Ho ho howdy folkses! Welcome to the Eleventh Day of The Twelve Days of Shitmas celebration for 2021! Our previous offering was a colorful cavalcade of existential miseries, a tragic and horrifying sci-fi fantod punctuated by unwelcome slapstick and inappropriately jaunty holiday tunes. Today we offer existential misery of a more human variety, as we watch an unlikely love-match marriage in its first bloom eventually fall to pieces due to inadequate post-World War II mental health care, then spring back to unlikely life because of a fake beard, a Santa suit and a fortuitously-timed visit from a sweet little girl. Ain't Christmas grand?

When Shitmas bells ring the angels all sing.

We're posting a brand-new review of a Christmas special every other day beginning December 3rd, culminating in what we consider the worst of the bunch on Christmas morning, and you'd damn well better know by now that this year we're featuring Secret Santa sneaky links. You would be forgiven, however, for not knowing that since we're now in double digits on our Shitmas list we're offering up double the Secret Santa fun. Just to clarify, it's not the kind of sneaky links where you've got a wife in Chino, babe and one in Cherokee...and another in Dubuque, plus an on-again/off-again girlfriend in Albuquerque and a hot little number waiting for you back in Jackson Hole, but you still like to pick up a truck stop gal or a willing hitchhiker here and there whenever you're on the road. Do your thing and keep on truckin' man. No, it's just a pair of secret links hidden in random screenshots somewhere in today's article to a couple of nasty, retro-creepy pics of Santa we may or may not have found while urban exploring an abandoned funeral home in rural West Virginia during the pandemic lockdown of 2020. The place was full of unclaimed cremains, too, but we left them where we found them. We're not savages.

Today we feature something rather rare, in that it's one of only a relative handful of programs to have survived from the once-thriving DuMont Television Network, a pioneering broadcast company that operated from 1942-56. Due to FCC restrictions and prohibitive costs the company never expanded beyond a few stations, but it boasted an outsize influence on American entertainment culture by virtue of its having launched the career of Jackie Gleason, one of the most recognizable stars of the latter half of the twentieth century, who originally hosted the second and third seasons of the network's variety program Cavalcade of Stars (1949-52). Gleason would later helm several iterations of The Jackie Gleason Show (1958-70), and the legendary sitcom The Honeymooners (1955), which had begun as a series of sketches on Cavalcade of Stars and would become one of the best known and most frequently syndicated television programs of all time. Many film roles followed, most famously the bucolic blow-hard sheriff Buford T. Justice in Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and its sequels. To me, though he'll always be the befuddled, acid-dropping mobster Tony Banks from Otto Preminger's ill-omened, countercultural train wreck Skidoo (1968)

Just see it. You know you want to.

When DuMont finally shuttered its operations its entire library of over twenty thousand 16mm and 35mm kinescope titles ended up in a warehouse in New York. Details are murky, but sometime in the early 1970's an unidentified "successor network" decided they needed the space for Ampex tapes of Family Affair (1966-71) or maybe That Girl (1966-71) and and dumped the entire archive into the East River. Today only about 350 titles are known to survive, and the lack of available material from the network has ensured that DuMont is barely remembered for its many contributions to American television today.

I've got to say, it gives me a mighty big sad.

Gruen Guild Theater (1951-52), also known as Gruen Guild Playhouse was an anthology series sponsored by the Gruen Jewelers Guild, producers of watches and radios, examples of which are still sold and purchased by collectors online. The show was originally presented as a series of radio plays in 1930-31 and revived for television when DuMont needed sponsored programming to compete with other similar anthology programs such as Armstrong Circle Theater (1950-63) and Colgate Theater (1949-58) on other, better-funded networks. Joe Santa Claus is in some ways typical of the sort of mid-century dramas these programs would present, in that it's stage-bound and filmed in a limited number of locations. It is somewhat unusual in that it deals in a fairly realistic manner with the psychological effects of post-war PTSD in a time when few resources were available to those who suffered from them. In fact, the term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was still 20 years from its coinage when the program was made, and the after-effects of war trauma would still have been referred to by the official, yet euphemistic terms "Combat Stress Reaction", "Battle Fatigue" or "War Neurosis" by those even willing to discuss or acknowledge them.

