Wednesday, December 14, 2005

scurvy little spiders

Bailey.., Bailey.., Bailey...French, is it?
Welcome Shelfers. I would like to introduce our assistant, handy man, chauffer, and all-around petty criminal Pinky- Pinky say a few words to the people.

Pinky- "...."

Very good, now run along and go hide my parking tickets. And put my umbrella down.
Pinky has amassed some images for today's feature here at the Shelf, I just hope they are the correct ones. I know he was working on them during his lunch minute because I can smell the sardines. Nonetheless- Today at the Shelf we continue our tour down nostalgia lane with a unique twist. Certainly everyone has there own heroes from Christmas stories and Christmas shows. Rudolph, Frosty, and hey... how about those Wise Men?

No, no Pinky... I asked for a picture of Mr. Potter- not a potter.Perhaps you haven't thought of it before - but there are as many villians as there are heroes in those Christmas story. A common theme in a lot of Holiday tales is the classic theme of the Christmas spirit/meaning of Christmas/reason for Christmas bringing change and redemption to a cold heart. A Christmas Carol is perhaps the most classic version of this. In order for that story to work - there has to be someone who needs to be redeemed or convinced. Also in order for us to contrast and appreciate the Christmas spirit, etc. we have to see someone who doesn't have it. I mean how could Tiny Tim be as powerful a symbol without a Scrooge to contrast him with? Where would the Wise Men be without Herod? You see what I getting at here? For every great Christmas hero - there is a great villian to overcome. Therefore, today at the Shelf Wolf and I present our Top Ten Classic Christmas Villians.

And we will start out by telling you outright that Mr. Potter is number 1 on the list. How does heNo, Pinky! Not Harry Potter. MR.Potter! beat others like Scrooge. Well, Mr. Potter is on the top because he is outright unredeemable as presented in the film It's a Wonderful Life. Mr. Potter is a straight-out villian. He must own everything in the county- and the only thing standing in his way is George Bailey. Mr. Potter, like the devil he is, offers to buy out George and give him the opportunities and money he wants. But good ol' George turns him down. Then Mr. Potter is bent on destruction. If he can't own Bailey Building and Trust - he will destroy it, and George in the process. And he nearly succeeds. In fact, we're not really sure whatever becomes of Bailey Building and Loan or Mr. Potter. We must assume that the money everyone gives George is more than enough to pay off its various debts and stay in business. And Mr. Potter? Who knows... we never see. In fact, that's what makes him and even worse villian than anyone else in our countdown, in that he doesn't change and doesn't Not Beatrix Potter! MR.POTTER!You know Lionel Barrymore?really recieve his comeuppance. For all we know Mr. Potter comes up with more schemes to defeat George... and maybe by the 1970s Bedford Falls became Potterville. Frank Capra does his film justice precisely by leaving Mr. Potter as is. Not all the villians in real life change. Some continue on until they die. And not all true life villians will receive their just desserts in this lifetime. That's the way it is. But despite that we still have to try and live in the vein of George Bailey. Mr. Potter will continue to be a scurvy little spider.

Can you just imagine if this movie were remade by today's Hollywood? Mr. Potter would not be a crippled old man. He would be some sort of middle-age, slick looking corporate type with What the? I don't even know who this is! Never mind- just forget it.helicopters and oil contracts with the government - with a couple of Senators in his pocket. He probably would be a republican. George Bailey, played by Alec Baldwin, would be some sort of enviromentalist trying to save a park or something instead of being a businessman. Instead of committing suicide, George probably wants to give up and move to France, but luckily Ted Kennedy appears out of the cold water to tell him, "Now now there George. You, eh, don't want to do that. You, eh, want to stay here and fight that republican corporate monster. Start a petition drive and eh... no, no that won't work... Eh, break into his office and get documents...,, no. OH , I've, eh, got it there George. Call CNN and debate him on live TV, George. That will work." Then Kennedy disappears. No angels, no god intervention. Just journalism. Maybe they could get Christopher Walkin to play Mr. Potter. That would be sweet. "Well, George- I see you coming to me for help- I just don't know about that George. I just don't know." Sweeettt.

So Christmas villians have quite a trail of ... well, villiany. Some change and become better individuals- some are creatures that may have been misunderstood. But all have quite a indelliable mark on Christmas lore.

Pinky - I hope you are ready with the correct pictures now?

