Ho ho howdy folkses! Welcome to the Tenth Day of The Twelve Days of Shitmas! Our previous special was a spirited glimpse into the last hurrah of that once-treasured staple of prime-time television, the comedy-variety show. Today's offering on the other hand is a sad, misshapen Christmas orphan that has probably never been treasured by anyone at all. Much like Day Eight's feature it appears to have been intended as a tax write-off or perhaps as part of some murky money laundering scheme. Murky, too are the details surrounding its production, with the only thing anyone seems able to agree upon being that it's a reeking pile of amateur Yuletide shit. As per my standard modus operandi I took that clear and hostile consensus as a must-see ringing endorsement.

Rockin' Around the Shitmas Tree.

We're posting a new review of a different Christmas special every other day, culminating in what we consider the worst of the bunch on Christmas morning. As I compiled my list of potential entries for our inaugural Shitmas celebration I considered a variety of factors, including the year or decade in which a particular special was made, it's cheese, corn and what-the-fuck values, and how it might ultimately fit within the flow of the twelve days of reviews. I also considered whether something was well-known, or whether it was a rarity few readers might ever have heard of. Call me crazy, but I think it's nice sometimes to get a present that when you first open it you have no idea what the hell it is or where the fuck it came from.

Some things are rare because they're exclusive or expensive, like a fine cognac or a decent performance by Nicolas Cage, some are rare because they're relics of the past and few examples of them have survived the ravages of time, like a mustache snood or a Victorian hernia truss, and some, like Magic Christmas Tree are rare because they bit poor Santa so hard right on his big, fat ass that no one in their right mind would ever want to remember them.

This abysmal feature is a lamentable puzzle box of broken holiday dreams and impenetrable micro-budget conundrums. Its director, its composer, two of its three producers and all but one of its actors were never involved in another production of any kind. No one seems to know why it was made or where it was intended to be shown, and although IMdB lists it as a TV production there's no evidence it was ever broadcast anywhere. Also, as you will see, only roughly half of it is about Christmas at all. There's simply no discernable reason for this thing to exist, but exist it does, and I'm going to dissect it now in grotesque detail for your voyeuristic midwinter amusement.

It's so bad it'll curl your colon and so cheap it couldn't afford a "The."

Despite that the cheesy title card is in living color, the movie proper begins in black and white. We open with a shot of an elementary school in what I assume is La Verne California where this turkey was reportedly filmed, and when we cut to the inside of the building a bunch of skeleton and black cat decorations indicate that it is not Christmas as the title would lead us to believe, but Halloween.

It's a bait-and-switch in the first five seconds. This does not bode well.

The lunch bell rings and we cut to three friends looking for an open bench where they can sit down and eat. I was surprised on first viewing to see that one of these three friends is black, and that this is treated absolutely matter-of-factly with no special attention drawn to it at all. That's pretty damned progressive for 1964, and if there's nothing else worth recommending about the movie (and believe me, there is not) it at least earns some respect for that. Of course the kid's only in it for five minutes, but this thing is a next-level shit-show, so you've got to take the positive where you can find it.

It was a simpler time...when most people thought chlamydia was an exotic houseplant.

The three have a long and surprisingly detailed conversation about what kind of sandwiches they have in their lunch bags. Tommy the black kid has cheese, dark-haired, buck-toothed Dave has baloney and our tow-headed hero Mark has meat loaf. Dave has tired of his baloney, having eaten it for lunch every day for over a year, so he opens a palaver to negotiate for Tommy's cheese. Tommy flatly rebuffs his appeal, saying he must be crazy to think that cheese and baloney share parity in the complex hierarchy of lunchtime sandwich fillings. Mark, we discover, does not particularly care for his own meat loaf, so he offers to trade it to Dave for his baloney, with the caveat that he must also hand over his banana. Dave rubs his chin thoughtfully and considers his options, eventually agreeing to the transaction.

It's absolutely riveting stuff, like something out of a Sydney Lumet courtroom procedural or a Francis Ford Coppola mafia drama.

"Meat that's an offer I can't refuse."

After The Great Sandwich Swap of 1964 the three discuss what they plan to do for Halloween. Tommy says he's taking his sister to a party, and poor Dave says he has to baby sit. Mark tells them he's not gonna waste his Halloween on babies and girls and parties (his aversion to babysitting I can understand, but wtf is wrong with girls and parties?). He's going up to "that old Finch place," the house in their neighborhood everybody says is haunted, to have himself a Halloween adventure. Tommy reminds him that there's an old witch living in that house, but Mark insists she's just a crazy old lady, and that somehow that justifies going up there to break into her home.

He uses some time-tested peer pressure to try to shame his pals into joining him: he calls 'em both chickens. His nefarious insult-and-strong-arm approach pays immediate dividends and they agree to join him on their way home from school that afternoon.

This kid has a future in politics.

It should be noted that the acting is uniformly horrendous so far, with lines alternately mumbled and shouted, and with oddly placed pauses like they're reading off of cue-cards. Mark also tends to over-annunciate and speak very slowly like he thinks he's hot shit in the school play.

I wish I could tell you it gets better as it goes on, but I strive to be honest and forthright in my reviews. It doesn't get better. It just gets worse.

We jump cut now to what is presumably the Finch house, where an old, bent woman with a craggy face and a hooked nose, a black shawl and cane shuffles across her porch shouting "Lucifer? Where are you, Lucifer?" again and again.

Lucifer is not the Prince of Evil, but rather a handsome black kitty who appears to be stuck in a tree.

I'll bet he never signed a clearance for this.

Meanwhile the three young hooligans are casing the house from the street, looking for a point of egress onto the property and the old lady is still talking to the cat, yelling at him to get down and wagging her finger in warning, saying "You remember what happened last time you disobeyed me!"

"I had the vet cut your balls off!"

The old lady rants on a bit then stops suddenly, thinking she hears someone walking up the lane to her house.

The three kids are almost up to the yard when Dave and Tommy start to get cold feet, but Mark insists that with or without them he's going to commit felony burglary and enter that fucking house. Tommy tells Mark he can do what he likes but he and Dave are going the hell home.

"Listen, honky...I've seen horror movies! The brother always dies first!"

The old lady has been listening to all of this from behind a bush and when Mark makes his way into her yard she jumps out and grabs him by the arm. He struggles and whines but she has a grip of iron, and he eventually stops squirming and resigns himself to becoming some kind of trophy on the old witch's wall. She says she'll release him only if he promises to stay and do something special for her.

"Well, alright, lady, but no kinky stuff!"

She lets go and he whines that his mom is waiting for him, but she says she only needs a moment of his time. She asks him if he's any good at climbing trees.

"I said no kinky stuff!"

All she wants is for him to get poor Lucifer down from the tree. He starts climbing, gets about three quarters of the way up to the cat then falls out and hits his head on the ground. No sooner is the dumb kid lying there, knocked out cold, than the cat jumps down on his own.

Because cats love two things:
wet food and irony.

Mark's sudden, traumatic brain injury somehow cured his color-blindness, because when he regains consciousness the movie is no longer black and white.

The old lady tells mark she wants to reward him for his good deed, and that the reward will be something magical! She admits now that she is indeed a witch, but she's actually a good witch.

She just named her cat "Lucifer" for the LOLz.

She gives Mark a Santa Clause ring that looks like it came from a plastic egg in a supermarket vending machine.

The prop budget was only a nickel.

She gives him some rannygazoo now about how the compartment in the ring contains a magic seed, that when planted with the wishbone of a Thanksgiving turkey will cause a magic tree to appear. When the tree is full grown, she says, the tree will grant the wearer of the ring three wishes.

All he has to do at that point is stand before it, turn the ring around his finger three times, and say the magic words "Rimbum! Carrynoom! Po!"

"Rim bum sure sounds kinky to me."

Next we get one of those cheesy transitions where a calendar sheds its pages to show the passing of time, only they apparently couldn't get the pages to blow off properly with a fan so they did it with a bunch of clunky jump cuts instead. We end up on November 26th where we join Mark and his family about to enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner.

It's still not Christmas, but at least we're getting closer.

Mark asks his father for the wishbone and Dad says "You'll take what I give you!" Wow! Dad's a real dick! Mom steps in and snaps at him to just give the goddamn kid the fucking wishbone already because she's tired of hearing the little bastard whine about it.

One gets the sense it's not a healthy marriage.

Later that night Mark waits for his parents to go to bed. He turns on the light and takes the ring and a garden spade from the top drawer of his nightstand. He then opens the bottom drawer and pulls out a big, live, presumably pissed-off tortoise named Ichabod.

He has his own IMdB page

So Mark goes out to the yard, digs a little hole and plants the seed and the wishbone. He turns the ring three times and ever-so-fucking-slowly speaks the magic words. There's a bright flash of lighting and a huge clap of thunder and Mark gets so scared he runs right back in the house without waiting to see what happens next. This is all in one continuous shot that takes over two and a quarter minutes of screen time, including a full thirty seconds just of Mark digging. It feels like a fucking eternity.

For fuck's sake, dig like you mean it!

After Mark skedaddles a bit of rain falls just on the spot where he planted the seed, and in an edit that makes Ed Wood look like a competent cinematic artiste, an enormous pine tree appears.

It's either Thanksgiving magic or holiday hallucinogens.

The next morning Dad and Mom are having breakfast and Dad is so distracted by the fact that there's nothing in the newspaper about that clap of thunder that woke him up last night that he doesn't hear his wife offering him coffee three separate times. That's what married folk call "selective hearing."

Mark comes whipping through the kitchen like a tornado, wearing a ball cap and filling his mitt with doughnuts, saying he has no time to stop for breakfast because he's got to meet his pals at the park for a ball game.

Dad says he's gonna mow the lawn and Mom quips "You'd better mow it twice, it needs it!" Dad slinks off with a half-mumbled, passive-aggressive "Yes, dear" and a pensive look wistful of regret.

They don't even know each other anymore.

I should probably mention at this point that although the opening scene in the schoolyard appeared to have properly synched sound with dialog recorded during filming, the rest of the film has all of the dialog recorded in post-production and it only occasionally matches up with what the actors appear to be saying. This is known amongst aficionados of cinematic trash as "the Coleman Francis effect."

Well, folkses, I don't even know what to say about this next sequence that hasn't already been said about pancreatitis and chronic dysentery. It's obviously meant as a mirthful tableau of broad comedy but it's so puerile and stupid, so desperately unfunny, so long and dull and achingly slow it's nothing short of torturous.

It starts with Dad telling Ichabod that he'll race him to the first blade of grass, after which we have to watch him attempt to start the lawnmower eleven painfully drawn out times. Each pull unleashes an exagerrated sound effect like a horse's whinny and the entire dreadful process is interspersed with shots of Ichabod slowly creeping across the lawn.

When Dad finally gets the mower started it makes absurd noises like ratchets, cartoon boings and car horns, and we see him pushing it wildly back and forth over the same two rows of grass about ten times. This is intercut with Mom gossiping on the phone in the kitchen and Ichabod eating clover at the edge of the garden. Finally we see Dad push the mower directly towards the camera and from Mom's vantage by the sink we hear an enormous crash. She runs out to find the mower in pieces and Dad flat on his ass and shell-shocked in the grass beside Mark's tree.

I'm a decent, kind-hearted fellow and would never suggest to anyone that they should watch this film, but if someone were foolhardy enough to do so I would dare them to watch this entire sequence without fast forwarding through any of it. I'm honestly not sure it can be done.

There's just so much wrong with this picture.

Let's break this down, shall we? It definitely strains credulity that dumb ass Dad didn't notice a tree standing right the fuck in front of him, but I'll to let that one go. I'm willing to generously assume the mower was somehow careening wildly out of control and Dad was so fixated on it he just wasn't paying attention to anything else around him. He's not a bright man, after all, and multitasking takes concentration.

Even allowing for that, however, we still have some serious continuity problems. First, Mark planted that tree at least thirty feet from the house the previous night but now it's right the hell next to it. Second it's not even the same goddamn house. Third it's not even the same fucking tree. I'm not even gonna get into why the fucking lawnmower exploded.

"My life makes no sense to me anymore."

Mom insists that Dad must have planted the tree, because obviously it's right fucking there, but he must also have somehow forgotten all about it, because otherwise he wouldn't have run into it. She seems to find his troublingly poor memory amusing but I'd be concerned he might have a brain tumor or early-onset dementia.

Dad decides he's gonna chop the resinous interloper down, but when he steps forward to go get the axe he trips over part of the mower and falls on his fat face. As he lies on the grass, questioning the many choices that led him to this particular juncture, Ichabod walks up and throws him a little terrapin shade.

"You know I'm gonna outlive you, right?"

Dad gets the axe and swings is at the damn tree like 30 times and the movie shows us every single swipe, with the sound of a hammer hitting an anvil dubbed in for every impact of the blade. It's like some perverse experiment to test audience endurance. After two full minutes of this he finally gives up and goes inside the house, presumably to wash away his humiliation with a fifth of Jack and a case of Brown Derby.

We fade to black, and when we return it's finally fucking Christmas Eve.

29 minutes and 58 seconds in.

Back at the old disfunctional homestead Mom and Sis are getting ready to go to town for some last-minute shopping.

I thought I'd give poor Sis her own screenshot even though she could have been cut from the film entirely with absolutely no discernable effect on the plot, continuity or story flow.

Dad says he also has some shopping to do so he'll drop the ladies off downtown and get to it. Mom asks cheekily what it is he needs to buy on Christmas Eve and he says he still needs to get them a Christmas tree. Mom and the kids have ostensibly failed to notice up to this point that they don't yet have one, becuase she scolds him now for waiting until the last minute. She is adamant that there won't be any left to buy, but dumbass Dad confidently states "Just leave it to me."

She spends at least a third of each day fantasizing about getting a divorce.

The unhappy trio takes off for town leaving Mark standing alone in the driveway, and he waits awkwardly until they've pulled away and are well out of earshot to say a perfunctory, mumbled goodbye. There are definitely some communication issues in this family.

Mark steps around to the back of the house, walks up to the tree and says "How do I know when it's full grown?" To his surprise the tree responds in a theatrically effeminate voice somewhere between Mr. Belvedere and Dr. Smith from Lost in Space "Oh, I'm full grown all right!"

I'll bet you are.

The Tree's attitude is haughty to the point of mincing hostility, and Mark is at first at a loss on how to proceed, but it impatiently instructs him to take out the ring, spin it on his finger three times and say the magic words...which he does v-e-r-y-s-l-o-w-l-y. He is in fact required to perform this procedure several more times to get his wishes and every single time it's so painfully drawn out it's like having a tooth extracted.

So Mark does the ring incantation thing and suddenly the Tree completely disappears. Mark walks back into the house dejectedly but soon discovers the tree has relocated to the living room. The damn thing straight up shouts at Mark to quit lollygagging and do the thing with the ring again so it can get itself magically decorated.

The problem is the tree they got is so frail and scrawny that even covered in baubles, beads and tinsel it looks laughably sparse and lame.

That's just pathetic.

The producers must have noticed this, too because by the next shot they've replaced it with a much more lush and probably artificial tree. The creepy arboreal presence proudly and pervily inquires "Oh! I do look rather handsome, don't I boy?"

"Would you like to touch my Christmas balls?"

The tree tells the boy it's time to make his wishes, and instructs him that for each wish he must once again turn the ring three times, etc. etc. and oh, Jesus can't we just move things along here, with a few judicious edits, people?

Mark is so impressed with the tree's magical powers, he wishes for an hour of power for himself.

But not this "Hour of Power."

He does the damn ring thing again and gets his wish. The tree tells him he can do anything he likes. "Just point your finger!" he says. Yeah, I'm sure he'd just love to show him where to point that finger.

Drunk with his newfound might, Mark points his finger at a side table and makes a flower disappear from a vase. Then he changes the vase into a different vase. Then he makes the flower reappear in the new vase.

"I am a god!"

Mark says he's gonna go out and have some fun. First he turns the night into day so he can see what the fuck he's doing, then he literally just walks around downtown wreaking asinine slapstick havoc while the Christmas Tree stays home and takes a nap.

The first thing Mark does is fuck with a random black man who's trying to load some boxes of potato chips onto the back of a truck. Mark points his mighty finger of doom and the truck rolls away from this hapless innocent, and the modicum of goodwill the film built up by having a sympathetic black character in the first scene quickly evaporates. Especially when he gleefully sics the cops on the poor guy.

This scenario never ends well for a black man in America.

Next Mark sees a guy in a chef's hat talking to a waitress outside a diner. He decides to make them throw pies in each other's faces. There's a shot of the chef chasing the waitress down an alley that gets shown about six more times as the chaos ramps up and other unsuspecting bystanders get screwed over by this empathy-challenged pre-teen and his stanky, magic finger.

We get to know these two far too well.

Now Mark gets the fire department involved in his madness, making them drive wildly around in circles, helplessly flailingtheir arms, presumably while some despondent family's home is burning to the ground.

To be fair all of this is exactly what would happen if you suddenly gave phenomenal cosmic power to a nine-year-old brat with the morals of toddler and the imagination
of a pet rock.

This shit goes on for about six minutes of screen time and not a single person either directly involved or walking down the streets betrays an iota of surprise at the fact that it's suddenly daytime in the middle of summer when a few minutes before it was Christmas Eve night.

Mark points his finger one last time and we dissolve back to the house where the family is returning from their shopping trip as if nothing of what we just saw ever happened. Seriously, it's not even mentioned.

It seems Dad is in the shit-house again because just as Mom predicted there wasn't a single tree available anywhere. That's what he gets for putting it off, the lazy bastard. In a desperate bid to regain the respect and confidence of his family he decides to have another go at chopping down "that scrawny tree" in the back yard. He's flabbergasted to find the tree gone with not so much as a stump left to indicate it was ever there. Mom uses this to get another crack or two in about her husband's admittedly obvious inadequacies, and I'm more convinced than ever that there's gonna be lawyers involved in this relationship sooner rather than later.

Dad walks into the living room to call the police about his "stolen" tree and is surprised to find Mark standing next to the big hunk of Christmas wood itself fully dressed and decorated. For some reason he's pissed off about it, at least until Mom comes in. When she gently chides him for his "little joke" and delightedly gives him credit for the Tree being there he realizes he might actually get a little somethin' somethin' out of this situation if he plays his cards right.

"I just may strike a little Christmas wood of my own!"

Everyone else goes to bed but Mark still has a couple of wishes to make, so he sneaks out in some pajamas that look like a gown from a psych ward and he wakes up the Tree. He dithers a bit, unable to decide what to wish for and the Tree tries to hurry him along, saying they haven't much time because Santa will soon be there. This gives Mark a very naughty idea. He decides to wish to have Santa Clause for his very own.

The Tree demurs at the selfishness of the request and tries to talk Mark out of it, but Mark is an asshole and doesn't care about the consequences to anyone else as long as he gets what he wants.

"I wanna be a Republican!"

Mark does the goddamn fucking ring thing again, and suddenly Santa is sitting in the armchair, unable to move. It's glaringly obvious in the close-up shots that Santa is the actor who plays Dad in a shitty fake beard.

Santa asks the Tree what's going on and it explains it to him in small words he can understand. Santa laments for the poor children whom he will be unable to visit this night, but Mark is unmoved, insisting he won't let him go until he gives him everything he asks for. As we fade to black, Mark starts rattling off an extensive list of expensive toys.

When we fade back in Mark is gone and Santa is begging the Tree to let him get up from the chair so he can go take a dump. Sadly, the Tree is bound by the bullshit laws of magical wish-giving and explains that Santa is stuck in that chair until the asshole kid releases him. Santa says that despite Mark making a prisoner of him, extorting gifts and ruining Christmas for the entire population of the Earth, he can't help but feel sorry for the boy for letting his selfishness get the better of him.

"Fuck that kid, Santa. Want to pull on my tinsel?"

Santa asks the Tree where Mark is now and we cut to a desolate wilderness of rocks and shrubs where we see the kid lovingly fondling a rifle.

He got his wish! He's a Republican!

There's absolutely no explanation for where the kid is, how he got there or why it's suddenly daytime again. He's just putzing around playing with the gun, taking in the sights and, like this entire fucking movie, wasting our precious time.

After wandering awhile in the rocky valley he somehow ends up in the woods. He sets the gun against a tree and sits down to rest. "Wouldn't ya know it," he laments, "Not a bird or a squirrel in sight!" It seems Mark enjoys killin' just for killin's sake.

As he bends down to sip some water from a tiny stream a pair of huge furry boots appear behind him. A deep voice instructs him to "Never drink a little when you can drink a lot!" Which for some reason makes me think of former Intern Kelby.