Nothing to see here.

World War II vets such as our titular hero were largely expected to reintegrate into civilian society on their own, to carry the weight of their experiences silently and stoically as they struggled to adjust to conventional jobs in what would eventually become a booming post-war economy. Joe Santa Claus, to its credit, does not sugar coat this, nor does it ignore the misogyny of the era, as women who had of necessity gone to work while men went to war were now expected to be happy as homemakers and housewives while their often emotionally broken husbands snapped up whatever jobs were available to them.

In the end the resolutions to these issues are presented in a very 1950's, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps way that sadly betrays the narrative promise of the tale, and the third-act redemption rings completely hollow, leaving the viewer with the sinking feeling that the protagonists' happiness won't last long beyond closing credits. Still, it's a more nuanced treatment than I would have expected and I'm glad it somehow survived when the remainder of Dumont's Gruen Guild Theater archive has ostensibly perished.

We open on a bunch of vapid affirmatory pep-talk signs hung up just inside the employee entrance of a big-city department store called "Morley's," where a line of dour-looking workers shuffle listlessly past the punch-clock, each taking their turn signing their time over to The Man and mentally preparing themselves for the relentless retail madness of the Christmas Season. Amongst them is our hero Joe, a lowly hardware department associate, who ambles into work for the day hoping to shill enough hammers, saws and screwdrivers to make his quota and not get screwed out of his bonus. As he steps away from the clock to head for the locker room a grizzled old janitor steps up and they greet each other in a half-formal, half-friendly way. Joe refers to the old fellow as Uncle Billy, and they exchange empty pleasantries about the cold, Christmassy weather.

"God, I hate retail, Uncle Billy."

As Joe reaches his locker and hangs up his coat, with an enormous banner behind him reading "19 Shopping Days Until Xmas," his aquiline, bird-beaked boss Mr. Grimes approaches him with the allegedly "good news" that he will not be reporting to hardware that day, or indeed on any day until after the holiday, as he's been chosen to play Santa Claus for the children who visit the toy department.

Joe is less than enthusiastic, and he hems, haws and dissembles that he's not really the Santa type, and perhaps someone older like Uncle Billy might better suit the requirements. Grimes tells him coldly that with a beard and a hat one Santa is much like another. Besides, Uncle Billy is a janitor, and a janitor's work is never done, whereas a hardware associate, is "expendable," much like a soldier, especially during the holidays.

It's the Battle of Frankfurt all over again.

Grimes is a snide little snit, clearly looking for any opportunity to berate his employees, and tells Joe that since the orders come directly from the front office it would be unwise to argue. If you've ever worked retail you've probably had boss like this guy. The dynamics never change.

Next thing we know Uncle Billy is bringing Joe the Santa suit, which stinks of mothballs and disinfectants, and poor Joe is all asea as to where to begin with it. Uncle Billy suggests he start with the pants, and when Joe holds them up to his waist the old coot tells him it looks like a two-pillow job to get him properly filled out.

Billy doesn't understand why Joe is so down on the idea of playing old Saint Nick when he has himself been hoping to get the job for decades. Joe emphatically declares "That's what's wrong with the world! We're a bunch of square pegs in a round hole! Especially me!" Then Uncle Billy shoves his hand down the front of Joe's trousers to tuck the pillows in.

"Sure feels like a round peg to me!"

Uncle Billy is an optimist. He thinks most things happen for a reason and work out for the best, except maybe him never getting the Santa Claus job, but hey, hope springs eternal even at his advanced age.

Billy suspects that Joe maybe just doesn't like children, but he says sure he likes 'em alright. He just doesn't want them climbing all over him eight hours a day. In fact, he has a kid of his own, but he doesn't see her much on account of he and his wife being separated and them living in their own apartment outside of the city.

To prove his point about the world always sticking him in the wrong job he explains that he was a mechanic before the war, but when he got drafted they made him a cook. In fact that's how he met his wife, when he was stationed in Munich just after the hostilities had ended. His outfit stayed on as part of a goodwill mission, helping feed the locals and rebuild the place, and the lovely Maria used to come for meals. They got to talking, fell in love, and when he returned to the States he sent for her.

