From Charlie Chaplin to The Vicar of Dibley, the Great Storm meme has endured — sometimes in comic form.
I’ve had snow on the brain lately, due to the Beast from the East and Storm Emma, as well as nor’easters hitting here in the U.S. (the latest just in time for spring!). I’m still excited about completing my short film Salvation featuring people, sculptures, and horses in the snow. (My resources are limited, but with what I have I try to make a statement.)
There are many examples of snowstorms providing the dramatic or comedic focal point for memorable scenes from film and TV. A few that spring to mind are:
– The snow scenes from Fahrenheit 451 (original François Truffaut version), based on the novel by Ray Bradbury.
– The snow scenes from Slaughterhouse-Five, based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
– The snow scenes from The Shining, based on the novel by Stephen King.
– The snow scenes from A Dream In A Different Key a.k.a. Four Seasons: Utopiano, a film rarely seen in the U.S. made for Japanese TV.
– The snow scenes from Fargo, the Coen brothers’ quirky crime dramedy.
– The Honeymooners s01e24 “Please Leave the Premises,” where for refusing to pay a $5 rent increase, Ralph and Alice end up on the street in the snow.
– The Mary Tyler Moore Show s01e08 “The Snow Must Go On,” where a massive blizzard leads to wacky election night coverage at TV station WJM.
– Taxi s03e07 “Call of the Mild,” where hoping to enjoy a relaxing week in the mountains, the guys get trapped in a remote cabin during a blizzard, with no food except what they may or may not agree to hunt and kill.
– Taxi s05e04,e05 “Scenskees From A Marriage,” where snow and freezing weather lead Latka (Andy Kaufman) to make a critical life-or-death choice which he must later explain to his wife Simka (Carol Kane).
– Northern Exposure s05e10 “First Snow.” This is a bittersweet episode which deals with death but also finds joy in winter, as residents of the mythical town of Cicely, Alaska wish each other “Bon Hiver” (good winter) with the coming of the first snow.
– Doctor Who: “A Christmas Carol” (2010 special). When snow finally arrives on an alien planet, it signifies an end to an era of uncharity. Though obviously a rip of the Dickens classic, this off-world Whovian holiday chestnut has a charm all its own and is something old Charlie never could have dreamt of (with a unique take on debtor’s prison). SPOILER ALERT: The ending with a carriage in the sky drawn by a grateful shark is truly wonderful!
Note that in moving from Northern Exposure to Doctor Who, we’re moving from magical realism to outright sci-fi. Next stop…
– The Snowman, a beloved children’s fantasy also prized by adults, and popularizing the song “Walking in the Air.”
– The Great Frost, a lesser-known animated short based on a passage from Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando, and presented as part of the PBS suite of animations Simple Gifts.
This list is hardly exhaustive, but does get the (snow)ball rolling. If it’s cold enough where you are, you can sit around a warm fire and play at listing all the snow scenes you can think of from film, TV, animation, and novels.
I don’t propose to do a complete monograph on the subject, but am pleased to share two clips with you, from The Vicar of Dibley and The Gold Rush:
Season 1 of Vicar of Dibley was quite good. This clip is from s01e04 “The Window and the Weather.” After banter about the Great Storm (or Storm with No Name), Dibley residents must try and recall what the stained glass window destroyed by the storm actually depicted. One of the funniest scenes ever! Takeaway quote: “Bloody odd library with five thousand sheep in it.”
At the moment, some episodes of Vicar of Dibley seem to be up on Dailymotion in decent quality:
But there’s a catch: the lip-sync is sometimes off. The workaround is to view certain episodes in VLC or SMPlayer. In VLC, under Tools: Track Synchronization: Audio track synchronization enter a value of 0.450s. Or in SMPlayer, under Audio: Set delay… enter a value of 450. Then you should be good to go. (The Slimjet browser can also be helpful when dealing with Dailymotion.) For the truly geeklike, these two links explain how you can permanently fix a video with poor lip-sync using either Avidemux or MKVToolNix:
Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (first released in 1925) includes two of the classic snow scenes from early cinema. Chaplin was a genius, and it’s great that some of his films from the silent era are being restored to pristine quality. (I hope to post soon about The Immigrant.) I especially like the cabin teetering on the edge of a precipice, as it seems an apt meme for the Trump administration.
If you’d like to see the complete film, there’s currently an excellent print on YouTube here. It’s hiding among the many links which are either low quality, outright scams, or the dreaded talkie re-release from 1942.
Despite the snow, spring is bound to arrive soon! Until then, keep holding onto those springtime promises:
The Snowman (YouTube)
Walking in the Air – Celtic Woman version (YouTube)
Simple Gifts: The Great Frost (YouTube)
A Dream in a Different Key – clip (YouTube)
Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol (Archive.org)