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THE K GORDON MURRAY SANTALAND TRILOGY 1964 – 1966 SKUNK WOLF & PUSS RETURN AS CRUMMY AMERICAN CHRISTMAS DOPPELGANGERS DVD-R!

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(1964), Mexico/US, Color, 9/22/38 minutes
Presented by K. Gordon Murray
Produced by K. Gordon Murray
Directed by Manuel San Fernando
Cinematography: Gene Cropper
2nd Unit Camera: Charles Ray
Editing: J.R. Remy
Sound editing: Chalres Guanci
Production Manager: Leonard Simons
Title Design: Gil Miret
Thanks: Santa’s Village, Dundee, Ill., Santa’s Village,
Santa Cruz, Cal., Santa’s Village, Sky Forest, Cal.

Cast: Santa Claus, Ferocious Wolf, Stinky the Skunk, Puss n’ Boots

This jaw-dropper featurette is one of K. Gordon Murrays’s most shocking cheats, and as such, one of his crowning victories in the cutthroat world of the ’60’s kiddie matinee.

Not only is SANTA CLAUS AND HIS HELPERS padded mercilessly with scratchy footage from Murray’s super-hit SANTA CLAUS, and surrounded by abysmal, filmed-in-the-US silent footage worthy of bad home movies, this short film was actually released theatrically as a feature!

Shown in most markets on a double bill with the perversely brilliant feature THE QUEEN’S SWORDSMAN, the ads for SANTA promised “See Merlin disclose the mystery of the 5th dimension!” As usual, occult reference abounds as Murray makes promises he couldn’t possibly keep.

SANTA does have a creepy, disorienting quality, though, and appears to be taking place on various dimensional planes, ending up on a grandiose bachanal of sexist toys: Stinky the Skunk, awash in a sea of headless dolls and shiny toy guns.

As in much Murray product, myriad occult overtones denigrate the mystical to trash-culture level.

Another curiosity of this fraudulent dud are the horrifyingly underfed plush suits for Stinky and Wolfie and Puss, mangy rip-offs of the already-crummy Mexican versions. Does it seem it odd that Murray would create these doppelganger costumes, instead of trying to rent the original Mexican costumes for the two hours it took to shoot the US footage?

             MEXICO…….                                          UNITED STATES!  

 

 

 

(c1966), Color, 13 minutes
Presented by K. Gordon Murray
Produced by K. Gordon Murray
Directed by Manuel San Fernando
Screenplay: Manuel San Fernando
Story: K. Gordon Murray
Cinematography: Gene Cropper
2nd Unit Camera: Charles Ray
Editing: J.R. Remy
Sound editing: Chalres Guanci
Production Manager: Leonard Simons
Title Design: Gil Miret
Thanks: Santa’s Village, Dundee, Ill., Santa’s Village, Santa Cruz, Cal., Santa’s Village, Sky Forest, Cal.

Cast: Santa Claus, Ferocious Wolf, Stinky the Skunk, Puss n’ Boots

This holiday featurette is one of the most amazing pieces of celluloid ever assembled.

Not only does it shamelessly exploit the name and theme of Murray’s real Christmas movie, SANTA CLAUS, while offering a cheap-jack imitation, but it features location scenes filmed at real-life Santa’s Villages across the USA, thus offering us rare glimpses of these obscure tourist traps, now departed, from an era long gone.

And unlike the thematically similar but structurally disparate SANTA CLAUS AND HIS HELPERS, this creepy, unreal film consists of all-new footage, making it one of a very few original productions that Murray manifested. In fact, as this film and its cousin, SANTA’S ENCHANTED VILLAGE, were both released during the 1966 holiday season, these sublime shorts beat the legendary SHANTY TRAMP as Murray’s first original productions.

And what productions they are! Filmed on the quick, shot silent and overdubbed like a foreign film, using local talent for the characters, these weird and primitive films look like a strange cross between cheap drama, home movies, and promotional film. Indeed, with these films as well as the original SANTA CLAUS, Murray successfully presented the Christmas holiday as a tourist phenomenon and marketing bonanza, superceding its previous roles as religious landmark and cultural tradition.

SANTA’S MAGIC KINGDOM features nondescript promotional footage from several Santa’s Villages, and, embedded within, a strange and compelling little mini-drama, in which Santa and Merlin and the beautiful Princess defeat an unseen Ogre. (Actually, we do see “him” briefly, if we are to believe a virtually subliminal insert shot of a statue of a grimacing dinosaur, presumably a prop at one of the villages.) But primarily, we hear only the Ogre’s voice (the same ogre-voice as in PUSS ‘N BOOTS), and see a shaky camera pointing at some trees blowing in the wind.

This absurd cheat is strangely effective, and leads to one of the most ambiguous, occlusive climaxes ever captured on film, which is comprised almost entirely of reaction shots. At the end of the film we aren’t sure if we’ve been witness to a brazen rip-off, or surreal high art! (Being fans, we choose the latter.)

As in SANTA CLAUS AND HIS HELPERS, this great flick features the cheesy US costumes of Stinky the Skunk, the Ferocious Wolf and Puss ‘n Boots. Although Stinky and the Wolf both make an appearance, they are relegated to innocent bystander status. Only Puss gets any dialogue.

