Film Review: The Sender (1982)

Release Date: October 22nd, 1982
Directed by: Roger Christian
Written by: Thomas Baum
Music by: Trevor Jones
Cast: Kathryn Harrold, Željko Ivanek, Shirley Knight, Paul Freeman

Kingsmere Productions Ltd., Paramount Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

Every now and again, I find an ’80s horror movie that somehow slipped through the cracks, even though I used to spend countless hours perusing the aisles of mom and pop video stores in the ’80s. Maybe I saw this at some point and the VHS box art just didn’t grab me. Whatever the reason, it was awesome to discover this now because The Sender is an exceptionally good sci-fi/horror flick that is grossly underappreciated and I guess, kind of lost to time.

The film stars Kathryn Harrold, who is really damn good and probably should’ve been in more than just a handful of movies I’ve seen in much smaller roles. Also, she has a kind of classic old Hollywood beauty to her.

This also stars a pretty young Željko Ivanek, whose work I’m familiar with is all much more recent. Fans of True Blood may recognize him as The Magistrate. He was also more recently in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. It was really cool seeing him in this, so young, as he’s a character actor I’ve grown to enjoy over the last decade or so.

Rounding out the cast is Paul Freeman, most recognized for his role as René Belloq, the primary villain in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Frankly, I love Freeman in everything and he doesn’t disappoint here. And just when you think he’s playing an annoying character trope, he surprises you in this.

The story is about a young man who is institutionalized after trying to drown himself in front of dozens of people at a lake. As the story rolls on, we discover that this young man has exceptional psychic power that he can’t control. He effects everyone around him but the good therapist at the hospital tries her damnedest to save him. As the film progresses things get more and more crazy and the movie really gives us some cool shit.

In fact, the film is damn impressive considering the things they achieved with the special effects. This came out in the heyday of practical effects in horror movies and this really just stands well above what was the standard quality of the time.

Additionally, this is surprisingly really well acted. At least, more so than you’d expect from a forgotten horror flick from 1982.

I don’t want to spoil too much because I’d rather people check this out. It deserves a hell of a lot more love and recognition than it’s gotten over the years.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The Hidden, Carrie, The Fury and Scanners.

Film Review: Super Mario Bros. (1993)

Also known as: Super Mario Brothers: The Movie (original script title)
Release Date: May 28th, 1993
Directed by: Rocky Morton, Annabel Jankel
Written by: Parker Bennett, Terry Runte, Ed Solomon
Based on: Mario by Nintendo
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Samantha Mathis, Fisher Stevens, Fiona Shaw, Richard Edson, Mojo Nixon, Dana Kaminski, Lance Henriksen, Frank Welker (voice), Dan Castellaneta (narrator)

Allied Filmmakers, Cinergi Pictures Entertainment, Hollywood Pictures, 104 Minutes, 90 Minutes (Japan), 87 Minutes (TV cut)

Review:

“[bathing in mud] Do you know what I love about mud? It’s clean and it’s dirty at the same time.” – King Koopa

Super Mario Bros. was one film in a string of a few that helped to build the reputation that video game movies suck. Looking at the picture in comparison to the video game series it’s based on, I get it. And frankly, it irked the shit out of me when I saw it in 1993. 

However, seeing it with pretty fresh eyes nearly three decades later, I have a very different view of the film now. Especially, when I just look at it as its own weird body of work apart from the video game franchise.

Removing the source material from the equation, I can still see why this would be viewed as a bad film by most but for me, a lover of really weird shit, everyone in this cast and late ’80s/early ’90s cyberpunk shit, this is kind of a feast of awesomeness!

Additionally, the Alan Silvestri score is great, lively, playful and boisterous. It reminds me of his score to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, which was, honestly, what really set the magnificent tone for that movie. Here, Silvestri’s work is just as effective and man, I miss scores like this.

This movie also feels like a time capsule into the heart of the ’90s. It embraces the wonky tropes of the decade and it completely misses the mark it should’ve been aiming for. Although, in retrospect, I really like that this just did whatever the hell it wanted to and provided the world with something so damn bizarre and zany.

I really liked the bond between Mario and Luigi, even if trying believe that Hoskins and Leguizamo are supposed to be real brothers is maybe the most unbelievable thing in the film. That kind of doesn’t matter, though, as nothing in this needs to make any sort of logical sense. It’s actually cooler that it doesn’t. Now that’s something I’d typically be highly critical of but this movie with its flaws is still so much fun and overly ridiculous that it adds to its charm.

