This is less a review and more a trawl through the pages of the TV guide to assess the watchability of this year’s crop of festive season movies and identify any which might, to my eyes, be worth seeing or at least recording.
I say this year’s crop, though in truth the usual suspects are strongly in evidence: the Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, the Railway Children, the Sound of Music, Fantasia, the Italian Job, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Gone With The Wind and, of course, the ever wonderful It’s a Wonderful Life – though in the case of the latter I watch it a few times every year anyway. Then there are the modern sagas added to the list of family favourites, most notably Harry Potter, Wallace and Gromit, Lord of the Rings and Toy Story.
IAWL is more an authentic Christmas movie, albeit the best of them. Good to see the adaptation of Dickens‘s A Christmas Carol is on, most notably in the Alastair Sim version, Scrooge, though sadly not on a channel I can access – though , the inferior Scrooged is, along with the Muppet Christmas Carol. You can usually bank on the excellent Edmund Gwenn original version of Miracle on 34th Street too, though I’ve yet to locate it so far. If, however, you want your festive fare there are plenty more, including Nativity!, and, much to my daughter’s delight, Love Actually – she has already seen it several times this December!
Those in my DVD collection apart, I may well add several more oldies to the list worthy of viewing, since they tend to win on entertainment value every time. For example: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Harvey, Guys and Dolls, a Matter of Life and Death, the Red Shoes, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Pal Joey, Kind Hearts and Coronets, Rebecca, Doctor Zhivago and Rosemary’s Baby. However, chief among my recordings this year will be the thoroughly charming and delightful Ealing Studios classic Whisky Galore!
This summary is merely scratching the surface, since there are literally hundreds to choose from, sprouting up on every channel among the thousands set up for your delectation. But for me the primary attraction is rarely the headline-grabbers but the old and obscure movies tucked away in mid-afternoon slots on niche channels, or on the graveyard shift on Film 4, literally and metaphorically since that’s often where and when you find strange foreign horror movies and seasons of whacky cult films, the sort I record and catch up with at a later date. It’s a voyage of discovery and, in contrast to the headline family movies listed above, is entirely unpredictable: you under gems and howlers in equal measure.
Somehow Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a ghost story or two. That said, I’m struggling to find any, even the usual M R James adaptations, other than the Conjuring on Virgin Movies channel, thereby out of my reach. However, The Spiral Staircase on Christmas eve may be worth a go, though since it doesn’t start until 1:05am that will have to go on the recording list.
I’m sure I’ll uncover many more, but do feel free to take my recommendations seriously. You won’t regret it!