Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Holiday Movie Category: Sickly Sweet X-mas Fantasy


Three lonely gillionaires, a spur-heeled hayseed, a repressed cutie-pie, an old Russkie maid, and enough melodramatic holiday sweetness to choke a stampede of reindeer.

More details here.


Chadwicke (C. Aubrey Smith), Melton (Harry Carey), and O’Brien (Charles Winninger) are three lonely rich geezers facing another Christmas without guests for dinner. Their only company is housemate Madame Tanya (Universal horror icon Maria Ouspenskaya), and together they devise a plot where they place three wallets filled with cash on the street and see who returns them to their home. The honest ones get invited inside for Christmas Eve dinner and drinks. After striking out a few times, displaced cowboy Jimmy Houston (B-movie mainstay Richard Carlson) and Claudette Colbert look-alike Jean Lawrence (Jean Parker) arrive and immediately befriend the old folks. Soon they become inseparable pals, but tragedy strikes when the three old farts bite it in an airplane crash. The trio returns as ghosts to watch over the romantic pair. Jimmy is a singer and the inheritance that the old guys leave behind allows him to go out and ply his trade. But he soon comes under the spell of enchantress Arlene (Helen Vinson) and she seduces him away from Jean as his star begins to rise. The three spirits look on powerlessly. One of them even goes to Hell. Really! Another departs to heaven, leaving O’Brien all alone to try to get the two kooky kids together. Evil Arlene sticks her mitts deep into Jimmy and poor old Jean is tossed to the side. O’Brien appears to Madame Tanya who tries to intervene but Jimmy’s got a case of the old poontang blindness. The Holy Spirit (or a really huge key lamp) attempts to take O’Brien upstairs but he chooses to remain on Earth to help Jimmy and Jean get back together. The movie takes a dark turn when Arlene’s jealous husband shows up and complicates things even worse. The Big Guy upstairs intervenes and sorts everything out, leaving a trail of blood, an ocean of tears, and a chorus of tortured screams. Nah, not really. That would have been cool.


I’m generally a sucker for sentimental holiday movies, so long as they are well-crafted, non-patronizing, and engaging. Case in point, Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Sure it’s a gushy and perhaps ponderous epic of wholesome schmaltziness, but it’s a masterfully woven and superbly acted piece of the timeless value of friendship, community, and hope. Yeah, I’m a wuss. But my tolerance for boo-hoos was challenged by Beyond Tomorrow, a simplistic, sappy, and often boring little piece. Contributing to my sourness on the movie is the absurdly down turn in the third act that didn’t jibe with the rest of the flick. Although the characters on the surface are likable, there’s so little character development that the emotional payoff at the end hardly seems worth the effort. Carey, Smith, and Winninger are endearing and the rest of the cast is up the task of delivering the weepiness. Despite a dark message about redemption, tinged with a thin religious overtone, the movie is mostly harmless and short enough to endure if boozy eggnog and X-mas balls fail to lift your maudlin holiday mood.

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