First posted on July 26th, 2011 on The Rotting Flesh Radio Podcast and Blog - CW post link
Deadites! In honor of Rotting Flesh Radio’s Morbidly Merry Christmas In July; I have been getting into the Christmas spirit myself lately. So allow me to discuss one of my all time favorite nostalgic subjects; The Television Christmas Special! Christmas specials are a funny subject; there are the kinds of people who absolutely love them, and then there are the people who are no friends of mine! Regardless of how you feel about these inarguably awesome productions, you have to admit that the public tends only to focus on a handful of these holiday treats and the rest just slip through the cracks. Who knows what causes a Christmas Special to be overlooked…maybe it was ahead of its time? Maybe it just didn’t hit on the right pop culture trends? Maybe it never actually existed? Who knows. The point is among these lost specials are some real hidden gems that deserve to see the light of day, and during this misplaced 100 degree Christmas season, I want to give one of these its just desserts.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you The Phantasm Christmas Special.
The year was 1980 and the world was still recovering from the magnificent terror unleashed upon it the year before by the theatrical release of The Phantasm! Don Coscarelli and the executives at Embassy Pictures were frantically trying to find a way to capitalize on the success of the film. There were several meetings, but in the end the decision was obvious; a made-for-TV animated Christmas Special! They turned to Don Bluth, who was unanimously decided to be the perfect animator to the bring the Phantasm to the small screen. Bluth loved the project, going so far as to say that his entire career had been leading him to eventually creating an animated special based on a gory independent horror film. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister and ,of course, Angus Scrimm all reprised their roles as the voice of the characters they made famous. With brilliant animation, a top-notch voice cast and such a recognizable name, it would have been so easy to just phone-in a generic script and coast to profits. Luckily for all of us, Coscarelli chose to pen a tale that did real justice to the Phantasm empire.
Our story begins with the usual Christmas Special title sequence as we drift through a winter night, blowing among snowflakes as the opening credits appear on the screen to the sounds of a familiar Christmas song, in this case “So This Is Christmas”. The credits wrap up and our story begins.
Reggie and Mike are driving around at night in Reggie’s Ice Cream truck along the snowy street; past houses covered in twinkling lights and animated Santa Clauses. It may seem strange to see an ice cream truck in the middle of December at night, especially one playing Christmas carols over its speaker system…That is, until you look inside. Reggie had altered his truck and now, rather than cold treats to beat the heat; this truck deals in Christmas cheer! Roasted chestnuts, hot cocoa, candy canes, spiced cider. It’s the perfect rescue wagon for people doing late night yard decoration or chilly carolers.
The pair wrap up their merry making and pull in to their driveway to warm up. Unfortunately, Mike is feeling anything but warm; still shaken up by the loss of his brother Jody at the hands of a fatal car crash and/or stabbing by a murderous supernatural woman. He excuses himself to go for a nighttime walk as Reggie goes into the house to start making dinner. He walks the snowy town; looking at the beautiful lights and pondering life, family and the holidays…As he walks, he passes a place we can all recognize; his local funeral parlor. To his horror, Mike sees a sight he recognizes even more. The silhouette of a figure a man. A tall man. THE Tall Man! But how could this be? Except for the end scene that may or may not have been a dream, the Tall Man was destroyed! But there he stands against the backdrop of a winter night. And he seems to be carrying a box; a long very heavy looking box. Moments after noticing the Tall Man, the Tall Man notices Mike and the terrible cat-and-mouse game begins anew. And it all starts with the one word that has been haunting Mikes dreams night after night.
As the Tall Man begins his pursuit, Mike runs for all he is worth. He runs up the steps of the clock tower at city hall. Dodging between the bell and the clockwork, he runs with the Tall Man (still carrying his ominous box) in hot pursuit. They tear through the enormous timepiece, frightening the tiny mouse who has been working hard to repair it. Mike runs back down the steps and out of the clock, looking for a safer place to hide. They run through a seedy reindeer bar. The Tall Man chases him through a Christmas tree lot full of nothing but painted aluminum trees. They dodge between Cobra trucks carrying loads of evil rigged toys on their way to GI Joe headquarters. The evil immortal alien chased him down the streets of his town right to the traffic cop, and he only paused a moment when he heard him holler “Boy!” again. By the time they passed Scrooge McDuck’s counting house, TM’s Jawa creatures had joined in the hunt.
They continued to race through the town, finally arriving at the community center. The River Bottom Nightmare Band was just finishing their set and Mike ran backstage expecting to find a stage door. Instead, he was met with a Christmas tree, some decorations and a solid brick wall. As the Jawas and the Tall Man closed in, Mike realized he had no where else to run and was backed against a wall. The Tall Man and his minions stepped slowly closer and closer in silence. Finally, the stillness was broken as the Tall Man slammed his box to the ground, retrieved something from his pocket and opened his mouth to speak.
“Boy” he bellowed, “Merry Christmas!”
Suddenly the Tall Man placed the Santa Claus hat that he had taken from his pocket upon his head. He opened the box that, as it turns out, was full of brightly wrapped Christmas presents! Out from the shadows the Jawas came forward and begin to sing. Quietly at first but growing steadily louder.
Fah who foraze! Dah who doraze!
Welcome Christmas, come this way!
Fah who foraze! Dah who doraze!
Welcome Christmas, Christmas Day!
Gradually the entire group began to sing; the minions, the Riverbottom Nightmare Band, The Tall Guy, even Mike! Then Mike is surprised even further by the arrival of Reggie who smiles knowingly as he joins in on the song. They all clasp hands and sang, finally lighting up the Christmas tree and began to unwrap the gifts brought by Santa Tall Man! It is the greatest Christmas Mike has ever known and he realized in that moment that everything was going to be okay.
As things began to wind down, the Tall Man stood pointing a finger at Mike and announced, “You might think this is the end boy! But it’s not.” Out of nowhere, a crash erupts behind Mike and two ghoulish hands break through the mirror that was conveniently behind him. The Tall Man continues, “This…Is the end!” The arms are holding a beautiful Christmas wreath with a red silk ribbon and a message in silver glitter.
The message says, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”