David Everitt
December 24, 1993 AT 05:00 AM EST

A Christmas Story

Current Status
In Season
94 minutes
Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz (Actor)
Bob Clark
Leigh Brown, Bob Clark
Comedy, Holiday

We gave it an C+

Abandoned lots cluttered with pine trees, Sunday’s paper bursting with thick sales circulars, the umpteenth TV showing of Frosty the Snowman-it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But in addition to traditional holiday fare, there are ways to celebrate the holiday from a decidedly skewed perspective. As these subversive videos prove, holiday cheer can be found in some truly strange places.

We’re No Angels (1955, Paramount) A wry comedy about three Devil’s Island escapees (Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, and Aldo Ray) who become guardian angels on Christmas Eve for a family in crisis. Twist: The season of giving from a crook’s-eye view. Christmas message: Larceny, deceit, and murder can bring their own kind of yuletide hope and joy. B

Twilight Zone Christmas: Night of the Meek (1960, CBS) A skid-row department- store Santa (Art Carney) despairs that the spirit of giving is long forgotten, until he discovers a magical sack that holds everyone’s perfect gift. Twist: The liquor-soaked underbelly of the holiday season. Christmas message: Sometimes traditional yuletide values can be found only in the Twilight Zone. B+

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964, Sultan) A deliriously awful kiddie movie in which Martians plot to kidnap Santa; costars Pia Zadora as a Martian child. Twist: The miracle of Christmas as glimpsed through the schlocky sci-fi prism. Christmas message: Try another Christmas movie. D

Black Christmas (1975, Warner) For those unwilling to go so far as to watch Santa turned into a monster in the Silent Night, Deadly Night series, here’s a somewhat less creepy holiday thriller. A homicidal maniac gets busy in a sorority house before the students go away for the holidays. Twist: Christmas as horror time. Christmas message: Don’t mess with sadistic multiple murderers on Christmas Eve. B-

A Christmas Story (1983, MGM/UA) Wonderfully oddball Jean Shepherd nostalgia (from Bob Clark, the director of Black Christmas) about nasty department- store Santas, obscenity-spewing fathers, and boys’ obsession with toy guns. Twist: Christmas steeped in cockeyed Americana. Christmas message: Happiness is an official Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range-model air rifle. A- Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1991, CBS/Fox) Hilarious holiday special from a popular British TV series. Ebenezer Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson), scion of the thoroughly miserable Blackadder family, is the kindest, most generous man in all of England-then he gets a visit from the ghost of Christmas, who shows him his reprehensible relatives of the past and future. By morning, Ebenezer’s turned into, well, a Blackadder. Twist: Dickens’ classic turned upside down. Christmas message: Unto thine own vile self be true. A-

The Simpsons Christmas Carol (1989, FoxVideo) The Simpsons-not up to their highest standards but still amusing-face destitution and no chance of buying presents for Christmas because of Homer’s inability to earn a living or do anything else. Twist: Bart as Tiny Tim. Christmas message: Even dysfunctional cartoon families can get into the holiday spirit. B

The Ren & Stimpy Show: Have Yourself a Stinky Little Christmas (1993, Sony Wonder) In a tale that might have been called Flatulence Lost, Stimpy embarks on a heroic, heartrending quest to find his runaway trouser burp. Twist: Yuletide as a celebration of yuckiness. Christmas message: Sometimes you have to let go of those things you love, no matter what orifice they come from. A-

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