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For your holiday viewing pleasure

Nov 29, 2013

(David Bates / News-Register)  When it comes to the Christmas holiday ritual of watching “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I’m a Scrooge. In case nobody noticed, that wildly overpraised 1946 classic is a horror film — and I don’t feel like digesting doom and gloom during the holidays, even if the ending approaches the outer limits of saccharinity.

That’s not to say it isn’t well-made, but when Christmas approaches, I prefer some of the other classics: “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” and “White Christmas,” the latter of which is required viewing in our house as the big day approaches.

But once you’ve seen all those and “The Polar Express” a dozen times or more, what’s left?

Quite a few, it turns out. This year I decided to hunt down some lesser-known, all-but-forgotten Christmas films to accompany the standards you already know about, and was pleasantly surprised to discover there’s enough to fill Santa’s toy bag. Admittedly, one of them is a stretch — the only Christmas to be found in one is in the title and a single line — but all these films embody and celebrate the spirit of holiday giving.

Reviews of these classic American films — all of which are available locally on DVD — will run for four Fridays, starting today. I might refer you also to a fifth, “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” which I reviewed Oct. 25th. It’s an export itself (from Finland), and while it’s an exhilarating holiday film, I thought it was just too weird to include in this series.

I hope these films expand and enrich your holiday movie viewing, as they have mine. Finally, I know some readers use Netflix and other online streaming services, but I strongly encourage you to support local video stores, regardless of what you watch. Thanks for reading my reviews. Happy holidays, and merry Christmas!

David Bates has written for the News-Register since 1996 and left full-time work in 2009 to be a stay-at-home dad. He volunteers at his 4-year-old’s school and blogs about his Reading Everest book project at

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