I guess Dennis Hopper was miserable working on this due to behind the scenes clusterfucks and severe delays but honestly, it probably worked to the movie’s benefit, as he truly comes off as an insufferable prick and it just makes his character that much more sinister and entertaining to watch.

Additionally, I really liked Samantha Mathis in this, as she played Princess Daisy, the apple of Luigi’s eye. Her and Leguizamo had nice, believable chemistry and she really was a highpoint of the picture. In fact, her final scene where she returns as a gun toting badass really made me wish a sequel had been made.

That being said, I actually wouldn’t be opposed to having more things made from this version of the Super Mario IP. I get it, it was a bomb and most people hated it but it’s also unique and kind of special in its own odd way. Plus, it’s developed a good cult following over the years and I think many people are like me, where seeing this decades later really allows you to separate from what it should of been and wasn’t to seeing it as its own cool thing.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the other few ’90s movies based on video games, as well as other early ’90s cyberpunk films.

Film Review: I, Monster (1971)

Release Date: November 1st, 1971 (Sweden)
Directed by: Stephen Weeks
Written by: Milton Subotsky
Based on: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Music by: Carl Davis
Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Mike Raven, Richard Hurndall, George Merritt, Kenneth J. Warren, Susan Jameson

Amicus Productions, British Lion Film Corporation, 75 Minutes, 81 Minutes (extended cut)

Review:

“The face of evil is ugly to look upon. And as the pleasures increase, the face becomes uglier.” – Dr. Charles Marlowe

Being that I like Jekyll & Hyde stories, Amicus Productions, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, I definitely thought I’d love the hell out of this film. Sadly, it was a bit underwhelming and kind of slow for only being a seventy-five minute movie.

Still, I do like the performances of horror icons Lee and Cushing and they really committed to the roles, as they always do.

Something about this production just seemed off and like it was all sloppily slapped together with the studio and director assuming it’d all just work because it had two great stars and utilized beloved source material.

This isn’t terrible but it’s a heck of a lost worse than it should have been.

I guess, on paper, I can see why they seemed to just dial it in from a production standpoint but the great Hammer films with Lee and Cushing still had to be solid from top-to-bottom at every level of the production.

Sure, these movies tend to look and feel cheap but even then, you still get so wrapped up in the magic that you don’t care and you believe what you see on the screen. This picture just lacked that magic.

I’m not sure why but it’s devoid of energy outside of a few good moments where Lee is experimenting on himself or raging as the movie’s monster.

I wouldn’t call this a waste of time, though. It’s still got moments to enjoy if you’re a fan of the two leads but they’ve been a part of much better productions and there are certainly better Jekyll & Hyde adaptations out there.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde film adaptations, as well as other movies starring both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

Film Review: Barry Lyndon (1975)

Release Date: December 11th, 1975 (London premiere)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick
Based on: The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray
Music by: Leonard Rosenman, Ralph Ferraro (uncredited)
Cast: Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger, Diana Koerner, Gay Hamilton, Steven Berkoff, Andre Morell, Anthony Sharp, Philip Stone, Pat Roach

Peregrine, Hawk Films, Warner Bros., 185 Minutes

Review:

“Well then, look you now… from this moment, I will submit to no further chastisement from you. I will kill you, if you lay hands on me ever again! Is that entirely clear to you, sir?” – Lord Bullingdon

This is the only Stanley Kubrick film I had never seen, apart from his early documentary work. I always wanted to see this but I was intimidated by its length and usually, once I start thinking about Kubrick, I tend to go back to watching one of my three favorite films by him: 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange or The Shining. I often times mix in Dr. Strangelove and Eyes Wide Shut, as well.

I thought that I needed to see this, greatly, and that not having seen it already was a bit of a crime against myself, as I consider Kubrick to be one of the three men in my personal Holy Trinity of Directors. I do think I need to expand that to a Mount Rushmore of Directors, though, as there are really four at the highest level of craftsmanship that I always go back to, again and again. However, this isn’t about that.

This is a long, epic film but man, it’s pretty exceptional.

