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  Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny Yeuch At YuletideBuy this film here.
Year: 1972
Director: Barry Mahon, R. Winer
Stars: Jay Ripley, Shay Garner, Pat Morrell, Bob O'Connell, Ruth McMahon, Heather Grinter, Sue Cable, Mike Yuenger
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Trash, Fantasy
Rating:  1 (from 1 vote)
Review: Santa's elves are singing about Christmas, and how it is just around the corner, yet when one of them opens the door to look outside, she sees the reindeer but there's no sign of Santa (Jay Ripley). Where could he be? Actually, he's in Florida, not enjoying the sun but sweating profusely thanks to his sleigh getting stuck in the sand, and his reindeer deserting him - how can he possibly extricate himself from this situation? He then has a brainwave and calls some local children from their activities, as some are playing baseball, skateboarding, jumping off a roof or fighting, and they rush over to see how they can help...

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny would be as infamous as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians if it were better known, as it is the film resides in obscurity, known to a select few who have suffered through it and its low budget efforts to bring the magic of Christmas to unsuspecting children across America. Everything about this screamed cheap, not least because about ten minutes in, they forget about Santa for an hour or so and subject the audience to an entirely different film, Thumbelina from a couple of years before that apparently wasn't doing the business it was capable of and so these Santa-themed bookends were conjured up.

This was the brainchild of producer and director Barry Mahon, perhaps best known for being the real life inspiration for Steve McQueen's character in The Great Escape, who went into movies to generate what he hoped would be his fortune. He did this by appealing to a target audience who have the lowest standard of expectations: firstly, those who wanted to watch softcore sex flicks, and secondly, children left at Saturday matinees by their parents so would sit through any old tat that appeared on the screen. As you can guess, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny was one of the latter, and turned out to be Mahon's final cinematic outing.

This was obviously a way to make easy money, and maybe it did as it looks as if it cost almost ten dollars to create, but doesn't make it any less of an endurance test. Santa himself is played by a young man in an unconvincing suit, the children (credited as "KIDS" - are the quotation marks sarcasm?) fetch various animals to pull the sleigh - including a man in a gorlla suit, a pig and a horse (you would have thought that might have worked) - but you have to wait until the end of the movie to find out what actually succeeds. The clue is in the title, as the Ice Cream Bunny arrives for the incredibly drawn out grand finale, and is a man in a rabbit suit who is in no way disturbing, not helped by the sound of an air raid siren blaring on the soundtrack as his fire truck crawls towards Father Christmas in a style reminiscent of one of those slow moving nightmares.

As for the great big wodge of story in the middle, this had more money spent on it, but would still be shamed by a village panto and features a level of acting prowess that could kindly be called amateurish. It is ostensibly based in the Hans Christian Anderson tale, though not that you'd recognise it apart from featuring a very small girl (Shay Garner) who ends up going underground and engaged to a mole who wants to er, "protect" her, according to the man in the animal suit playing him. In spite of supposedly being told by Santa, this story ends up being narrated over a tannoy in a Florida theme park (which presumably put up most of the cash), which resembles being regaled with a fairy tale down the phone by a lunatic. Throw in some ear-splitting songs and you have something which may be amusingly terrible for about five minutes, but nothing is that funny, and eventually you're either creeped out or seriously bored. Christmas is, therefore, ruined.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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