|RUDOLPH AND FROSTY'S CHRISTMAS IN JULY (abc, 1979)|
Why was it such a misfit?
A two-hour-long, cameo-crammed, all-out, to-the-nines, do-or-die FINAL Rankin-Bass special from the classic era, starring Rudolph and Frosty at the same time -- and Frosty is in stop-motion! Whoa! What could go wrong?
A lot. You might wonder why you've never heard of this. It's for the same reason everybody's familiar with "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," but not "Tom Sawyer, Detective."
Mr. Rankin and Mr. Bass had made a lot of Christmas specials by this point, and they were ready to hang it up, but not before wrapping up the universe they'd created in a bow with Christmas in July -- and it wasn't called that for nothing. It was intended to air in July, and it actually did on its first airing. Terrible miscalculation on their part; no kid wanted to watch Rudolph or Frosty in the middle of summer and the movie only aired on network TV once.
Rankin-Bass is known for their cheesy lines, but the hack dialogue I heard in here transcends the boundaries even for them. I'll be pointing out the golden ones, the ones that are just so bad I can't help but love. One shows up rather quickly, so you won't have to wait long.
You have to at least give them credit for treating their mythos seriously. The histories of Rudolph, Frosty and Santa had already been told in their respective specials, so this one neatly fills in the gaps to tie them all together, explaining what the North Pole was like before Santa. It was a nasty place; there was a mess wherever you stepped. The Arctic was once ruled by the cold fist of the powerful wizard King Winterbolt. Every elf feared him; every polar bear made yellow snow in his presence.
But then from out of nowhere came Lady Boreal, the goddess of the north! She was so sick of his crap, she immediately zapped him into a deep freeze. Winterbolt attempted to blast her with his magic, but it pathetically ricoched off her force field. Then she hit him back, which resulted in Golden Line #1.
"TOO....POWERFUL....FOR ME! YOUR....FORCE! OVER.....WHELMS ME!"
Boreal is also just as overdramatic with her speech, but it doesn't top this.
Lady Boreal declares that King Winterbolt will remain frozen and incapacitated "as long as my magic burns bright!" That shouldn't be a problem for an all-powerful being like her, right? You'd think so, but after a time lapse, Boreal moans that she has become "old and weak" despite looking exactly the same.
This is the point in history when the younger Santa, fresh from his TV special where he trounced Burgermeister Meisterburger, arrives at the North Pole with his wife to set up his workshop. Boreal knows there'll be trouble when she can no longer hold Winterbolt down and he wants control of the Tundra back. So she finds a newborn reindeer, and transfers the last of her power reserves into his sinuses. This causes his nose to glow, and the rest went down in history.
Lady Boreal can no longer keep her human form and fades away, turning into the Aurora Borealis (and now you know the REST of the story). With her hold on King Winterbolt gone, he bursts forth from his icy prison, and asks his "Snow Genie" what events have taken place while he was away.
They call this monster face in his wall a genie, but it doesn't do so much wish-granting....it's more of a soothsayer. Winterbolt's "genie" tells him all about Santa Claus, the new ruler of the North Pole, and how his magic powers grow out of the love of children around the world. This makes him more powerful than Winterbolt, so Winterbolt's just gotta have a piece of this! And this is how he terms it:
"I MUST RID MY NORTHLANDS OF THIS HO-HO-HOING CREATURE!!"
He devises a scheme to swamp Santa and his reindeer in a massive storm, preventing him from delivering that year's toys. Then Winterbolt will deliver the toys instead, and everyone will love HIM! Because who couldn't resist that ice cold face? "Then the world will become MY OWN PERSONAL SNOWBALL!!" Well, of course.
It doesn't work, because of the events in the Rudolph special. Something has to be done about the deer. First Winterbolt tries the direct approach, and attempts to spell the nose into darkness. Rudolph is hanging around, talking to Frosty, when suddenly he experiences a burnout.
"It's....all....over.....Frosty!" Rudolph utters awkwardly. "Awkward" is the only way I can describe Billie May Richards' performance this time. Or, let's put it this way: if William Shatner was pretending to be a robot, and the robot was pretending to be Barack Obama, that's how many odd pauses and stilted line deliveries are coming out of Rudolph in this flick.
