The Christmas That Almost Wasn't



Maudlin tone and overly long, but some lessons in kindness.
  • Review Date: October 24, 2013
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1966
  • Running Time: 89 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

The Christmas That Almost Wasn't offers exposure to Christmas rituals and traditions.

Positive messages

The Christmas That Almost Wasn't offers multiple positive messages about the meaning of Christmas as a time for tolerance and compassion and about the importance of treating fellow human beings with kindness, even if they aren't kind to you.

Positive role models

The characters here are fairly simplistic -- Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves model a kind of saint-like kindness and restraint in the face of evil Mr. Prune -- but the lessons about compassion and tolerance are useful.

Violence & scariness

The gothic tone of the film, with its almost Lemony Snicket creepiness and cobwebs, may be off-putting to younger viewers.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Christmas That Almost Wasn't is a 1966 film about a Scrooge-like character whose aim is to prevent Christmas. It's a wholesome film, though its aesthetic and overall tone are rather maudlin and gothic. This combined with its length -- 89 minutes -- make it a better family or Christmas film for older kids.

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What's the story?

In THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T, Santa has a new landlord at the North Pole, a one Phineas Prune, and he's raising the rent and demanding back payment or else. Without payment, Prune will take all the toys the children are anxiously awaiting, a tactic that just so happens to accomplish his evil dream of ending Christmas once and for all. It's up to Santa to find his way out of this -- will he be forced to take a job masquerading as himself? Can his old friend, the attorney Sam Whipple, help? And will they ever get to the bottom of what makes Phineas Prune hate Christmas?

Is it any good?


This 1966 Christmas tale has a few things going for it: wonderful sets, an excellent cast, and a heart of gold. But it's also a bit of a downer, and the gothic set, cobwebs, and funeral wallpaper as well as the heavy themes of disenchanted, bitter grownups could be alienating for younger kids. What's more, the plot largely hinges on this tricky back-payment-of-rent issue, which may be hard to explain to a 4-year-old.

That said, kids who like the creepier side of things may enjoy this old, maudlin tale, and the lessons here -- about compassion and warmth and kindness (and the legalities of back rent!), even in the face of capitalist greed and longstanding bitterness -- are worthy ones for any age. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about compassion. What does compassion mean in this film? How is it used? How is it absent? What happens when people are compassionate?

  • Santa feels bad about asking others for help, but he discovers the good things that come from relying on people. Have you ever had to ask for help when you didn't want to? What happened?


  • What would Christmas be like without any gifts? Is it possible to enjoy the holiday without getting any toys or presents? What might you do instead?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 1, 1966
DVD release date:October 7, 2003
Cast:Adriano Cornelli, Lydia Brazzi, Mischa Auer
Director:Rossano Brazzi
Studio:Henstooth Video
Genre:Family and Kids
Run time:89 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of The Christmas That Almost Wasn't was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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