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Hallmark Home Entertainment presents
Mrs. Santa Claus (1997)

"I'm Mrs. Santa Claus,
The invisible wife.
And Mrs. Santa Claus
Needs a change in her life..."

- Mrs. Santa Claus (Angela Lansbury), singing the title song

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: December 18, 2003

Stars: Angela Lansbury, Michael Jeter, Terrence Mann, Charles Durning
Director: Terry Hughes

MPAA Rating: G for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:30m:21s
Release Date: September 23, 2003
UPC: 707729144410
Genre: holiday

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Behind every great man is a greater woman, and Mrs. Santa Claus pays tribute to the forgotten grande dame of the North Pole. For centuries, Mrs. Claus (Angela Lansbury) has stood by her elf, serving him the best hot cocoa this side of Iceland, and gracing the background of Santa's Workshop with her elegance, warmth, and sincerity . But now, in the early 1900s, she feels the time is right to step out from behind the bearded one's shadow and spread her wings.

When Santa (Charles Durning) ignores the new Christmas route she's constructed, the Mrs. decides to throw caution to the wind and try it out herself. She hijacks Santa's sleigh, but an unexpected thunderstorm forces an emergency landing (and a rough one at that) in New York City. Touching down on the hard city pavement results in a reindeer leg injury, and although Mrs. Claus finds a nearby stable where the animal can recuperate, she's told a week of rest is required. Undaunted, she assumes the fictional identity of Mrs. North and ventures out into the city. She quickly finds a room at a comfy boardinghouse and even lands a job at the cut-rate Tavish Toys, run by the dastardly Augustus P. Tavish (Terrence Mann). The company's motto? "It only has to last 'till Christmas!" Obviously, such sloppy workmanship doesn't sit well with the venerable Mrs. Claus.

Meanwhile, back at the Pole, Santa starts to fret about his wife's whereabouts and finally begins to appreciate her considerable contributions. He also needs his sleigh and reindeer back before Christmas Eve! Of course, all's well that ends well, and although Mrs. Claus doesn't change the world during her brief New York junket, she accomplishes quite a bit before leaving the Big Apple for the frozen north.

With songs by the legendary Jerry Herman (Hello, Dolly!), Mrs. Santa Claus benefits from a terrific idea, catchy tunes, polished production values, ample enthusiasm, and, most of all, the talents of the indomitable Angela Lansbury. Is it possible to imagine anyone else in the role of the wise, benevolent, trail-blazing Mrs. Claus? For those who know Lansbury mainly from her television work on the long-running mystery series Murder, She Wrote, her fine singing and dancing might come as a surprise. But Lansbury has enjoyed a stellar musical career, originating the title role in Herman's own Broadway classic, Mame. While the material in Mrs. Santa Claus can't begin to reach the same heights, it serves Lansbury well, and she contributes a natural, relaxed performance.

The made-for-television film falters, however, by failing to sustain itself over its 90-minute running time. In between the well-staged and often ambitious musical numbers (choreographed by Rob Marshall of Chicago fame), the story limps along, testing the patience of kids and adults alike, despite touching upon several substantive social themes. Women's rights, the suffragette movement, child labor, and deplorable factory conditions all receive at least a cursory examination—quite a menu for a supposedly frothy holiday musical. During her quick visit to civilization, Mrs. Claus inspires her fellow toy employees to strike against Tavish, thus becoming the Norma Rae of Lower Manhattan. Such massive social change in such a short time span strains credulity, but Mrs. Claus' magical status helps temper our disbelief.

The sets, costumes and musical style remind one of Hello, Dolly!, but Mrs. Santa Claus is a mere trifle by comparison. Lansbury is fun to watch and her ebullience goes a long way, but not quite far enough to rescue this mediocre confection. It's fun to watch Santa's wife grab the spotlight, but she still can't compete with the big guy himself.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Hallmark presents a serviceable transfer with no major faults, although the image could definitely stand some sharpening. Colors are also a bit dull, but Lansbury's cache of bright red outfits (designed by Bob Mackie) perk up every scene in which they appear. Light grain is often visible, but few surface defects intrude. All in all, a typical TV transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Engliahno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby stereo track is nothing special, with little directionality and no enhanced presence during the musical numbers. Dialogue remains easily comprehendible throughout and the songs come through cleanly but without sparkle. It's too bad Hallmark didn't upgrade the soundtrack to provide a more enveloping and exciting audio experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The Making of Mrs. Santa Claus is an interesting and informative companion piece to the film. The 10-minute featurette contains all the requisite behind-the-scenes interviews, as well as documentary footage of recording sessions, rehearsals and camera set-ups. The cast and crew all possess extensive theatrical experience and express their excitement over producing an original musical for television. The comments of composer Jerry Herman prove especially enlightening—he discusses the genesis of the title song, and how he employs numerous musical reprises throughout his shows, so the audience can easily hum the tunes afterward. "If I've given them that, I feel I've done my job well," he says. Lansbury calls Herman "the great exponent of the good old American musical," and he calls her the former "queen of American musical theater." (Quite the mutual admiration society.) Although she hadn't appeared in a musical for several years, Lansbury eagerly accepted the challenge and says she worked on her voice for a good five months, sweeping away the cobwebs, before she began recording the score. Lansbury terms her participation in the project, "the most rejuvenating experience I could possibly have," and calls portraying Mrs. Santa Claus "pretty heady stuff."

Considering most DVDs of made-for-TV films contain no extras at all, this brief featurette is a welcome surprise.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

Though far from a holiday classic, Mrs. Santa Claus provides a showcase for the talents of Angela Lansbury and composer Jerry Herman. The story may not be up to snuff, but the songs and performances inject the production with high spirits and holiday cheer. To quote a line from Herman's Mame, for those who "need a little Christmas, right this very minute," Mrs. Santa Claus may be just the ticket.


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