December 8, 2011

Another Christmas Carol?

A few years ago I wrote a piece for the great website TVParty! about the little-remembered series of TV movies produced by the United Nations.  (And, not coincidentally, designed to present the UN in the best possible light.)

In that article I spent a little space discussing the first and best-known of the movies, "Carol for Another Christmas," which aired on December 28, 1964.  It was a high-profile start to the series, with a sterling pedigree: written by Rod Serling, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, featuring an all-star cast including Sterling Hayden, Ben Gazarra, and Peter Sellers, and presented without commerical interruption by Xerox.

"Carol for Another Christmas" was probably the easiest of the four UN movies to research - there was more material about it out there, and since it was the first of the movies to air it created the biggest buzz.  (As is so often the case with ideas that don't quite pan out, the buzz is loudest at the beginning.)   It was also perhaps the most interesting of the specials, or at least the one that to this day carries the most fascination - probably because of Serling, whose name features most prominently of all the participants in the venture. 

"Carol" was only a part of the overall story of Telsun, the foundation that produced the movies for the UN.  But for those who want to know more about the television special that, even though (or perhaps because) it aired only once, has built up something of a cult following, here's a longer piece that gives more details about a movie that should have been much, much better than it actually was.  Far from being a Christmas classic, it was "a dreary, unsubtle rant" didactic, heavy-handed, shrill, with a plot that had enough holes for Santa to fly his sleigh through. 

That's not to say it isn't worth watching, and since it's readily available on what I call the "brown" market (videos that aren't commercially released, but aren't cheap knockoffs of commercially released videos either), it's well worth checking out, if for no other reason than to see what all the talk is about.  Methinks that those who are most fascinated by it - and presumptively impressed with it - probably haven't seen it yet.  But to each his own.  It did, after all, result in some lovely music by Henry Mancini.  Undeniably, "Carol for Another Christmas," like the rest of the Telsun movies, is a piece of TV history.  And as we all know, history ain't always pretty.

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And now for something completely different.