Saturday, December 19, 2015

"John Denver’s Rocky Mountain Christmas" (A 25 Days of Shitmas Post)

Snuggled inside an artificial glass bio-dome, deep in the Rocky Mountains, lies a mellow and frighteningly cheerful man with a guitar. A youthful multi-cultural audience cheers every festive song the man sings. The audience has the exuberance of dried oak. The man's placid tones steal their souls, encasing them in the body of his guitar.

The man is John Denver. He appears out of the snow like a sedated, loving Jim Jones. Gaze into the bottomless abyss of Mr. Denver's giant aviator sunglasses. Let the warm comfort of eternity wash over you. This is John Denver’s Rocky Mountain Christmas.

Welcome to Gentle Jonestown

The video (taped on VHS and uploaded to YouTube) looks like a crime scene film left in a police evidence locker for 40 years. The video's glitches, tracking shifts, and washed out images make this a truly weird viewing experience. The editing style is fragmented, full of slow motion non-sequiturs. Whether it’s Denver skiing in slow motion, singing in slow motion or telepathically communicating with a woman…in slow motion. The entire special plays like a cult initiation video.

John Denver's Rocky Mountain Christmas is a holiday special from 1975. A (sort of) variety show including musical performances with (almost) celebrities like Olivia Newton John; taped comedy segments that are exercises in government sanctioned torture; and clips of Mr. Denver wandering through the woods. The classic late 70s commercials are the icing on the cake. 

During the musical performances Denver and his guests either smile maniacally (holding back tears of insanity) or sing somber renditions of Christmas classics. Each song is a dirge. Some tunes are intercut with events happening outside the dome. Children stand like totems outside of houses caroling to non-believers. One woman, knowing the true meaning of Christmas, talks about “getting off” on sugar plums (her words). She really wants pizza for Christmas (true story). Even people outside of the Rocky Mountain Bubble are strange.

But this special is also educational. Mr. Denver wants us to learn about nature; especially the animals in the forests & creeks surrounding his Merry Terror-Dome. He teaches us the reproduction habits of creek trout with extreme detail. Male trout spray watery fish semen on gummy eggs; a perfect Christmas visual. And it’s not just one shot of trout insemination. No. it’s a good minute of ultra-close fish spunk.

Some of the musical numbers are actually pleasant. Too bad the editor decided to super impose faces over faces; creating hallucinogenic ghosts floating in the black expanse of space. 

The special ends with the sun setting over the Rocky Mountains. A final performance surrounded by a warmly dressed and cozy audience. 

But before that John Denver fights a bear. Yes, John Denver frolics through the snow; chasing, pouncing and wrestling a bear. Not a tiny little bear cub, but a five feet long adolescent black bear. The bear’s jaws clamp down on his gloved hand and Denver just grins like a soulless vessel. The bear actually begins to run from him, but Mr. Denver isn't finished. He catches the majestic animal and buries its face in the snow, laughing horribly. This is the ultimate insult. I felt like the bear while watching this special; upset to be in the presence of such evil, but helpless to do anything. 

John Denver and his following will see you in your nightmares.

The End

The entire special

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