It’s a Wonderful Life, Director Frank Capra’s all time Christmas classic has a lot in common with Joe Dante’s Gremlins. Both have long finales which take place on Xmas Eve. G was written by Chris Columbus, directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg. It also sported a landmark score by Jerry Goldsmith. And it’s a Christmas classic. Kind of.
Gremlins’ themes are responsibility and transformation. Hoyt Axton plays a not-very-competent inventor. He visits Chinatown and brings home a Christmas present for his son which is an animal known as Mugwi. The word means Gremlins. Very stern and strict instructions are included with the creature. It’s not long before the instructions are violated and the real fun begins. The Mugwi spawns other Mugwi and when another of the rules is broken the Mugwi turn into evil creatures known as Gremlins.
Filmed entirely on the lot at Universal Studios, Hollywood, the main town square and movie theater will be seen again in the Back to the Future series. Soon the Gremlin’s begin their invasion and destruction of anybody and anything that stand in their way. My favorite scenes include the incredibly violent and scary scene where mom takes on several Gremlins in her kitchen and with one hiding in the family Christmas tree. There is also a great moment where the Gremlins occupy the local theater and proceed to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Their sing-a-long to Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho etc. is priceless.
Almost all the last hour of the film takes place on Christmas Eve. The film was originally set for a December release but came out in June of 1984. The reason was money. The studio wanted the film out at the same time as the 2nd Indiana Jones film and the 1st Ghostbusters movie. They were all released within 2 weeks of each other.
At about 48 minutes into the story there is a scene where Hoyt Axton is attending an inventors convention. He calls home. While he is on the phone watch for Steven Spielberg to pass by on a moon buggie. The HG Wells Time Machine (from Time after Time 1979) is in the background. Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet is also on hand. To Hoyt’s right on the other pay phone is Jerry Goldsmith, the film’s composer, wearing the outlandish sport coat and cowboy hat. Neither of these items were from the composers own wardrobe. As far as I know.
The film had it’s 25th anniversary in 2009 and this BluRay release contains the same extras. While a little, uneven the BR version is still the best on the market. Merry Christmas. Don’t forget to follow the rules.
Rated 3.5 out of 4.0 Christmas films. This one’s touch of Yuletide cheer and horror are unparalleled. Also check out the sequel made in 1990 called Gremlins 2 The New Batch. Also a lot of fun. Jerry G. again provided the score and appears in another cameo, this time with his wife Carol, and has an actual line of dialogue: “Did you say rats?”