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Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

by on 2010/12/06

I find myself wracked with indecision.  (Okay, maybe not “wracked” exactly.)  I rarely begin with a quotation unless I’m crafting a review stub.  Doing so adds a bit of visual interest, and lends some idea of the movie’s content, tone, or my own general reaction.

However Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is riddled with morsels so hilarious and/or horrible, I couldn’t resist the impulse to buck convention.  But which line to use?  I’ve narrowed it down to my favourite two…

“Are you a television set?”

…or…

“Mrs. Claus has positively identified
the kidnappers as Martians!”

Classic, no?  Comedy pyrite!

Unlike the vast majority of geekdom, I didn’t discover this corn nugget watching MST3K.  In the late Eighties and well into the Nineties, I was occasionally lucky enough to catch Off Beat Cinema, a late-night weekend B-movie show.  Hosted by a trio of wanna-beatniks, I was exposed to various soon-to-be favourites, including Beat Girl, 1950’s D.O.A., and The Last Man on Earth.

Right.  Now for a brief aside.  Have you seen Scrooged? If you haven’t, skip ahead a bit.  Or don’t.  Remember the IBC network promo for The Night the Reindeer Died? Psychos attack Santa’s North Pole workshop, but they don’t count on the intervention of television’s Lee Majors.  Well, Martians is a lot like that scene.  But worse.  And expanded to fill eighty minutes.

Martians (also) resembles another better-known movie — Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s Nightmare Before Christmas — set not amongst gothic stop motionettes, but in a jumbled reality of Space Age food pills, mystic seers, and the worst green body paint I’d seen until Star Trek came along.  (The Star Trek of 2009, that is.)

In the middle of Septober on Mars, the silliest fictional month outside of Smarch, Kimar, the King Martian, and Momar, the Mother Martian, are worried about their children, Bomar and Girmar.  (I’ll let you do the heavy lifting here.)  These kids no longer hunger for pills or sleep without spray.  (No I’m not making this up.)  Their only sign of life is a fixation with Earth TV.  A Martian elder, Chochem, advises Kimar that their kids have been educated too much, too soon.  They need a childhood.  Ergo Mars must have a “Santa Claus” in order to avoid a rebellion.

So against the protestations of Voldar, the mustachioed meanie, and avoiding the clumsinations of Dropo, the de facto jester, Kimar boards Space Ship Number One and descends to Earth, armed with a Q-Ray.  There he intends to kidnap Santa with the help of a robot called Torg.  Unfortunately he picked the wrong planet to poach, for he didn’t count on the protective wiles of pre-teen siblings Betty and Billy Foster.

This movie is one of those beyond critique.  Yes it may be terrible, but anyone who knowingly and willingly screens something called Santa Claus Conquers the Martians forfeits their right to complain.  If you appreciate ludicrosity, melodrama, actors who glance at the camera, and the incursion of overhead microphones, this is one for you.

Depending on your definition, “highlights” include:

  • A look that cries out “kinescope”, with commercial-free dips to black.
  • Vintage stock footage of the military, aircraft, rockets, and the United Nations.
  • Waterskis, anvils, and gigantic reed instruments.
  • Paralytic hair dryers, flashlights, and bubble pipe weapons.
  • Costumes that leave both too much and too little to the imagination.

Need I say more?  If you’ve stuck with me so far, and don’t already want to see this Kitsch Klassic, you probably need Santa even more than the Martians.

So I had trouble with the quotation.  Now what about the score?  Again, this one is tough to call.  Some would bury it with one star, and others praise it with five.  I’ll compromise with three.  Fortunately Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is a work in the public domain.  Watch it for free and decide for yourself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C5WwammH90

Or then again maybe the trailer is enough.

* * *

Not rated, but contains disturbing scenes . . . very disturbing scenes.  Very.

80 minutes

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