Top Christmas Movie of All-Time
THE SANTA CLAUS, 1985
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc.
Starring: Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, David Huddleston, Burgess Meredith, Judy Cornwell, Jeffrey Kramer
Review by Russell Hill
The first half of this film, set hundreds of years ago, shows how the old man who eventually became Santa Claus was given immortality and chosen to deliver toys to all the children of the world. The second half moves into the modern era, in which Patch, the inventing elf, strikes out on his own and falls in with an evil toy manufacturer who wants to corner the market and eliminate Santa Claus.
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Oh how I used to watch this movie when I was a child. Viewed on what seems like a hundred occasions since I was old enough to open my eyes, this movie just gets better after every viewing.
Santa (Huddleston) has been Saint Nick for some time now. Working alongside his happy elves ever since he landed the gig many centuries ago, Santa sets a challenge to his helpers to create a new production line technique to make the toys. The winner of this challenge is Patch (Moore) and soon he is in his element. However, after several disastrous mistakes which led to him being fired from the position, he leaves the North Pole for the world of humans where he strikes up a friendship with disgraced commercial toy maker BZ (Lithgow). Will their new relationship work? Or will Patch return to the North Pole and rejoin the land he belongs in?
Dudley Moore has always been a firm personal favourite. Although this was the first film I saw him appear in, viewings of “Arthur” have always been in constant stream on the DVD player, as have his “Derek and Clive” albums on my CD player. The man was downright, bona fide genius and for a gentleman to pass away at the ridiculously young age of 66 was a sad matter for everyone across the world. But, as demonstrated in this movie, we have evidence of a man in his prime when he played the role of Patch with such conviction that you really could believe Mr Moore’s real job was working with Santa and the other elves.
Over the years, the role of Santa has been played by many gentlemen. But here, in this very movie, David Huddleston certainly epitomises the look of Saint Nick with his larger-than-life personality and large belly which probably did shake like a bowl full of jelly. His devotion and admiration to Mrs Claus as well as providing the best possible presents to the millions of children who look towards him with such love and affection is remarkable, and a perfect example to every department store Santa and actor who wishes to hone their craft.
Looking back on matters, I am surprised to have initially watched this movie because of its director and what he has been responsible for previously directing. “Jaws 2” should never have been made, and “Supergirl” was okay in parts but completely detrimental to the memory of Christopher Reeve, but here Szwarc does a pretty damn fine job. Making the world believe a woman could fly was something he did not achieve, but here making children believe in Santa even more was quite something. There are no CGI effects here, but ones similar to what Donner used in the first Superman film in 1978. I must admit that they are not quite up to scratch of what we expect from contemporary cinema, but the efforts displayed here are far more effective and realistic; that successful you could be forgiven for thinking this action to be real rather than the “Video Game” effect which seems to be sloppily used nowadays.
I count my blessings that my modern-day thoughts of Szwarc did not deter me from watching this movie over the years. Every director makes one bad flick or two, and here this movie can not be counted amongst this cinematic group as it really is a classic.
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