Today's little piece of Christmas Spirit is episode 321 of Mystery Science Theater, the 1964 cinematic effort Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. This is the second time I've seen this movie, but the first time I was feeling a twinge masochistic and watched the original uncut version without any commentary from talking robots. Starring future Golden Globe winning actress Pia Zadora, John Call as Santa Claus, the guy that played Ralph on the Jeffersons, and a lot of people who inexplicably never acted in another movie again. Directed by Nicholas Webster (who went on to direct an episode of Get Smart and The Waltons), Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is about Santa Claus, who gets abducted by Martians in order to cheer up the autonomous children of Mars. Also, the Martians kidnap two earth children named Billy and Betty along the way, and somehow they team up to bring Christmas cheer and joy to the fine citizens of Mars. But not everyone is happy about this, as a martian named Voldar is concerned that the introduction of toys will make the children annoying and bratty, much like Earth children :). A few notes about this movie:
- In this claptrap of a film, the Martians are presented as highly developed beings who can travel to Earth whenever they please and their ships are built with radar shields so they can't be detected. They also wear green helmets with antennas and skin tight green jumpsuits. Mars also has powerful enough satellites so they can watch Earth programs on their television sets, which concerned Kimar, as his kids seem to do nothing but watch TV. You know, just like Earth. At the very least, Kimar should be thankful that cable television wasn't around back then, or those children would never leave. Also, Mars eats food in pill form, which sounds about as enjoyable as eating dirt, and apparently have never heard of a handshake, as they prefer to greet each other with light headbutts.
- Most of the Martians seem to be of higher intelligence, except for Dropo, who must be the village idiot of Mars. Dropo acts like a dumber version of Barney Fife. I'm not exactly clear what exactly Dropo's role is, but it must be something important considering he's in direct contact with the chief of the Martians. In the movie, Dropo's the token dumb comic relief and he's about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face. After a while, I was rooting for Dropo to be dropped, so to speak. Instead his role just grows and grows, as he becomes a key figure at the end of the film.
- The Santa Claus in this film is not quite as strange as the Kris Kringle in the film I reviewed last week, but is still a bit unsettling nonetheless. Like the other Santa Claus, he is prone to fits of laughter in even the most mundane circumstances. There's one scene in the movie, where Santa and Billy and Betty meet Kimar's kids, Bomar and Girmar (very original names, fellows), and Santa just burst into a serial-killer esque laughing fit. To make things worse, the kids join in, and each of the martian kids (especially Girmar, played by Zadora) have this strange far away look in their eyes while laughing as if they heard the world's greatest joke. It's actually quite unsettling, to be honest.
- Every story must have some sort of conflict, and this movie's conflict comes from a martian named Voldar. We know he's evil because he's the only martian with a mustache. Voldar just hates the idea of Martian children having fun in their lives, to the point where he repeatedly tries to have Santa and the two Earth children killed in gruesome fashion. It's actually pretty heavy stuff for what's supposed to be a kid's movie. Fortunately for Voldar, he's surrounded by idiots, so he gets opportunity after opportunity to thwart Kimar's scheme and prevent Martian children from getting wooden trains and other toys. Unfortunately for Voldar, he's not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, as he's constantly stopped by Santa and Billy. At one point, he thinks he's kidnapped Santa, except it's Dropo in a spare Santa costume which was made for Santa by Kimar's wife Momar. Also, for some reason Momar decided to make Santa a spare beard, but whatever. Anyway, Voldar and his cronies somehow can't tell Dropo apart from Santa, even though Dropo has a GREEN HELMET ON HIS HEAD the whole time, while Santa has not, nor will he ever, wear a green helmet with antenna sticking up. You know, for a technologicly advanced people, the Martians sure are stupid.
- I would be remiss if I didn't discuss Santa's kidnapping. For one, their was a polar bear roaming around, which really was just a guy in a really cheap bear costume. Also, to kidnap Santa, the Martians sent out a robot named Torg to do the deed. Torg looked like an air conditioner with arms and legs and a coffee pot head, and moved about as swift as Cecil Fielder. Why the Martians decided to have Torg as their ultimate weapon is a mystery that will never be solved, as Santa disposed of him quite easily. Finally, the Martians have to come in their themselves, and Voldar freezes a couple of elves and Mrs. Claus (who, in the short time on film she had, somehow was the most annoying character in the movie due to her non-stop nagging), much to the relief of the audience. Finally, they take Santa peacefully, as Santa seemed more concerned about a future tongue-lashing from his wife then anything the Martians may of had in store for him. Perhaps all Santa needs is a good divorce lawyer.
- Not only did this episode feature Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, it also features a performance of one of the greatest Christmas carols of all time, a Patrick Swayze Christmas. Yes, it's as great as it sounds. Just listen to it here:
Overall, this is the type of movie that would probably be made more enjoyable through the use of hallucinogenic drugs. Unfortunately, I don't do drugs, and I don't recommend that you do any either. Actually, this type of movie is just ripe for parody, as it's really so bad that it's funny, and the constant barbs make this episode even funnier. Overall, I'd give the movie Santa Claus Conquers the Martains a 0.90 out of 10, and the episode a 6.9 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any comments about this or previous posts, or ideas for future reviews or posts, than share them either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at KtheC2001@gmail.com.