Sunday, December 22, 2013

#1,224. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

Directed By: Nicholas Webster

Starring: John Call, Leonard Hicks, Vincent Beck

Tag line: "Santa Claus saves Christmas for the Children of the World!"

Trivia: The Martian guns are actually painted Whamm-O Air Blasters

Not all Holiday films give you that warm, fuzzy feeling. Some might even give you dry heaves, like 1964’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, a saccharine-sweet schlockfest that ranks as one of the worst motion pictures ever made.

The children of Mars are in a funk, and Martian leader Kimar (Leonard Hicks) wants to do something about it. After consulting with an 800-year-old soothsayer (Carl Don), Kimar decides the best course of action is to hop in a rocket, travel to earth, and kidnap Santa Claus (John Call), who will then spread Christmas cheer by delivering presents to all the Martian boys and girls. 

Of course, not everyone thinks this is a good idea; Voldar (Vincent Beck), Kimar’s chief political rival, believes the children of Mars are too soft, and the last thing they need is a fat guy in a red suit giving them a bunch of useless toys. Despite Voldar’s protests, Kimar makes the long journey to earth and grabs Santa, flying him back to Mars along with a couple of human kids (Victor Stiles and Donna Conforti). 

Things go well for a while, and Kimar’s own children (one of whom is played by a very young Pia Zadora, in her first film role) light up whenever Santa enters the room. But Voldar refuses to back down, and hatches a scheme to end Christmas on the Red Planet before it even starts.

Geared towards children, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was designed to be a harmless bit of Holiday fun that the whole family can enjoy. In fact, the only thing preventing it from becoming a Christmas classic is it’s an absolutely terrible movie, with an awful storyline and horrible costumes (the Martians wear green tights and have some sort of metallic paint smeared all over their faces). Even the stock footage, some of which was on-loan from the U.S. military, makes no sense; following the report of an alien ship in orbit around earth, we're treated to clips of pilots taking off in jet airplanes. What exactly can a plane do to a ship still in outer space? 

The only kind thing I can say about Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is John Call makes for a convincing Saint Nick, playing him as a jolly old man who takes everything - even being kidnapped - in stride. As for the film’s other characters, they’re either: 
a. One-dimensional, 
b. poorly portrayed, or 
c. both. 

Most annoying of all is Dropo, Kimar’s bumbling assistant. As played by Bill McCutcheon, Dropo was supposed to be the comic relief, though personally I was hoping someone would vaporize him with a ray gun.

Like Plan 9 from Outer Space, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians has become something of a cult favorite, an example of a picture so horrendous it’s now an unintentional comedy classic. And while the movie certainly fails as holiday entertainment, I guarantee you’ll find plenty to laugh about. 

Be warned, though: it may take a few days to get that damn title song out of your head (“S-A-N-T-A… C-L-A-U-S… Hooray for Santy Claus!”).

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