SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE (1985)
StudioCanal. UHD/Blu Ray/DVD/Digital. Out Now. Cinema re-release November 24th
With a simple onscreen title of Santa Claus, this was known as Santa Claus: the Movie via it’s advertising, in an effort to recall the previous success Superman: the Movie from the same production team. They also brought back Jeannot Szwarc, who had helmed Supergirl (1984) for them, and husband and wife team David and Leslie Newman to write a script that in some ways echoes their writing on Superman.
So is the movie a much loved classic deserving of a rediscovery with a 4K spruce up and polish or is it, as many critics have written, an unmitigated disaster? Like any movie like this, its probably somewhere in-between, and checking the User Reviews on the IMDb there are clearly fans out there, though having rewatched it on UHD I am afraid I tend towards the festive fiasco.
A kindly old man called Claus (David Huddleston), who delivers wooden toys he has made to local children ventures out in a blizzard and ends up frozen solid, with his wife Anya (Judy Cornwall) and their reindeer – they are a magically transported to the North Pole by a sparkly star and greeted by Patch and his fellow elves – as he is now to be Santa Claus.
And so begins the legend of the white bearded fellow in a big red, white trimmed coat (an image which was popularised by Coca Cola), delivering parcels around the world (like DHL, though more reliable). Amongst the elves in the workshop you may well spot some familiar faces including Melvyn Hayes, Don Estelle and even Burgess Meredith pops up for one short scene as an ancient Elf.
After several centuries, Santa has become weary and his wife suggests he takes on an assistant in the shape of the loyal Patch. When this ends in disaster, the newly promoted elf decamps to New York and falls in with evil toy manufacturer B.Z. Overplayed by John Lithgow the film partially livens up with his over the top acting.
It’s not enough however to save this colourful but charmless outing. It tries it’s hardest to be magical but ends up being cheesy and is severely let down by a weak script and visual effects which look even worse in 4K. It isn’t helped by the Henry Mancini score that attempts to constantly clue you in when you are supposed to be enraptured and spellbound by what is onscreen. You won’t be!
Apparently several directors were approached to handle the project including Lewis Gilbert, Robert Wise and even John Carpenter (now that would have been interesting).
This new 4K restoration, which we are reliably informed had 150 hours spent on it to clean it up, is a disappointment visually – whilst it is vividly rendered, much of it has dancing grain which is even more distracting when the effects scenes kick in.
Look out for a young Nicole Appleton of the group All Saints as one of the little girls in a ballet class.
New Interview with Mrs.Claus: Judy Cornwell
The Making of Santa Claus
Shooting the Press Conference Scene