"That was 1946...just before Christmas." He says, and we dissolve back to that happy time, not so long past, before things turned sour and he ended up half-dressed in a locker room with that old guy from The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-85) stuffing his hands down the front of his underpants.

These smiles won't last.

At first Maria doesn't speak much English, so we get a charming montage of her progress as Joe helps her remember the words for common items to improve her proficiency. They laugh and joke and seem like a perfect match, but there's an ominous rumbling beneath all the love and kisses, and it's not from his wife's starch-and-cabbage-heavy German cooking.

We fade to some time later, when Joe comes home unexpectedly early and confesses that he's quit his job...again. Maria is patient and loving with him, but she's noticed a pattern developing where he works a few days or weeks somewhere then leaves because of a conflict with the boss or another employee or he just isn't suited to the work or any number of other excuses. She gently suggests maybe he doesn't try long enough to see if it's a good fit, but this only makes him fidget and turn away from her. She doesn't understand with all the work available in 1950's America why he just can't seem to find something he likes.

"Wtf is wrong with you, meine kleine Liebe??

Perhaps I bring it up a bit too often here at MMT that I work in mental health care (can't stop, won't stop)...but I do actually work in mental health care, and I'm passionate about it, too, so when I point out a classic trauma response in some screen character whose behavior I'm evaluating, I know a little something of which I speak.

When your sense of self becomes fragmented by adverse and terrifying experiences you often find yourself alienated from so-called "normal life." You have difficulty relating to others, you feel frustrated and dissatisfied and can never quite pinpoint the source of that frustration and dissatisfaction.

As an abuse survivor I played out this pattern in my own life when I was younger, going through a long series of short-lived jobs I refused to commit to, convincing myself that it was never my fault that nothing ever worked out, and formulating excuses for these failures that seem eerily similar to what Joe offers his wife here. Truthfully, I was myself the common denominator in every one of those bad situations, and eventually I realized that the suffering came from my own poor choices and my unacknowledged inner turmoil. Only an honest reckoning with personal trauma can break the cycle, but good luck finding help with that in the late 1940's, when even in 2021 we're still battling stigmas surrounding mental health issues and those who seek treatment for them.

Perhaps you're struggling, yourself. May I suggest Mental Health America as a good starting point?

When Maria gently suggests that maybe she should get a job for a little while, as women in Germany often did, Joe gets even more surly, hostile and withdrawn. He growls menacingly under his breath, "We're not in Germany."

Maria says she knows where the fuck they are, Joe, but they need the money now more than ever because she just found out she's pregnant. Maria braces herself, expecting Joe will be upset, but as has happened with many a troubled marriage, the prospect of a child seems like an incentive and opportunity to repair heal their relationship rather than an additional stress on the parts of it that are already failing.

Shortly before the following Christmas they have a baby daughter, and although they're basking in the glow of new parenthood, we are shown ample evidence that the cracks are still there and the distance between them is widening. Joe comments that he's glad they had a girl, so she won't have to grow up and find and keep a job like he struggles to do. She'll have it easy, just having to make some guy as happy as he claims Maria has made him. Sure, Joe. Women have it so fucking easy being married to angry, emotionally stunted men like you. Maria offers up a tentative "You bring me happiness, too," but Joe is nine months deeper into his cycle of self-loathing than in the last flashback and he cannot accept her platitudes. He storms off into the kitchen, presumably for some booze, leaving her holding the bag and the baby beneath the Christmas tree.

"Gott in Himmel! I try to be nice and all I get is Bullenscheisse!"

We fade out and when we fade back in it's another Christmas, several years later, with their daughter now a toddler, holding her baby doll tightly to protect against Mommy and Daddy's constant arguing about the possibility of Maria doing a little bit of babysitting for a few hours in the evenings to bring in some much-needed cash.

Joe is in full angry shame mode now, and when Maria puts the girl to bed and comes back in to talk with him he won't even look her in the eye. She says she only wants to help, but he accuses her of mocking him, of insinuating that he's a poor provider (truth hurts, dude), and complains that it's no wonder he can't get anywhere in life when she's always finding fault with him. He grabs his hat and storms out of the apartment, claiming he'll get himself sorted out without her help, thanks very much.

