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FLICKS FILM AND VIDEO NOTES : Merry Movies : Best--and worst--bets for a holiday evening of watching Yuletide selections on the VCR.

December 20, 1990|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

So you've invited grandma, grandpa, the nephews, the nieces, the in-laws, every family member you could think of, to join you for a joyous holiday evening. And you've decided to show off your high-tech VCR by popping in a heartwarming, family oriented video.

But there are so many videos to choose from and you don't have time to screen every single one. You need professional help. Here are suggestions from local video experts on which holiday films you might select and ones to avoid.

Look for:

* The animated Holiday Treasures Collection from Warner Bros.--Pete Villejo, manager of Blockbuster Video in Thousand Oaks, said this recently released set contains seven videos including " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas," "Nestor the Christmas Donkey" and "The Stingiest Man in Town."

* "Prancer" (1989)--Villejo and Mike Janover of the Ojai Film Society recommend this movie about a young girl who finds a reindeer that she thinks belongs to Santa Claus.

* "A Christmas Story" (1983)--It topped the lists of both Janover and Tinke Reid, manager of the Video Depot in Ventura. The movie, starring Darren McGavin and Peter Billingsly, tells Jean Shepherd's story of growing up in the 1940s and longing for a BB gun for Christmas.

* "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947), "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) and "Holiday Inn" (1942)--These three classics are on just about everyone's list. "But we've seen them 6,000 times," Janover said. "If you haven't seen them, you have to see them. But how many times can you see them?"

* "March of the Wooden Soldiers" (also titled "Babes in Toyland," 1934)--A particular favorite of Janover's is this film starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in a fantasy toy land.

* "Scrooged" (1988)--Reid said this modern version of the Dickens tale, starring Bill Murray and Carol Kane, is always good for some laughs. It's about a television executive with no Christmas spirit.

Try to avoid:

* "Scrooged" (1988)--It was the best of films, it was the worst of films. "If you're 13 or 14 it might be great because it's got such a rotten spirit about it," Janover said. "It's very jaded. If you're going to go for that, go for the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol." '

* "Silent Night, Deadly Night" (1984)--"It's really inappropriate," Villejo said. "It's a slasher movie about a little kid who witnesses a Santa Claus kill his parents, becomes psychotic, and becomes a (killer Santa) himself." (Warning: This is not to be confused with "Silent Night, Bloody Night" (1973) or "Silent Night, Evil Night"(1975).

* "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" (1964)--Janover's list includes this Pia Zadora debut film about Santa coming to the aid of some Martian kids, one of whom is 8-year-old Pia.

* "Don't Open 'Til Christmas" (1984)--Janover said the ad for this said: " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring . . . because they were dead."

* "Babes in Toyland" (1961)--This Disney version stars Annette Funicello and Ray Bolger. Said Janover: "I guess if you're having trouble falling asleep on Christmas, it's not bad."

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