The Curator of Schlock #17 by Jeffrey Shuster
The Night They Saved Christmas: No “Jingle Bells” Ever!
Let’s talk about heresy. I know it’s a term that’s fallen out of fashion in modern times, but it exists and pretending that it doesn’t, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Santa Claus has been maligned, draped through the mud, raked over the coals, and twisted to meet the foul needs of whatever charlatan wants to make a quick buck over his bloated carcass. Case in point, 1984’s The Night They Saved Christmas.
A big oil company is drilling up in the North Pole (where is Steven Segal when you need him?). The man in charge of the drilling is Michael Baldwin who keeps dynamiting the ice up there with no luck. Eventually an elf named Ed shows up and asks him to stop drilling. Michael tells him to get lost so Ed the elf starts stalking Michael and his family. Ed eventually kidnaps Michael’s wife Claudia (Jaclyn Smith) and their three kids and drags them off in a World War II snowcat. They arrive at North Pole City just in time for a hot chocolate break. Everyone’s having a good time, the elves are singing “Jingle Bells”, and then Santa Claus (Art Carney) shows up and reams them out because he’s sick of “Jingle Bells.” Not a very jolly way to start the day now is it?
Santa wants Claudia to tell her husband to stop the drilling or North Pole City will be destroyed. You see North Pole City is protected by huge walls of ice and even has anti-radar equipment to keep it safe from prying eyes. Santa has employed the help of an elf scientist named Dr. Fernando to create all sorts of gadgets to aid him with the delivery of presents. There’s a teleportation platform attached to his sled and time slowing device that slows down time. Dr. Fernando has even created a robot that knows over a hundred riddles and can help a child with his or her homework, but it won’t give you the answers. It will not cheat. Dr. Fernando repeats this over and over again to the point where I can’t help, but think that the gentle elf doth protest too much.
I have to say this movie started to make me very uncomfortable at this point. We have a taciturn Santa Claus who forbids the singing of “Jingle Bells.” He has scientists creating teleportation and time slowing devices. That’s not the Santa Claus I grew up with. That’s trademark of monsters and supervillians like Brundlefly and The Clock King. North Pole City is shielded from radar and Santa is interrupting US oil concerns. I hate it to say it, but this Santa looks like a threat to national security. The kids in this movie should be more concerned with saving the homeland than with saving Christmas. What good is a fancy, toy robot when you’ve allowed Chris Cringle to ignite the flames of World War III?
Ten Things I Learned from The Night They Saved Christmas
- Elves are addicted hot chocolate.
- Kitschy made for TV Christmas movies from the 1980s really don’t hold up all that well.
- Santa’s sleigh is actually self-propelled these days, but don’t tell the reindeer that.
- Santa stores the presents for each country in huge hovering satellites.
- Mrs. Claus will go on long, rambling diatribes against toy tanks and toy guns.
- Teleportation effects in made-for-TV Christmas movies are still better than those used on Star Trek TNG.
- Santa Claus can actually suck the joy out of Christmas when he puts his mind to it.
- North Pole City is made out of plastic.
- Toy companies rip off Santa’s ideas all of the time. I suspect Hasbro is one of them.
- Jaclyn Smith is good in anything.
Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida.