HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Perfect 10
Octaman
Red Penguins
China Syndrome, The
Babyteeth
Round-Up, The
Around the Sun
Once There Was Brasilia
Peripheral
Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street
Ice
She Demons
Good Girls, The
Hail, Hero!
Faces in the Crowd
Tamango
Traitor, The
Tomorrow
Third Generation, The
Saxon Charm, The
Spy Intervention
Moonrise
Mulan
Killer with a Thousand Eyes, The
Vigil, The
Liberation of L.B. Jones, The
Wizard of Baghdad, The
Ride
Good Manners
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
Sweet Home
Big Score, The
Siddhartha
Three Outlaw Samurai
Echoes of Fear
Guinea Pig, The
Truth, The
Good Die Young, The
Old Guard, The
Gumnaam
   
 
Newest Articles
Network On Air: Nights in with ABC 2 - Your Faces are All Blurred!
Eve Knew Her Apples: The Lady Eve on Blu-ray
Network On Air: Tempo - Gallery One
Network On Air: Nights In with ABC 1 - Welcome Once Again to Manchester!
Transformative Apocalypses: Phase IV and Southland Tales
The Happiest Days of Their Lives: The Guinea Pig on Blu-ray
Faced Poe: Three Edgar Allan Poe Adaptations Starring Bela Lugosi on Blu-ray
Hard Luck, Buster: The Cameraman on Blu-ray
At the Hop: Mr. Vampire on Blu-ray
Divine Madness: Female Trouble on Blu-ray
Country Matters: Further Out of Town on Blu-ray
Bat-Damn: Was Joel Schumacher's Batman Really That Bad?
The Beat Goes On: Takeshi Kitano Collection on Blu-ray
Dream Treats: Scorsese Shorts on Blu-ray
It's Only Money: Laughter in Paradise on Blu-ray
A Regular Terpsichore: Dance, Girl, Dance on Blu-ray
Teenage Trauma: Baby Love on Blu-ray
The Happening: Pet Shop Boys It Couldn't Happen Here on Blu-ray
Who Watched The Watchmen?
The Golden Age of Colonic Irrigation: Monty Python Series 4 on Blu-ray
Lady of Pleasure: Lola Montes on Blu-ray
Take You to the Gay Bar: Funeral Parade of Roses on Blu-ray
Hit for Ms: Mark Cousins' Women Make Film on Blu-ray
Look Sinister: The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse on Blu-ray
Star Wars Triple Threat: The Tricky Third Prequel and Sequel
   
 
  Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, The Sleigh bells and sorcery
Year: 1985
Director: Arthur Rankin, Jules Bass
Stars: Earl Hammond, Earle Hyman, Larry Kenney, Lynne Lipton, Bob McFadden, Lesley Miller, Peter Newman, Joey Grasso, J.D. Roth, Alfred Drake, Amy Anzel, Josh Blake, Ari Gold, Jamie Lisa Murphy, Al Dana
Genre: Musical, Animated, Weirdo, Fantasy, TV MovieBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Here is the Great Ak (voiced by Alfred Drake), ancient and all-knowing protector of all forest creatures around the world. He has come to chair a secret meeting of the council of Immortals. Queen Zurline (Lynne Lipton), the Lord of Lerd, the Gnome King, Peter Nook (all voiced by Peter Newman), the fearsome bat-winged Commander of the Wind Demons (Larry Kenney), the lovely fairy Necile (Lesley Miller) and several others have gathered to decide whether the mortal known as Santa Claus (Earl Hammond) should live or die? Merry Christmas!

Don't worry kids. Given we are talking about Saint Nick, the outcome was never really in doubt. However, that does not prevent The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus from being one of the most charming and inventive holiday specials ever made by stop-motion maestros Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass. Beginning with the delightful Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) Rankin-Bass' annual animated offerings grew into an American TV tradition. Their stories, often clever and subversive, grew increasingly complex as years went by. Based on a children's novel by L. Frank Baum, creator of The Wizard of Oz, The Life and Death of Santa Claus is an intriguing attempt to combine Christian ethics with the pagan fantasies that lie at the roots of our Christmas traditions.

The debate among the Immortals provides the framing device, as Great Ak narrates how an orphaned baby was found in the fairy realm and raised by the lioness Shiegra and the fairy Necile. In a moment of disarming pathos, typical of the Rankin-Bass holiday output, Necile is driven to adopt Young Claus (J.D. Roth) after lamenting eternal youth and beauty are somewhat hollow without knowing the love of a child. Indeed children and their right to happiness is the story's central theme, as Great Ak gives Young Claus a glimpse of the troubled mortal world. Flying around the globe they see peasants suffering in medieval Europe, little boys being trained for war in feudal Japan, and beggar children starving in a street market somewhere in the Middle East. As well as a strong anti-war message, the film puts forth the notion that the purpose of life is striving to leave the world a better place than when we found it. To that end, children are depicted as seeds that dealt with tender, loving care will blossom and influence future generations.

While it sounds heavy-handed, screenwriter Julian P. Gardner outlines these themes with a welcome light touch, including the usual jaunty musical numbers and typically quirky Rankin-Bass humour. Eventually Claus, Shiegra and Tingler the billingual Elf (Bob McFadden) start a new life in the Laughing Valley where, as the years roll by, our hero morphs from lithe, Peter Pan-styled youth to the jolly, fat, white bearded icon we know and love. He befriends a little orphan named Weekum (Joey Grasso), for whom he builds the world's first toy. When other children start asking for toys, Claus hits on the idea of giving gifts to reward good behaviour. This revolutionary idea angers the King of the Agwas (Earle Hyman), a race of freaky horned monsters who thrive on the evil energy of naughty kids. These bad boys kidnap Claus, steal his toys and imprison him in dark cave with a scary, enormous snake and spider. Do you suppose Tim Burton ever saw this film? Anyway, the outraged Immortals wage a full-on mystical war against the evil Agwas, with the future of Santa and the world's children at stake.

These days seasonal television movies are synonymous with stupid slapstick and saccharine mush. Here, things get delightfully weird as the plot takes a left turn into a full-on, Tolkien-style fantasy action romp. Dainty little Necile disintegrates an enormous, impressively frightening dragon with a wave of her magic branch. Peter Nook shrinks a horrible cyclops down to tiny size. Great Ak zaps flying demons back to hell. What self-respecting child wants to watch Tim Allen or somesuch yukking it up in a Santa Suit when there is cool stuff like this onscreen?

By this stage, the animation at Rankin-Bass was as accomplished as that of the great Russian stop-motion masters. The fluttering fairies, frolicking jungle animals (who knew Santa hung out with elephants and monkeys when he was a lad?) and marvellous monsters (some worthy of Ray Harryhausen) are beautifully realised. That nonconformist Rankin-Bass spirit allows for some welcome surprises. Notably that the Commander of Wind Demons goes from being outraged at the thought of a mere mortal gaining eternal life, to becoming Santa's staunchest advocate, thus teaching youngsters to never judge by appearances. Even scary, vampire-lookalike monsters have their nice side. And in case you are wondering, the film also answers such age-old questions as where that sleigh and reindeer came from, how Santa decided to slide down chimneys, why he puts presents in stockings and the invention of the Christmas tree. There you go, in fifty minutes, this satisfies all your Christmas needs.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 1702 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 (0)


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 is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Paul Smith
Andrew Pragasam
  Lee Fiveash
  Mick Stewart
Enoch Sneed
  Dsfgsdfg Dsgdsgsdg
   

 

Last Updated: