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Home > Film

Robin Ince's Christmas Movie Round-Up

Robin Ince

26 December 2003

This week I got that feeling in my stomach that meant Christmas had truly begun. You know how it is, when you see or hear a little something and think, 'yes, this is the festive time'.

In my case it was so traditional: I wandered down my steps, pushed open the splintered door, saw the torn wrapping paper and strewn everything and thought... ah, I had been festively burgled. Of course, my first thoughts were to throw the toothbrushes away - it may be an urban myth (I am quite certain that burglars don't waste valuable thieving time between the DVDs and the HiFi to pop down their trousers and pants and stick a toothbrush up their arse), but nevertheless I know that psychosomatically I would have the taste of burglar poo in my mouth every time I brushed.

I have tried to work out a psychological profile by examining the films they stole - Caligula, Mulholland Drive, the new REM promo compilation, but that merely suggests a love of historical sexual excess, surreal cowboys and melancholy, oh and they took most of the crime films, but strangely no Pedro Almodovar. Perhaps more can be surmised by what they didn't steal - neither Ricky Gervais's Animals DVD or The Office Series 2 went.

Having passed this information on to the squat, fat-nosed funnyman he reliably informed me that the thief was Tim Brooke Taylor, as he is the only person in the country who doesn't like The Office (oh and Victor Lewis Smith). So if you see a three- seater bicycle laden with quality electrical goods lent against a wall, please get in contact.

Anyway, because of this rank thievery I am now staying home this Christmas, and as my girlfriend loathes any competitive games, we shall resort to watching the TV, and as I have no DVD player or digital things anymore, we shall resort to the terrestrial schedules. So here is my pick of TV films for other people who will be spending Christmas clasping a baseball bat and dreaming of burglar heads exploding like melons...


Firstly, the bad news, ITV is no longer the Christmas home to TV biopics - so there will be no Farrah Fawcett interpretations of Margaret Bourke White or Barbara Hutton. Instead, you can be treated to Love 2 Shop enigmatically described by the Radio Times thus - 'What sort of purchases have the shoppers at Manchester's busy Trafford Centre been indulging in as Christmas approaches?'

Fortunately BBC2 has not forgotten what Christmas is all about, they have remembered to put on the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films. The best is Sherlock Holmes Faces Death - that's the one set in the military convalescent home with the chess tiled floor (BBC2 1.25 Christmas Eve). The only downside of this season is that someone at some point will say 'Of course in the original stories Dr Watson isn't a bumbling idiot blah blah blah.' If only BBC2 had remembered to put the Tarzan movies on as well, especially the ones where Johnny Weismuller has put on a bit of weight and is fighting nazis (Tarzan Triumphs).

Untrue Christmas Fact #1 - Johnny Sheffield who played the part of Boy, Tarzan's son, was New York Macey's Santa Claus from 1973 to 1978 and is credited as having seen more children in one day than any other Department Store Father Christmas.

Tuesday the 23rd sees the start of Channel 4's Doug McClure season with a screening of Warlords of Atlantis, from the team that brought you the Land that Time Forgot and the People that Time Forgot. Full of low budget effects, the giant octopus (or is it a kraken) may be very rubbery, but this is more fun than any of the CGI rubbish that came out this summer. The Doug McClure season ends on Tuesday at 8:50 am, approximately the same time that Warlords of Atlantis does.

Untrue Christmas Fact #2 - though normally a clean cut, wobbly monster taunting hero, Doug McClure was a nasty slave owner in TV mini-series Roots. In 1983, a TV executive pitched the idea of Christmas Roots, a three hour movie that showed how Kunta Kinte, Chicken George and their offspring celebrated Christmas over the last 150 years. It was vetoed by Alex Haley.

Also on Tuesday, it's Saturday Night Fever at 11:10 on BBC1. Why not switch it on to enjoy the shameless nostalgia of the golden days of Disco, and then get reminded how it's a vile, nasty piece about misogynists, racists and rapists and generally relentlessly depressing. A good movie, with a great central performance (this sentence exists to keep Lynne Truss's anger alive). Once you've sat through it, why not track down the Stallone-helmed Staying Alive and gasp in awe at its terrible cak-handedness and tedious Frank Stallone soundtrack. The Rambo goes to hell musical (all greased pecs, ripped vests and legwarmers) is truly a miracle.

Christmas Day has the normal rubbish - orphans being reunited by Dale Winton, and an old lady who has popped into hospital for secretive breast implants spouting off about her year, the usual. The treats are Bellevile Rendezvous, an enormously successful and entertainingly surreal animation on BBC2 at 7, then Amelie on Channel 4 at 9:15.

Now you may not know (or care) this, but I am the face of BBC2 Christmas - I play the husband who doesn't say very much and gets locked out of the house by ventriloquist Nina Conti. Really. I'm not making it up. Don't my words seem more special and glittery now? When we were filming them we were told not to talk too posh, as BBC2 didn't want the campaign to suggest that only ABC1s and general snooties watch BBC2. That's why on Christmas Day they're
showing Die Fledermaus followed by a documentary about Highgrove. How very egalitarian.

Boxing Day is the day of the ancient blockbusters, with the splendid Wizard of Oz and Zulu vying for your attention. Wizard of Oz wins.

Untrue Christmas Fact #3 - Judy Garland once gave Liza Minnelli a pair of ivory spectacle frames as a Christmas present, despite the fact she didn't need glasses.

But where the hell are the Christmas horror movies? Where is Christopher Lee reading stories by a fireside? Where is Alastair Sim?

Who broke Christmas?

Right, I am off to film a barking Rottweiller on a six hour videotape loop that I shall leave on every time those scuzzball burglars come round to thieve my stuff, then that will distract from the mantrap I am putting just inside the front door and the Macaulay Culkin look-a-like I have hired to drop marbles on the steep stone steps.

Merry Christmas!



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