Bad guys redeemed by the spirit of Christmas!

Although forger Humphrey Bogart insists that WE’RE NO ANGELS (1955), he, safecracker Peter Ustinov and rape-murderer Aldo Ray miraculously help shopkeeper Leo G. Carroll, spouse Joan Bennett and daughter Gloria Talbot have a very merry Christmas despite the malevolent presence of covetous relative Basil Rathbone. A charmer, except for the unpleasant running gag of Ray barely restraining his desire to rape Talbot. Tokyo Godfathers might make a good double bill. “If crime showed in a man’s face, there wouldn’t be any mirrors.”

THE CHRISTMAS SWITCH (2014) has street hustler Brian Krause accepting a million dollars from a mysterious spirit (“Call me Nick.”) to trade bodies with Natasha Henstridge’s dying father so the old guy can play department-store Santa one last time. Krause sees this as a chance to pull one really big score, but spoiler, he gets redeemed by the power of love! So-so, but still better than most of the new Christmas films I’ve caught this year. “And best of all, Santa has access to every child’s email address!”

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951) stars Alastair Sim as the perfect Ebenezer Scrooge, cold and arrogant at first yet cracking almost immediately when confronted with what a waste his life has been. But like most people, he doesn’t want to change, even for the better, and so he resists to the bitter end … A great film with a stable of veteran British character actors, including Patrick Macnee as young Marley. “Christmas has a habit of keeping men from doing business.”

Annoyingly, MR. SCROOGE WILL SEE YOU NOW(2013) would have qualified for inclusion in Now and Then We Time Travel but I missed it. The film itself shows flashes of potential but doesn’t do anything with them: a year after the original novel, Marley propels Scrooge into the 21st century where Timothy Cratchitt VI is about to foreclose on “Belle Dickinson’s” diner, sneering at her for prioritizing helping the poor over profits. Can Scrooge turn Tiny Tim’s descendant around? Uninspired, but it’s nice to see a Christian film that puts such emphasis on caring for the needy and giving the beggar your coat rather than the right-wing issues prioritized in Time Changer. A last minute plot twist makes me suggest Sayles’ Lone Star as a double bill. “Here’s my plan: you distract him, I put two scoops of rat poison in his coffee.”

HOLIDAY CALENDAR (2018) is a slightly more magical version of Christmas Calendar in that the antique advent calendar Kat Graham (Bonnie on Vampire Diaries) acquires has actual future-predicting power, but as it doesn’t affect the story any, who cares? Graham is a twentysomething photographer struggling with the usual dead-end job and dead-end love life before her lifelong male bestie turns things around on both fronts. I do wonder if we won’t see a horror version of this gimmick soon (“The calendar shows snow — one of us will freeze to death today!”). “You smell of Cheetos and despair.”

SZ Sakall, Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Una O’Connor and Sidney Greenstreet wind up spending CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945) as a result of one nurse’s Hail Mary play to get war hero Dennis Morgan to propose. Along with its skating-on-the-edge-of-adultery aspect, the film is more relaxed about gender roles than I’d expect: Stanwyck’s complete lack of domestic talent isn’t treated anywhere near as harshly as Katherine Hepburn’s in Woman of the Year and Morgan is actually better with babies than she is. “John, when you kiss me, would you please not talk about plumbing.”

As usual we marked Christmas Day with A CHRISTMAS STORY (1984) in which Ralphie’s dreams of a Red Ryder BB gun run afoul of mom Melinda Dillon, a strict teacher and even Santa before the happy ending. Always a pleasure. “There was only one thing that could lure me away from the glow of electric sex.”

As TYG bought me THE GIRL ON THE BRIDGE (1999) for Christmas, I figured I’d watch it while she took a nap. This is an extremely quirky French drama cum rom-com in which suicidal Vanessa Paradis (“I never pick the lucky number.”) meets knife-thrower Daniel Auteuil, who convinces her as she has nothing to lose, she might as well work as his new target (“At my age, I’m not what I used to be.”). This proves to be a smarter move than either character anticipated, as together they turn out to be each others’ good-luck charm. This never quite goes where I expected, and it was definitely worth following the journey. “Focus on that sugar as if your life depended on it.”

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One response to “Bad guys redeemed by the spirit of Christmas!

  1. Pingback: A pretentious mess, a cheap crook and a swashbuckler: this week’s viewing. | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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