Mark turns around and sees this guy:

It's the local chapter president of the Man-Boy Love Association.

This is Greed, come to take Mark away for being such a selfish piece of shit. Because he gave in to his own worst impulses this giant tells him "You're my little boy now!"

I'm so sorry I had to show you this.

Mark realizes he's gonna be trained up as a gimp for his new papa bear if he doesn't have a complete and immediate personal revival, and he's suddenly not so keen on all those toys and games and things he demanded from Santa at the material expense of every other child in the entire fucking world.

Greed makes him look in the water and we dissolve to a bizarre montage like something out of an anti-communism propaganda film. A news announcer describes the panic that has gripped the nation because Santa Claus failed to arrive. According to the report all units of The California State Guard have been mobilized to help find the missing-in-action Jolly Old Elf.

Even The United Nations has gotten involved via some low-rent stock footage.

All of the police and fire brigades in New York have joined the search, and the Pentagon has dispatched the Air National Guard. Even Interpol has called in all available operatives to assist in the worldwide search. Meanwhile all the little children of the Earth are wailing and crying and left with empty stockings and shattered dreams.

Mark cries some little self-serving crocodile tears and promises he'll never do anything so terrible ever again if only the big old giant daddy bear will please leave his butthole alone.

Ultimately Greed takes pity on him and tells him to go, and Mark certainly doesn't stick around long enough to let him change his mind.

"Oh well," says the Giant. "I lost that one, but I'll find another child to be my slave!"

"Maybe you!"

Mark comes back to let Santa go and apologize for his horrendous behavior. He uses his last wish to undo the damage and make it Christmas Eve again, so that Santa may complete his mission to bring toys for all the world's little boys and girls. Most of all he wishes that Santa will forgive him, presumably so he won't get completely shafted on toys himself.

Santa makes a sappy little speech about being the spirit of forgiveness or some shit, and says of course he's totally gonna let the selfish, grasping prick off the hook, because he just can't stay angry at him, the sociopathic little scamp.

"I did have to shit my pants while you were gone, though. You might want to disinfect
this chair."

Mark does the stupid, goddamn, miserable fucking ring thing one more time and everything is returned to how it was before. Well, almost everything.

"Damn, Santa! What you been eatin'?"

The Tree now tells the kid that since he's had his three wishes he's gonna take off now, hit a bar someplace and pick up some sad-sack sapling with nowhere else to go on Christmas eve and maybe try to get lucky.

So the tree disappears and Mark collapses in disappointment over how badly he fucked up this unrepeatable opportunity to get himself set up for life. The realization of the magnitude of his own inadequacy as a human being is too much for him to bear and he slips into troubled unconsciousness on Santa's shit-stained chair.

We dissolve back to the Finch house now, and Mark wakes up in the busom of the old lady whose cat he tried to rescue from the tree. We're back to monochrome now as well, so the whole thing about the witch and the tree was just a dream in vivid color, framed by the bland reality of Mark's humdrum life in black and white. Gee, I wonder where they got that idea.

"How are you feeling, I mean Mark?"

The old lady explains that when Mark fell the cat jumped out on his own, and as she shuffles inside to get him some milk and cookies as a bribe not to implicate her in his fall, Mark slowly stands up, still slightly woozy from the blow to his head. He suddenly notices something surprising in the distance and exclaims "Oh no! It can't be! It was just a dream!"

We pan across the old lady's yard and suddenly we're in color again, looking at a big, lush pine tree standing on the crest of a hill.

"Yes, it's me! Remember, there's a little bit of magic in every Christmas tree!"

Jesus. The kid must have hit his head harder than he thought.

So, yeah, this sucked pretty hard. Still, it was kind of a cute story and I can't help feeling there was the kernel of a decent little special there, if only they'd cut it down by about 60%, completely rewritten it, fired everyone involved and started from scratch with a completely different cast and crew made up of people who knew how to make a movie beyond just loading the film and letting something crap itself out in front of the camera.

A trifle less pedophilic homoeroticism would probably have been helpful, too.

The End.

Merry Christmas, folkses.

Next Installment: December 23rd.

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December 2019.

Questions? Comments? Expressions of disgust? Why not skip the middleman and complain to me directly?

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