It’s a B-Movie Christmas
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians may be the best way to waste time this holiday season
If Santa Claus loved me and wanted me to be happy, he would have given me a good Christmas movie to review. Instead, the fat bastard left me a copy of 1964’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. I wonder if I have any of that absinthe left.
I really appreciate it when terrible movies are named after their climaxes. John Call stars as Santa Claus in what may be the only Christmas-related sci-fi B-movie in existence. The Martians – who are wearing the extraterrestrial equivalent of blackface – are sick of their Martian children watching too much Earth programming, which continuously expunges the merits of Santa Claus. The Martians show up and kidnap Santa Claus and a couple of Earth children in order to bring some Christmas cheer to their home planet of Mars. But Santa Claus and the two children overcome their Martian captors with love, happiness, Christmas spirit, and a jar of M&M’s.
One walks into a B-movie expecting a certain level of camp, but this is too much, even for camp. It’s like Nicholas Webster was intentionally testing the limits of what he could legally get away with putting in a movie. In fact, this is the only movie listed on many of the actor’s resumes. It’s so bad that it has actually killed careers, including two semi-successful Broadway careers.
The acting is terrible, the sets are uninspired, the camerawork is shoddy at best, and the amount of continuity errors is just staggering. Yet it has received a cult status not unlike that of the Army of Darkness trilogy. It has been featured in several TV shows and even has its own Broadway musical adaptation. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is an absolutely god-awful film. As much as it pains me to say it though, the foul taste it leaves in you mouth is actually softened by the fact that it isn’t the traditional A Christmas Story or Charlie Brown affair. As a matter of fact – and this just kills me – I may actually have to recommend that you track down a copy of it and watch it, just because it’s different. John Call plays one of the best Saint Nicks in cinematic history. The rest of the kids act like entitled little shits, but so do most kids at Christmas.
Maybe I’ve gone about this movie the wrong way. Maybe I’m supposed to see it as an alternative to the standard Christmas special/ceremonial watching of Gremlins. Maybe I’m supposed to see this as a statement on the aimlessness of pointless holiday consumerism. Maybe I’m supposed to watch this movie and revaluate my whole Christmas outlook. The holidays aren’t about the quality of the specials you endure, but about who you endure them with. Maybe Christmas means just a little more. Or, maybe not. Maybe this is just a bad movie that doesn’t deserve the notoriety that has been attached to it.
Either way, find it, watch it, and then, like so many terrible Christmas neckties, shove it into the far recesses of your bedroom closet. It’s the season of giving, but I don’t think that even the Salvation Army would accept this clunker.
Maybe Hollywood will try a little bit harder to satisfy my impossible standards in the New Year. Perhaps I will stop subjecting myself to these obscure wastes of film. And, clinging to these desperate hopes, allow me to wish you a Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.