Make Christopher Plummer’s Sexy Evil Santa Claus Your New Christmas Tradition
You know you've always wanted to see Ross's Dad and Baron von Trapp duke it out!
Picture it. Canada 1978. You have Elliott Gould at the peak of his popularity (and his sexiness.) You have Christopher Plummer as his nemesis. And you also have John Candy dating a hot blonde who wears novelty t-shirts. What follows is one of the greatest heist movies of all time.
And it’s also a Christmas movie.
That’s right I’m talking about the crime classic The Silent Partner, directed by Daryl Duke. In it, we watch Elliott Gould as Miles Cullen – a bored bank teller whose small bank is located inside a large shopping mall. When Miles figures out that his bank is about to be robbed by a man dressed as Santa Claus, he decides to seize upon an irresistible opportunity. Instead of contacting the police or warning his bosses, he starts emptying his cash drawer into a lunchbox.
When the Santa thief reaches Miles, he hands over the small remaining portion of bills… but tells the authorities later that the entire amount from the drawer was stolen. Miles gets to go home with the remaining cash and none are the wiser! It’s the perfect crime! Until Arthur, the Santa thief, figures it out when the news announces the entire amount stolen.
And, it turns out, Arthur is a violent psychopath. And what follows is an increasingly tense and endlessly entertaining cat-and-mouse game in which both Miles and Arthur attempt to outwit and outmaneuver each other. Miles gets Arthur arrested only to have him set free, while Arthur sends in Elaine (Celine Lomez) to seduce Arthur into giving up the location of the hidden cash. The film is full of unexpected twists and turns, from the reveal that Arthur is a flamboyant and feminine, queer-coded man (and yes that means we get to see him in some fantastic fishnet tank tops and makeup and also drag! Yes, Christopher Plummer in drag!), to some shockingly brutal and violent deaths.
But it is definitely the two stars Plummer and Gould, that keep this in my rotation as a holiday must-watch. Their chemistry is fantastic and both of them excel at playing characters who know how to keep things close to the vest. It does dabble a bit in the extremely 70s and problematic “violent cross-dresser” trope, but I find Plummer’s performance fascinating because he manages to mix the hyper-masculine (and misogynistic) elements of Arthur with the hyper-feminine (his clothing, nail polish, eyeliner, and his final “disguise”) in such surprising ways that the performance feels incredibly subversive.
Meanwhile, Gould is such a slick charmer even as a bank-teller that you would think was in way over his head. But he plays Miles with so many layers, each one slowly pealing back until you realize that Miles might just be outplaying everyone. And did I mention that Christopher Plummer, even playing a violent psychopath, looks really hot in his lil fishnet tank! Not to mention, we love a movie that involves our predatory banking and loans system getting taken down a peg or two!
So this year, why not download the Kanopy app, or hit up the “to rent” sections of Apple TV and Amazon Prime, and give yourself a new Christmas (or Hanukkah!) tradition. Impress your parents by picking out a film from before you were born! It might be a 44-year-old film but it’s new to you! So happy holidays from my holiday tradition to yours!
And don’t forget, John Candy gets the hottie!
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