1. Rankin & Bass’ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) : There’s a reason this has become a perennial cult and popular classic. Hands down it is the best of the Rankin & Bass holiday shorts. Most of the team’s holiday specials, such as Year without a Santa Clause (below), have memorable moments, but don’t really add up to a great whole. Rudolph does. It’s a great (probably unintentional) weird mix.
A bigoted, misogynist, unlikeable, bitchy Santa, an equally unlikeable reindeer coach (with a baseball cap, no less), Rudolph’s jerk of a father, an abominable snow monster, a winged lion, straight out of apocalyptic literature, who oversees an island of dysfunctional toys, including a polka-dotted elephant, a Charlie-in-the-box, and a cowboy who rides an ostrich. On top of that is Burl Ives as a talking snowman, a too-cute girlfriend reindeer for our hero (with a bow atop her head), an elf who wants to be a dentist and a prospector by the name of Yukon Cornelius, who steals the entire show. Yukon “Even among misfits I’m a misfit” Cornelius has rightly become a cult figure all by himself. Oh, and then there’s Rudolph himself, who is understandably a bit bland in comparison but is the necessary catalyst for such a brew.
No amount of eggnog is going to help this fav seem traditionally orthodox. Max Fleischer did a more straightforward version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1948), although Max’s style is still all over it.
2. Pee Wee’s Christmas at the Playhouse (1988) : Pee Wee Hermann’s holiday gathering at the playhouse with guest stars Dinah Shore, Charo (!!!), Little Richard, Grace Jones, K.D. Lang, Za Za Gabor, Magic Johnson, Cher, Frankie Avalon, Santa himself and the normal Playhouse gang.
Its almost as divine a time capsule as Paul Lynde’s Halloween Special. The only disappointment is not getting to see Pee Wee looking up the girls’ dresses with his mirrored shoes. Fans of the Playhouse will walk away beaming.
3. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964): You know we had to include this one. Before Pia Zadora had her ten seconds of fame (10 seconds too long), she “starred” in a film so abysmal, so bad, so weird that only the bravest can get through it. Try to watch the MS3TK version, it almost makes it bearable.
4. The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974): Rankin and Bass again, but this one doesn’t altogether work (as mentioned above). We could care less about Santa, the elves, or the reindeer, BUT, the sight of Mr. Heat Miser, son of Mother Nature, doing a jig in the pit of hell Continue reading A FEW ODD YULETIDE FAVS