Monday, December 24, 2012

Carol for Another Christmas (1964)

Carol for Another Christmas
I am a big fan of the Twilight Zone, and while it is Rod Serling's most famous creation, he also did a lot of other writing for TV and film. Carol for Another Christmas was written by Rod Serling and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve, Cleopatra, and Sleuth, among other films). This 1964 TV movie special was produced by the Xerox Corporation to promote the United Nations and is a modern re-telling of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
As a version of A Christmas Carol it is quite different than most I've seen. While we still have the three ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future and the Scrooge character (named Daniel Grudge) played by Sterling Hayden, there is no Jacob Marley or Tiny Tim. Instead Grudge has some live-in servants and a son who died in the war. As a Rod Serling fan this certainly feels like an extended Twilight Zone episode. Unfortunately it is too preachy at times, probably because it was made for the United Nations. Still it is an well made and interesting to watch as a product of its era, especially since it hadn't aired in 48 years before being shown on TCM this December.
Besides Sterling Hayden, the cast includes Peter Sellers (who would star in Dr. Strangelove with Hayden which also came out in 1964), Pat Hingle, Ben Gazzara, and Eva Marie Saint.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bad Christmas Specials

I'm back! Time to take a break from your regularly scheduled programming to talk about some crappy Christmas themed TV specials!

He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985)
This will probably come as a surprise to most, but the The He-Man & She-Ra Christmas Special is not that bad, especially considering the next two specials. Some children from Earth are stranded in the mystical world of Eternia with only He-Man, She-Ra, and Christmas cheer to protect them! This special is pretty silly but still enjoyable for what it is. The scenes in which Skeletor shows his Christmas spirit are hilarious and those parts alone make this special worth watching. I've only seen a couple episodes of He-Man, but this is pretty much what you would expect, cheesy 80s fun.

Christmas Comes to Pac-Land (1982)
Everything had a Saturday morning kids show in the 1980s: Rubik's Cube, Rambo, and even Pac-Man! Christmas Comes to Pac-Land originally aired in 1982 and this special hasn't aged well after thirty years. The special is a spin-off of the show, so if you have only played the video game you'll probably be surprised to see that Pac-Man's wife is named Pepper (who I guess is not Ms. Pac-Man?!) and that the couple have a child aptly named Pac-Baby. Apparently the show did a good job of cashing in on the success of Pac-Man and early 80s arcade games as it lasted two seasons and besides this Christmas special there was also a Halloween special. The Pac-Man show originally aired on ABC. A year after its premiere, rival network CBS came up with their own Saturday morning cartoon featuring video game characters titled Saturday Supercade. As for the actual special, Christmas Comes to Pac-Land is nothing more than an 80s artifact. Not even talented and prolific voice actors such as Peter Cullen and Frank Welker can make it interesting as Christmas Comes to Pac-Land is surprisingly boring. The Pac family fights the evil ghosts and helps Santa deliver toys on Christmas which is pretty much it for 22 minutes. If Christmas Comes to Pac-Land couldn't hold my attention I doubt overactive kids chowing down Fruit Loops even bothered to finish watching it. Kids in 1982 would've had more fun heading down to the local arcade and popping in some quarters to actually play Pac-Man.

Sonic Christmas Blast (1996)
Sonic the Hedgehog was so popular in the early 90s that the character headlined two TV shows airing at the same time! Sonic the Hedgehog aired on Saturday mornings at ABC. The show was surprisingly serious and dark for a kid's cartoon as it focused on Sonic as a freedom fighter in a post-apocalyptic world and in my opinion, certainly the better of the two. The other show, Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, had a much lighter tone and aired weekdays in first-run syndication. Sonic Christmas Blast was a spin-off of the second show, despite a non-speaking cameo by Sally Acorn who was a character from the Saturday morning show. Although Sonic Christmas Blast managed to keep me interested more than the Pac-Man special, it was much more annoying. The voices of Dr. Robotnik's robots are irritating and Sonic's quest to attain "ultimate velocity" has nothing to do with the main plot of Santa being kidnapped and replaced by a robot. The animation is better than that of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, which isn't saying much considering how cheap and lazy that show was animated. Although Sonic Christmas Blast is nowhere near as boring as Christmas Comes to Pac-Land, you are better off just sticking with the video games for both.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December Schedule Update

As you can see I haven't made any posts in about a month. I got busy with classes and work and simply didn't get around to it. I plan on getting things back on track in a few weeks when my classes are over and my job is less hectic. Some of the reviews you can look forward to are: a movie that came out this year, an animated film that was nominated for an Oscar in that category, and several bad movies! My Tales from the Archives series will return as well, though I may change the day of the week for that series of posts. See you soon!