Christmas Monsters & Villains

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rudolph_abominable snowman

Christmas can be a difficult time.

Whether it be dealing with all the shopping, spending money we simply don’t have, spending time with extended family, time that is far too extended, or perhaps spending time alone.  Whatever the reason, Christmas is not always the harbinger of joy for some folks.

For others, though, it’s a time to celebrate with family and friends, to enjoy family traditions, and to rest and relax.  And still for  others, it’s a time of religious reflection and significance.

For me, it’s a little bit of all of these things, except for the rest and relax part.  Of all the holidays, Christmas is the one I least associate with rest and relaxation.  It’s anything but. In short, it’s incredibly exhausting, and more often than not, stressful.

Regardless of where you fall on the Christmas meter, if there’s one thing that most of us can agree on, especially those of us who grew up watching all those Rankin Bass animated Christmas specials, is that they were always a highlight of the season.

So, let’s have a look at some Christmas monsters and villains, courtesy of Rankin Bass.

Here we go:

Professor Hinkle, FROSTY THE SNOWMAN (1969).

frosty_professor_hinkle

For my money, the most evil villain ever to appear in a Rankin Bass Christmas special was the dastardly Professor Hinkle, voiced by Billy De Wolfe.  Hinkle, that mad magician, was responsible for locking Frosty in that greenhouse, causing him to melt.  Yup, Hinkle killed Frosty!  Wow.  Talk about your demented movie villains!  Thankfully, this being a Christmas special, we learn that Frosty was made from Christmas snow, and thanks to some help from Santa Claus himself, he returns to life.  Phew!

 

Heat Miser & Snow Miser, THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS (1974)

heat miser snow miser 2

Arguably the most famous of the Christmas Special villains, the Brothers Miser certainly own the best song/dance number. Say either name and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t break into song immediately.  “I’m Mister Snow Miser, I’m Mr. Snow.”

Snow Miser, voiced by Dick Shawn, and Heat Miser, voiced by George S. Irving, are by far the most memorable part of THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS.  And they remain villainous throughout, until the end, when they’re scolded by their mother, Mother Nature.

 

Winter Warlock, SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN (1970)

santa-claus-is-comin-to-town-1970-winter-warlock

The Winter Warlock, voiced by the great Keenan Wynn, was such a strong presence in SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN, that he nearly gave me nightmares when I was a kid. Of course, he’s only a baddie for half the special, as later on Kris Kringle softens his heart and he joins the side of Santa and his friends.

 

The Abominable Snowman, RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER (1964)

rudolph_abominable snowman christmas tree

 

By far, my favorite of the Christmas Special monsters and villains.  He’s so ferocious that he nearly eats Rudolph for dinner!  But thanks to a quick thinking Hermey the Elf and Yukon Cornelius, he’s overpowered, and the young wannabe-dentist elf Hermey removes all his teeth, making him harmless, so harmless in fact that by the end of the story he’s helping decorate the massive Christmas tree at Santa’s house.

And while this is certainly a happy ending, I’m not so sure it’s so happy for Mr. Abominable Snowman.  I think Hermey went a bit too far.  Pulling all his teeth?  Jeesh!

Anyway, at least he survived the fall off the cliff, and that’s because— “Bumbles bounce!”

Okay, that’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed this look at Christmas specials’ monsters and villains.

Have a monstrous Christmas, everybody!

—Michael

 

HORROR MOVIES: Best and Worst of 2015

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Here’s the list of horror movies I saw in 2015, from first to worst:

It Follows poster

IT FOLLOWS – *** – by far, the best horror film of the year.  If you see one horror movie this year, make it this one.  It plays like a John Carpenter film from the 1970s.  Probably my favorite thing about this movie by writer/director David Robert Mitchell is its plot which is unlike most other horror films.  Not gory at all, but suspenseful and captivating throughout.  Very stylish.

THE VISIT- *** – Who knew this M. Night Shyamalan movie about two children visiting their increasingly odd grandparents would be so good?  After a string of misfires, Shyamalan pushes all the right buttons with this one, capturing the perfect blend of horror and humor.

krampus-2015-movie-poster

KRAMPUS – *** – another flick I expected not to like that turned into one of the better horror movies of the year.  This Christmas horror movie in spite of its potentially ridiculous storyline gets the horror right and makes the most of its creepy images and suspenseful scenes.  It’s a holiday comedy with a serious horrific attitude.  Check this one out.

JURASSIC WORLD – ***- technically not really a horror film, but it does contain some angry hungry dinosaurs.  This one is mostly light in tone, but I found it entertaining throughout, and I really enjoyed Chris Pratt’s performance.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2:  THE ANGEL OF DEATH- ** 1/2 – I liked this sequel to the well-made THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2012).  I enjoyed the atmosphere and the cinematography more than the story.  A Hammer Film.

UNFRIENDED – ** 1/2 – I thought I would hate this one, but the gimmick of having all the action appear on a computer screen actually works, mostly because audiences today all use computers/laptops/smartphones  and so watching this type of screen seemed perfectly natural, even if its story of high school friends tormented online isn’t very compelling.  Not half bad.

THE GREEN INFERNO – ** 1/2 – not my cup of tea, but this Eli Roth tale of cannibalism actually features likable characters and a decent story.  NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH.

VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN – ** – ultimately disappointing tale of Frankenstein, told from the perspective of Igor.  So why not call this one Igor?  Best part is Daniel Radcliffe’s performance as Igor.  Tries to be upbeat and action-oriented, a la the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies, but doesn’t really work.