On the bright side, it's a very pretty tree.

We've reach the "transference" phase of his trauma response now and it sure ain't pretty. I feel deeply for Maria here, as would anyone with a heart and a conscience, most especially because she doubtless has her own trauma from the war, and probably lived through a lot worse as a civilian on the losing side than Joe did as a company cook. She probably watched her neighbors die and her city get hammered by bombing runs, struggled through blockades and deprivation, saw brothers and cousins and friends, and maybe even a swertheart march away for a false, bitter cause, never to return. I know you can't fully quantify anyone else's experience against your own, but sometimes it's instructive to step outside of yourself and try as best you can to see the world through someone else's eyes. Sadly, Joe is utterly incapable of that sort of empathy.

Back at the department store Uncle Billy almost has Joe ready to go as Santa, but he's struggling to get the shiny black boots on him, and I can't help but think that for all the time it's taking him to get him dressed he might as well have just played Santa himself. Is Joe really not capable of stuffing a couple of pillows down his pants? Does he have some obscure war wound that prevents him from pulling up his own boots or buttoning his own jacket? The fact is Joe has allowed himself to fall so far down the slippery rabbit-hole of cloying self-pity that he's increasingly incapable of performing his own basic activities of daily living. Soon it'll be so bad he'll need Uncle Billy to wipe his ass for him.

"I'm game. Just let me get my handkerchief."

As Billy does all the work, Joe complains about the various lousy jobs he's had since leaving the army and how none of them suited him. He found being a short order cook particularly menial and humiliating. Uncle Billy has a more sanguine take, saying the Army helped him get that one, and anyway there's nothing more important than feeding people. Amen, Billy. I love feeding people! Sad, cynical Joe, however, sardonically replies "Yeah, everybody loves Santa Claus, too."

I've got to admit, though I may be somewhat sympathetic to his plight, Joe is really wearing me the fuck down right now. He's making a conscious choice to wallow in his misery, wrapping himself up in it like a security blanket, too fearful of openly engaging with his life to cast it off and help himself heal. I see this a lot in my job, hell, I've been there myself, and looking back I'm sure I behaved every bit as as intolerably as Joe is behaving now, but there's a point where regardless of your pain and your fear you have to stop waiting for a solution to fall in your lap and take some fucking initiative.

Joe clearly isn't ready. Perhaps he has more bridges to burn before he can start rebuilding them, or perhaps his self-regard is so miniscule at this stage that he can't even comprehend how completely he's undermining his own best interests, but I suspect what he needs right now is a little tough love to find some of the love in himself.

Not that kind of love, gentlemen.

Billy finally manages to get the boots on him, and Joe stands up, still completely absorbed in his self-piteous memorializing. He yammers on about the night he finally flipped out on Maria and left her. He was working at a real-estate office at the time, often rather late, and he came home one evening to find that Maria wasn't there.

"Hi honey! Deadbeat's home!"

He looks around the place and eventually finds a note stating that she's gone to help out her friend Mrs. Miller with some babysitting and had to take their daughter Ellen with her.

He sits down and scrunches the note in his fist and stays there stewing, motionless, for what must be a very long time, because when Maria finally gets home she assumes he's already read the note and retired for the night. She sees that he's angry and quietly puts their sleeping daughter to bed so they can talk, but like the abusive jackass he's become he doesn't speak. He makes her do the work of stammering and sweating and pleading through a terrified explanation of the objectively harmless and innocent thing she's done.

When she admits that Mrs. Miller paid her for the work he accuses her of undermining him, of telling people he can't provide for his family, saying now that Mr. and Mrs. Miller know it everyone will. He stops short of physical violence but he has most assuredly crossed the Rubicon into authentic and shameless abuse, and based on Maria's body language this isn't the first time she's endured it. She walks carefully, tentatively, wrings her hands, speaks in frightened, pleading, coddling tones, and gives off every sign that these outbursts are terrifyingly regular occurrences in their home.

