I’m Dreaming of a Celluloid Christmas, Part 1, by John Ostrander

John Ostrander

John Ostrander started his career as a professional writer as a playwright. His best known effort, Bloody Bess, was directed by Stuart Gordon, and starred Dennis Franz, Joe Mantegna, William J. Norris, Meshach Taylor and Joe Mantegna. He has written some of the most important influential comic books of the past 25 years, including Batman, The Spectre, Manhunter, Firestorm, Hawkman, Suicide Squad, Wasteland, X-Men, and The Punisher, as well as Star Wars comics for Dark Horse. New episodes of his creator-owned series, GrimJack, which was first published by First Comics in the 1980s, appear every week on ComicMix.

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24 Responses

  1. Rick Taylor says:

    Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol is a favorite of mine, too. The songs were actually pretty good for an animated version.

  2. Martha Thomases says:

    Since You Went Away. Really. The best Christmas movie ever. Honorable mention to Scrooged (Michael O'Donohue script) and The Hebrew Hammer.

    • Rick Taylor says:

      Martha, I deliberately DIDN'T mention that movie so you could chime in. It's my MISSION to get that movie on DVD. I hope it comes with a box of tissues.

      • Rick Taylor says:

        Also, Since You Went Away is not a Christmas movie per se. It's a movie that ENDS at Christmas in one of the saddest holiday scenes this side of Auntie Mame. But it gets better for the family…just like in Auntie mame.

        • John Ostrander says:

          Raises an interesting point. Does having a movie SET, in whole or in part, at Christmas make it a Christmas movie? As Rick suggests, I think not. I think the holiday needs to be integral to the movie's storyline and not simply a setting through which we pass. Part of SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE occurs during a Christmas but I wouln't consider it a Christmas movie.

          • Rick Taylor says:

            I see Martha's point, though. In Since You Went Away, Christmas is not just a scene, it's the emotional climax of the film. Also, the entire film's backdrop is WWII and all the sacrifices that Middle America has made for the war effort.

  3. Mike Gold says:

    I miss those special Christmas episodes of crime shows like Dragnet. If not for the writer's strike, perhaps we would have had us a Criminal Minds Christmas Special.

    • Alan Coil says:

      Possibly a gift horse, that writer's strike. There were a boat load of Halloween episodes this year. Many of them were "X-Files" in nature and mostly out-of-show-character from the regular episodes.

  4. Michael H. Price says:

    Mr. Dickens' story holds up well in a variety of versions, all right — especially those that honor its creepier essence. There's a good teevee CHRISTMAS CAROL with Basil Rathbone, from a Dickens-based teleseries of the 1950s. Shows up occasionally in off-brand video editions.Mike Gold's reference to the Xmas-special teevee melodramas reminds me of a dollar-store DVD that turned up last year — contains a JACK BENNY Yule episode, very frantic, with Mel Blanc stealing the show as a temperamental department-store clerk. A funny and savvy indictment of the popular tendency to wallow in anxiety during Christmastime.Prevailing favorites here are 1942's THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, with Monty Wooley, and the 1966-69 CHRISTMAS MEMORY (also part of the CAPOTE TRILOGY), with Truman C. narrating. Ideal seasonal scenario, for my part, is to mix the media — a good Xmas movie or two, Spike Jones' NUTCRACKER recording, Paul Wing's RUDOLPH record albums, Lionel Barrymore's XMAS CAROL album, and a stack of Giant Christmas Comics from 'way back when (Donald Duck, Dennis the Menace, the DC RUDOLPHS, like that). Not all at once, natch: Spread 'em out.Perpetually in awe of the work of Peter Billingsley and Darren McG in 1983's A CHRISTMAS STORY. That kid was the perfect born-too-late Hal Roach Rascal. Billingsley also is very good in a far lesser movie called DEATH VALLEY, from 1982 — a variant on 1949's THE WINDOW, though without attribution to source-author Cornell Woolrich.Here (below) is a link to the latest BizPress Xmas-movie rant: http://fortworthbusinesspress.com/display.php?id=

  5. Sean D. Martin says:

    Not a movie, but a truly wonderful version of the Christmas Carol is Patrick Stewart's one man show. I had the great fortune to see it when on stage when visiting my family in New York some several years ago and have listened to the CD recording every year since.A slightly abridged version but it captures all of Dicken's work, including the social commentary. Stewart's Ghost of Christmas Present revealing the two children under his skits is one of the most strikingly memorable images I've ever seen. Not too shabby considering it's all done just with Stewart's voice.

  6. Elayne Riggs says:

    I did my own riff on this a few years ago on my blog, called You Shall Be Upheld in More Than This.

    • Steve Chaput says:

      I recall seeing this with you and being upset as I had been under the impression that the show featured race-car driver Jackie Stewart.

  7. mike weber says:

    I personally prefer the Scott "Carol" over all others; it seems to me to concentrate on the aspect of Scrooge that often seems to get lost in the shuffle – that he's essentially a good man who's lost his way.Get hold of a copy and check it out; i doubt you'll be disapointed.I seem to recall that the Leo G Carroll "Topper" show did a "Carol" episode – a dream, with ghost George Kirby turning up as Christmas Present wearing a gift box for a costume.

