shallow and lame they were.... Scrooged, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Come on, man, are you kidding? The earliest one was 1972, which is pretty typical of film scholarship in this day and age.

So I thought I'd wrap up the holiday season by posting some of my favorite grim cinematic takes on Christmas, and inviting you to respond with same.

The absolute best:

John Waters' Female Trouble. Watch what happens when Divine doesn't get the Cha Cha Heels she wanted.

Erich von Stroheim had a particular distaste for Christmas, as in Greed, when McTeague murders Trina in a kindergarten, surrounded by Christmas decorations (and the cops hang out across the street). Watch it here (unfortunately, the clip starts midway through the scene). EvS struck again in 1932, in one of my personal favorites, Walking Down Broadway (aka Hello Sister), in which a tragic scene is played out beneath Christmas decorations.

Tod Browning knew how to push the irony button. In his 1925 film The Unholy Three, a gang of dime museum criminals (the midget and the strong man) break into a house on Christmas Eve to rob the safe. A small child wakes up and comes downstairs. Seeing the strongman, then the midget, the child says, "Oh, Santa! You brought me a baby bruvver!" At which point the midget (Harry Earles as Tweedledee) strangles the child. When the child's father comes in to stop it, they kill him. Of course, the censors required that the scene be cut from the film, but pictures survive to show that it really happened.

In Browning's The Devil Doll, a criminal (Lionel Barrymore) shrinks people and uses telepathy to command them to carry out revenge on his enemies. One of the "dolls" is hung on a Christmas tree as an ornament and, in the middle of the night, climbs down off the tree to perform his duty as the clock strikes twelve. Unfortunately, the "doll" is discovered at the last second and gets stomped. The trailer is here, but it doesn't include that scene.

And who can forget William Powell taking pot shots at Christmas ornaments with a BB gun in The Thin Man?

Don't get me wrong, I like Christmas. But around this time of year, we need a dash of cold water in the face to wake us up and give us the energy to take down the decorations.

Just stop all this hooey about National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.


At 10:00 AM, Blogger John R said...

2046 is my personal favorite X-masas movie....


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