Put down that copy of “Elf” and turn off the “A Christmas Story” marathon. Here are a few suggestions for less-obvious holiday viewing:

Put down that copy of “Elf” and turn off the “A Christmas Story” marathon. Here are a few suggestions for less-obvious holiday viewing:

“Eyes Wide Shut” (1999): Sure, it’s a dark drama about jealousy, marital infidelity and creepy rich people in masks, but it also takes place a few days before Christmas — and through the lens of Stanley Kubrick’s camera, the season has never seemed more mesmerizing. The story isn’t exactly an old-fashioned heart-warmer (though it does have a surprisingly upbeat ending), but Kubrick makes every Christmas tree light twinkle and gleam with joy and menace. “Eyes Wide Shut” was recently rereleased on DVD, so the image looks better than ever.

“The Apartment” (1960): Billy Wilder’s Oscar-winning classic takes place around Christmas, making the fumbling romance between office clerk Jack Lemmon and elevator operator Shirley MacLaine funnier and more poignant. On the lighter side, there’s a glimpse of an office party circa 1960. On the dark side, there’s a grim scene when boss Fred MacMurray gives his mistress (MacLaine) $100 on Christmas Eve, and an even grimmer one when she tries to commit suicide that evening. Thankfully, things are looking much better by New Year’s Eve.

“Curse of the Cat People” (1944): Don’t let the title fool you — it was forced on producer Val Lewton by a studio that wanted a terrifying sequel to his 1942 hit, “Cat People.” Instead, he gave them this sensitive drama about Amy (Ann Carter), a lonely girl who might be seeing the ghost of her father’s first wife (Simone Simon, whose character, Irena, died in “Cat People”). The last part of “Curse” takes place at Christmas, and the scenes of Amy and Irena standing in the snow-covered lawn have a mysterious, otherworldly beauty. The rest of the movie is amazing, too.

“Trapped in Paradise” (1994): No one seems to remember this movie, but it’s a funny comedy about three would-be criminals (Nicolas Cage, Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz) who rob the bank of a small town, then can’t seem to leave. Soon, the guys are feeling guilty, and the suspense about whether they’ll escape the snowbound village is replaced by suspense about what will happen when the townspeople learn who these guys really are. The jokes don’t always work, but Cage delivers some of his patented tirades and Carney is amusingly strange. And yes, the ending is suitably heartwarming.

“Meet John Doe” (1941): Frank Capra directed two movies about guys who decide to jump to their deaths on Christmas Eve. This is the other one. Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck play the romantic leads, and though the movie succumbs to some painfully corny moments, there’s a genuine power to this dark drama. Unlike George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Cooper’s character seems truly hopeless, and you’re not sure what he’s going to do. (Neither was Capra — he screened various endings for test audiences).

Will Pfeifer writes about newer DVDs on Tuesdays and older ones on Sundays. Contact him at 815-987-1244 or wpfeifer@rrstar.com.