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A Cosmic Christmas

Wednesday, Dec 13, 2006 ,  7PM

The Chicago Cultural Center - Claudia Cassidy Theater
78 E. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602

Admissions: Free (Donations always welcome!)

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and treat yourself to the cinematic equivalent of hot toddys and roasted chestnuts – the Chicago Film Archives’ program of 16mm holiday treats and treasures. Creepy Santas, naughty children, and rebellious toys abound! See an outlaw Santa break into a department store to steal presents for all of the good little girls and boys, Watch Santa convince skeptical children and their perky dog that he is real by describing monkey family Christmases complete with their own “Monkey Claus”!, Think that sounds weird?!?!? Well, that’s only the tip of the dirty-snow downtown iceberg – watch out for rambunctious kids in 1960′s Christmas home movies, educational film actors in Roman-era wigs and sheet-costumes, Norman McLaren animated delights, and Margaret Conneely’s amazing and recently preserved amateur film tale of a Christmas doll come to life. Films screened will include:

We open tonight’s program with a historical primer of sorts – a seemingly typical educational presentation of the story of Christmas from the Roman era to the present (the 1950′s present that is). Watch out for some stiff acting and bed sheet-togas, and learn something to impress the family with this Christmas Eve.

SANTA CLAUS STORY (1940′s, 10m)
A Castle Films title from the 1940′s, this bizarre portrait of a bucolic Chrismas Eve in Everyman’s town, USA, gets weird when Santa arrives, puts little Tommy and Suzie on his knee, and tells them the story of monkey Christmas. Keep an eye out for the numerous Fido reaction shots.

This story of a hermit woodcutter who helps a lost little boy out of the forest, gives the boy a stick of wood as a present, and then realizes that he can no longer carve the baby Jesus for the manger scene he’s been working on. Huh? The hermit looks a lot like Santa, that’s your first hint. There’s a deer in there too, and some sleigh bells ringling, that’s your second hint.

Commercial for Karol’s department store (1960′s, 2m)
Okay, there’s enough amazing vintage menswear in this commercial for the now-extinct Karol’s department store to make any styling man drool, but forget the images. What’s the deal with the creepy Santa voice-over? Why is he whispering to us? Wait a second, is he drunk? We’re all having nightmares about this Santa tonight . . .

A CHRISTMAS CRACKER (dir. Norman McLaren, 9m, 1963)
Nominated for an Academy award for best short subject in 1965 and co-directed by Grant Munro, Jeff Hale, and Gerald Potterton, these four animations are bound together by shots of a creepy Christmas mime waving his hands around in the air! What’s he doing? Look out for cool jazz soundtracks, outerspace voyages, and tin toys come to life. A National Film Board of Canada production.

THE FAIRY PRINCESS (dir. Margaret Conneely, 1955, 7m)
Restored by the National Film Preservation Foundation in 2005, this amazing PSA “top ten” film by award winning amateur filmmaker Margaret Conneely mixes live action with stop-motion animation in order to illustrate the fantasies of a little girl on Christmas.

SANTA CLAUS SUIT (dir. Martin Stevens, 1953, 10m)
Okay, this film is pretty creepy too – maybe the most uncomfortable of all! An extremely rare print (perhaps the only existent 16mm copy in the United States), this marionette-puppet animation is, on the surface, a musing on the power of belief in the unseen, faith, and trust. But scratch beneath the surface, and the two puppet principles, Spot and Stripe, transcend the moralism of the narrative and become a spectacle unto themselves.

All films screening are 16mm sound, approximate running time 66 minutes.

The Chicago Cultural Center - Claudia Cassidy Theater
78 E. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
Admissions:Free (Donations always welcome!)
Additional Information:For more information, please visit:, email, or call 773-478-3799