Holiday Review: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
We on earth take it for granted that a jolly man in a red suit will magically come down our chimneys to deliver presents. But do we take into consideration the poor children on the warrior planet of Mars? Since it is doubtful that a Martian baby was born in a manger on the Red Planet they have no concept of Christmas. When producer/screenwriter (and not very good at either of those professions) Paul Jacobson sought to break into the movie business he decided that this was a topic he would tackle to disastrous results in his 1964 cult classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
Martian military leader Kimar has noticed that his children Girmar and Bomar are being heavily influenced by the TV broadcasts from earth. It is decided by his higher-ups that the children of Mars need a Santa Claus to introduce them to the concept of fun. Rather than create their own, Kimar leads a party including the dumb but joyful Droppo and the surly horribly-mustached Voldar to earth to steal their Santa Claus!!! However two earth children Billy and Betty get caught up in this intergalactic kidnapping plot and end up going back to Mars as captives along with the red-suited jolly man. They get brought into Santa’s new industrialized toy operation on Mars. Voldar sees that this will only lead to Martian children becoming soft and weak so he sets out to sabotage St. Nick. His plot is ultimately thwarted and everyone arrives at the realization that Santa belongs on earth and the dimwitted Droppo can fill the role of Santa Claus for the children of Mars.
Let me put it to you this way, if you did not already know of the shoddy product you were getting into, the fact the opening credits lists someone as a “Custume Designer” will no doubt tip you off. Perhaps they were too busy slapping cheap materials together for the third rate polar bear and killer robot custumes we see, to double check the spelling. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians comes off as the product of the Cold War Space Race which it is. When the Martians in their cardboard ship are scouring the earth, we see the US military in full stock footage glory working to stop the alien menace. Granted since the Martian invaders succeed in capturing their intended target maybe the military can take the L this time. The entire film was made on the cheap inside of an old hangar and it if they try to mask that fact they are only fooling themselves. For all the things this movie does wrong I do give props to the set designers for making the Martian homeworld look so alien. Courtesy of ultra-modernistic furniture provided by Fritz Hansen, domestic life on the Red Planet looks very similar yet so very different from our own.
While this movie is bad, it does not quite enter the level of “good bad” like movies such as; Miami Connection, Troll 2, and Samurai Cop successfully did. It is entirely too childish to hit that level, and the characters are too grating to be enjoyable on any level. I can not help but think that John Call, the actor portraying Santa was on something to chuckle as much as he does throughout the film. The creation of the “comic relief” character Droppo should be by all accounts a war crime as this buffoon will no doubt have you rooting on the mustachioed villain of the flick. For as bad as this movie is however, it led to a classic episode of the cult favorite TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000, if you must watch this train wreck either watch it with their riffing or create your own jokes otherwise you may not make it through.