March 21st, 2019

One movie stands out as Christmas’ worst


By Lethbridge Herald on December 21, 2018.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald
abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com
Christmas is almost here and this weekend, many who celebrate the holiday will be checking out broadcast TV networks and specialty channels for favourite holiday movies.
And there is surely one which everybody is attached to in some sentimental way.
The definition of a Christmas movie is a broad one. Many consider “Die Hard” to be one, presumably because the action in this Bruce Willis thriller happens on Christmas Eve. And I’m not arguing with those who do because they are a protective bunch.
For others, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has long been a favourite, or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” No list for holiday viewing would be complete without “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Scrooged,” “Bad Santa” — just kidding — “Elf,” or the Bing Crosby classic “White Christmas.”
So many others have been made that a person could spend weeks cozying up in front of a fake fireplace, with the scent of an artificial pine Scentsy disc lingering in the air getting into the holiday spirit. I thought about buying a real tree this year but I know Benson dog would be doing leg lifts on it all day. And that’s definitely not a Christmas scent.
I consider the first Harry Potter film a Christmas classic, given that it was released around the holiday season back in 2001.
I had to chaperone a bunch of kids who won tickets to its premiere here in a Newspapers in Education contest and thankfully, a few youthful Harry Potter fans patiently before the curtain opened gave me Dummies Guide to the Potterverse so I had some clue what I was writing about.
I took my own son to “Harry Potter” twice that Christmas season and loved it more each time.
Some Christmas movies are memorable for other reasons, the wrong ones. At the top of my personal list is “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” Many of you may have never heard of this 1964 lump of coal, which I’ve read has become a cult classic.
The movie involves Santa getting kidnapped and taken to Mars to help kids there have some fun.
Among its stars was a young Pia Zadora, whose career has earned her both a Golden Globe and a Golden Raspberry.
I remember this film because in December 1965, my brother and I were dropped off at the theatre in Cardston to watch it just hours after our family had moved into a home on the South Hill.
My dad, who worked as a lineman for Calgary Power, had just been transferred there and while my parents unpacked, we kids were dispatched to the movie.
Even as a six-year-old, I thought this movie stunk but we suffered through it before trudging for what seemed an eternity on a blistering cold late afternoon up that south hill. The town we’d moved from — Westlock — didn’t have hills so that long climb up to our new home felt like we were conquering Mount Everest. I felt I would never survive.
I didn’t know it at the time but we walked right past the home of a future Lethbridge radio star named Marv Gunderson, whose dad worked for the gas company. Marv and I quickly became friends and to this day, we still are. I’m the tall one now, but Marv is the good- looking one.
That first Christmas in Cardston where we lived about four years is one I won’t forget. I remember soon after entering the class of Mrs. Duce at the old Leeside Elementary School, we were starting to read a Dick and Jane book. I’d been reading since I was four so even at six, slowness was not in my vocabulary.
Shortly after my arrival, Mrs. Duce thought I was lost so she had a girl in front of me named Wendy Smith show me where the class was reading. I flipped back a few pages and pointed to a spot, telling Wendy “you’re here” before turning back to my place saying “I’m here.” I never in elementary from that day forward stayed at the pace of any class, speed being one of my attributes —  or vices — to this day.  Like Sammy Hagar sings, “I can’t drive 55.”
In that class were a couple of kids I’ll never forget. One was Timmy Smith, another was Timmy Schmidt and a third was Michael Jensen, whose dad Kelvin a few years ago wrote a western novel that I reviewed in the pages of The Herald, which my parents subscribed to as soon as we got to Cardston.
Decades later, Jensen and I are neighbours along with an Adamson, who is also a Leeside alumnus. I also vaguely remember in Mrs. Duce’s room there being a Kearl, a Heninger, a Schow and a Sommerfeldt.
I’ve seldom been back to Cardston since we left but when I do pass through, I still have fond memories of its daunting snow-packed hills, which were in the 1960s a winter wonderland for any kid with a toboggan or even a piece of cardboard.
And of course, I will never forget the theatre and the first movie I saw there, which is still the worst I’ve ever seen. And I’m not talking just “Showgirls,” “Little Nicky” or “Godfather 3” bad, I’m talking too-many-tequila shooters on an empty stomach in the sun after 20,000 steps awful.
If you feel compelled to seek it out on YouTube or anywhere else after reading this, I have a better idea — go tobogganing.
Have a fantastic Christmas, everyone. If you happen to be downtown Christmas Day, I’ll be the guy doing laps around the office between pages to get in those 20,000 steps.
Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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