MAGGIE – ** – Arnold Schwarzenegger in a zombie movie?  Is it full of brutal kills and big gun violence?  Not at all.  This is actually a low-key drama about Arnold caring for his teen daughter who’s slowly turning into a zombie.  Slow moving and quiet.  Worth it if you’re in the right frame of mind.

maggie poster

CRIMSON PEAK- ** – good looking horror movie is undone by a dumb story that ultimately makes little sense.  The main character in this ghost story is supposed to be a strong smart heroine, and yet she’s the only person in the movie who can’t see the danger around her.

INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3- ** – didn’t like this third chapter in the INSIDOUS series at all.  I’m just not a big fan of prequels, especially when they’re as poorly written as this one.

THE LAZARUS EFFECT – * 1/2 -weak horror movie about a  “Frankenstein”- like experiment to reanimate the dead.  If only this movie could be reanimated.

SINISTER 2 – * 1/2 – utterly horrible sequel.    Story makes little sense nor is it scary.

THE GALLOWS – * – my pick for the Worst Horror Movie of the Year.  How dumb is this one?  Well, the main plot point is that in honor of the 20th anniversary of a high school play gone wrong— a student was accidentally hanged to death on stage- the school decides to put on the same play again.  Duh!  Needless to say, someone isn’t very happy about this decision, and once again more students turn up dead.  Unfortunately none of them were responsible for the script.

There you have it.  My list of horror movies from 2015.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

THE THREE SCROOGES- My Top 3 Movie Scrooges

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The THREE SCROOGES

By

Michael Arruda

 

If you’re like me, you break out the holiday movies during Christmas time and watch them year after year, regardless of how many times you’ve seen them.

 

For me, my favorite Christmas movies remain the different versions of Charles Dickens’ classic tale A Christmas Carol.  There’s something about dark films that I prefer over all others.  And so while I enjoy films like ELF (2003) and  A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983)  I like the story of Scrooge most of all.

 

I enjoy the story of how a man as cold as Scrooge can still change.  He learns that his selfishness hurts those around him, and that by being generous, he can make a difference in people’s lives.  Dickens also gives ample background to the Scrooge character.  We know exactly why Scrooge becomes the man he becomes, from the way his father treated him as a child, to his beloved sister’s untimely death.

 

There are many film versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL.  I have three favorites, and so today I will share with you my picks for the three best Scrooges.

 

Michael Caine as Scrooge

Michael Caine as Scrooge

#3.  THE MUPPET CHRISTMA CAROL (1992) is certainly the most fun version of the Dickens’ tale.  Full of creative Muppet humor and a terrific memorable score by Paul Williams (who can forget the song “Marley &

Marley”), THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL is not only the most kid-friendly Scrooge tale, but also contains one of the best Scrooge movie performances, with Michael Caine playing it straight throughout.

 

While the Muppets around him crack jokes and sing songs, Caine plays Scrooge at his dramatic best.  He really is one of the best film Scrooges around.  In fact, there are only two film Scrooge performances that I like better than Michael Caine’s.

 

 

scrooge-patrick stewart

 

#2.  The 1999 version of  A CHRISTMAS CAROL, a made for television movie, features Patrick Stewart as Scrooge, and it’s one of Stewart’s best performances.  It’s a nice reminder of why STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was so successful, because it had a quality actor like Patrick Stewart portraying Captain Jean Luc Picard.

 

As Scrooge, Stewart delivers a performance that is first-rate, certainly of the caliber that belongs in a theatrical film.  I particularly like the screenplay by Peter Barnes, as it includes a lot of the small details from the novel that you don’t often see in other film versions, like the ghost of Marley’s jaw being held together by the bandage wrapped around his jaw and head.

 Stewart’s Scrooge gets to partake in many of these small details. 

 

What I like best about Stewart’s performance is that he makes Scrooge’s cold personality seem so very natural, and not over the top at all.  When he says lines like “They should die and decrease the surplus population” he doesn’t sound like a lunatic, but a real person with real beliefs.  He also captures the wounded part of Scrooge’s personality, especially when he travels with the spirits and has to relive many painful moments from his past. 

 

There’s tremendous depth in Stewart’s performance, and in all the film versions of Scrooge, I’ve only seen one performance I thought was better.

 

 

scrooge - Alastair Sim

#1.  Alastair Sim, in the 1951 British version of A CHRISMAS CAROL (originally titled SCROOGE) is the definitive film Scrooge.

 

This version was adapted by Noel Langley, who wrote many movies, and was one of the writers who worked on THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939).  This is a deeply dramatic version of the Dickens tale and plays like a ghost story throughout.

 

Alastair Sim becomes Scrooge in this movie.  If you’ve read the novel and then you see this movie, you can’t help but think that Sim jumped off those pages and into this movie.  Sim also nails the “new” Scrooge, the joyous Scrooge after he has completed his time with the spirits, better than any other actor has ever done.  It’s an amazing transition to watch.  Great stuff.

 

The supporting cast includes many character actors who would go on to appear in Hammer Films, including Carol Marsh (HORROR OF DRACULA), Francis De Wolff (THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES), Miles Malleson (THE BRIDES OF DRACULA),and  Fred Johnson (THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN), as well as Universal Monster movie alum, Dr. Pretorius himself, Ernest Thesiger.

 

And even Patrick MacNee shows up as young Jacob Marley.

 

Great cast.  Great movie.  Even greater Scrooge.

 

So, if you’re in the mood this Christmas season to for the tale of Scrooge, you can’t go wrong with these Three Scrooges.

Nyuk!  Nyuk!

 Enjoy!

 

—Michael