Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

santa vs martiansSanta Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) Embassy Pictures Corporation/Sci-Fi RT: 81 minutes No MPAA Rating (mild sci-fi/action violence) Director: Nicholas Webster Screenplay: Paul L. Jacobson and Glenville Mareth Starring: John Call, Leonard Hicks, Vincent Beck, Bill McCutcheon, Victor Stiles, Donna Conforti, Chris Month, Pia Zadora, Leila Martin, Charles Renn, James Cahill, Ned Wertimer, Doris Rich, Carl Don, Ivor Bodin.

Rating: fullstarstar-emptystar-emptystar-empty

If nothing else, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is the most bizarre holiday movie EVER! Yes, it's even weirder than Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas. This 1964 movie is considered one of the worst movies ever made, it combines the holiday genre with cheesy sci-fi and the result is an unbelievably bad flick. It's one of those rare movies that's so bad, it's hilarious. I don't think that's what the director had in mind when he was making this movie, but nevertheless, that's how it turned out and it's gained quite a sizable cult following in the last 20 years. The children of Mars are very unhappy, their lives are rigidly structured and education is the most important thing.

The Martian leader Kimar (Hicks) and his wife Momar (Martin) are worried that their children Bomar (Month) and Girmar (Zadora) are watching too much television, they've just seen an interview with Santa Claus (Call) at his workshop in the North Pole. Kimar consults an 800-year-old sage named Chochem (Don) who advises the Martian leader that they should allow their children to play and have some fun. Kimar and the other leaders decide that they should kidnap Santa Claus and bring him back to Mars to make toys for the Martian children. Since there's a Santa Clause on every damn street corner, the Martans kidnap two Earth children, Billy (Stiles) and Betty (Conforti), to help them locate the real Santa. Once they have jolly Old St. Nick in their custody, they head back to Mars in hopes that he will bring joy to all the Martian children. One of the leaders, Voldar (Beck), disagrees with this idea because it will corrupt the children of Mars and take away the glory of the Martian race. They all arrive safely on Mars and Santa sets up a new workshop with the help of the two Earth children and the two Martian children, but Voldar is going to do whatever he can to sabotage the operation. It's a good thing that Santa is there to save the day!

santa vs martians posterI'm not going to mince words, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is a terrible movie in every sense of the word, yet I choose to award it a single star instead of a "NO STARS!!!" rating. I have to confess that I love the theme song "Hooray for Santy Claus", it's a really catchy tune that plays over the opening and closing credits. The words (along with a bouncing ball) are printed in the closing credits so the audience can sing along. However, everything that happens between the two sets of credits is truly bad, it's bad on the level of other major stinkers like Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) and Yor, The Hunter from the Future (1983). The movie looks like like it was made on a budget of $50, most of the sets are obviously made of cardboard and wood. The Martians are nothing more than actors wearing green paint and fake antennae with costumes purchased at Woolworth's. There's a scene where Billy and Betty are trapped in a cave by a polar bear, or more accurately, a guy wearing a polar bear costume. Anybody over the age of 4 will know that it's not a real bear, give the kids some credit, would ya? The acting isn't much better, although John Call makes a half-decent Santa Claus, but any schmo can put on the familiar red suit and say "Ho ho ho!", you need look no further than the local mall or department store. The only actors of any note in this picture are Pia Zadora (The Lonely Lady) as Girmar, Bill McCutcheon (Uncle Wally from Sesame Street) as Dropo, Kimar's goofy assistant who takes a real liking to Santa and Ned Wertimer (Ralph the doorman from The Jeffersons) as an interviewer. However, it's clear that no money was spent on acting lessons, these people simply cannot act. I suppose that's only appropriate since the rest of the movie is just as bad.

The story is ridiculous enough, but it seems to take forever to get Santa back to Mars, so much time is spent on the spaceship with Voldar trying to hurt Santa and the Earth children. It gets slightly more tolerable once they arrive at their destination, the first meeting between the children is interesting, Billy teaches Bomar about Earth's custom of shaking hands when meeting somebody for the first time. Kimar doesn't intend to send Santa and the children back to their home planet, he insists that Santa sets up a new shop on Mars and manufacture toys for the Martian children. As Bomar and Girmar start to cheer up, Billy and Betty become depressed and homesick. This is the kind of movie where everything turns out okay in the end, the bad guys are defeated and everybody gets to go home. I know that this is a plot spoiler, but the conclusion of this movie is hardly important. The point of watching a movie like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is being able to say that you actually watched it. Let's face it, the title kind of rocks even if it isn't 100% accurate. It's called Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, which implies that Santa takes on a group of hostile Martians and defeats them, making Earth safe to celebrate Christmas. That's not what the movie is about, a more accurate title would have been Santa Claus Goes to Mars. I try not to get too hung up on semantics, I just thought that this was an interesting point. I realize that this movie is aimed at children, but the filmmakers should give the kiddies some credit, they know that this movie is fake from start to finish. According to IMDb, director Nicholas Webster primarily worked in television, he directed episodes of The F.B.I., Bonanza and The Waltons as well as the 1980 mini-series The Chisholms, I don't think that I've ever seen his other work, but I certainly hope it's better than this dopey mess of a holiday movie. This one still gets midnight showings around the Christmas season, that's probably the best venue in which to watch it since, no doubt, the audience is full of people shouting wise cracks at the screen. Now that would be one hell of a holiday program!



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