Santa Claus seems to be of Latino persuasion, and Merlin seems even more hyper than in his Mexican incarnation. Again, Merlin makes sure to mention his access to “The Fifth Dimension”, making Murray’s repeated use of that bizarre occult term virtually obsessive.

There is marvelous non-acting from the befuddled rest-stop employees, who stare at the sky and try to act real scared. Some of the shots of these sincere non-professionals are priceless: Mrs. Claus blushes and turns away from the camera; Santa’s helpers, attractive young women in green hot pants and tights, flirt for the lens; the beautiful Princess (bearing an uncanny resemblance to pop star Madonna), spouts her lines with great sincerity, and in the finale, gives a truncated rendition of the memorable tune, “Just Give a Little Whistle” from the immortal LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD AND THE MONSTERS; in addition, there is an extreme close-up of the Princess that is both unsettling and highly provocative; Santa himself seems unsure how to act, so he shakes his head and moves his hands alot.

This film only runs 13 minutes, but you will never forget it as long as you live. Depending on your state of mind, you may view this film as unbearably corny or remarkably primal.

COMMENTS:
* This unique primitive was used as the first “feature” in some of Murray’s late-60’s kiddie matinee double-bills.

* Luckily, this bizarre public domain gem made it to home video in the early 1990’s, thanks to a Goodtimes Video release, which also featured the long version of the equally unreal SANTA CLAUS AND HIS HELPERS.

 

 

 

(c1966), Color, 13 minutes
Presented by K. Gordon Murray
Produced by K. Gordon Murray
Directed by Manuel San Fernando
Screenplay: Manuel San Fernando
Story: K. Gordon Murray
Cinematography: Gene Cropper
2nd Unit Camera: Charles Ray
Editing: J.R. Remy
Sound editing: Chalres Guanci
Production Manager: Leonard Simons
Title Design: Gil Miret
Thanks: Santa’s Village, Dundee, Ill., Santa’s Village, Santa Cruz, Cal., Santa’s Village, Sky Forest, Cal.

Cast: Santa Claus, Ferocious Wolf, Stinky the Skunk, Puss n’ Boots

SANTA’S ENCHANTED VILLAGE is the third and final installment in Murray’s quaint and bizarre “Santaland” trilogy, a most amazing and unusual work, and one might say a milestone in cinema primitivism.

Although all three featurettes have much to recommend them, all great examples of crude high art, SANTA’S ENCHANTED VILLAGE must be considered the trilogy’s true masterpiece.

What makes this strange and beautiful film stand out above its already outstanding cousins is that this one shows some real attempts at ACTING, as amateur thespians try vainly but sincerely to bring to life the simplistic mini-plot. In this way, VILLAGE is even more psychotronic than SANTA’S MAGIC KINGDOM.

For instance, there are some delicious scenes with the sexy/goofy “Pixies” we grew to love and covet in SANTA CLAUS AND HIS HELPERS and KINGDOM. In VILLAGE, these tourist-trap sirens are featured quite prominently. In HELPERS, the Pixies were gossamer phantoms, seen primarily in dark relief. In KINGDOM, they were fleeting, scurrying glimpses of small-town fecundity.

In VILLAGE, the Pixies are shown in their full, gushing, giggling glory, prancing about in their horrible green uniforms and felt hats. Just imagine these theme park employees, naive little home-town girls all, being asked by a “big” movie producer to be in a real, live motion picture! They must have run home to tell their mommies: “Hey mom! I’m gonna be a movie star!”

There are some incredible insert shots here, featuring the Pixies giggling at the Wolf’s angry outbursts, which showcase the worst in acting but the best in precious, overwrought amateurism caught for posterity, like local dinner theatre captured in glaring Agfa-color closeup.

Other scenes show Merlin in rare form, molesting his beard while he stares, pop-eyed, at the Pixies. An older woman, who we suppose is playing Mrs. Santa Claus, stares angrily at the laughing kids in the puppet theatre, looking like she’s about to slap them. We can’t tell if she’s acting badly, or just pissed at being caught on camera.

Santa himself, again likely the resident icon from the Santa’s Village used for location shooting, laughs so awkwardly and spookily, he looks truly demented in his several closeups. A closeup of Santa laughing at his happy Pixies is so forced and eerie, it looks like it could pass for a Christmas card from Charles Starkweather!

In fact, there are LOTS of rare, delicious close-ups in this movie, of virtually everyone.

And VILLAGE features the Ferocious Wolf and Stinky the Skunk in more scenes than in the other two films. One might even say that there is more of Murray’s bizarre and expressionist US costumes for the two Mexican fairy tale icons than we ever cared to see. But for fans, this is sweet precious Wolf/Skunk heaven!

There are even several gruesome closeups of both animals, Stinky baring his grizzly teeth and Wolfie flopping around his ridiculously impotent red tongue.

 

this DVD-R contains all 3 K Gordon Murray Christmas films + K Gordon Murray presents the Russian Christmas cartoon THE SNOWMAN (1944 color version), and SANTA CLAUS PUNCH & JUDY (1948) featuring Santa Claus, happy screaming kids and psychotic puppet violence. comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic!

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