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The Best Of The Worst: Christmas Films


UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Singing) S-A-N-T-A C-L-A-U-S. Hooray for Santa Claus. You spell it...


It's that time of year, yes, that season when you can turn your TV on at any hour of the day and find a holiday movie. Sure, there are the classics, "It's A Wonderful Life," "Miracle On 34th Street," "Die Hard." But Christmas has also spawned another entire species of entertainment. We are, of course, talking about what I call oh-so-bad-they're-good Christmas movies. Author and critic Colin Fleming has a special place in his heart for these films, too, and he joins us from Boston to share some of his favorites. Hey, Colin.


MARTIN: OK, first off, what was that music that we started out with because this was your selection. You made us play that.

FLEMING: (Laughter) I did, sorry.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

FLEMING: That would be the soundtrack - portion of the soundtrack - from 1964's "Santa Claus Conquers The Martians," One of the very...

MARTIN: No, that's not a real movie.

FLEMING: It is. It's - it is real. It's one of the very worst things anyone has ever done in the name of cinema, love it though I do. And I love it, I guess, because the films you mentioned are like a warm holiday embrace every year for people. But the holiday can also be hard. So sometimes you want an embrace with a little levity. And in this one, the Martian kids are too rigid in their thinking so...

MARTIN: As Martian kids are, so rigid.

FLEMING: Could be.


FLEMING: And so a shaman amongst them says we should abduct Santa Claus, bring him here. He'll emancipate the thoughts. There's an assassination plot against him, too. So it's kind of like a very low-rent elfin, like, liberator, basically.

MARTIN: Yeah, an elfin liberator. OK, so when I heard you were doing this segment, I thought immediately that we were going to talk about the super-cheesy Lifetime holiday TV movies that, you know, there's some ill-fated love story. Patrick Dempsey's in there somewhere. Everyone's ice skating. But you are here to tell us about some very obscure picks.

FLEMING: Yes, like, for instance, there is 1959's "All Mine To Give," which some people will quibble if it's a Christmas film per se. Basically it starts off, a couple come over from Europe, and they're going to start a life in the 19th century Middle America. And you think, oh, it's one of those. We'll watch these people triumph over adversity. They have a lot of kids. Then they die. So basically the kids then have to get themselves together and say - well, basically give each other off as Christmas presents sort of. And they plea at the end, can have just one last Christmas together? And if you have a modicum of holiday spirit, it is almost impossible not to be reaching for another nip of the nog when you watch this film.

MARTIN: OK, put that on my list, I think. So these are not - these are movies that are particularly bad, let's just say it. Do you have any movies on your Christmas list that you can genuinely endorse, that you would actually recommend to watch during the holiday season?

FLEMING: I would say "Rudolph And Frosty's Christmas In July" from 1979. It's an hour and half long, so it's padded. It's by the Rankin-Bass people who did the 1964 "Rudolph" special with it - so it's that animagic (ph) technique, which makes it sound like Merlin was pressed into service to help them come up with this, and it wasn't just stop motion. But there is this reindeer named Scratcher who is upset because he didn't get the gig with Santa because Rudolph did. And he's like wheezy and wettish (ph). And Rudolph befriends him because Rudolph's a bit like Casper that way. And whereas the 1964 special had Rudolph and the dentist Hermey singing a song, yeah, here Frosty steps to the mic and bashes one out with Rudolph.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As Rudolph and Frosty, singing) We're a couple of misfits. We're a couple of misfits. What's the matter with misfits? That's where we fit in.

MARTIN: Now, that puts me in the holiday spirit.

FLEMING: You're ready to go now.

MARTIN: I'm ready to go. Writer and holiday film critic extraordinaire Colin Fleming. Thanks so much, Colin.

FLEMING: All right, thanks, Rachel.

MARTIN: Happy holidays.

FLEMING: Happy holidays.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As Rudolph and Frosty, singing) We may be different from the rest. Who decides the test?

MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.