Classic Movies · Stuff You Should Know

A Shreve Family Christmas 2009


Hard to believe I’ve been away from the blog for so long…and even harder to believe that it took me so much time to get back of the swing of scribbling. I officially got back to Castle Yesteryear Sunday around 11-ish but I felt the need to sort of convalesce (that’s probably not the right word) after having so much fun with sister Kat and the ‘rents.

pieChristmas Eve dinner was a true feast for the Half-Assed Gourmand: Kat and her roommate prepared a cheese/meat fondue (chicken, steak, and shrimp) but chose to open with some appetizers, including homemade won-tons and mussels (this last menu item was a spur of the moment addition). There were also desserts galore: Christmas cookies, homemade coconut cream pie (the crust contains ground-up cashews) and a first-rate “last course” called a gingerbread trifle that contained gingerbread (natch), whipped cream, raspberries, blackberries, and lemon curd. Nothing comes between me and a piece of gingerbread, so the trifle was positively delicious.

For Christmas dinner my mother made both a standing rib roast and a small turkey breast, complete with mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (somewhere Sam Johnson is looking down on me, grimacing), creamed carrots, hot rolls, garnishes, and cranberry relish. Needless to say, it was enjoyed by all.

Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes

My original game plan was to go back to the house on Christmas night but my mother was determined to make me sleep another night on the “inflatable furniture” she purchased for the occasion. I told her that if she would allow me to place the MPI Sherlock Holmes box sets that I bought her many years back (including the single DVDs The Hound of the Baskervilles [1939] and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes [1939]) into the dusty Thrilling Days of Yesteryear archives for safekeeping there would be no need for me to head back home so soon, (The only downside to this was that I was unable to tape A Study in Terror (1965)—but politics is the art of compromise, and I will look for a return on TCM.) Five minutes later, we both signed a historical classic cinema accord that will stand as a model for the art of negotiation in years to come, and then she, Dad and I watched Baskervilles and Adventures on Turner Classic Movies in the privacy of their downstairs lodgings. (Unfortunately, I dozed off during Adventures—possibly due to the monstrous holiday meal.)

Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce

I missed seeing Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942) on TCM the next morning but was up and about in plenty of time to catch the bulk of the “Holmes for Christmas” entries: Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943), Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943), Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943), The Spider Woman (1944), The Scarlet Claw (1944), and The Pearl of Death (1944). (I decided to get a necessary shower during The House of Fear [1945].) Many fans of the Rathbone-Bruce films list Claw as their particular favorite but I think I like Death a bit more; I definitely think that Pursuit to Algiers (1945) is the weakest of the bunch. Mom had planned to spring for some buffalo wings at a nearby eatery but Kat was already in the kitchen planning the dinner menu—and since she had invited a couple of friends over we decided it would be best to continue hanging out downstairs so Mom and I made a quick McDonald’s run and returned with our piping-hot grub in time catch the last of Dressed to Kill (1946) and the entirety of The Asphalt Jungle (1950).

Dick Powell and Ellen Drew in Christmas in July (1940)

(Normally, Shreve père would be slightly put out by the choices in our viewing schedule since he loathes films in black-and-white—unless people are riding horses in them. But this situation was rectified by the convenience of my sister having given him a honkin’ big book on D-Day, which he devoured with relish whilst Rathbone and Bruce were skulking around London and Sterling Hayden and Sam Jaffe were trying to pull off an against-all-odds jewel heist. He also missed most of The Man Who Came to Dinner [1942] on Christmas Day, but he did look up from his reading material to ask me if the same individual who directed Christmas in July [1940, which we watched on Christmas Eve] had a hand in Dinner, since they were both fairly frantic comedies. Baby steps…baby steps…I’ll make a classic film buff out of him yet.)

stoogesshempGift wise, I got some very nice items—one of those trash cans that opens when you press on the pedal (Kat and the ‘rents have one at the house, and I remarked how nice it was—you can guess the rest), some new flip-flops (that will have to be returned because my mother bought the ones with spikes coming up through the soles), and some badly needed sweatpants. I also scored some first-rate DVD sets: The Lone Ranger: 75th Anniversary Collector’s EditionThe Jerry Lewis Show CollectionMission: Impossible: The Final TV Season, and The Three Stooges Collection: 1952-1954, Volume 7. While I knew that this last set included a pair of 3-D glasses to see the 3-D shorts Spooks! (1953) and Pardon My Backfire (1953), I was not aware that some of the shorts in this collection—I haven’t had an opportunity to open it yet, so I don’t know which ones—are in widescreen. This tickles me to no end; I can picture Martin Scorsese, Curtis Hanson, and Sydney Pollack from that TCM segment on letterboxing going into detail about how pan-and-scan challenges the integrity of the eye-poke…

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