While I found it slow in parts and there were chapters in the story that weren’t as interesting as the best bits, I really enjoyed this and thought that if it were ever remade, it should definitely be expanded into a limited television series, as there’s just so much story. I have never read the book, though, so I’m not sure how much of it this film actually covered.

Still, this shows the entirety of a man’s adult life where he initially starts out as pretty likable but then slowly dissolves into a real piece of shit. The picture does a great job of showing you all the major events and turning points in his life, however, and it builds towards something quite incredible.

As should be expected, the cinematography is magnificent, as is the acting and the use of music.

In regards to the film’s score, Kubrick went a similar route to what he did with A Clockwork Orange in that he uses many classical masterpieces but often times uses distorted versions of them, which give off their own unique feel that does more for the tone of specific scenes than the visuals and the acting. If you’ve never seen this but are familiar with A Clockwork Orange, you probably know what I’m talking about. However, his use of altered classical works is more limited here and less noticeable, initially.

There is one character in this that you do grow to care about, as Barry Lyndon devolves into a pure prick, and that’s his stepson. Their hatred for each other climaxes in an old fashioned duel. It’s a fucking tragic scene where you can’t guess what’s going to happen and every single frame of film adds to the building tension in a way that I haven’t felt in a film in a really long time. It’s actually a breathtaking sequence that’s impossible to look away from.

They really don’t make movies like this anymore and honestly, it truly makes me appreciate this near masterpiece that much more.

Barry Lyndon is as great as I had always hoped it would be.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: other Stanley Kubrick films, as well as other epic, fictional biographical movies.

Film Review: Soldier (1998)

Release Date: October 23rd, 1998
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: David Webb Peoples
Music by: Joel McNeely
Cast: Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee, Sean Pertwee, Connie Nielsen, Michael Chiklis, Gary Busey, Jason Issacs, Paul Dillon, Wyatt Russell 

Jerry Weintraub Productions, Morgan Creek Entertainment, Warner Bros., 99 Minutes, 91 Minutes (edited)

Review:

“Brave. It means that even when you’re scared you control your emotions. You make the fear be really small and tiny.” – Sandra

I have to thank this film’s existence and Kurt Russell’s part in it for giving us Event Horizon, a far superior film and one of the greatest sci-fi/horror movies ever made. The reason being, this was supposed to be made earlier but Russell requested and extra year to get super diesel. To kill that time, Paul W.S. Anderson went off and directed the best film he’s ever made.

Plus, we still got this, which I also like quite a bit and it shares a couple of actors with 1997’s Event Horizon, the always awesome and underappreciated Sean Pertwee and Jason Issacs, who has a hell of a presence in every film he finds himself in.

In this, we also get Gary f’n Busey and Jason Scott Lee, who is the other super soldier that Kurt Russell ultimately has to face off with. Lee was also jacked as fuck in this and their big battle at the film’s climax is like swimming in Niagara Falls if the water was liquid testosterone.

Strangely, and something I didn’t know until reading up on this film before revisiting it, Soldier is an unofficial, spiritual sequel to Blade Runner. In fact, there are some Easter eggs sprinkled throughout that I didn’t catch the first time I saw this in the theater back in ’98.

The reason for this is that this film’s writer, David Webb Peoples, was one of the writers on Blade Runner, so he sprinkled some things in to tie it back to that legendary movie (and the original Philip K. Dick story). I guess I’ll always think of it as Blade Runner 1.5 from now on.

Anyway, the story sees an old super soldier get dumped like trash on a trash planet. He soon discovers a discarded civilization there and has to fight to protect them, as the government that threw him away brings war to their doorstep. With that, they bring their updated, newer super soldier model, which Kurt Russell has to face, testing his mettle and proving that sometimes newer isn’t better.

While this film has some apparent budgetary limitations, everything still looks pretty damn good for the time. I also really like the story and think it’s something that’s relatable to most people. Especially those of us that have lived a little while and may feel like changing times and younger blood may try and push us out of our spots, specifically in a professional setting.

Soldier is just a good, balls to the wall, popcorn movie. It’s the type of great manly man film that we’re not allowed to have anymore. Sure, it’s far from perfect and there are many movies that hit similar notes and do it better but this is still an awesome way to spend ninety-nine minutes.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other sci-fi action films of the ’80s and ’90s like Enemy Mine, Stargate, Escape From L.A., Event Horizon, etc.

