SANTA’S CHRISTMAS ELF (NAMED CALVIN) 1971 BARRY MAHON HOLIDAY COMPUTER SLIDESHOW DVD-R!

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SANTA’S CHRISTMAS ELF is not a bad movie. SANTA’S CHRISTMAS ELF is not a movie. SANTA’S CHRISTMAS ELF is a slide show with music and narration.

SANTA’S CHRISTMAS ELF attempts to tell an entire narrational story via immobile puppets, narration, and character voices. It is like a cheap radio drama with illustration, or a storybook read by a sleepy librarian.

SANTA’S CHRISTMAS ELF is thus the most unique, and awful picture ever snuck onto the Kiddie Matinee marketplace (which appears at times to have been as untamed and unruly as the Wild West).

SANTA’S CHRISTMAS ELF makes one wonder: which is worse, a dull melodrama like SANTA’S MAGIC FOUNTAIN, a crude filming of a stageplay like SANTA VISITS THE MAGIC LAND OF NOTHER GOOSE, or a motion picture which actually boasts no motion at all, merely segway and transition?

The narratress, Dorothy Green Brown, has a nice storybook voice. We enjoyed her vocal chores on Mahon’s other Kiddie Matinee films, THUMBELINA and SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY.

The puppets by Tony Benedict and Dick Hamburger (the creative team behind the much-better SANTA AND THE THREE BEARS) aren’t half-bad. They look somewhat inspired by the highly sculptural figures in the Rankin/Bass “Animagic” productions. But at least those suckers moved!

The only other movie we can think of which relied almost exclusively on still imagery in a feature-film format is THE JAMES DEAN STORY (1957), Robert Altman’s inaugural filmic effort.

One is amazed that Barry Mahon, a prolific and talented filmmaker, who gave us a Kiddie Matinee classic in THE WONDERFUL LAND OF OZ, would stoop to creating such a cynical, exploitative “film” for children.

Mahon was interviewed about his career in 1994 by cultfilm guru Frank Henonletter (Cult Movies Magazine #11). Mahon’s comments on this film are revealing: “… so I finally decided to make a film by computer. Which was sort of my hobby. So after about three or four months of preparation, I shot the whole picture in about an hour and a half! It was called SANTA AND THE CHRISTMAS ELF, and it’s still playing. It was the first of its kind. The pictures were all put into a computer, and they came on the screen and we dissolved them in and out of one another.”

If we take this recollection at face value, we learn two remarkable things; Mahon considered SANTA’S CHRISTMAS ELF primarily an experimental film, and it is the first computer-generated motion picture.

This makes SANTA’S CHRISTMAS ELF an important notch in film history surely, but we can’t help thinking of the poor tots sitting in a dank Florida theatre, suffering the tortures of Hell trying to enjoy this horrible, stillborn thing! They might be considered guinea pigs rather than audience members, and heroes one and all!

Lucky for us (?), super-collector Jeffrey C. Hogue rescued this bizarre obscurity from what was surely oblivion, and sold it to home video in the 1980’s. Should Hogue be revered, or pillaried, for this act?

The video synopsis offers a telling disclaimer: “For young children, this unusual production is an enchanting delight.” By “young,” they obviously mean 2 or under, and the term “unusual” covers a lot of sins.

Alas, we have a solemn confession to make. Despite several sincere attempts, we have never been able to sit through SANTA’S CHRISTMAS ELF in its entirety. We bow our heads in shame to say this, and ask anyone who has seen the entire “film” to write and tell us of the experience. Until such time, SANTA’S CHRISTMAS ELF is awarded a most dubious distinction; it is a film which we declare to be truly unwatchable.

 

color, mono, fullscreen, DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic!

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