Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Original Bad (VERY bad) Santa

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
Starring: John Call, Leonard Hicks, and Vincent Beck
Director: Nicholas Webster
Rating: One of Ten Stars

Aliens kidnap Santa Claus (Call) and bring him to Mars so he can bring toys and holiday cheer to their depressed, television-obsessed children. But evil and conservative forces want to stop him from tainting Martian culture with Earth-based Christmas nonsense.

"Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" is a stupendously bad movie that fails on just about every level. The idea of Santa Claus converting grumpy evil Martians to the Light Side through the force of good cheer and Christmas spirit is a great idea, but since we never get a sense of why they would want to resist the Christmas Spirit to begin with, the idea remains stillborn.

Then there's the problem with the pacing of the film, with even the busiest scenes having a feeling of being padded. The story flow is also disorganized and rambling with the various scenes and events of the picture barely feeling connected to each other, and in some cases it is almost as if characters forgot what happened in the scene immediately prior.

The final nail in this film's coffin is that it's another example of a movie where the ideas and creative visions were bigger than the film's budget out accommodate. This is particularly evident in the sad, painfully cheap sets of the Martian space ship. The Martian costumes and make-up aren't much better, as they put viewers in mind of an Al Jolson black-face performance rather than Martians.

The only halfway decent thing about the picture is John Call as Santa Claus, although even he cant' rise above the awfulness of the material and often seems confused and even a little bored. He mostly pulls off the jolly Ho-Ho-Ho of the traditional idea of Santa and he delivers a number of rather funny lines effectively... unlike Vincent Beck, who, as the evil Santa-hating Voldar, manages to kill most of the Funny in his laugh lines. (Although Beck does sport one of the funniest mustaches to ever appear in film.)

"Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" is a holiday picture to avoid as strenuously as your aunt's homemade fruitcake!

Trivia: Pia Zadora made her first screen appearance in this film. She plays a little Martian girl who befriends Santa.


  1. Quite on the mark, Steve! Fortunately, my first trip through this mess of a movie was via MST3K! After the original Miracle on 34th Street, most other films with Santa just pale by comparison!

    While Droppo the "comic relief" Martian was just idiotic, the Martian leader did have a cool cape! Also, all the Martian face makeup looks greasy; didn't they have room in the budget for powder?

    Can't forget the "Hooray for Santa Claus" sing-along at the end where the kids sing his name as Santy Claus!

    As a smaller point of trivia, Ned Wertimer (Ralph the doorman on The Jeffersons) also has a small role in this!

  2. Darn, I wish I had caught that when I watched this film last year when I was considering it for inclusion in my book!

    And yeah... the "Santy Claus" thing amused me to no end. :)

    (I will have to see if I know someone who has a DVD of the MST3000 version. I'm sure the robots could make it even more hilarious.)