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A visit to Santa


This (Quicktime plug-in required) has to be one of the weirdest Christmas movies of all time, a sort-of Night of the Living Dead meets MisterRogers Neighborhood.

Like both of those productions, A Visit to Santa was shot on location in my home town of Pittsburgh (ca. 1960) and features some of the cheesiest production values this side of a Japanese monster flick. (There's more information about the film at archive.org.)

The plot involves young Dick and Ann, who have written Santa to request a visit to his North Pole workshop before Christmas. The letter reaches Santa just in the "nick" of time—and the Big Man in the Red Suit dispatches prancing elf Toby to bring the two across the frozen wastes aboard his magic helicopter for an eleventh-hour Christmas Eve visit.

Oddly enough, the North Pole bears a striking resemblance to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Wurlitzer organ music (with an organist no doubt borrowed from Forbes Field during the Pirates' off-season) provides the soundtrack, lending a certain skating-rink festiveness to the proceedings.

Even more oddly, I actually remember riding in the rocket elevator in Joseph Horne's department store to see that year's "space-age" Santa. (I suspect he's also the one we see straddling the rocket in the Christmas parade.) Alan Shepard's historic Freedom 7 ascent was just months away, and the titillating promise of space travel is evident throughout.

But technology is not yet fully omnipotent. "Santa, do these trains ever wreck?" asks the narrator as we watch a miniature railroad and village. "Gosh, that's fun! Oh, no wrecks today … "

My favorite part of A Visit to Santa comes at the end, when—after a long tour of his North Pole workshop and all the latest whizbang toys—Santa reminds Dick and Ann: "The entire Christmas celebration is to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ hundreds of years ago and the wonderful spirit of Christmas."

Yeah, Santa. Right. Whatever you say.

So, this holiday season, forget those round-the-clock showings of A Christmas Story and It's a Wonderful Life. Just click here and download A Visit to Santa.

Then watch it with your kids.

They may never utter another word about Santa again.

Posted by Rodger on December 16, 2004 at 10:03 PM | Permalink


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