Memories of Christmases Past

n. a catchy song or tune that runs continually through a person’s mind

‘Kayso this probably has more to do with me hearing it in stores this season than anything else: I’ve had “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” running through my head FOR DAYS.

(I guess it could be worse. It could be “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” LOL!)

But it got me thinking about past memories of the holiday season. We all have them, from our childhood onward. For instance, seeing commercials showing cookies and milk being left out for Santa on Christmas Eve jogged this memory: When I became old enough to realize (Spoiler Alert!) there was no Santa my Dad confessed that not only did he have to take a bite out of the cookie and drink half of the milk, he also had to take a bite out of the carrot I’d always leave for Rudolph. (I know. What a cool Dad.) Another tradition I continue to observe is the opening of 1 present the night before Christmas.

I also have very fond memories of the 1980s. One Christmas season I found wrapping paper that was SO reminiscent of the era. One roll had versions of punk rock flamingos while the other was covered with gingerbread men and women – but not ORDINARY gingerbread people. No, these were naughty and sported various types of S&M wear. (One had a bite taken out of her crotch .) The gift wrap intrigued the recipients so much it took them FOREVER to open their presents! Another year I hand-painted round silver ornaments with my (trademark) Rocker and Rocker Skull characters. (These hand-painted ornaments were an instant hit.) Here they are on some sugar cookies I baked a few years back:

Now THAT’S Christmas, Rock Vixen style!

As people transition in and out of our lives – perhaps we move far away from loved ones or we enter relationships where holidays with families need to be shared equitably – Christmas traditions evolve. New ones are created. Others become cherished memories we can’t live without. ‘Cause it just wouldn’t be Xmas, without ’em!

Take movies and TV specials for example. I grew-up associating How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966) and the stop-motion animated special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) with the season; but some may think 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life just resonates The Holidays; and what about A Christmas Story (1983)? That movie speaks to a whole generation, as does National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation from 1989.

My Dad loved the 1951 film version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Scrooge, starring Alastair Sim – while I prefer Bill Murray’s 1988 version (Scrooged) with Karen Allen, John Forsythe, David Johansen, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, Michael J. Pollard, and the hilariously adorable Bobcat Goldthwait.

These days when Christmas rolls around I get a particularly strong hankering for two films: The Bishop’s Wife and Bell, Book, and Candle. (I know, this last one sounds like the purr-fect Halloween flick. Actually, it works for me year-round but if you want to know WHY I get Christmasy-yearnings for it, it’s all right herePLUS it was released on Christmas Day 1958!)

Unlike Thanksgiving, I don’t equate any particular food with the holiday. However, I DO remember special items that were only purchased around Christmas when I was growing-up:  Round wicker plates beautifully arranged with an assortment of dried fruits (I loved the dates.), Christmas petits fours (For my Mom.), bowls full of roasted mixed nuts, cheese balls, cheese & sausage baskets from Hickory Farms® (For my Dad, mostly.), and plenty of egg nog! Christmas Day was pretty much a snack-all-day-long event.

Now when it comes to Christmas music I very definitely have my favorites.

  • “Santa Baby” – sung by Eartha Kitt only (aka “Loni Baby“.)

  • “Silver Bells” – sung by Bing Crosby & Carole Richards

  • “Step Into Christmas” – by Elton John

  • Honorable mentions:  “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (Band Aid, 1984), “The Christmas Song” (Nat King Cole, 1961), “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1971), and “Feliz Navidad” (José Feliciano, 1970).

    Take care in all you do next year
    And keep smiling through the days
    If we can help to entertain you
    Oh we will find the ways
    So merry Christmas one and all
    There’s no place I’d rather be
    Than asking you if you’d oblige
    Stepping into Christmas with me

    Step Into Christmas

ℳ –

(Post) Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1950-1959)

Saturday afternoon creature features and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup…

A reminder that my super-favorites are highlighted in RED. Diego’s put his pawprint on the ones that star fab Felines.

Bell, Book, and Candle Diego's pick
Film adaptation of the 1950 play, Diego and I never get tired of watching Bell, Book, and Candle. A sultry and seductive Witch, Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak) and her Siamese familiar (Pyewacket), Warlock brother (Jack Lemmon), meddling Aunt (Elsa Lanchester, Bride of Frankenstein), and handsome neighbor Shep Henderson (James Stewart) brew up a cauldron of romance in 1958 Greenwich Village. Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold, and Janice Rule co-star.

» Related Page

Growing-up, Gillian was one of my Archetypes.
After the film’s release, there was an upsurge in the popularity of Siamese cats.

“The segments featuring the Brothers Candoli, who appear in the film playing at the Zodiac Club, were recorded in Hollywood at Columbia; on these tracks, John Williams (The Witches of Eastwick) can be heard on piano.”  (Wikipedia)
The November 25, 1958 issue of Life featured Novak and Pyewacket on the cover. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to acquire a copy.

Caltiki – The Immortal Monster
I was way into “monster movies” when I was a kid. (I still am.) The only things that scared the bejesus out of me were skeletons and there was one scene showing a man being reduced to bones by Caltiki. I always covered my eyes during that part. LOL. Cinematography by Mario Bava (Black Sunday).

