THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN’T (1966)
Article 2517 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-24-2008
Posting Date: 7-3-2008
Directed by Rossano Brazzi
Featuring Rossano Brazzi, Paul Tripp, Mischa Auer
Santa Claus is in peril of being unable to deliver presents for Christmas when a bitter man who hates children buys the land on which Santa’s shop is located, and demands that Santa pay the rent by Christmas Eve or have all of his toys seized. Santa enlists the aid of a lawyer, and they try to find a way to pay the rent.
I was unable to watch this whole movie in a single sitting due to my schedule, and I had to stop about two-thirds of the way through the movie. Had I written my review at that point, I would have said that even if I forgave the movie some of its more glaring flaws (such as the fact that the songs aren’t particularly strong), there was one flaw I couldn’t overlook, and that was that the movie was entirely too glum; despite a few moments of good humor and Christmas spirit, the perpetual sight of a depressed and frustrated Santa Claus just started to get to me. I didn’t expect much when I got back to watching it, but it was at this point that the movie started hitting all the right Christmas buttons; there was something truly gratifying at the way the problem is solved, and the events and revelations that lead up to the redemption of the villain are quite moving in their way. Overall, it’s kind of a variation on HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS with dollops of A CHRISTMAS CAROL and MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET in the mix. The songs are still weak, and it remains too glum for most of its running time, but the villain is fun, and his butler (played by John Karlsen) almost steals the movie with his face alone. It’s also fun to see Mischa Auer in one of his last film roles as the bookkeeper of the elves. Director/star Rossano Brazzi gained fame as the star of SOUTH PACIFIC, but would eventually descend to appearing in movies like FRANKENSTEIN’S CASTLE OF FREAKS. The movie is uneven, and I can equally understand why someone might dislike the movie while another would consider it a classic.