Koch Vision // 1993 // 21 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // November 20th, 2006
The William S. Burroughs cult classic
Do they ever advertise these things as "cult bombs?" Why are they always cult classics? It's a mystery. But in the case of The Junky's Christmas, the label fits. On the cult side, you have William S. Burroughs, Francis Ford Coppola, and Danny the Car Wiper. (One of those three is a claymation junkie.) On the classic side, you have exquisite claymation, a compelling story, and a warped-but-true Christmas message. The mishmash of Burroughs's hard-edged story with a claymation Christmas Special approach is indescribably fitting.
Danny the Car Wiper exits his clay jail cell and looks for a clay hit of junk, encountering clay acquaintances and dealers. The grim story is narrated in painful detail by Burroughs himself. As the story progressed, I drew deeper and deeper into Danny's quest for a hit. Where would he score? How? I could almost feel his need myself as enormous liquid tears poured out of his bulging clay eyeballs. Coppola's influence might explain the monochrome surrealism that gives the short an altered state of reality.
The video transfer is not perfect. Cross coloration and twitter mar some of the desaturated scenes in The Junky's Christmas. The disc also has blooming whites. But it is otherwise a capable rendition with full sound and pleasing detail.
I understand those who would decry a Christmas story about a drug-addled thief scoring a hit. Christmas is about God and family; it is sacred. All I can say is that this is the most tasteful, compelling Christmas story about a jonesing junkie you're ever likely to see. It is dark and warped, but uplifting somehow.
The main feature is supplemented by two other VH-1 Music films. Traveling Light is an interpretive dance number set in the middle of a desert flat. Woman writhes around. Luggage falls from the sky, which she forms into a crude home. Man is birthed from a trunk. They dance around and eventually seep into the sod. It is visually interesting, if short on plot.
Ironbound is a brooding dystopia of twisted metal, obsolete factories, and despondent derelicts trying to scrape by. Gangs of feral children roam the wet pavement. One child befriends an old iron worker who has a plan to get out. Ironbound has all of the grimness of The Junky's Christmas but lacks its uplifting finale or its compelling characters. Ironbound might stick with you, but its unlikely to see much repeat time in the DVD player.
As for The Junky's Christmas, it just might make your yearly list of must-see Christmas specials. Neither Burroughs nor Coppola is on the tip of my tongue when I think "Claymation Christmas Special." But that's why it is a cult classic. It is edgy and different, and it works.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 21 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Traveling Light (featuring the music of Van Morrison)
* Ironbound (featuring the music of Joe Jackson)