Beginning with director Stu Jensen’s spirited The Weather Outside (2017), unanimously hailed by Beverly Young and family as “the greatest televisual masterpiece” to grace the Hallmark Channel’s annual holiday slate, Candace Cameron stars as “high-powered,” attorney Grace Bell, a woman trapped in the hustle and bustle of city life. Through a series of unexpected events—a rerouted plane trip, a golden doodle named Princess with an unusual attraction (for a canine!) to Christmas carols, and the uncanny ability to engineer cute meets, along with the aptly named “Blizzard of the Century”—Grace finds herself stuck in Gingerbread, New York, a single-industry hamlet at some undisclosed locale upstate.

The final scene of the film, which finds Grace torn between her fiancée, a banker whose idea of Christmas dinner is sushi at the “Big Apple’s” newest, four-star restaurant, and Chip Connors, the heir to a modest gingerbread man concern, remains one of the most breathtaking sequences ever committed to video. As Grace races through the Christmas-tree-lined streets of Gingerbread, NY to convince Chip not to sell his company to the multinational Candy Canes Inc., Jensen splices images of her Christmases’ long, long ago, creating a vertiginous and propulsively merry climax that has inspired countless filmmakers before and since.

Christmas at Pembroke Manor (2018) stars another Full House alum, the indomitable Jodie Sweetin, as Claire Pembroke, a debutante in line to the Crown of a fantastical, invented island “south of France.” In a contract dispute with Hallmark, famed auteur Stu Jensen quit production halfway through a direct a series of commercials for Licking Chops™ Microwavable Steaks. Citing the pressure of working with Sweetin, along with the fact that Hallmark had begun to pay him in dinner rolls, Jensen unique signature nonetheless remains indelible beneath the sweeping landscapes of the second director brought abroad, cinematic wunderkind Pete Wiseman.

Less focused on the story of Pembroke’s eventual embrace of Christmas and engagement to a handsome commoner, Wiseman spends fifteen minutes of screen time on the construction of a snowman. Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s meticulous craftsmanship in Barry Lyndon, the aforementioned scene is lit by seven-hundred individual holiday candles. Although production costs far exceeded anything Hallmark Channel executives had in mind—prompting the Vice President of Holiday Programming to remark “I want to fucking murder Pete Wiseman”—the snowman scene has become an iconic filmic tribute to the ineffable and tedious magic of Christmas.

The previously unaired Kristmas (2019), written and directed by David Fincher, attests to film theorist André Berger’s claim that great cinema is made “when everyone is unhappy with the results.” Fincher, looking for a holiday genre project to complement his brilliant oeuvre, directs Danica McKellar (Holly) and Ben Savage (Ben) in this understated epic that oscillates between unbridled holiday merriment and brutal sadism.

Shot entirely on 16mm film, McKellar and Savage find themselves locked in the freezer of a bakery in Christmas Tree Town, New York. Told through a series of flashbacks, Savage narrates his meeting with Krampus in the Black Woods as an American expat living on a German military base. Despite expurgating the infamous “sex scene in flour,” Hallmark failed to receive the all-important TV-PG rating. Viewing the film for the first time, the same VP of Holiday Programming said of Fincher’s cinematic endeavor: “We need to remember that we make movies to play in the background for an audience of women over 30. Is everyone in this room drunk?” Everyone was indeed quite drunk with holiday cheer—as well as vast quantities of peppermint Schnapps. Regardless, Kristmas has become a treasured cult classic that only a filmmaker of Fincher’s vision could possibly deliver.

Special Features
  • Audio commentary featuring Candace Cameron, Ben Savage, and television historian James Blake (author of A House Too Full?: Dave Coulier and the Dilemma of Surrogate Fatherhood)
  • 240 minutes of unreleased scenes, including “Jodi Sweetin’s Poutiest Pout Face,” “The Carnal Mitten,” and “Candy Canes Inc.: Child Labor in Southeast Asia”
  • Gallery of stills featuring “Princess” the Christmas Golden Doodle
  • William Basinski’s original score for Kristmas played by the Albany Symphonic Orchestra
  • “Why in God’s Name Did We Hire Pete Wiseman?: An interview between Hallmark’s VP of Holiday Programming, Peter Wiseman, and moderator Phillip Wagner.
  • 15 minutes of unseen footage of Candace Cameron and brother Kirk singing “Silent Night” and other holiday classics at the Pasadena Junior Christmas Talent Show in 1981.
  • A visual interview with set designer, Deborah Stein, on the creation of Gingerbread, NY.
  • Backstage scenes from “Why in God’s Name Did We Hire Pete Wiseman?” including the famous eggnog episode between Wiseman and Hallmark Channel executives.

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