HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
At First Light
Free Ride
Crawl
Transit
Blank Check
Mad Monk, The
Wind, The
Holly and the Ivy, The
Atlantique
Now, Voyager
Wolf's Call, The
Nostalghia
Nightingale, The
Eighth Grade
Irishman, The
Betrayed
Lords of Chaos
Operation Petticoat
Dead Don't Die, The
On the Waterfront
Last Faust, The
Moonlighting
Art of Self-Defense, The
Ironweed
Booksmart
Prisoners
Beach Bum, The
Kill Ben Lyk
Into the Mirror
Support the Girls
Werewolf
Little Monsters
Spider-Man: Far from Home
Horrible Histories: The Movie - Rotten Romans
Pentathlon
Anna
Moulin Rouge
Ray & Liz
African Queen, The
Helen Morgan Story, The
   
 
Newest Articles
Memories Are Made of This: La Jetee and Sans Soleil on Blu-ray
Step Back in Time: The Amazing Mr. Blunden on Blu-ray
Crazy Cats and Kittens: What's New Pussycat on Blu-ray
No Place Like Home Guard: Dad's Army - The Lost Episodes on Blu-ray
A Real-Life Pixie: A Tribute to Michael J. Pollard in Four Roles
We're All In This Together: The Halfway House on Blu-ray
Please Yourselves: Frankie Howerd and The House in Nightmare Park on Blu-ray
Cleesed Off: Clockwise on Blu-ray
Sorry I Missed You: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort on Blu-ray
Silliest of the Silly: Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 1 on Blu-ray
Protest Songs: Hair on Blu-ray
Peak 80s Schwarzenegger: The Running Man and Red Heat
Rock On: That'll Be the Day and Stardust on Blu-ray
Growing Up in Public: 7-63 Up on Blu-ray
Learn Your Craft: Legend of the Witches and Secret Rites on Blu-ray
70s Psycho-Thrillers! And Soon the Darkness and Fright on Blu-ray
Split: Stephen King and George A. Romero's The Dark Half on Blu-ray
Disney Post-Walt: Three Gamechangers
But Doctor, I Am Pagliacci: Tony Hancock's The Rebel and The Punch and Judy Man on Blu-ray
Once Upon a Time in Deadwood: Interview with Director Rene Perez
Shit-Eating Grim: Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom on Blu-ray
Stallone's 80s Action Alpha and Omega: Nighthawks and Lock Up
Python Prehistory: At Last the 1948 Show and Do Not Adjust Your Set on DVD
You Could Grow to Love This Place: Local Hero on Blu-ray
Anglo-American: Joseph Losey Blu-ray Double Bill - The Criminal and The Go-Between
   
 
  Little Drummer Boy, The Pah-rup-pa-pum-pum!Buy this film here.
Year: 1968
Director: Arthur Rankin, Jules Bass
Stars: Greer Garson, Teddy Eccles, José Ferrer, Paul Frees, June Foray, The Vienna Boys Choir
Genre: Musical, Drama, Animated, Historical
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: On the night that Jesus Christ was born young peasant boy Aaron (voiced by Teddy Eccles) ambles along the desert beating his drum to the delight of his dancing animal friends Samson the donkey, Babba the lamb and Joshua the camel. Amazed at this sight crooked showman Ben Haramad (José Ferrer) abducts Aaron and forces him to perform as part of his travelling circus. However, Aaron hates people as much as he loves animals. His surly attitude towards the crowd gathering to hear him play provokes the people into driving the circus out of town. Wandering the desert they happen across Three Kings who have journeyed far and wide following a star that hovers above the town of Bethlehem.

Inspired by the famous Christmas song by American classical music composer and teacher Katherine Davis (itself based upon the traditional Czechoslovakian carol: “Carol of the Drum”), The Little Drummer Boy was one of the more overtly religious stop-motion animated holiday specials made by producer-directors Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass. Although not solemn as such, what with the inclusion of comic animal antics, the tone was more reverential than usual leaving less room for the kind of quirky, subversive humour that marked the team’s previous seasonal outings like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). This was to be expected given that while their early stories were inspired by yuletide novelty tunes, in this instance the plot drew as much from the gospels as Davis’ song.

To the filmmakers’ credit the story manages to be reverential in a manner that is inspiring rather than suffocating or didactic. A typically ingenious and poetic screenplay by regular Rankin-Bass scribe Romeo Muller hinges on an eloquent theme that springs directly from the core message underlining the Christmas story: forgiveness, peace and love. Our hero harbours an abiding hatred of all mankind since bandits murdered his parents. Empathy proves a prominent theme throughout the course of the story as gradually Aaron’s heart and mind are opened to the notion of a far greater emotion binding all living things together. Davis’ timeless carol has been covered by everyone from the Trapp Family Singers to Jimi Hendrix. For their animated short Rankin-Bass secured the services of the Vienna Boys Choir whose ethereal rendition of the title song creates a suitably spine-tingling, Christmas-y atmosphere. Meanwhile the plot itself, though undeniably slight (this was a thirty minute short, after all), exhibits a pleasing generosity of spirit along with a willingness to empathise with even the most dastardly or seemingly hard-hearted characters. There is one subtly affecting moment when one of the Three Kings tells Ben Haramad that he drives a hard bargain, only for him to reply that he has had a hard life.

Almost every Rankin-Bass animated special up to this point could boast a celebrity voice cast. Here we have Greer Garson, Academy Award winning star of Mrs. Miniver (1942) narrating the story in crisp, authoritative fashion while José Ferrer gives an unexpectedly exuberant turn and even sings a few songs as Ben Haramed. Animation buffs may recognise such familiar voice actors as Paul Frees and June Foray among the supporting players. Aside from Katherine Davis’ famous carol the rest of the music composed by Maury Laws with lyrics by co-director Jules Bass proves equally captivating. The stop-motion animation may seem primitive by modern standards but is handsomely crafted and quite ambitious, charming in its eloquence and intricacy in a manner that foreshadows the similarly engaging The Miracle Maker (2000). Remarkably, a decade later Rankin-Bass produced a sequel: The Little Drummer Boy, Book II (1976).

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 1452 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Jules Bass  (1935 - )

American animator and producer who, after a career in advertising, set up a company with Arthur Rankin to create animated specials for television, such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. From the sixties onwards, they created a few films for cinema, such as Daydreamer, Mad Monster Party?, Flight of Dragons and The Last Unicorn. Also a composer of songs.

 
Review Comments (1)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star do you think makes the best coffee?
Emma Stone
Anna Kendrick
Michelle Rodriguez
Sir Patrick Stewart
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Enoch Sneed
Darren Jones
Paul Smith
  Rachel Franke
Paul Shrimpton
  Desbris M
   

 

Last Updated: