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Tragedy strikes a small mining community one fateful Christmas Eve in 1951 when a series of explosions strike a mine notorious for its unsafe conditions. The miners and their families work desperately to rescue the trapped men before an even larger, more deadly explosion can occur. Written by
Melissa Gilbert is 11 year old Kelly Sullivan, daughter of Matthew Sullivan (Mitchell Ryan) who with Johnny (Kurt Russell), the sweetheart of Matthew's other daughter Matilda (Karen Lamm), and 50 other men is trapped in a cave-in at the Caulfied County mine because of a methane gas explosion. The mine is known to be unsafe by the owner (Don Porter) and manager Willie (Bill McKinney) but the men still entered it to work for the money.
Kelly opens the narrative in narration, and although she dresses in gingham and sews dolls to sell at the local store, she is also rebellious. For saying `dang virginity' she has to wash out her mouth with soap (literally!), she throws a rock at the window of the store believing she has been robbed, kicks shins, and plays a home made guitar. At times Gilbert's gestures seem mechanical but she has confidence and her long hair is attractive.
The teleplay by Dalene Young, `suggested by the history of mining disasters', doesn't provide a miracle. A lecture delivered on the importance of a union even delays the trapped men's efforts to dig their way out. The idea of the profit Kelly makes from her sale going towards a rocking horse for her crippled brother Timmy (Rossie Harris) - after she has given a little to a blind man - is too much like Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and we get patronising rustic touches like Johnny throwing Matilda over his shoulder. Things aren't helped by director Jud Taylor's static staging, though he does cut from Kelly's mother Rachel (Barbara Babcock) telling her to help Timmy dress to Rachel helping Matthew undress for a nap.
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