“The Junky’s Christmas”: A claymation short film read by its author William S. Burroughs

By on December 21, 2015

Thanks once again to Dangerous Minds for posting this clip, “The Junky’s Christmas,” based on the short story of the same name by William S. Burroughs, who narrates the tale and appears in live-action footage at the beginning and end.

The short claymation film — directed by Nick Donkin and Melodie McDaniel in 1993, both veteran directors of music videos for Alice in Chains, Madonna, Tori Amos and others — was produced by Francis Ford Coppola. It aired on VH1 in 1993, and was unavailable for a long time until it was released by Koch Vision on DVD in North America, on Nov. 21, 2006, which means you can find it at Amazon and other retailers.

Burroughs’s story is a about a dope sick car wiper named Danny, who, as Dangerous Minds’s Jason Schafer tells us, is a “a heroin-addicted hustler who finds himself being let out of New York City jail cell on Christmas morning with no cash and no immediate source for his much needed fix.”

JUNKY'S CHRISTMAS 2

“The Junky’s Christmas” first appeared in the 1989 collection Interzone and on the 1993 album Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales. A different version of this story appeared in Burroughs’ Exterminator! originally published in 1973 as The ‘Priest’ They Called Him, also released on 10″ vinyl and CD, in 1993, as a joint project with Kurt Cobain’s feedback heavy takeoff on the Christmas traditional “Silent Night.”

JUNKY'S CHRISTMAS 4

Here’s an excerpt from Dangerous Minds’s post from 2014:

“Burroughs’ story itself is gritty, odd, sad, touching and revelatory in its way. But we’re talking about the short film as a whole here, and the ending, I think, is meant to add something. We cut back to the holiday scene from the beginning, the claymation goes away, Burroughs closes the book and walks into a previously unseen dining room filled with smiling partygoers surrounding a classic holiday dinner spread. In the closing sequence that follows, Burroughs joins the other Christmas revelers in raising a toast. He also helps carve the turkey. The whole thing comes off as kind of silly, but the juxtaposition is perhaps meant a reminder to think about how lucky some of us are. Or, on second thought, maybe it’s just supposed to add a layer of weirdness.”

(h/t Dangerous Minds)

JUNKY'S CHRISTMAS 3

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.