Film Review: Paranoiac (1963)

Release Date: May 1st, 1963 (Italy)
Directed by: Freddie Francis
Written by: Josephine Tey, Jimmy Sangster
Music by: Elisabeth Lutyens
Cast: Janette Scott, Oliver Reed, Sheila Burrell, Alexander Davion, Maurice Denham

Hammer Films, 80 Minutes

Review:

“Now I need to drink some more.” – Simon Ashby

Last week, I watched Nightmare, another rare black and white movie from Hammer and also directed by Freddie Francis and written by Jimmy Sangster. While I enjoyed it and felt like it slightly missed the mark, I feel like this picture, which came out a year earlier, is a better film.

Granted, a lot of that credit could go to Oliver Reed, as his performance here is intense and enchanting. And honestly, this is one of many movies I can now point too and say, “That guy is an underappreciated and underutilized actor and here’s why!”

Something else that helps this movie is that it is horror but it also has a film-noir type plot about family inheritance, a once dead sibling returning, a psychotic narcissist trying to turn his sister insane, an incestuous subplot and more twists and turns than that silly road in San Francisco.

Even though this doesn’t feel like a typical Hammer Films movie, it’s kind of cool and does a lot with very little.

The end sequence is really well executed and in both noir and horror fashion, the asshole gets some good comeuppance.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this, as it’s one of the few Hammer films I haven’t seen but I was pleasantly surprised. Especially, when I just thought it’d be a lot like Nightmare. It definitely exceeded that decent movie and also provided a memorable performance by Reed.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer horror films of the ’60s.

Film Review: Nightmare (1964)

Also known as: Here’s the Knife, Dear: Now Use It (alternative title), Satan with Long Lashes (Germany)
Release Date: February 28th, 1964 (Germany)
Directed by: Freddie Francis
Written by: Jimmy Sangster
Music by: Don Banks
Cast: David Knight, Moira Redmond, Brenda Bruce, Jennie Linden

Hammer Films, 83 Minutes

Review:

“You found me out there, didn’t you? That part of it wasn’t a dream! Where does the dream finish and reality begin?” – Janet

This movie is a bit of departure in style from what one would expect from Hammer Films in the mid-’60s.

To start, it’s in black and white. Secondly, it doesn’t really star anyone of note or any of the regular faces that you’d see in a Hammer production during their peak.

However, this is written by Jimmy Sangster, who penned a lot of Hammer’s best scripts. It’s also directed by Hammer regular Freddie Francis. So there was at least a solid crew behind the camera.

Still, this isn’t quite what one would expect from a Hammer picture and that probably has a lot to do with why I hadn’t watched it until now. It’s not a bad film, by any means, but it’s unique and strange.

I found it mostly enjoyable, even if it wasn’t as fantastical and visually alluring as the studio’s typical output. This felt much more like a low budget indie horror movie of the ’60s and tonally, reminded me a lot of the black and white Roger Corman productions of the time, as well as Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13.

The story is about a young boarding school student that has nightmares of her institutionalized mother haunting her. Because of her horrible dreams, the girl is expelled from school and sent back home. Once there, things get even worse.

While it’s an interesting enough setup, the story does feel a bit paint-by-numbers. It kind of goes in the direction you’d expect.

I did like the over-the-top acting in some scenes and actually thought that it was really effective, as the main character slipped further and further into madness.

Still, this is far from Hammer’s best and while it’s a neat experiment and departure from their style, it also shows that the studio was at its best when it was sticking to the great style it had already perfected.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer horror films of the ’60s.

Film Review: The Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

Also known as: Kiss of Evil (US TV title)
Release Date: September 11th, 1963
Directed by: Don Sharp
Written by: John Elder
Music by: James Bernard
Cast: Clifford Evans, Edward de Souza, Jennifer Daniel, Noel Willman, Barry Warren, Brian Oulton, Noel Howlett

Hammer Films, 88 Minutes, 93 Minutes (TV cut)

Review:

“When the devil attacks a man or woman with this foul disease of the vampire the unfortunate human being can do one of two things. Either he can seek God through the church and pray for absolution or he can persuade himself that his filthy perversion is some kind of new and wonderful experience to be shared by the favoured few. Then he tries to persuade others to join his new cult.” – Professor Zimmer

Man, this was a really solid Hammer vampire flick and even though I saw it years ago, I didn’t remember it being this good.

