The greatest Christmastime
/holiday film of all time, IMO
, this film has become a tradition on American broadcast television. Using an adult narrator telling the story of his childhood (stolen directly for the successful television show The Wonder Years
), the film is almost always running on television between Thanksgiving
. In fact, one channel, TNT
, is showing it on repeat for 24 hours starting Christmas eve.
A small slice of 1940's post-war America, the film gives a glimpse into a midwestern family and the comical goings-on surrounding the weeks leading up to Christmas. Focussing on the main character Ralphie, and his quest for the Red Ryder BB Gun.
The film was released in 1983 by MGM after director Bob Clark (also directed Porky's), author Jean Sheperd and Sheperd's wife, Leigh Brown, spent 10 years adapting and pitching the Sheperd's book, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.
Peter Billingsley, then most famous for his role in Hershey's Syrup commercials was cast in the lead role of Ralphie. The other most important role, that of the narrator, is played by Jean Sheperd himself.
Almost every scene is memorable, and is worth and examination on its own. However, there are some of the scenes that are particularly noteworthy. Who will ever forget the progressive series of dares, leading up to the inevitable Triple Dog Dare that lead to Ralphie's friend Flick (Scott Schwartz, now a porn actor) sticking his tongue onto a frozen flagpole? And then. the look of abject horror on the teacher's face when she realizes he is missing.
There's also the arrival of the electric lamp that Ralphie's father, referred to in the script as "The Old Man," is another highlight of the film. The four foot tall plastic vision of a woman's leg, clad in a high heeled shoe and fishnet stocking.
Or the great scene at the mall, with the Santa Claus who tells Ralphie, just like everyone else has, that if he gets the BB gun, he'll shoot his eye out.
Of course, the perhaps the greatest scene of all is of course, the flat tire scene. On the family's return to the house after the trip to the Christmas tree store, a tire blows out. When Ralphie get out to help his father, and accidentally spills the lug nuts, he mutters the fatal f-bomb. The resultant soap-in-mouth, telephoning other parents and and subsequent over-the-phone spanking will be forever etched in my memory.
Of course, there are Ralphie's fantasies about saving his family from Bad Bart. And the Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant after the neighbor's dog mauls the turkey. And the Pink bunny suit. And the fake teeth.
- Ralphie: I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!
Narrator: Meanwhile, I struggled for exactly the right BB gun hint. It had to be firm, but subtle.
Ralphie: Flick says he saw some grizzly bears near Polaski's candy store!
Narrator: They looked at me as if I had lobsters crawling out of my ears. I could tell I was in imminent danger of overplaying my hand.
Ralphie: Oooh fuuudge!
Narrator: Only I didn't say "Fudge." I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the
The Old Man: What did you say?
Ralphie: Uh, um...
The Old Man: That's... what I thought you said. Get in the car. Go on!
Ralphie: It was all over -- I was dead. What would it be? The guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese
water torture? Hmmph. Mere child's play compared to what surely awaited me.
Major cast members: