The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t (1966)


(Il Natale Che Quasi Non Fu)

Italy. 1966.


Director – Rosanno Brazzi, Screenplay/Lyrics – Paul Tripp, Producer – Barry B. Yellen, Photography – Alvaro Mancori, Songs – Ray Carter, Orchestrations & Music Direction – Bruno Nicolai, Makeup – Duilo Giustimi, Production Design – Danilo Zanetti. Production Company – Childhood Productions


Alberto Rabagliati (Santa Claus), Paul Whipp (Sam Whipple), Rosanno Brazzi (Phineas T. Prune), John Karlsen (Blossom), Mischa Auer (Jonathan)


Kind-hearted lawyer Sam Whipple receives a visit from Santa Claus. Santa is disconsolate because miser Phineas T. Prune has brought up the North Pole and evicted him for unpaid rent. Prune will only let Santa back on the condition that he never gives presents to children again. Rather than face that, Sam and Santa set out to earn the unpaid rent. Sam tries to get Santa a job as a department store Santa but Prune determines to sabotage all their efforts.

Rosanno Brazzi made his name as an actor in Italian films beginning in the 1930s. He gained sufficient fame that he was cast in a number of Italian-shot English-language films such as The Barefoot Contessa (1954), Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), Summertime (1955), Rome Adventure (1962) and The Italian Job (1969) and other works like South Pacific (1958), even as Baron Frankenstein in the Italian-made Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks (1974). Brazzi sank his own money into direct, write and star in three films beginning with The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t here and followed by the caper comedy Seven Men and One Brain (1968) and the thriller Psychout for Murder (1969), none of which were particularly successful.

The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t is an insipid and dreary affair. The plot never manages anything more than a tried and undistinguished redemption-of-the-miser rehash. The sets look drab and dreary – the department store consists of a single room and the North Pole is about the size of a cottage interior. Worse are the special effects – the flight of Santa’s reindeer and sleigh barely get by but the model of the picture postcard town is thoroughly unconvincing.

Some films can surmount these shortcomings by simple good cheer but The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t is dogged by its complete failure to fly either as sentiment, humour or imagination. The animated opening credits, where Santa and Prune hop around rooftops and chimneys using a series of wild gadgets present the most liveliness on offer in the film and gives the impression the film is along the lines of a 1960s wacky races caper, which belies the utter banality of what is subsequently delivered. Alberto Rabagliati fails to seem a particularly convincing Santa – one expects a Santa to be rolypoly and chubby-cheeked, instead Rabagliati has classical features and his disposition throughout seems more dazed and bewildered than jolly.

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