Caltiki is a fictional Mayan goddess.
Curse of the Demon Diego's pick
Alternatively titled Night of the Demon, Jacques Tourneur‘s foray into the supernatural is a tour de force. The conjuring-up of the demon itself was exceptional, materializing while charging toward its intended target. Directed by a Frenchman, filmed in the UK, and starring an American actor (Dana Andrews).
Forbidden Planet Diego's pick
From Wikipedia:  “The characters and isolated setting have been compared to those in William Shakespeare‘s The Tempest, and the plot contains certain analogues to the play.”
Considered groundbreaking in several aspects of the genre, its effects team was nominated that year for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects that year. Anne Francis (Honey West) stars along with Walter Pidgeon, Leslie Nielsen, Earl Holliman, James Drury, Robby the Robot, and a beautiful tiger.
Terence Fisher (The Curse of the Werewolf) and Sir Christopher Lee team-up in Hammer Films‘ answer to the 1931 film by Universal Pictures. To avoid confusion with the original, it was released in the US as Horror of Dracula. This Dracula stars Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough (Batman Returns), and Valerie Gaunt (!) as “Vampire Woman”. ≋;>
Bela Lugosi is the quintessential Dracula, but Lee and Gary Oldman (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) run close seconds.
House on Haunted Hill
(As much as I absolutely loved Dark Castle‘s 13 Ghosts, I hated their remake of this film.)
Here we have another black-and-white goodie produced and directed by William Castle (The Tingler, Mr. Sardonicus, Rosemary’s Baby) – and who could resist the suave Vincent Price (The Tingler)? What a voice. Some eerie visual effects (Including a skeleton. YIKES!)
Additional cast:  Carol Ohmart, Elisha Cook (Rosemary’s Baby), and Richard Long.
House of Wax
Although I’ve only seen the movie on TV, it was apparently filmed in 3-D. No matter what dimension it’s viewed in, House of Wax is a well-acted thriller. Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill, The Tinger) plays a disfigured sculptor intent on repopulating his burned-down wax museum. Also stars “Morticia Addams” herself (Carolyn Jones) and Charles Bronson (credited as Charles Buchinsky).
It’s a remake of the 1933 film Mystery of the Wax Museum.
“The film included an intermission, which was necessary to change the film’s reels, because each projector of the theater’s two projectors was dedicated to one of the stereoscopic images.”  (Wikipedia)
Invasion of the Saucer Men
A Saturday afternoon “creature feature” memorable for the little green men who had retractable alcohol-filled needles in their fingertips and eyeballs on the backs of their hands. Typical for its day, the plot centers around teenagers trying to convince the adults-in-charge that there are deadly aliens running amok.
Frank Gorshin (Riddler on the Batman TV show) is cast as a “drunken opportunist”.
Queen of Outer Space
Zsa Zsa Gabor (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) stars as a glamorous courtier residing on Venus (!) which is run by women. Into this paradise (even then, I was a feminist at heart) crashes a rocket filled with MEN.
It’s easy to guess what happens next…Sure, it’s B-movie material but I loved it. Gabor’s hunky co-stars include Eric Fleming and Paul Birch.
The production team recycled props and costumes from Forbidden Planet.
Marilyn Buferd (Odeena) received the 1946 Miss America crown.
The She-Creature
Let’s keep the creature features going… Marla English as an absolutely beautiful woman who’s alter-ego is a murderous prehistoric creature. Directed by Edward L. Cahn (Invasion of the Saucer Men). The monster costume – complete with breasts – is a magnificent piece crafted by Paul Blaisdell.
The She-Creature was inspired by a best-selling book concerning hypnotism (The Search for Bridey Murphy).
The Thing from Another World
Although John Carpenter‘s 1982 version was a decent remake, the special effects were too ambitious for my taste. Although the humanoid alien here (played by James Arness) is plant-based, it’s as murderously hostile as they come. This thing is no shrinking violet! Shot in black-and-white, the claustrophic terror is enhanced by low light and close-quarters – the interior sets were built in an ice storage plant. “…considered one of the great science fiction films of the 1950s”  (Wikipedia)
Based on a novella by John Campbell (Who Goes There?).
The Tingler
The Tingler is a parasitic creature which attaches itself to the human backbone, coming to life when its host is frightened – with deathly results. Screaming is the only way to weaken it.
Here the “king of gimmicks”, William Castle (House on Haunted Hill, Mr. Sardonicus, Rosemary’s Baby), is at it again:
“…filmed in ‘Percepto’…Castle purchased military surplus airplane wing de-icers (consisting of vibrating motors) and had a crew travel from theatre to theatre, attaching them to the underside of some of the seats…In the finale, one of the creatures supposedly gets loose in the movie theater itself. The buzzers were activated as the film’s star, Vincent Price, warned the audience to “scream – scream for your lives!”  (Wikipedia)
Starring Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill), The Tingler is another cult classic.
The “Bloody Bathtub” scene:  Although The Tingler was filmed in black-and-white, a short color sequence was spliced into the film. (That Castle sure was a showman!)
The Wasp Woman Diego's pick
This last entry is another black-and-white B movie and is directed by Roger Corman (The Howling). Susan Cabot stars as the aging founder of a large cosmetics company who begins injecting royal jelly from the queen wasp as a way to recapture her youth – and her market base – with unexpected results. Corman has an uncredited bit part.
From Wikipedia:  “The Wasp Woman has the head and hands of a wasp but the body of a woman – exactly the opposite of the creature shown on the film’s theatrical release poster…”
Fred Katz‘ score was used in several films, including The Little Shop of Horrors (1960).

My favorite (Halloween) films from 1950-1959
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1960-1969
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1970-1979
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1980-1989
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1990-1999
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2000-2009
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2010-2017

ℳ –