NPR and Slate teamed up for a feature titled “The Best Merry Scary Christmas Movies,” the capper of which was “Magic Christmas Tree,” an ultra-low budget movie from 1964 described by reporter Marc Jordan Legan as an example of “deeply rich bad cinema.”
“Shot in lovely La Verne, Calif.,” Legan says, the movie “looks like it was made for about 12 bucks.”
The plot involves a boy who rescues a cat from a tree for a woman reputed to be a witch. He falls, hits his head and the movie suddenly, a la “Wizard of Oz,” switches from B&W to color. The witch gives him a ring with a secret compartment holding a magic seed that, if planted “beneath the wishbone of a Thanksgiving turkey in the dark of the moon,” will become “a magic Christmas tree.”
Soon, the magic Christmas tree indeed appears. “And of course, since it’s magic, it can talk!” Legan enthuses. But, he wonders, why does it have “the voice of an irritated antiques dealer”?
Be that as it may, the movie takes an even stranger turn when the boy wanders into the woods and is accosted by a burly giant, who nearly kidnaps the boy. (“Suddenly ‘Magic Christmas Tree’ turns into ‘Deliverance,’” Legan says.) The boy escapes and promises never to be greedy again. Gosh, how heartwarming.
Legan advises showing “Magic Christmas Tree” toward the end of a holiday party if guests won’t take the hint to leave.
Perhaps, but now I really want to see “Magic Christmas Tree.” Listen to the NPR story’s audio and then watch the video here.
Thanks to readers Don J. and Eric, we also have a 9-minute YouTube clip. Eric advises to let the thing load and then skip ahead to 5:15, when we get four straight minutes of La Verne circa 1964. I see signs for Mellin’s, a cafe named Pat’s and something that looks like Millions, plus the Fire Department.
Can any longtime La Verne residents clue us in about the route taken and the landmarks seen?