"Aw, Rudolph, your nose just can't
go out! Santa depends on it! Think of all the kids who
would be disappointed on Christmas Day if you weren't
Okay, actually, Rudolph gets back up at Frosty's words and utters grimly, "You're....right. It....can't go out. I...can't let it!" He concentrates really hard and suddenly, it glows again.
"IMPOSSIBLE!" Winterbolt rages from the cliff where he was overlooking this. "HOW CAN HIS POWER BE GREATER THAN MINE??" He stomps back to his cave, where the snow "genie" informs him of the origin of Rudolph's nose, and reveals the only way it can be extinguished is if Rudolph dares to use it for evil. Like.....repeatedly flying it into someone's eye or something.
Winterbolt thinks it will be easy to lure Rudolph to the Dark Side, but the snow "genie" also tells him it would be impossible surrounded by the goodness of the Aurora Borealis. He must leave the area for any of Winterbolt's schemes to have any hope of success. But that only happens once a year, on Christmas Eve. "I CANNOT WAIT!" whines Winterbolt. "THERE MUST BE A BETTER WAY!!"
A way provides itself when Winterbolt notices in his Crystal Snowball that for some reason, a hot-air balloon is heading into Santa's domain. The balloon belongs to Milton, the ice cream man, whom Rudolph recognizes immediately. Frosty doesn't, so Rudolph informs him Milton keeps his stockade of ice cream up at the top of the North Pole, so it won't melt, then takes down boxes of it to sell during special events. Y'know, instead of just buying a freezer.
Milton knows of both Rudolph and Frosty, as well as where Santa's workshop is located. Why is Santa okay with this leak?
Milton's got a problem.....he's in love with a circus performer, but she's about to lose her job. The circus she works for has fallen on hard times, and some classic villain with a twirly mustache and everything is after the land. If the owner can't raise a lot of cash soon, the circus could close forever! What can poor Milton do for his fiance?
At that point, Winterbolt magically plants an idea into Milton's head. HEY! If he took Rudolph back with him to the circus, and Rudolph appeared as a star attraction for one night....it might get enough attention to save the circus!
Better yet, if FROSTY appeared -- "Uh-uh, you know the problem with that! I'd be a REAL misfit walking around by the seashore on the Fourth of July! I'd melt in ten seconds!"
By now, you've noticed the little snow midgets wandering around Frosty. They're actually the children he had with Crystal, the wife introduced in the dull 1976 cartoon Frosty's Winter Wonderland. For some reason, Frosty and Crystal think this is the perfect time to sing about their devotion to each other, though it doesn't apply to the situation in any form.
I've always wanted, you are everything I've always
wanted, and I'll never let you go.....
One of the most uninspired romantic songs ever written, and it's reprised several times through the special. It has a lot of songs, and the majority are love songs, even at times when it's completely out of place to sing about love. My theory is that Rankin-Bass wanted to sell an album on top of the special, and made the songs separately, then pounded them into the special wherever they would fit. That's what it feels like, at least. Burl Ives, where are you?
"Taking you and the family would be great, Frosty.....if only there was some way to make you un-meltable..." Rudolph ponders. At that moment....
I should point out that everybody at the North Pole has forgotten King Winterbolt existed, so when he appears right in front of our heroes pretending to be a kind old wizard, no one questions it. Not even when he says, "I'm here to.....HELP you" and follows it with maniacal laughter that can be heard for 50 miles.
Winterbolt gives the snow family magic amulets, and explains that they'll only last until the last firework explodes on the Fourth of July, so Frosty must return by then. Frosty thinks that'll be no problem. How many are willing to bet it's gonna be a problem?
Milton's hot-air balloon drifts back to the Circus by the Sea, carting Rudolph and the snow people. His fiance, Laney, is astonished, as well as her mother, Ms. Lorraine, voiced by Ethel Merman. The stuff they make Merman, a Broadway legend, say in this special is beyond mortifying. She starts right out with criticizing his career choice by saying "Aw, forget 'im, honey. If there's one thing life taught me, ya can't live on banana splits!"
Lorraine changes her mind when she sees what Milton accomplished for the circus. "I guess I was wrong. Milton is more like the butter pecan he sells. A little nuts but mighty yummy! YAHOO!!" She fires a six-shooter into the air, which is what she does every time she thinks she said something clever.
Mighty yummy? OMG! Did you even hear that, Laney? Evidently not.
Winterbolt sets the next phase of his plan into motion. He asks the Snow "Genie" for the location of a corrupt, underhanded reindeer that will play the part of luring Rudolph into deception. The "genie" says to look in the Cave of Rejections, which is like the Island of Misfit Toys, only EEEEEEEE-VIL!
In Room #13 (GASP, 13??) he finds Scratcher, a bitter buck-toothed reindeer who was next in line to join Santa's sleigh -- until Rudolph happened. He was fired just because of that! "Also, I might've stolen some toys and eaten a batch of new candy canes." Scratcher is fully committed to making Rudolph suffer, and he and Winterbolt join forces instantly.
Back at the circus, everything is set up at last. Rudolph remarks to Lorraine that putting together a full circus is no easy task. Lorraine says "Well, I tell ya, life with a circus is like life with a guy. Sometimes you're low and sometimes you're high!" Yes, it's a cue -- she's about to sing about love, for no reason, while using metaphors even worse than Frosty's. I'm not making this up:
and feathers tomorrow!
That alone is bad enough, but the theatrics make it worse. For some reason Lorraine starts bouncing like she's made of rubber, caroming off a pole and boinging on the top of the circus tent as she belts all this out. It's incredibly embarrassing, and again, it's Ethel Merman who's being reduced to this. And no, this "guy" she's singing about never shows up.
It's the Fourth by now, so Santa and Mrs. Claus set off in their sleigh so they can bring Frosty and the fam back before the end of the fireworks show. This sets off Phase #3: Winterbolt creates a storm ten times worse than the one that almost ruined Christmas the first time, and traps the Clauses in a swirling tornado. Frosty's only hope of survival will be Winterbolt, and Rudolph will do ANYTHING to save his life, ha ha haaaa.....
That would be enough to do it, so what use is Scratcher? Scratcher's mission is to make sure Rudolph's quest to save the circus fails. He makes an agreement with Sam Spangles, the mustachioed villain dude, in secret....then goes to Rudolph and begs for a job with the crew. Rudolph is alone, because Ms. Lorraine went off to, really, "give a pep talk to the clown."
"He-ya Rudolph, ol'
Now that Santa is out of the way, Winterbolt prepares his own trip arrangements. "What a wonderful sleigh the Snow Genie has prepared for me! Instead of rein-deer....I have rein-snakes!"
Uhh....Winterbolt? I'm pretty sure the "genie" is trolling you right now. Those don't look like snakes to me, more like giant....let's just say "tadpoles."
Frosty is already worried that something may have happened to Santa. Crystal says not to sweat it. Frosty remarks "Okay....but I have a feeling tonight's gonna be a real wet act! And I'm not talking about the seals!" Morbid much?
The circus has a capacity crowd, and Lorraine introduces tonight's acts, which fill a lot of time. Rudolph burns away the effects of a fog machine through his nose mojo. Frosty and his family perform acrobatics by sliding down a giant chute. Lanie walks a tightrope, then stands on top of a giant rotating Christmas tree as twenty dancers surround her, singing "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." (Isn't it July?)
I don't know if its use in the special was intentional or just coincidence, but Johnny Marks wrote both "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."
Frosty: "It's like
I always say. The family that slides together, abides
After Rudolph struts for the crowd, Scratcher gets his attention. "I've got an important job, Rudolph ol' pal, but I need help. Tonight's receipts are in a briefcase in this wagon, but it's so dark inside, I can't find out where. You have your own luminescence, so.....Do you think you could go inside and take care of this for me?"
Rudolph does. Scratcher explains that he's to deliver the briefcase to the cop waiting on the corner, who will in turn deposit the money in the bank. It's actually Sam Spangles, and by giving him the briefcase, Rudolph has just doomed the circus. And by having to use the nose to find the briefcase, Rudolph has used it for evil, and it's lights out for him!
Lorraine asks Rudolph where the money is. Rudolph doesn't know what she's talking about; "wasn't it Scratcher's job to take care of that?" Lorraine is insulted that Rudy would think she'd trust a roustabout only hired for two hours to handle something as critical as that.
A rush of enlightenment hits Rudolph at last, in only the dorky way Rudolph can realize something. He goes walleyed, throws back his head and says "Ohhh, WOW!" This is heavy, man!
The Fourth of July fireworks start going off, and now Frosty is really nervous. To his relief, a sleigh finally appears in the sky -- but it's the wrong one. Still, the guy helped them before, so maybe.....
Rudolph and Frosty
approach him. "Sir...."
"The last firework is
about to go off! You have to make the amulets last just a
little bit longer!"
It's at this point that Rudolph says the best line of the special, or possibly the best line of any Rankin-Bass special ever:
"I'M TWYING!! I'M TWYING WEEAL HAWWRD!!!"
I have been mimicking this line for years. Every time I click an object on my computer, and have to wait at least ten seconds for the computer to realize I clicked there, I say to myself in Rudolph's voice, "I'M TWYING! I'M TWYING WEEAL HAWWRD!" It has so many uses, for so many situations.
Actually, what happens next is possibly even better. As Rudolph is twying weeal hawrd, Winterbolt cackles to himself, "Ha-ha, ha-ha, ha-ha, haaaaa." They pan down to his snakes, who are going "Hahh-hahh, hahh-hahh, hahh-hahh, haaaaaah!" Hilarious....though not in the way they intended.
"Well, I'll just tell
them I was tricked by Scratcher!" Rudolph rebuts.
"Then my nose will glow again!"
He's got Rudolph by the antler stubs. "It's....a deal."
A plot hole opens up at this point. Rudolph claims if he says he didn't know what was going on, he'll get his glow back. Yet this contradicts something Lady Boreal said at the beginning, that if he ever used his power for evil it would be "extinguished forever." Her exact words.
Even Boreal seems to be taking that back, though. After Rudolph sings about how sad he is, he hears a voice from the sky, specifically emanating from the Northern Lights. "I am no more," Boreal projects. "But there is still a way you can be saved.....Be brave, Rudolph.......be brave, and your light will return.......be brave....." She keeps saying "brave" as the light fades.
"Be brave"? That's all it takes to un-forever his extinguishment? Why didn't she say that in the first place?
Worth mentioning: during the visuals of Rudolph's song, some pictures flutter to the floor, among them an autographed photo of his girlfriend Clarice. This is the only reference to the original special there is. Aside from Clarice, no one appears -- not Hermey, not Yukon, no Bumble either. We DO get a cameo by the big whale from Rudolph's Shiny New Year.....uh, yay?
For now, Winterbolt has won, but his attention has gone elsewhere. Frosty is the only one who knows the truth about the whole money incident, and he feels terrible when he sees the others shunning Rudolph. So he goes to Winterbolt and suggests his own pact with the Ice Devil.
Winterbolt is resistant at first, because it's not like a snowman has anything he wants.....or does he? Frosty tells him the secret of his life force is the magical hat he wears, and that if Winterbolt agrees to restore the power in Rudolph's nose, he'll sacrifice himself by giving him the hat. That gets the gears turning in Kingie's head....If he could duplicate the magic in the hat, he could create an entire army of snowmen, and take over the North Pole with ease! Forget Rudolph -- this is way better!
One problem, though. Winterbolt doesn't have the power to restore Rudolph's nose. So he fibs and says he does, because how's Frosty going to bust him on it if he's not all livin' anymore? Frosty agrees to the deal, becomes an ordinary snowman, and the hat is Winterbolt's! Santa's workshop is doomed, unless there's a reindeer nearby that's looking for a chance to "be brave"!
