Silent Night

A Shadowplay Production.

What I’ve done is, like Sid Sheinberg of Universal, I’ve re-edited a classic Christmas film into a new and more digestible form. I pray history will judge me as benevolently as it judges the guy who tried to butcher BRAZIL…

Visuals — An Edison version of THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

Audio — Basil Rathbone reading the story. This was a novelty record, but it came from a warm place — Baz loved the story, and read it to his daughter. Now we can experience what she felt, down to her toasty-warm carpet slippers.

Of course, the visuals did not seamlessly match the audio, and indeed Edison has taken his own path through the poem, tending to take Santa’s point of view as much as the nameless narrator’s. So I’ve moved things around according to the soundtrack and my own whim, and unapologetically fitted the intertitles to the portions where Basil speaks those verses, gloriously redundant though this is. What I discovered, though, is how closely Edison and his troupe paid attention to the poem — the moment when Santa spins round and touches his nose is straight from Clement Clarke Moore’s verse.

Of course, the best bit turns out to be when Edison has failed to provide any accompanying images to long stretches of poem, so I’m forced to use shots that don’t directly illustrate the words at all — this is how sound and image should work, as a kind of fugue. I should have forced them to diverge more — Edison actually does this in his original film, following the title about the children all being tucked in their beds with a vigorous pillow fight — parody trumps reverence every time.

Here, you can see the original version, which plays around with chronology and point of view and such. Also, by selecting carefully which stanzas to quote, the filmmakers avoid having to deal with Clarke’s miniaturized Santa (so that’s how he fits down the chimney!), a stunted halfling apparently no bigger than a poodle dog.


2 Responses to “Silent Night”

  1. Ah that’s just great! me, OH and son all watched and enjoyed. Basil’s narration makes it perfect :)

  2. He’s obviously enjoying himself. Good to hear him in another mode besides Holmesian or sinister.

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