How appropriate that a studio called Drac might be the latest group to suck some life out of Orson Welles. The effects company has done good work on films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but I’m not sure I can get behind this new effort. Christmas Tails will be a 3D live-action/CG hybrid film narrated by Orson Welles. Yes, he’s been dead for twenty-five years. No, this can’t be a good thing. Can it?
THR reports that Drac will use recordings made in 1985, the year of Welles’ death. On the tapes, Welles narrates Robert X. Leed‘s book Christmas Tails, about “how Santa’s dog saves Christmas.” So as if it weren’t enough that Welles’ final screen appearance was as a voice in the Transformers animated movie, now he’ll have a coda narrating a heroic dog movie.
(More plot: “Santa’s reindeer fall ill, forcing him to consider canceling Christmas. Meanwhile, his dog gathers other canines in the North to help save the day.”)
The irony here is that doing a film like this wasn’t necessarily something Welles would have shied away from, in his time. The man loved excess in all things, and often took less than prestige jobs to pay for his lifestyle. But let Welles make the decision himself, right?
Drac president Harvey Lowry obtained permission from the Welles estate to use the narration tapes, which he obtained from a colleague.
All that said, there is precedent for a film like this, and there’s even precedent among films that are worth watching. Not long ago I recommended the Kurt Cobain film About a Son, released in 2006, which is ‘narrated’ by Cobain. There, his voice comes from taped interviews, and the editing done to string the tapes together seems relatively minimal. (Emphasis on ‘seems,’ as I don’t know to what degree they were actually manipulated.)
My first reaction is that this is a dead wrong, terrible idea. But filtered through the lens of the Cobain doc, is there some argument for it? I think not, because the Cobain film is a doc that attempts to use his own words to explain his life and death. That’s totally different from something that aims to be a big, commercial endeavor that is, as the THR article points out, casting other names simply based on Welles’ recognizance. Makes me a bit sick, really. Thoughts?