By Robin Tozer
Last week, my young colleague Adam Bull presented a list of his favourite Christmas films. Being of a slighter older generation, I would like to provide some alternative options.
Miracle on 34th Street
Made several times, Miracle on 34th Street was first filmed in 1947 with Maureen O’Hara. The story is about a department store Santa called Kris Kringle who claims to be the real Father Christmas. The film ends in a famous courtroom scene where the judge has to decide whether Kringle is Santa. This scene has been copied and parodied over the years. This is an excellent take from The Simpsons- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4nVFzdagws. I want to recommend the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street with Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle. Written and produced by The Breakfast Club’s John Hughes, it is a firm favourite of mine (I’m not crying, you’re crying).
Re-imagined hundreds of times, the Granddaddy of all versions of A Christmas Carol is the 1951 film, Scrooge. Scrooge is one of Dickens’ tale’s most faithful retellings, and this very successful film stars one of Britain’s greatest ever comic actors, Alistair Sim. His version of Scrooge is the character everyone thinks of, setting the template for the others that followed.
Santa Claus: The Movie
Santa Claus: The Movie was a big-budget 1985 Christmas film with Dagenham’s own, Dudley Moore, playing a maverick Elf. Part Santa-origin story, part ‘Wall Street’ meets Father Christmas, the film was a big flop on release. However, it is a mad, hugely entertaining film, and a staple of the Christmas TV schedules in the eighties and early nineties.
It’s a Wonderful Life
The best Christmas film ever made, and one of the most influential movies of all time. Released in 1946, starring Jimmy Stewart, and directed by Frank Capra, It’s a Wonderful Life tells the tale of a suicidal man, George Bailey, who is visited by an angel, who shows him his life and what would have happened if he had never lived. A critical success, but a commercial failure, audiences after the war didn’t warm to the film’s dark themes, and less the subtle attack on capitalism (which made the FBI suspicious). It fell out of copyright in the mid-seventies, meaning it could be shown for free, so it became a staple Christmas film of local TV stations across the US. The film re-entered the public consciousness where it has been ever since. Remember, every time a bell rings, another angel gets his wings.
One of the big arguments is whether Die Hard is a Christmas film, and the same could be said of Batman Returns. This sequel is Tim Burton’s follow up to his 1989 Batman, which arguably made the superhero film the force we see today. Batman Returns is set in Gotham at Christmas with the Penguin and Cat Woman taking on the titular hero. Much darker in tone than the original, it’s a homage to film noir, and is what happens if you let Tim Burton run loose with a budget. Not the cheeriest Christmas film, but it is excellent, with the best villains of any modern movie.