Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

"Santa Claus Conquers the Martians", 1964, directed by Nocholas Webster.

"Santa Claus Conquers the Martians", 1964, directed by Nocholas Webster. by Adam Lafferty

I was going to think up a nice introduction for this review, but then I remembered that the title of this movie is Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

I'll pause for a moment to let that sink in a little.

Okay, let's get started.

We begin in a house on Mars, circa mid-20th Century judging by the decor, where we see two Martian children Bomar and Girmar (played by Chris Month and a young Pia Zadora) watch some Earth Nickelodeon TV channel as they send a reporter to a certain workshop at the North Pole for an exclusive interview with Santa Claus himself (John Call).

At least we get a workshop with elves on terra firma this time. Last Christmas movie I watched, he lived in a castle-slash-child-sweatshop in the sky. We even get a Mrs. Claus.

Back on Mars, we see Kimar (Leonard Hicks), the king of the Martians, who is concerned for his two young children. They are both glued to the video set all day watching Earth TV shows. They're listless, they don't want to sleep, they don't even want to eat their food pills.

Kimar's wife Momar (Leila Martin) suggests that he and the other Martian bigwigs ask the advice of Chochum (Carl Don), the oldest Martian on the planet who lives deep in a Martian forest which looks like a Star Trek set. Chochum explains that on Earth it is close to Christmas, a time of the Earth year where children eagerly await the arrival of a man called Santa Claus. He goes on to say that Martian children are raised as adults through electronic teaching devices and are being robbed of their childhoods with no idea of what it means to have fun, and suggests that Mars needs a Santa Claus of their own before exploding.

Personally, though, I blame Martian fast food.

Personally, though, I blame Martian fast food. by Adam Lafferty

Based on this advice, Kimar decides that the best thing would be to bring Santa Claus to Mars. They fly a spaceship to Earth but see multiple Santa Clauses on every street corner at the first city they come across. They touch down at Nameless City Park, where they question two Earth children, Billy and Betty Foster (Victor Stiles and Donna Conforti) about Santa Claus...and then kidnap them.

A clumsy, idiotic Martian named Dropo (Bill McCutcheon) hides the kids in the radar box in the cockpit as the Martians arrive at the North Pole to capture jolly old St. Nick. While they're gone, Billy and Betty escape the ship to try and warn him, but get lost and cold and chased around by a man in the world's cheapest polar bear costume before the Martians' giant cardboard box robot recaptures them. Meanwhile, Kimar and the others find Santa's workshop and shoot everybody inside with a freeze gun while Mr. Claus goes quietly.

During all this, a second news anchor gives us up-to-the-minute coverage of what we've just seen, followed by several minutes of military stock footage.

How do you "kidnape" someone?

How do you "kidnape" someone? by Adam Lafferty

On the way back to Mars, Voldar (Vincent Beck), Kimar's military-minded subordinate who is paranoid of absolutely everything and was against this whole Santa Claus thing from the onset, gives a VERY MUCH TOO TRUSTING Santa and the kids a tour of the spaceship which includes a long walk out of a short airlock. The Martian Dick Cheney's plans are foiled, however, when Santa and company reappear, having snuck out of an air duct though some unexplained magic moments before the airlock doors opened.

After landing, Santa, Billy and Betty meet Momar and her Martian kids, who start laughing uncontrollably albeit for the first time ever when Santa simply enters the room. The plan is to set up a workshop similar to the one on Earth, only an automatic one controlled by a push-button console, so Santa can make toys for good little Martian children. The whole Christmas routine is so inspiring that Dropo, silly little numbskull that he is, stuffs a pillow down his pants and starts dressing up as Santa Claus. Then he gets captured by Voldar and two of the Martian Three Stooges as they sabotage the workshop, mistaking the little moron for Father Christmas himself and clearly unaware of the tubes and antennae that are sticking out of his head that are JUST LIKE THE ONES STICKING OUT OF THEIR HEADS!!! And neither Santa, the Earth kids, nor any of the Martians suspect that something is up until they fire up the toy shop and a doll and a teddy bear come out with each other's heads.

At least there's no pinball machine with lips.

At least there's no pinball machine with lips. by Adam Lafferty

Voldar thinks he has the upper hand until Kimar shows him something off-camera in the workshop which convinces him that Santa has escaped, and then locks him and his accompanying underling up in the janitor's closet. Meanwhile, Dropo escapes from Voldar's least attentive crony and his "nucular curtain" (his words, not mine), Voldar escapes from the closet and Santa repairs his toy machine. Billy overhears Voldar scheming to kill Santa, and he and the kids come up with a plan to ambush Voldar with the toys in the shop. Then we get a bizarre montage of the kids shooting things at Voldar, hitting him with things and throwing things at him until Kimar and Dropo call a cease fire and have the mustachioed villain taken away.

So Santa, Billy and Betty say goodbye to the Martians, the annoying Dropo becomes the official Santa Claus of Mars, and Kimar gives them a ship, I imagine, to get them back to Earth just in time for Christmas. We end on a reprise of the opening song, which contains such questionable lyrics as "Hang up that mistletoe/Soon you'll hear ho ho ho."

He looks happy for a guy who was nearly shot out of an airlock into the vacuum of space just now.

He looks happy for a guy who was nearly shot out of an airlock into the vacuum of space just now. by Adam Lafferty

So that's that not-so-lovable holiday classic and beloved MST3K staple Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It's a silly little flick at heart, despite its many, MANY flaws and shortcomings. Like, for instance, the many questions it raises about Martian civilization, such as why Martians have food pills that come in Earth flavors like beef stew and chocolate ice cream and how Martians can instantaneously receive and understand Earth television programs. Or why this extraterrestrial task force of great intelligence and highly-advanced technology pack Wham-O Air Blasters and take along a man dressed in a cardboard robot costume, let alone employ someone with a deep voice who is so very obviously evil and is not above killing two innocent children. Or why the movie's theme song is titled "Hooray for Santa Claus" and even spells out Santa's name in the chorus when its children's choir sing "SanTY Claus".

It could be said that this is one of those movies where the filmmakers did not feel it necessary to take things too seriously. It certainly has a light-hearted nature to it, as we see Santa bring instant joy and happiness to everyone surrounding him. Matter of fact, it might even be TOO silly for its own good. Maybe that's why people regard it as one of the most infamous movies ever.

It's so silly, I'm not even sure you need me telling you about it. It's in the public domain, so you can find it anywhere on the Internet and see it for yourself.

Adam Lafferty also likes to talk about movies, among other things, on his other blog, popculturevomitbag.blogspot.com.

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