The story follows two newlyweds traveling for their honeymoon. They end up in a small Bavarian village in 1910. While there, they come to discover that the people are a bit off. As the story rolls on, we come to learn that the small community is being controlled by a vampire cult that lives in a nearby castle. The cult tricks the newlyweds at a party and abducts the wife, trying to make the husband believe that he arrived there alone. The husband then teams up with a Professor, who lost his daughter to the cult. The two men then seek vengeance against the vampires in an effort to save the young man’s wife.

For a Hammer film that doesn’t feature any of Hammer’s go-to big name actors, this is still on the level of those other movies. Clifford Evans and Edward de Souza had worked for Hammer before and they did hold their own without the help of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Oliver Reed or Andre Morell.

This was directed by Don Sharp, though, and even if he wasn’t one of the top two Hammer directors, he did a good amount of films for the studio over his career and always hit the right mark, tonally and narratively.

This picture looks great but then again, all Hammer films of the 1960s did. It recycles some furniture and other set pieces but that kind of just adds to the overall appeal of the Hammer aesthetic.

Additionally, the climax to this film is superb and I dug the hell out of it. For the time, the special effects worked well and it was cool seeing these vampires meet a sort of ironic demise.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer vampire movies.

Film Review: Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Also known as: Wonder Woman 2 (informal title), WW84 (promotional title)
Release Date: December 16th, 2020 (several international markets)
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Written by: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, David Callaham
Based on: Wonder Woman by William Moulton Marston
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lynda Carter (cameo)

Atlas Entertainment, DC Entertainment, DC Comics, Warner Bros., 151 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t wanna be like anyone. I want to be an apex predator. You’ve always had everything while people like me have had nothing. Well now it’s my turn. Get used to it.” – Barbara Minerva

I really liked the first Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman movie. However, I always felt like my initial reaction was a bit overblown, as it had the same sort of long-term effect that the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies tend to give me. You see, I leave the theater really satisfied but then, as time passes, I don’t have much urge to ever rewatch them again.

I let my high rating for 2017’s Wonder Woman stand because it was my initial reaction to seeing the film for the first time. And I also thought that I’d give the sequels their fair shot at doing the same. I thought about revisiting the first movie before seeing its long-awaited and long-delayed follow-up . However, I just couldn’t muster up the interest.

Having now seen Wonder Woman 1984, I feel a bit harsher towards the first movie, as it kind of exposes some of the flaws it had a bit more. The reason being, this film shares those flaws but also shows that Jenkins couldn’t correct them and in fact, doubled down on them because she either didn’t know they were there or because she doesn’t listen to actual criticism.

The biggest of those flaws is the action. In the first film, it was wonky and not very great except for a few dynamic shots. In this movie, you open with some Amazonian Olympic games, followed by a quick action montage to reintroduce us to the film’s hero. Then you have to wait an hour and twenty minutes before you get to the first legit action sequence, which is terrible, ignores all the laws of physics and has certain things happen just for plot convenience. You then get another sequence in the White House and then one more big final fight. That’s it for a two and a half hour movie about a comic book superhero.

I actually have to say that the opening sequence of the child Diana competing against adult Amazons in their version of American Ninja Warrior was, believe it or not, my favorite thing in the film. This takes up the first ten-to-fifteen minutes of the movie and then it’s all downhill from there.

This is followed up by reintroducing us to Gal Gadot, as the adult Diana a.k.a. Wonder Woman. This is a cheesy, slapstick-y introduction that wedges in so much blatant ’80s iconography it looks like Stranger Things buttfucking The Goldbergs while sucking on Ready Player One‘s tits and reaching around to fingerbang Hot Tub Time Machine. The whole sequence is awful, lowest common denominator, try hard bullshit where the director doesn’t know what she’s doing but she’s trying to cover that up by throwing Trapper Keepers in your face.

Over an hour later we get the next action scene. This is actually the first straight up, real action scene. However, it is quick, dumb and ended with Diana lassoing a goddamned missile, riding it down the street to scoop up two kids and then crashing and rolling on the street in a way that would have killed them. But whatever.

The White House fight was actually fairly decent and the only action sequence that was. But for a high point in regards to the action, it was dull and just a paint-by-numbers affair.

The final fight sees Diana then fight Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah, who at this point has turned into an actual humanoid cheetah. The character’s CGI is deplorable. I mean, it’s really damn bad. It was hard to watch this scene, as it played like late ’90s Sci-Fi Channel cringe.

At the same time, I did feel the emotion of the conflict, as Diana cared about the woman Cheetah used to be but even then, the visuals were so shit that it ruined the connection that this confrontation needed to have with the audience. The baffling bad CGI was just distracting and pulled you right out of the film.

After that, we have to see Wonder Woman finally confront Maxwell Lord, who has essentially turned himself into a genie that is trying to grant the wishes of everyone on the planet. This whole storyline was dumb as hell, made little-to-no sense and I never really understood the villain’s true motivation other than he was a loser that craved power. It was said that this character was supposed to represent Donald Trump and be a critique of his presidency and personality. Frankly, after seeing this movie, that doesn’t make a lick of fucking sense. Also, in the end, he reverses everything and reunites with his son. Was he off the hook? Did he serve jail time? I guess none of that is important because this movie is stupid.

So between the action scenes, we have long drawn out dramatic stuff. Most of it is boring but we see Diana and Steve, her love from the first film, reunite. However, Steve came back from a wish Diana made early in the story. So, the writing was on the wall from the get go that Steve was going to have to die to beat the villain.

Moving on, the cinematography was bland and basic. It felt tonally at odds with the first picture and didn’t really feel like it had any ties to any of the other Justice League or DCEU movies. Maybe Jenkins is trying to ignore all that and just do her own thing. I don’t blame her for that, actually.

Before wrapping this up, I should also mention that there’s a pointless cameo by Lynda Carter but I do like seeing her. I just wish she would have had something more to do than catch a pole from falling on a baby.

So that’s it. This wasn’t worth the wait and really, I don’t care about a third film or anything coming out of the DCEU, anyway.

It’s Christmas, back to drinking whiskey and smoking meat.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as Aquaman and other DCEU films.

Film Review: Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

Release Date: November 27th, 1985
Directed by: Jeannot Szwarc
Written by: David Newman, Leslie Newman
Music by: Henry Mancini, Leslie Bricusse
Cast: Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, David Huddleston, Judy Cornwell, Burgess Meredith, Carrie Kei Heim, Christian Fitzpatrick, Jeffrey Kramer, Christopher Ryan

Calash Corporation, GGG, Major Studio Partners, TriStar Pictures, 107 Minutes

Review:

“Now, all those within the sound of my voice, and all those on this Earth everywhere know that henceforth you will be called Santa Claus.” – Ancient Elf

I actually wrote about this movie in an old article titled How Dudley Moore Ruined My Childhood – A Christmas Story. In that article I outlined the plot of this movie from memory but I was kind of off, as I hadn’t seen the film since 1985.

Anyway, seeing this now, it’s a much better movie than I remembered and I kind of enjoyed it in spite of my complaints in the previous article and how it destroyed Santa Claus for my seven year-old brain.

This is a movie with really odd pacing and plot structure where the first act seems like it takes up the first full hour of this 107 minute movie. But I do really like the first act, which shows the fantastical origin of Santa Claus. It’s so well shot and orchestrated that the picture feels otherworldly but incredibly magical and soothing.

David Huddleston was perfectly cast as Santa and his wife and the elves were also great, especially Dudley Moore and Burgess Meredith. We also get to see Christopher Ryan in a small role as an elf, which I thought was really cool. He’s best known, at least to me, as Mike from The Young Ones and as different Sontaran commanders from Doctor Who.

After the first hour or so, we are introduced to the film’s villain B.Z., played by the great John Lithgow. As a kid, I always loved this character and sort of saw him as the Lex Luthor of Christmas. I guess I remembered his role and his presence in the film being bigger than it actually was but that’s probably because Lithgow was so solid that it left a big impression on me.

There are also two little kids in the movie but they’re kind of annoying and overly happy all the time. But I guess you need kids in a Santa movie and they’re supposed to be the narrative stand-ins for the kids in the audience, imagining themselves hanging out with Santa and the elves.

The film looks really dated though and I remember thinking that it looked older than a 1985 movie in 1985. Also, the special effects aren’t great but the matte painting work and sets kind of make up for that.

The story isn’t great either but trying to see it through the eyes of a kid, it’s fine.

In the end, this is a weird but comforting movie. I feel like it’s been lost to time and mostly forgotten but I still think that people would like it if they gave it a chance.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other family Christmas classics.