Newest Reviews
Tyger Tyger
Filmmaker's House, The
Man Standing Next, The
Rock, Paper and Scissors
Batman: The Long Halloween Part One
Salaam Bombay!
Boss Level
My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To
Edge of the World
Treasure City
Shiva Baby
Flowers of Shanghai
War and Peace
Merrily We Go to Hell
Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie's Dead Aunt)
Amusement Park, The
Hands of Orlac, The
Death has Blue Eyes
Kala Azar
After Love
Earwig and the Witch
Zebra Girl
Skull: The Mask
Bank Job
Drunk Bus
Newest Articles
Sherlock vs Ripper: Murder by Decree on Blu-ray
That Ol' Black Magic: Encounter of the Spooky Kind on Blu-ray
She's Evil! She's Brilliant! Basic Instinct on Blu-ray
Hong Kong Dreamin': World of Wong Kar Wai on Blu-ray
Buckle Your Swash: The Devil-Ship Pirates on Blu-ray
Way of the Exploding Fist: One Armed Boxer on Blu-ray
A Lot of Growing Up to Do: Fast Times at Ridgemont High on Blu-ray
Oh My Godard: Masculin Feminin on Blu-ray
Let Us Play: Play for Today Volume 2 on Blu-ray
Before The Matrix, There was Johnny Mnemonic: on Digital
More Than Mad Science: Karloff at Columbia on Blu-ray
Indian Summer: The Darjeeling Limited on Blu-ray
3 from 1950s Hollyweird: Dr. T, Mankind and Plan 9
Meiko Kaji's Girl Gangs: Stray Cat Rock on Arrow
Having a Wild Weekend: Catch Us If You Can on Blu-ray
The Drifters: Star Lucie Bourdeu Interview
Meiko Kaji Behind Bars: Female Prisoner Scorpion on Arrow
The Horror of the Soviets: Viy on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Tarka the Otter and The Belstone Fox
Network Double Bills: All Night Long and Ballad in Blue
Chew Him Up and Spit Him Out: Romeo is Bleeding on Blu-ray
British Body Snatchers: They Came from Beyond Space on Blu-ray
Bzzzt: Pulse on Blu-ray
The Tombs Will Be Their Cities: Demons and Demons 2 on Arrow
Somebody Killed Her Husband: Charade on Blu-ray
  Little Drummer Boy, The Pah-rup-pa-pum-pum!
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, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
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 2354 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

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

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
Andrew Pragasam
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
  Sdfadf Rtfgsdf


Last Updated: