Weapons of Christmas Destruction

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This week’s festive edition of The Forgotten, as promised deals with the long-unscreened Carol for Another Christmas. Script by Rod Serling in full nicotine-stained prophet mode, direction by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, bouncing back from CLEOPATRA with a tight, simple piece that focuses on performance rather than columns and sphinxes and stuff. And we get to see Peter Sellers invent the Tea Party.

It’s tempting to suppose, based on this and DR STRANGELOVE and BEING THERE that any film in which Sellers attains high political office is going to be good, yet THE PRISONER OF ZENDA exists to stand as an awful exception to this rule.

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9 Responses to “Weapons of Christmas Destruction”

  1. Quite lovely and rather fascinating. The story is pure Serling. The mise en scene pure Mankiewicz. I was reminded of “The Ghost and Mrs.Muir” (behind him) and “Sleuth” (yet to come.) The casting of Sterling Hayden is most interesting as he famously w as a HUAC fink who regretted what he had done right after he testified. So here he gives himself over entirely to the “lefty” cause of World Peace — the same year he played “Jack D. Ripper” for Kubrick.

  2. Serling’s humorous pieces could be rather heavy-handed, but here he takes a quasi-comic piece by Dickens, turns Scrooge wholly serious, yet finds effective use of very black comedy throughout. And it feels like an important missing piece of the Mankiewicz puzzle.

  3. Mankiewicz has never been a puzzle to me — or his leading acolyte Jean-Luc Godard. Contempt takes Georgia Moll from The Quiet American and Marius Goering and Edmund O’Brien’s set-to about oil depletion allowances from The BarefootContessa and recapitulates them as a “behind the scenes” moviemaking story in which Godard looks at the Hollywood he has always both loved and hated right in the eye.

    Mankiewicz fell into the Black Hole of Hollywood in extremis with Cleopatra and lived to tell about it. Carol For Another Chrustmas is his Comment Ca Va?

  4. I guess the bit I find hardest to grasp about Mank is the reverence-to-rape switch that takes us from The Ghost and Mrs Muir to There Was a Crooked Man, which is surely at keast as striking as Hitchcock’s descent into Frenzy.

  5. I credit that to Benton and Newman.

    Monkeybitch was quite reverent to the ladies in The Honey Pot

  6. Indeed he was. I must watch that again, I loved it.

  7. One of this film’s most fascinating aspects is that mankiewicz and Serling refuse tooffer the usual denouement. Their Scrooge figure — Grudge — doesn’t order a passerby to get a Christmas goose for Bob Cratchit and his family. In fact there’s no Bob Cratchit and therefore no Tiny Tim. Just a butler and a maid, and our anti-hero having a quiet cup of coffee by himself.

  8. Brian Dauth Says:

    It took me a long time to realize that THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN . . . was Mankiewicz’ response to John Ford film making. What is interesting is what he left out: 1) the female character at the end was totally stripped of her clothing — JLM did not include the footage that he shot (from an interview with JLM); 2) shots of the jailers/guards from the top of the prison’s walls shooting escaping convicts (there are such shots in the trailer and the short promo film they made). In some ways, the film had a Peckinpah element that JLM suppressed (TWACM was made the same year as THE WILD BUNCH, but held back from release for a year).

    I once asked Robert Benton if the scenes that were cut by Warner’s (not the ones I detailed above) were put back (if they could even be found), if it would help the film. He said “No” and rushed off.

    Also, THE HONEY POT is the last Mankiewicz film about women — the final two — neither of which originated with him — were his despairing portraits of maleness.

  9. I’m seen a photo of the fleeing nude. It seems intended as a sort of exploitational mercy shot, showing us nudity at the same time as showing that she gets away unharmed. I’d argue that removing it makes the scene nastier, although the implications are unpleasant any way the footage is put together.

    Sleuth is cynical and negative, but rather winning. I rewatched it recently and couldn’t understand why there were so many random cutaways — Ken Adam’s set dressing is delightful, but it shouldn’t be allowed to upstage the cast. I finally decided that the editor, who has some terrific credits, was more of a nouvelle vague kind of montage guy, and was trying to jazz up Mankiewicz’s more old-school coverage, to occasionally unfortunate effect. Good movie though.

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