By Jules Brudek, STICKY-BOXES
Plunging yet another VHS rarity into the depths of my VCR; The only way to truly celebrate Christmas!
RENFROE’S WHITE CHRISTMAS (1997)
*Only available on VHS from United American Video
Directed by Charles B. Pierce
From the producer of Where the Red Fern Grows II comes this shot on video, homespun adaptation of Renfroe’s Christmas by southern culture novelist, Robert Burch. Set in the 1930s in rural Louisiana, the youngest son of a farmer, Renfroe Madison, played by Nicholas Todd, doesn’t understand the true meaning of Christmas until he gives away his most prized possession to a downtrodden boy in his community.
Caught up in being a silly kid, Renfroe seems oblivious to everything around him, including an elusive black panther stalking the watering hole, (don’t ask) until his older sister, Clara Mae, played by Baily Briggs, warns him about the dangers of selfishness. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, he discovers his own selfishness after he buys his brother D.J., played by Daniel Glover, an inferior pocket knife to the one he buys for himself.
(Horror fans may recognize Glover from his role in the obscure film, Devil Dogs, 2007)
At the heart of this low-budget, low production value video is a warm-hearted story with a charming authenticity and respect for its characters rarely seen in big budget films. With the exception of John Cassavetes and Harmony Korine films, it is uncommon to see this type of ease among ensemble casts filled with non-professionals. The scenes had a cozy family feel without heavy handed sentimentality. Another rarity to observe in a Christmas film. The score, composed of elevator muzak versions of all our favorite Christmas carols, was surprisingly tasteful.
Since the film is relatively unknown, the Internet (including the IMDB) has little to no information available, I felt excited to purchase a VHS copy of Renfroe’s White Christmas on Amazon for a mere $2.99 Plus shipping. Nothing beats the feeling of unwrapping an oversized clamshell case, smelling the clean plastic, removing the tape inside and popping it into the old workhorse. I filled up my reindeer tumbler with egg nog, poured candy canes and peppermint M&Ms into my jolly Santa bowl and behold: Renfroe’s White Christmas appeared, tracking lines and all. What a Christmas treat!
Now, as a lover of all films, I can’t see the average moviegoer appreciating Renfroe’s White Christmas. This video would be lost on most folks. It belongs in rare sub- category of video that only a certain person with a fondness for Robert Bresson films, SOV horror monstrosities and dubbed action films of the 80s would appreciate. If you are such person, then, I’d reserve an empty space on your media shelf for this pleasant little holiday feature.
COSMIC CHRISTMAS (1977)
**Only available on VHS Directed by Clive A. Smith
Talk about a my kind of Christmas rarity! This 26 minute cartoon premiered on Canadian TV (CBC) on December 4th, 1977. This was the first production by Nelvana Limited, a Canadian animation company responsible for exciting titles like Rock & Rule (1983), The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), The Care Bears Movie (1985), Madballs: Escape from the Orb (1986), and many more impressive franchises and cartoon specials.
This one is so hard to find on video that it boosts quite a large cult following. Fans of Cosmic Christmas have been begging Nelvana to release it on DVD for years. Your best chance of snagging a copy (besides watching it now on youtube) is spending seven cents plus shipping on Amazon to acquire The Littlest Angel on VHS where Cosmic Christmas is featured as an extra. Otherwise you’ll be shelling out $150 bucks. Sad to say, it’s worth it. Not
2. only is it rare, but it happens to be the best odd-ball (Think Tim Burton and Will Vinton with a twist of Roald Dahl) holiday special ever made. AND it has a heartwarming message that you’ll never forget.
A boy, Peter, and his pet goose, Lucy, notice a UFO in the snow on their way home from Christmas shopping on the busiest shopping day of the year. Once they approach the UFO, aliens exit the craft and explain their journey to Earth. The aliens are looking for the star of Bethlehem and the star’s purpose. Peter tries to explain the star and its role in baby Jesus’ birthday. Growing up Jewish, I felt like an alien when people explained Christmas to me, so this storyline has always felt natural. As the story continues, (and without giving to much away) Peter shows the aliens what Christmas means to him by taking them home to meet his family. Ironically, it is the aliens who help Peter’s family and the entire town learn the true meaning of Christmas.
Merry Shitmas to all and to all a good shit!
Notes on Renfroe’s White Christmas
*There are limited DVD-R copies available on Amazon for
$45 and up.
Notes on Cosmic Christmas: **Available on VHS:
1. Animation anthology - Nelvanamation: Four Cosmic Fantasies in One (Warner Home Video, 1980)
2. Stand alone Canadian release (Magic Lantern, 1977)
3. As an extra on The Littlest Angel (Diamond Entertainment Corporation)
A book called Cosmic Christmas (Avon Books, 1979) exists and it contains the sheet music to the film. The mesmerizing soundtrack has some of the coolest Christmas songs of all time.
- Jules Brudek