Welcome back to 1 out of 5 – Would Recommend, where we’re celebrating Christmas all month long! We’re kicking off our month of Yuletide schlock with the 1964 classic Santa Claus Conquers The Martians!
What’s The Plot?
The children of Mars are enraptured by Earth’s television broadcasts, using them to escape their tightly controlled lives. Kimar, the king of the Martians, is advised that the kids need some kind of fun in their lives, that Mars needs its own Santa Claus. But that’s hard, so Kimar resolves to kidnap Earth’s and it goes about as smoothly as you’d expect.
Who Made This Beautiful Garbage?
Wikipedia doesn’t say, so I’m at something of a loss. The film is, however, public domain (watch it here) and legendarily bad – everyone who’s anyone has made sport of it. The movie’s been featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, RiffTrax, Cinematic Titanic, and Elvira’s Movie Macabre, most likely among many others.
Five Reasons to See It
Most Christmas movies that feature Santa – Elf, The Santa Clause, Polar Express, et al – set up some conflict by having adults/older kids not believe in Santa. This opens up a logical problem: every kid who celebrates Christmas gets at least one present that their parents never bought and no one sees that as odd. This movie is one of the relative few to avert that.
- This movie was the first appearance of Mrs. Claus in film or television, oddly enough.
- In lieu of an end credits sequence, the movie wishes you a Merry Christmas and teaches you the words to “Hurray for Santy Claus”. Considerate of them.
- This movie marks the first screen appearance of legendarily (literally) bad actress Pia Zadora. She’s eight and plays Gimar, the girl Martian (have you caught onto the naming scheme for the Martians yet?).
- “Here’s another UFO Bulletin: The Defense Department has just announced that the unidentified flying object suddenly disappeared from our radar screen. They believe the object has either disintegrated in space, or it may be a space ship from another planet which has the ability to nullify all radar beams.” – It’s either completely harmless or the most terrifying thing to visit the planet since the dinosaurs went extinct. Either or.
This is a dumb movie, a kid’s movie from an era where such things were mostly just a distraction so the parents could do something else (probably drinking or infidelity, if Mad Men is any indication). It lands in a zone where the low amount of budget and effort put into it prevent it from being a “good” film but just enough went into it to make it enjoyably ridiculous. It’s a so bad it’s good Christmas classic, and it should definitely be on your Nice List this year!
NEXT WEEK: We tackle the big budget holiday classic Jingle All The Way (1996).