  8. Marilee J. Layman says:

    Tsk, you throw the mistletoe dart into the heart!I like musicals and my favorites for the season are Holiday Inn and White Christmas. But there was a great A Different World Christmas episode based on The Christmas Carol.

  9. Steve Chaput says:

    I agree that SCROOGE with Alastair Sim version is the best I’ve seen, but think the Reginal Owen a close second. Personally, I don’t remember seeing the Owen version until I was older but the Christmas Carol with Sim seemed to pop up every year on several local stations. I think it’s been a good twenty plus years since I’ve seen the Mr. Magoo cartoon and wonder how I’d feel about it today.It probably doesn’t count, since I don’t know if it was every filmed, but the one-man reading/performance by Patrick Stewart I saw in New York was one of the most brilliant adaptations of the story I have ever seen. Sadly, the made-for-television version of the book with Stewart as Scrooge in no way shows how wonderful he was in person.A CHRISTMAS STORIES is in my Top Ten Favorite Movies and something I can watch at any time of the year. My wife Donna had never seen the movie until we began dating.Thanks for the overview of the movies, by the way, brought back some nice memories and has pushed me to purchase new copies on DVD this season.

  10. Alan Coil says:

    Okay, this is too obvious, but I must ask:Has there ever been a version called (The) Christmas Carole, starring a woman?

    • Steve Chaput says:

      There was a film called "A Diva's Christmas Carol" with Vanessa Williams, which was a made-for-TV thing as I recall. Williams plays a pop singer who has badly treated those who worked with her over the years.I also seem to recall some other television movies that played with the 'ghosts of Christmas past/etc' thing.

      • Martha Thomases says:

        And that was directed by Richard Schenkman, whose MAN FROM EARTH I wrote about after San Diego.

  11. John Tebbel says:

    Two words: Holiday Inn.

  12. Glenn Hauman says:

    Two Xmas film favorites, with links: A Christmas Story and Die Hard.

    • Marilee J. Layman says:

      Hmmm, I wonder if I put in a throwaway link first, the real links would work. I'll have to try that next time.

    • MIKE GRELL says:

      I'm giving John the opportunity to finish his list before pointing out the omission of DIE HARD, but, since A CHRISTMAS CAROL is already noted, I'd like to nominate one more version: BLACKADDER'S CHRISTMAS CAROL. As for A CHRISTMAS STORY, it falls more under the category of historical documentary. I swear I never even noticed the movie cameras following us around…

      • Glenn Hauman says:

        You played with guns as a kid? I'd never have guessed. See, folks, your parents were right– if you played with guns as a kid, you could grow up to be like Mike Grell. They were only trying to protect you.

  13. Steve Atkins says:

    A Christmas Carol (1938) – Reginald Owen played an interesting Scrooge with great one-ff lines ("Don't work any overtime…you might MAKE something of yourself"). The Nephew Fred role was much better portrayed, however.A Christmas Carol (1951) – The Sim classic that everyone's raving about. I must admit that Sim's portrayal is great, especially his messing with the housekeeper at the beginning of the "New Scrooge" phase. Scrooge – This is the musical version. I like it and the general weirdness that Sir Alec Guiness brings to the role of Marley. Plus, it's the only version I know of that actually features Scrooge going to Hell for his sins. The overall production designs were great for the film.A Christmas Carol (1984) – George C. Scott gives excellent service as the miser who finds redemption (or reclamation, if you will). Sci-fi vet David Warner is wonderful as Bob Crachitt and the young boy (who's name escapes me at the moment, unfortunately) who played Tiny Tim was equally cute, "good", and sickly (something the other, supposedly ill, Tims did not look).The best part for me, however, was Edward Woodward as The Ghost Of Christmas Present. he treated Scrooge with the same amused contempt he usually saved for the criminal opposition on his series, The Equalizer.Scrooged – I happen to like this film. It's also the only time I have seen the Ramseys together (Logan "I Killed Bufford Pusser In The Original Walking Tall Trilogy" Ramsey and Anne "Throw Momma From The Train As Soon As She Is Done In Goonies" Ramsey).Christmas Comes To Willow Creek – A sappy film that reteams former General Lee owners John Schnieder(sp?) and Tom Wopat as polar (no pun intended) opposite brothers who share animosity, a former wife/girlfriend, and a joint gig hauling supplies and foodstuffs to their adopted father's (played by Hoyt Axton) Alaskan hometown.It's A Wonderful Life – I watch this every year (B&W version only) and usually follow it up with Harvey.Holiday Cartoons – A Charlie Brown Christmas is a must (just as The Great Pumpkin Halloween counterpart is) and it is swiftly followed by A Garfield Christmas and Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas.Rankin-Bass Specials – I love these and watch them every year. *places chip squarely on shoulder* And people who sing the praises of Magoo (which I agree with, being a cartoon fan) should not rank on the Rankin-Bass!As far as "seasonal" films, I watch Gremlins around Christmas because it takes place entirely around Christmas. I also watch both Ghostbusters films around New Year's.But, I do not watch Lethal Weapon because it take place at Christmastime. I watch it whenever I am in the mood to watch the films.