Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Vacation (1989)

Clark: (Standing outside with his family in the deep snow admiring the tree he's about to cut down and take home)  The most enjoying traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin.  Thith tree ith a thymbol of the thpirit of the Grithwold family Chrithmath.
It's Christmas time and the Griswolds are preparing for a family seasonal celebration, but if you know the Griswolds, then you know things never run according to plan for Clark, his wife Ellen and their two kids.  Clark's continual bad luck is worsened by his obnoxious family guests.  The hope he clings to - that which he depends on to help turn things around - is his much anticipated Christmas bonus from work.
Australia received the premiere of National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation" one day ahead of the US which is interesting considering their winter months are directly opposite than that of the United States.  Regardless, "Christmas Vacation" made its premiere on 1,744 screens across the United States on December 1, 1989.  No other films competed with it that weekend.  There was just one other Christmas-themed film that premiered a couple of weeks prior in the form of "Prancer", but when it came down to it, "Prancer" failed in comparison.  Costing an estimated $27 million to make, National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation" ultimately earned over $71.3 million at the Box Office, sliding past "Turner and Hooch" to become the 15th highest grossing film of 1989.
"Christmas Vacation" was the first feature film for director Jeremiah Chechik.  The script was written by the legendary John Hughes who had also written the screenplays for the first two "Vacation" films in the series: "Vacation" and "European Vacation".
The incredible cast gave us memorable characters.  The Griswold family starred Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, Beverly D'Angelo as his wife, Ellen (both recurring their roles from the previous "Vacation" films), Juliette Lewis as Audrey, and Johnny Galecki as Rusty.  "Christmas Vacation" also co-starred Randy Quaid as Eddie, John Randolph as Clark, Sr., Dianne Ladd as Nora, E. G. Marshall as Art, Doris Roberts as Francis, Miriam Flynn as Cathrine, William Hickey as Lewis, and Mae Questel as Bethany.
"Christmas Vacation" was filmed in various locations in the United States including California, Colorado, and Illinois.  Here are some other bits of behind-the-scenes information you might appreciate...
1.  This movie has four "Saturday Night Live" (1975) alumni: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Brian Doyle-Murray, Randy Quaid and Chevy Chase.
2.  Chevy Chase appears in some scenes wearing a black Chicago Bears ball cap.  He wears the same Chicago Bears cap throughout all four Vacation movies (the fourth film, of course, being National Lampoon's "Vegas Vacation" [1997]).
3.  The old Dodge pickup that tailgates Clark and the family in the opening scenes of the movie was previously used as Kurt Russell's work truck in the movie "Overboard" (1987).
4.  The Griswolds' neighbor's house (next door to them) is the same house Murtaugh and his family lived in in all of the "Lethal Weapon" movies.  The houses on this street are on the Warner Brothers Studios back lot.
5.  As Griswolds are putting up the tree, the film "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) is showing on the television.  That film was directed by Frank Capra.  Capra's grandson, Frank Capra III, was assistant director for "Christmas Vacation".
6.  When Clark is in bed trying to read the People Magazine with sticky fingers from the tree sap, the person shown on the cover of the magazine is Matty Simmons, this film's producer (I've posted a picture still from that scene located a little lower in this blog).
7.  After Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) unsuccessfully attempts to demonstrate his handiwork with the house Christmas lights to his family, he asks his son, Rusty (Johnny Galecki), to help him check all the light bulbs again.  Rusty looks at his bare wrist, pretending to have a watch, and excuses himself.  Looking at a bare wrist and pretending to have a watch is one of Chevy Chase's trademark gags.
8.  Just before Clark gets locked up in the attic, he pulls out an old present from a hidden slot, and it contains a card that reads "Happy Mother's Day 1983, Love Clark".  The first movie, "Vacation"  (1983) was released that same year.  Sticking with the storyline, Ellen would have received that gift before the Griswold family went on that infamous summer vacation.
9.  In the scene where Clark is watching family movies in the attic, the house front shown is from TVs "Bewitched" (1964) and "The New Gidget" (1986).
10.  According to Randy Quaid, many of cousin Eddie's characteristics (most notably the clicking of the tongue) were based off a guy that Quaid knew from when he grew up in Texas years ago who had similar traits.
11.  When shopping with Clark, Eddie asks Clark if it was his company that "killed all those people in India".  He is referencing the Bhopal disaster, also known as the Union Carbide disaster in which leaks from a Union Carbide pesticide plant escaped into the air.  Thousands of people died and many more were sickened.
12.  The brand of beer Eddie is drinking as he empties his septic tank is Meister Brau.
13.  A minor earthquake occurred at the time when they were filming the scene where uncle Louis and aunt Bethany arrive at the Griswold house.
14.  When Clark shows his coworker Bill the brochure about the swimming pool he wants to put in his backward, he is seen drinking coffee out of a Tasmanian Devil coffee mug.  Miriam Flynn (Cousin Catherine) would later go on to play the voice of Taz's mother in the cartoon "Taz-Mania" (1991).
15.  The scene where the cat bites on the Christmas lights cord and gets electrocuted was nearly cut from the movie.  Prior to the first test screening, the studio execs wanted the scene taken out, fearing that it might offend some viewers.  Producer Matty Simmons begged them to leave the scene in, and they eventually gave in to his request.  After the first test screening, the test audience had scored the cat electrocution scene as the No. 1 favorite scene throughout the entire movie.
16.  In the scene when the police storm into the Griswolds' house, the song "Here Comes Santa Claus" sung by Gene Autry is used for the background music.  Randy Quaid (cousin Eddie) is the third cousin of Gene Autry.
17.  The only Vacation movie to not feature the Lindsey Buckingham song "Holiday Road" throughout the entire film.
18.  As mentioned before, only two Christmas-themed movies came out in 1989: "Prancer" and "Christmas Vacation".  Actor Johnny Galecki (Rusty) acted in both of them.
19.  This was the final film of Mae Questel (Bethany) whose film career began in 1931 as the voice of the iconic character Betty Boop.  All totaled, she had 359 credits to her name.
And now you know.
If you've seen the film, here's something you may or may not have noticed... Despite being a "Christmas movie," Christmas Day is never actually seen.  The film ends on Christmas Eve.
The following are pictures of the key characters in "Christmas Vacation" followed by picture stills of scenes from the film itself without revealing too much of the storyline, thus ruining the film for those who might not have seen it.  Beyond the pictures, you'll find two memorable monologues spoken by "Clark" as well. 

Now some picture stills of certain scenes...
Clark: Where do you think you're going?  Nobody's leaving.  Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.  No, no.! We're all in this together! This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here!  We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye!  And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he's gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse!
Clark: Hey!  If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one.  I'd like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight.  I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is!  Hallelujah!  Holy shit!  Where's the Tylenol?

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