Film / The Christmas That Almost Wasn't

Il natale che quasi non fu (aka The Christmas That Almost Wasn't) (1966) is a fairly low-budget Italian-made Christmas special, directed by Rossano Brazzi. It is a slight twist on the old A Christmas Carol formula, casting The Scrooge as Santa Claus' landlord! The special apparently takes place in a large city though still possesses that small-town appeal, possibly due to its limited budget.

Phineas T. Prune charges an exorbitant amount of rent to Santa, his mother and their elf workers up at the North Pole; Prune locks down the sleigh and Santa's gift-giving operations unless he pays through the nose. What can be done?

Enter Sam Whipple, a lawyer who, as a child, offered his help to Santa in his letter, and one night just before Christmas, Santa shows up to see the offer fulfilled...

Though initially released to theaters in 1966, it enjoyed a run on HBO in the 70s and early 80s.

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Contains examples of:

  • Animated Credits Opening: Complete with a very catchy theme tune.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Prune hates compliments and kindness, and enjoys being called evil.
  • Child Hater: Phineas T. Prune. He hates everything about them, hates to see them happy, and especially hates Christmas. He's forgotten that he ever was a child, a fact he's reminded of at the end when his Freudian Excuse is rectified.
  • For the Evulz: He also seems to have no concrete explanation for why he does what he does, until the end, when he gets better.
  • Freudian Excuse: Prune never got the sailboat he asked for as a kid, and so decided to forget he ever was one.
  • Despair Event Horizon: After Prune buys Prim's Department Store and basically steals the rent money to pay for toys he damaged, Santa and Whipple stroll listlessly down the street, hoping desperately for a miracle...
  • Deus ex Machina: ... until Charlie, improbably dragging his last-minute Christmas tree down the same street Santa and Whipple are sitting, learns of their predicament and summons all the children on the street to contribute, lifting Santa and Whipple's spirits.
  • Heel–Face Turn: As we see Prune gripping his sailboat which he finally got at the end. And hammered home when he gives it to a little boy at the VERY end!
  • Hard Work Montage: Whipple, Santa and his Mother help to clean and decorate Prune's dusty old house at the end, with "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" accompanying.
  • Ironic Echo: Prune, after his Heel–Face Turn, reprises "Why Can't Every Day Be Christmas?" originally sung by Whipple in the department store.
  • Man Child: Prune exhibits this, even before rediscovering his forgotten childhood. He's extremely petty in his actions and outlook, even breaking toys and blaming it on Santa so the rent money all goes to repairs.
  • Servile Snarker: Blossom, Prune's butler.
  • Time-Compression Montage: When Santa finally gets to deliver his gifts, after a reprise of "I've Got A Date With Santa."
  • Villainous Breakdown: Near the end when Santa finally turns in the rent money, Prune is so beside himself, he can't even bring himself to stop Santa, Mrs. Santa and the elves from loading the sleigh up!