Okay, Joe. Now you've lost me.

I know that everyone experiences their trauma differently, that my own experience is not a guidebook for anyone else's behavior, but it's more than a bridge too far for me when someone goes from self-flagellation to overtly targetting and victimizing another person. Perhaps the nature and developmental chronology of my own abuse made me compassionate in a way that Joe's battle trauma did not, but as far as I can see Maria has done everything absolutely right, has been as supportive as anyone could possibly be under the circumstances. Joe has degenerated into a common bully, and when he blames Maria for "Making a fool of him" as an excuse for running away from his responsibilities to her and their child, the fact is that in that moment he's made a very conscious and damaging choice to put his own fear above every other consideration in his life.

Yeah, don't come back until you get your shit together, Arschlecker.

Back in the locker room Joe is nearly transformed into Santa, adjusting his beard and mustache in front of a mirror. He sheepishly muses to both Uncle Billy and his own reflection that the less successful you are the more pride you have, and it seems he might finally be ready to open his heart to a little self-evaluation. When Billy timidly suggests maybe he ought to swallow a little of that pride, however he pointedly ignores him. Billy asks if his wife knows he's working at Morley's and he says, sure, even though they don't talk or write much anymore he still sends her money and she knows where he gets it.

Joe pops on his wig and hat, and by way of changing the subject he asks Billy how he looks. "Best helper St. Nick ever had!" he replies, adding "I'd give anything to trade places with you, though...but only in the Santa department."

Jab a little deeper, Uncle Billy. I'm not sure he felt that one.

Now we fade to Joe immersed in his Santa gig, and suprisingly he's doing a pretty good job of it. A sign beside him indicates that it's now just six days to Christmas, so he's been at it for about two weeks and seems to have warmed up to it. He finishes up with a little boy who wants a bike, and as the next child is handed over to him he looks out and sees his own daughter smiling broadly in anticipation of meeting the one and only, real and authentic Santa Claus.

Ten to one that other girl ends up as a spinster librarian.

Joe gives short shrift to the two kids in front of his daughter, doubtless leaving them mighty disappointed, but explaining that he's a little pressed for time and has to get back to the bar...umm, to the closing time. Finally Ellen is there sitting on his lap, looking up at him utterly unaware that he's her father.

She'd know whether he was her father if this was The Maury Povich Show.

Ellen talks a blue streak about how she and her Mommy went to the hardware department to look for her Daddy, but he wasn't there, which was no surprise really, because he's never around when you need him anyway, but Mommy decided she should get him a present even though he never returns her calls, never writes a letter, just throws a few bucks her way at the end of the month as if that qualifies as "parenting."

She also says she hopes she won't be on his naughty list just because her Mommy doesn't know she's there. It seems she got so excited and impatient to meet him that she snuck away when Mommy wasn't looking. She says they came downtown on the train and the whole time she was thinking about telling her daddy about getting an "A" in arithmetic, about her baby doll Betty Lou, about all the things she'd been wanting to share with him in the many long months since she'd seem him last.

Dig into him harder, kid. This is delicious.

Just then the closing bell rings, and "Santa" says he'll walk her over to the hardware department himself to find her Mommy, and she can tell him what she wants for Christmas on the way, but Maria shows up, and like the loving, caring and forgiving woman she is, she isn't mad at all when Ellen apologizes for sneaking off to see Santa, becuase she has enough basic human empathy to understand a child's innocent transgressions.

Maria tells Ellen they should quickly thank Santa for his kind time and attention and move along, because it's closing time at Morley's and anyway she's got a real hot date with one of Daddy's old soldier pals when they get back to the apartment. A woman has needs, you know.

We've all got needs, Maria.

When she talks to Santa and hears Joe's voice she's temporarily discombobulated, but he subtly indicates she should not spoil the illusion by saying his name. She composes herself and makes sure Ellen tells him about the skates she wants and "Santa" assures here they'll be under the tree. Then the little girl, already so proficient in inflicting pain, sharpens her claws and raises her arm to deliver the death blow: She asks Santa to please, please, please send her daddy home to her.

Is it wrong that I'm enjoying this so much?

Next we fade to the night before Christmas Eve, with Joe out of his suit and waxing philosophical to Uncle Billy about having only one more day left being Santa and how he's come to understand that it really is an important job. He wonders aloud if Santa himself might not help out one of his helpers, and as Billy schleps off to hang up the suit, he runs to a pay phone to send Maria a telegram, asking if he might "put daddy in his gift pack Christmas Eve, even if I have to bring him down the chimney" which I'm thinking had to raise a few eyebrows at the Western Union office. He further promises to deliver an "improved model with all the old kinks ironed out..."

"...and with a few new kinks ironed in, if you get my drift!"

The next morning Billy brings out the Santa suit and Joe arrives as usual. Uncle Billy says sadly "I guess I'll have to wait another year," then suddenly remembers a telegram that came that morning for Joe, who grabs and opens it with trembling hands. It simply says "Why use the chimney when the front door will be wide open?"

"I hope that's not all that'll be wide open, if you know what I mean!"

Joe gets so overwhelmed by the prospect of a little Deutschenookie that he hands Uncle Billy the suit and tells him it's finally gonna be his turn to play Santa at Morley's. He asks him to tell Mr. Grimes he's taking a leave of absence to go play Santa for his family.

So let's get this straight...he tells his ex-wife he's coming back to her a new and better man, all fixed up, no more fly-by-night bullshit, no more anger issues, drinking, whoring and whatever the fuck else he might have been doing to express his trauma and fear, and most importantly no more going through jobs like ex-lax through a goose, yet the very first thing he does is completely blow off his current job on the busiest shopping day of the year?

Improved model my pert, shapely ass!

That condescending asshole store manager Grimes sure didn't seem like the sort of guy who'd take kindly to his Santa ditching his post at the last minute and arbitrarily handing over his duties, unannounced and unapproved, to the very guy he explicitly told him wasn't going to be available because he can't be spared. I'm feeling pretty confident that by the time Joe gets to his wife's apartment there's going to be another telegram waiting for him with the words "you're fired."

So much for a happy ending, but at least Uncle Billy got what he wanted. The selfish prick.

The End

Overall Joe Santa Claus was pretty darn good, but damn! That ending has got to go. Clearly, they really wanted to tie up the "Uncle Billy desperately wants to play Santa" plot thread with a tidy bow, but they had gift-wrapped themselves into an inescapable corner and had to completely undermine their central character's Christmas redemption to do it.

If only they hadn't made Mr. Grimes such a cold and condescending caricature they could easily have turned the trick, could have their Christmas cake and a nice slice of mince pie, too. The not-a-complete-asshole version of Grimes could have come in just as Joe was reading the telegram, and when Joe explained what it meant to him, what it meant for his marriage, he could have begged for the time off to see his family. The secretly soft-hearted manager could have given his blessing and handed Uncle Billy the jolly old Santa duds himself, scoring his own redemptive good deed for the holiday in the process. With Mr. Grimes as Scroogey as they made him, however, there's just no way Joe gets out of this with his job, his marriage and his dignity intact, and any joy he experiences through reuniting with his family will inevitably crumble into disappointment, rancor and bitter ruin.

Gratuitous Bleeding Heart Liberal Alert!
We like to think of Christmas as a uniformly happy time of goodwill and good deeds, and those certainly are laudable things, but we know in our hearts it's just a brief, unsteady and often ineffective truce with the sadness and inequity that surrounds us throughout the rest of the year. We know that all the need and injustice in the world isn't going to go away just because we remember to address it for a few weeks leading up to the holidays no matter how badly we wish that were so. The poor unhomed guy you might see on your way to work each morning, shivering in his ragged blanket and threadbare coat, might get a few extra hot meals at a soup kitchen during the holiday season, but what about the rest of the year? Hunger never takes a day off, and time and weather relentlessly take their toll on the unsheltered and forgotten street denizens of our communities. Everyone's trauma story is unique, but Joe's narrative is a kind of ominous blueprint for how that fellow may have ended up out there in the first place.

This Christmas please take a little time to help someone who's fallen off the edges of our society and landed hard on the pavement, and maybe show them some love over the rest of the year, too. There but for the grace of whatever forces, gods or circumstances you might imagine any one of us could have gone ourselves.

Shitmas Bonus!
MMT Exclusive!

When I learned about the DuMont Network and its thousands of missing programs I shed a silent, virtual tear. There's something about lost media that makes me desperately want to see it, no matter what it might be. The subject and quality are immaterial. It could be a silent film, a television episode from a program I've never heard of, or even an instructional video detailing the proper way to insert a suppository, but the wistful, melancholy reaction a piece of lost media produces in me is always the same. It's the mystery of it that bewitches me.

I therefore assembled a salvage team to help me scour the area of the East River in New York where DuMont's film cannisters were allegedly dumped, and after six months of searching we found exactly one half-hour film. By an astonishingly unlikely, not at all made-up coincidence, out of the nearly twenty thousand missing DuMont programs, the one and only film we recovered is a direct sequel to today's Shitmas offering!

The print was in terrible shape, as you can well imagine, after fifty years submerged in mucky New York water, and restoration efforts are still ongoing. We can therefore only show you a few frames and give you a rough summation of what the special was about, but we are still extremely proud to be able to bring you, for the first time in nearly seventy years, Joe Santa Claus II: The Quickening (1952).

The story picks up right where the previous special left off, and to save money it seems they've used some footage from the original. It takes a different approach to the material, however, and it's a bold choice: the story chronicles the crumbling of Joe's marriage and his descent into drug and alcohol-fueled madness.

Joe leaves his job at the department store on Christmas Eve and stops on his way to the train station for some whiskey to calm his nerves, knowing he must confess to his wife that he's just ditched yet another job. He drinks the entire bottle and pops a few bennies on the train, so that by the time he reaches his wife and daughter's apartment he's completely hammered and has even begun hallucinating.

"I don't remember having any pets."

As Maria works in the kitchen, Joe sits on sofa and tries to collect himself. He looks up to see his daughter stepping from the bedroom, rubbing her eyes as if she's just awoken from a nap. He's horrified to see Uncle Billy hanging from the ceiling, complaining that the Santa suit smells like urine and stale tobacco, and he can't possibly let the children sit on his lap with all those stains.

"It's coming straight out of your last paycheck, Joe!"

Maria comes inand sits with him on the sofa, and soon Ellen comes asking what Daddy brought her for Christmas, but something is wrong...Ellen doesn't seem to look like his daughter at all.

"Oh, dear God, no!"

When Joe looks at his daughter and his addled brain sees a puppet instead, he accuses his wife of having an affair with a Cabbage Patch Kid, a prescient statement considering the dolls wouldn't be released under that name for another thirty years.

Maria asks him why he speaks of cabbage in this way, but he doesn't seem to comprehend, and when she tells him he's acting strange he gets up and leans against the kitchen door to gather his thoughts. He rubs his hand across his face, turns back to her and stifles a scream.

"Ellen helped decorate it. Isn't it beautiful, Joe?"

Things start careening into madness now at a break-neck pace, and even Ellen is starting to wonder if maybe having daddy back for Christmas wasn't a shitty idea.

"Mommy, why is daddy sweating like that?"

There's a big chunk of the program the restorers are still working on next, as it was more badly damaged than the rest, but from what little we've been able to glean it seems like Joe's family kicks him out, so he goes back to the department store, after closing time, breaks in and puts the Santa suit back on.

He looks at himself in the mirror and begins talking to himself in Santa's voice. He remembers his life as Joe as merely a bad dream, and in his desperate madness he comes to believe he actually is Santa Claus.

"Ho ho ho. Ho ho ho. Ho ho ho"

He grabs an armful of liquid nourishment from the liquor department and climbs back out through the service window he'd broken to get in. One bottle after another, he guzzles down the booze until it is gone, and before he knows it he's standing on the promenade by the East River.

He leans over the railing to look at the water, loses his balance and falls in, and ironically, he drowns just a few yards away from the very spot where we found this film.

The End.

I think I've been working too hard.
I can't tell one day of Shitmas from the next.

Merry Christmas, folkses.

Next Installment: December 25th!

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December, 2021.

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