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  • Writer's pictureRob Freese

ICFH 2022 Advent Calendar- Day 13

ICFH 2022 Advent Calendar- Day 13

It's funny how our brains work. Sometimes we get an image from a movie stuck in our head, and tie it in with the title of a different movie, and forever we associate this image or theme or scene with the wrong movie. It can be startling. "Wow, this is way different than I remember. I guess I forgot so-so was actually in this, not whoever." Well, no. You got your movies mixed up. I imagine this happens with a lot of holiday themed flicks.

Warning: Spoiler Alert! Or not. The title pretty much tells all, unless you have it mixed up with an entirely different movie, like I did. Wholesome fun for the entire family plus nightmare inducing elves for the little ones.

ICFH 2022 Advent Calendar December 13- The Night They Saved Christmas (1984)

Everything a Christmas movie should have, Santa, an elf, children running from helicopters and explosions.

Sumner Murdock (Mason Adams) is pushing his roughnecks hard to produce oil and Michael Baldwin (Paul Le Mat) has to reluctantly repot that Rig 5 is coming up empty.

"What does that mean?"

"It's dry. No oil."

"No oil? But you said..."

Baldwin continues blasting away the Arctic. looking for oil in an attempt to make sure Murdock stays rich. Murdock knows no other way of life.

Meanwhile, their neighbors to the north of them complain that all the blasting is disrupting the production of toys so Ed the Elf (Paul Williams) is sent as an ambassador of goodwill to try and get the oil hungry egomaniac to stop bombing the ice fields.

Ed the Elf then appeals directly to Michael, who is in a bind. He's got three kids and a trophy wife Claudia (Jaclyn Smith) he dragged with him to the Arctic and now Claudia wants to leave him. Michael can't afford to not do Murdock's bidding. Alimony and child support on three kids ain't cheap. Ed invites them to see North Pole City. Michael cannot leave his post. Claudia takes the kids.

They are whisked away to a wonderland where elves work against the clock under conditions that would make a representative of OSHA bust a brain. Claudia and the kids get to meet Santa (Art Carney), who hates when the elves sing Jingle Bells and he quickly shuts them down whenever they try to sing it. (They also meet Mrs. Claus, played by June Lockhart.)

Michael is going for the big score. Murdock can practically taste the money. It will require setting off a blast that will totally destroy North Pole City but it's worth it because, well, money.

Again, the title pretty much predicts the film's ending and since this originally aired on Network TV on December 13, 1984, it probably has a feel good, happy ending. (At least for those hoping the dull Baldwin family can save Christmas.)

I felt like I've always been aware of this film and had seen it, but I had never seen it before. I had it in my mind that it was another movie. When I suggested watching it, my wife thought it was a great idea and related that she had seen it when it first aired when she was a kid. Seemed like a win-win.

Nothing was familiar. As soon as I saw Jaclyn Smith I said, "I thought Marlo Thomas was in this." My wife chalked it up to all the decades between viewings. When Paul Williams showed up I said, "They changed Clarence the Angel into Ed the Elf?" None of this made any sense. "How does this have anything to do with It's A Wonderful Life?" My memory sucks, sure, but I was positive I was now stuck in some Mandela Effect Vortex.

Or not.

At some point, in the slush of the annual seasonal movie binge, I crossed my wires on this film and the Marlo Thomas TV-remake of It's A Wonderful Life, It Happened One Christmas.

It happens.

This was not a total bust. It's always nice seeing actors who are gone in a film you've never seen before. It probably had more kickass explosions than any other Christmas movie until Die Hard came along in 1988. There's a robot. Carney as Santa is cool, but I still prefer his turn as Drunk Santa from The Twilight Zone Christmas episode he did (The Night of the Meek). Any time June Lockhart turns up in a flick it is awesome.

Oddly, outside of Paul Williams (who also contributes to the soundtrack), none of the elves are given any credit. Even IMDb has not rectified this oversight. Keep a sharp eye. You should be able to spot Phil Fondacaro (who would go on and appear with Lockhart in Troll- the first Harry Potter movie!) as well as Billy Curtis (from High Plains Drifter). No telling who else might be in there rushing around.

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