.... Pinky: "...."

Excellent. Now on with the list.

The Shelf's Top Ten Classic Christmas Villians:

Choo-choo...10. Winter Warlock (Santa Claus is Comin' to Town)
Winter, please? Yes, this guy was mean and nasty, and fairly down right evil. I mean he was a Warlock for pete's sake. Then Kris Kringle gives him a (get this) "choo-choo." Now what evil genius looks a toy train and calls it a choo-choo? Did any of the Bond villians capture James and put him aboard their superfast, ultra futuristic train and say: "Ah, Mr. Bond, welcome aboard my choo-choo." No. Don't think so. What's worse, is that one his "icy-shell" exterior melts he insists everyone calls him "Winter" in this condescending tone of voice. "Winter, please?" What a jerk. Then he becomes bi-polar and passive-agressive. He laments losing his powers that could control the very elements of the earth and kind of just- sighs- like he's waiting for Jessica or Kris or anyone to come over and join his pity party. What's worse is that this guy who once controled the weather carries around "magic acorns" which has the sole purpose of making Reindeer fly. How long you been stashing those away Winter? Kind of like something he ordered out of "Magical Evil Genius Monthly" to break out at parties. Not only is he a jerk- he worries me. I think Michael Jackson has some competition.

Maybe he just has a thing for top hats. I don't know...9. Professor Hinkle (Frosty the Snowman)
How Hocus Pocus (his rabbit side-kick) ever put up with this sniveling loser I’ll never know. He was a classic villain based on a model seen many times before and since. He was the ‘greedy-weasel-with ambiguous professor title’. He’s so easy to dislike. Even as a kid I thought of him as some kind of car salesman/unsuccessful pimp. Some professor he was. He couldn’t even control his own rabbit. Yet he managed to deliberately kill Frosty and “cold-blooded” murder constitutes an automatic placement on our list. (One more rim-shot for the “cold-blooded remark please.)

Ahh- the good old days, when you could wear a red suit and bonk a psychologist on the noggin.8. Granville M. Sawyer (Store "psychologist" from Miracle on 34th Street- 1947)
The store "psychologist" sort of represents the grown-up spirit that can't afford to believe in magic or anything else that might be deemed "higher power", and anyone who does is loco. This is the guy who sends Santa Claus to Bellevue. Did Lex Luthor ever get Superman Committed to an insane asylum? I'm not sure, but I don't think so (I'll leave it to my better-informed comic book fan friends to correct me later). I'd say that qualifies him as a villian, even if he is a bit of a snively, sulking kind of Christmas villian. The wonderful character actor Porter Hall plays him in the 1947 version- the others just don't compare.

7. Scut Farcus/ Santa's Boot (A Christmas Story)
OK- there is a bit of double dipping here, but neither villian has enough screen time alone to Justice. Sweet justice.really fit the bill- so here they are together. Both kind of represent the scurge of kid-dom. Scut Farkus (So help me, God! Yellow Eyes!) is the neighborhood bully- the guy who had all these other sniveling lackys running around with him. On his own- he could be dealt with, but with his crew- an even bigger jerk. This was the kind of guy who would claim there is no Santa Claus and tell you your parents adopted you then laugh that sort of "Nyah, Nyah" laugh. That's OK- Ralphy brings some sweet cathardec justice for us all.
Santa's Boot on the other hand is the ultimate rejection. Ralphy works every adult he sees for Whadya mean backordered?that BB gun. But Santa has to be the guy to make it happen. But Ralph freezes up, blurts out his wish and then gets the big boot. Crush city. I actually remember sitting on Santa's lap when I was a kid and asking for some big new-fangled electronic gizmo that was virtually impossible to find that Christmas long ago in the 70s. All Santa would say was "I think the elves are done making that and we're all out at the workshop." All non-committal like. Then he shoved a Candy cane in my hand said "Merry Christmas...NEXT!" Wow. Ralphy.., I can relate.