Crystal and the kids start sobbing when they find the motionless Frosty, and Rudolph knows exactly who's to blame. He finds Winterbolt around the next corner, cackling while holding the hat. "YOOOUUUUU ASKED FOR IT," Rudolph growls in as close to a tough voice as he can muster, and starts pawing his hoof to tackle the wizard.
"You have to catch me first! Ha ha haaaaa!" Winterbolt taunts, and flies away with Rudolph in hot pursuit. He could fly the whole time? Then what did he need the snakes for? Just to make him look cool, I guess.
Rudolph walks right into an ambush on the beach. "SURPRISE!" Winterbolt yells as his snakes rise to attack him.
At first things look bad for Rudolph, but then he pulls the old "get two baddies to charge at you from opposite directions, then move right before they bash into each other and knock each other out" trick. That one never fails.
"You don't frighten ME," laughs Winterbolt. "You want the hat? COME AND GET IT." Rudolph promptly does so. You should only taunt someone like this if you're confident you can withstand the blow from them. When Rudolph headbutts Winterbolt, he loses his grip on the hat and it flies through the air. Rudolph turns around and catches it -- and at that instant, because he was brave and all, his nose starts to glow again.
"NOOOO! I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED!!" Winterbolt vows as Rudolph flies away. Whatever he wants to do, he takes his sweet time doing it -- and so does Rudolph. The next scene occurs the following day.
Everyone is still crying over the fate of Frosty when Rudolph finally, finally arrives, carrying on his back a policeman -- the real deal this time, you know so because he has an Irish accent. He and the cop found the real briefcase and the proof indicting Sam Spangles. Sam is arrested, Scratcher is banished back to the cave, Frosty gets his hat back ("Happy Birth-Day!") and everyone is being awfully cavalier considering the fact that Winterbolt could just cancel the amulets' effect at any time and melt the Snowmen. What does he have to lose anymore?
Rudolph and Frosty are so happy, guess what they do? Sing yet again! But this time, it's a reprise of the full version of "We're A Couple of Misfits" from the original Rudolph special. The full version was sung by Rudolph and Hermey originally, but it was then replaced a couple years later to trim space to fit in a new ending (the Misfit Toys ending you're familiar with). Until recently, Rudolph and Hermey sang "Fame and Fortune" instead, and this movie was the only way to hear the original song. With one difference: Frosty needed a verse just for him. "There's no man like a snowman, why don't I fit in?" The new wordplay works well.
At that moment, Winterbolt finally reappears, and forget just killing Frosty -- he's so enraged he's gonna blow them all up! Winterbolt aims his ice scepter....if only anyone else had weaponry! Wait......Lorraine does; she's always firing those pistols into the air. Unfortunately, she explains that they are only loaded with blanks. BUT....they're solid metal!
She throws the guns at the ice scepter before Winterbolt can fire, and since he actually made the thing out of ice, it shatters from the impact. As a result of losing the source of his power, King Winterbolt screams and writhes in agony, and he...turns into a tree. It's as nonviolent a permanent ending as you can get. Even Disney makes frequent use of cliffs.
Well, ding dong, the warlock is dead, and since there's No Ontological Inertia, all his evil magic is undone, which means.....oh, shoot.
The snowman race has gone extinct! Nature can be harsh. Of course, a way was already revealed to un-melt Frosty in his original special; it takes a cold blast of Christmas Wind. But that knowledge is useless here. "THIS is JULY!!" anguishes Rudolph.
But who's that on the horizon? Remember when the whale from Shiny New Year made a cameo? He's returned to make a second cameo, and he brought someone with him! It's.............it's.................JACK FROST!
Frost's frosty breath re-frosts Frosty and family, resurrecting them! No longer in a swirly prison, the Clauses' sleigh finally arrives to take everybody home! And on top of everything else, Santa gives Lorraine a bag of his magic corn feed, which will make all her circus animals fly, and guarantee that every show is sold out from this point. So that's it! You're done, Rudolph! Now get lost, all of you!
Why didn't it fit in?
In Europe, this movie actually got a theatrical run.