Christmas Eve in Caufield
It's Christmas Eve and there is unrest amongst the men in a small mining community as there has already been an explosion and collapse in the mind which they were lucky to escape from. But Caufield (Don Porter), who not only owns the mines but pretty much the whole town, threatens to bring in SCAB workers if the men decide to strike, forcing them to return to work later on in the day as each has families to feed. But that is not the only issue facing Matthew Sullivan (Matthew Sullivan) as his opinionated middle child, Kelly (Melissa Gilbert), wants him to go to the city to buy a rocking horse for her little brother whilst her older sister, Matilda (Karen Lamm), is desperate to not only leave the community but get in the family way with Johnny (Kurt Russell). On the other hand Johnny does not want that or to follow in his father's footsteps which was to die down one of those unsafe mines. But with the men, Johnny included, returning to the mines disaster strikes.
I will say up front that "The Christmas Coal Mine Miracle", which is also known as "Christmas Miracle in Caufield, U.S.A.", was not what I thought it was going to be. And the reason for that is the true story part of the actual disaster in the mine which sees an entire crew trapped doesn't actually take place till the final half hour, or there abouts. As such what you get for the first hour is a drama surrounding a few people who live in this mining community and how they feel about it. So we have Matthew who whilst knowing the mines are not safe will risk his life for his family to feed them, some thing which he expects others to do such as Johnny who has had enough of Caufield bullying the men. We also see Arthur, a colleague, struggle with his fears of being trapped and also settling down even though he is soon to be a father.
But alongside this look at the men who mine we also have a look at the lives of their loved ones with the main storyline being Matilda's desperate attempts to escape the town with Johnny. We hear her moan about not being a woman and still being a virgin to her mother whilst she treats Johnny like dirt. It is a interesting but unexpected storyline which plays a huge part in making "The Christmas Coal Mine Miracle" not exactly what I was expecting.
The end result of all this is, is that "The Christmas Coal Mine Miracle" ends up feeling like it could have been an episode of "The Waltons" where we have a storyline which initially revolves around family issues and then builds to a disaster which effects the entire community. Part of the reason for that is whilst she was in "Little House on the Prairie" Melissa Gilbert gives it that family drama feel as does John Carradine who plays Grampa and Barbara Babcock delivers that archetypal mum who cooks and makes do. On the subject of the disaster whilst the explosions don't look real the scenes which see the men crawl through a narrow tunnel certainly give the movie some high tension.
What this all boils down to is that "The Christmas Coal Mine Miracle" is certainly an entertaining drama with some nice acting and also some tension when the disaster strikes. But the actual disaster only takes up the final third of the movie with the first hour being more of a family drama.