You have no more teeth, so you give up being a wild beast of myth to become an interior designer? Okayyy.6. Abominable AKA Bumble (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)
C’mon. We all know that in ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ the real villain was Rudy’s inner hatred of his own nose and fear of being socially despondent. Fearing that children wouldn’t quite understand Rudolph’s fragile psyche, the guys at Rankin/Bass threw in the Abominable Snowman, AKA Bumble. This, I’m sure, was in order to give Rudy some type of nemesis other than is own self hatred. Personally, I thought Bumble was just misunderstood. Nevertheless, he provided some much needed action and suspense to an otherwise “fluffy” tale. (Cue the rim-shot)

5Oh, stop. Really? You love my hair?. Heat Miser/Snow Miser (The Year Without a Santa Claus)
OK- these two are a team- like Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello, George, Jerry, Elaine and Kramer - wait, that's four. Anyway - you can't It's called Kleenex, dude. Invest in a box.really have one without the other. These two are some of my favorite Rankin-Bass characters ever created. And, along with the Grinch, are among the few villians who have their own theme songs. Jerks love to sing them too. Every chance they get. Selfish, bickering, delightful villiany ensues- but then Mom Nature tells them to knock it off and play nice. My only quibble is that being a Heat or Snow "miser" would indicate that one is stingy with the Heat or the Snow, unlike these two. I guess it's hard to demand logic from a puppet show about Santa Claus. *sigh*

This guy spends most of the show in a night shirt. He has got some issues.4. Bergermeister Meisterberger (Santa Claus is Comin' to Town)
I always assumed him a victim of some traumatic event involving toys that made him such a hate monger. I almost thought that maybe he was really a nice guy with unresolved issues, but sending soldiers out to TAKE children’s toys? That’s downright Communism and that’s right up there with murder for an automatic bid on our top Christmas villains list.

Hey baby, I got some cash- Why don't we blow this Christmas Past gig?3. Scrooge (various versions of A Christmas Carol) Oh man. The don't come any meaner than Scrooge, or any more loco than him. What a mood swing after his "trip" (and I use that word on purpose) with all the ghosts. He goes from being a stingy, mean ol' coot to being a crazy old man with a weird "thing" for Tiny Tim. You know the classic was Allister Sim's 1951 version, but there have been other good ones. George C. Scott was good also. You know what we would like to see. William Shatner as Scrooge.
Scrooge: "Ghost of Spock... what...are... these...CHAINS... you...have around...your..neck?"
Spock's Ghost: "Logically, these are the chains I forged in life..., Captian."
Scrooge: "Did Khan...DO you?"
Spock Ghost: "No, Jim, as I have previously stated, these are an outward, yet supernatural, manifestation of the assorted egregious acts that I have committed upon other life forms."

Ten foot pole? Really? That's a bit harsh.2. The Grinch (The Grinch who Stole Christmas)
To me, the Grinch is the ultimate Christmas villain. He is the Anti-Santa. I mean, he took the last can of Who-Hash! Think about it: Scrooge is one of the more well known villains. All he did was say, “bah humbug!” , but only if you forced Christmas on him. If you left him alone, he had no problem with your celebrations. Not so for the Grinch. He went out of his way to TAKE your Christmas. He also abused his dog Max tremendously in the process. After all of this he is still a Christmas favorite.

Ain't I looking more and more like Barrymore?1. Mr. Potter (It's a Wonderful Life)
You know, I could go into detail about how Mr. P. was an allegory of the growth of greed and big-business commercialization in society at that time and how it would choke goodness and purity out of our nation if we gave in and let it defeat us. For the sake of the current post though I’ll sum it up by saying that he was a jerk. The worst kind of jerk at that. The kind that uses a dirty, under-handed trick to get you down and then mocks you while you’re on your back. He lives to watch others grovel and rejoices in the despair of the less fortunate. Mr. Capra struck gold when he landed Lionel Barrymore for the part as he captured the sodden spirit of the character making him a true villain.

Well Shelfers, that's it. We hope you have enjoy this little jaunt through classic Christmas villiany. As always, Wolfie and I encourage your comments. Any other villians we missed? Who doesn't meet your approval? Let us know in the comments section.
Now it's time to get back to work, Pinky. Pinky say goodbye to everyone.


Excellent. Til' next time Shelfers- enjoy the season and just ignore the "Bah, Humbugs" you encounter in your life this year - there is so little time to enjoy the season to waste on worrying about Mr. Potter.

I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exceptionI find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

You mustn't mind the tree monsters. Their bark is worse than their bite. Ha ha ha ha!


Anonymous said...

I believe the Grinch song states "39 and a-half foot pole" Mr. Loophole.

Margaret said...

Bergermeister Meiserberger and I are very close. =O) Sure he had issues, but who doesn't?


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