In the spirit of the season, today I am going to take a look at the infamous 1966 holiday movie, The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t.
The plot of The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t is summarized on IMDb as follows:
Santa has to get a job as Santa to earn money to pay his overdue rent bill.
The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t was co-written and directed by the Italian actor Rossano Brazzi, who appeared in movies like The Italian Job, Final Justice, and South Pacific. However, his directing credits were very limited, and is best remembered for his works as an actor.
The movie was based on a book of the same name written by Paul Tripp, a children’s author and musician best known for the song “Tubby the Tuba”. Not only did he adapt The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t to the screen himself, but he also portrays the lead role in the film.
The music for The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t was provided by Bruno Nicolai, who composed music for for well over 100 features over his career, including Caligula, X312: Flight To Hell, and Django Shoots First. However, his more distinguished credits are as a conductor: he performed music for such films as Django, For A Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, The Battle of Algiers, The Cat O’ Nine Tails, and Waterloo.
In 2017, The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t was featured in the eleventh season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where it was mocked by the show’s hosts.
In an episode of The Simpsons, specifically season 12’s “Skinner’s Sense of Snow”, a parody of The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t is briefly shown on a television, titled The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, But Then Was.
Even though the actors spoke their lines in English, there was no recording done on set, and everyone was dubbed over by other actors to avoid Italian accents. The only exception was the director, Rossano Brazzi, who recorded his character’s dialogue himself.
Not unlike the similarly silly Christmas-themed bad movie classics Santa Claus Conquers The Martians and Santa Claus (1959), The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t is mostly ridiculous in how over-the-top its plot is. However, it is also just a goofy, utterly harmless little movie, that is endearing in how simple it is. Its internal logic is wholesome and childlike on a level that few stories can really touch: it sounds and feels like it might have even been written by a child.
The odd combination of the whimsy of Santa Claus with the harsh reality of financial inequality and greed is a weird mixture at the core of the movie to be sure, but it always feels grounded on the side of naivete. That said, the very premise of saddling Santa with real-world problems feels almost a tad like heresy: Santa is inherently supernatural and separate from the real world, and suggesting otherwise always turns a bit weird in movies in my opinion.
Probably due to the extensive use of dubbing, The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t just looks and feels like a poorly translated foreign film. The mannerisms certainly add a lot to that as well, but there is an undeniable charm to watching a badly dubbed old movie. As someone who is a big fan of English-dubbed Godzilla movies, I have an admitted soft spot for bad dubbing in movies, so it was kind of a plus in my book.
Overall, I think there are definitely better bad Christmas movies to watch out there. However, if this one happens to pop up on you, it is totally worth sitting through. It might not merit seeking out, but it is hardly painful.