Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (also titled Santa Claus Defeats the Aliens) is a 1964 Christmas-themed science-fiction film that regularly appears on lists of the worst films ever made. It is regularly featured in the "bottom 100" list on the Internet Movie Database, and was also featured in an episode of the 1986 syndicated series, the Canned Film Festival. It was directed by Nicholas Webster and starred John Call as Santa Claus. It also featured an 8-year-old Pia Zadora playing the role of one of the Martian children.
The film took on newfound fame in the 1990s after being featured on an episode of the comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000. The episode became a holiday staple on Comedy Central in the years following its 1991 premiere, helping it become one of the series' most popular episodes. The film has since found new life again in the 2000s having been riffed on in a racier version by Cinematic Titanic, which includes five former cast members from MST3K, as of November 2008.
The film recently passed into the public domain, making it legal for it to be posted online or broadcast in its entirety without licensing charges.
The story involves the denizens of the planet Mars, including Momar ("Mom Martian") and Kimar ("King Martian") who are worried that their children Girmar ("Girl Martian") and Bomar ("Boy Martian") are watching too much Earth television, most notably station KID-TV's interview with Santa Claus in his workshop at the North Pole. Consulting the ancient 800-year old Martian sage Chochem (a Yiddish word meaning "genius" or "very clever person"), they are advised that the children of Mars are growing distracted due to the society's overly rigid structure; from infancy, all their education is fed into their brains through machines, and they are not allowed individuality or freedom of thought.
Chochem sadly notes that he had seen this coming "for centuries", and states that the only way to help the children is to allow them to have freedom, to be allowed to have fun. To do this, they need a Santa Claus figure, like on Earth. Leaving the sage's dwelling, the Martian leaders decide to kidnap Santa Claus from Earth and bring him to Mars to make toys for the children of their planet. One warmongering Martian, Voldar, is in constant disagreement with this idea and repeatedly tries to kill Santa Claus, as well as two kidnapped Earth children, as he believes that Santa is corrupting the children of Mars and turning them away from the race's original glory. Throughout the movie, Santa Claus makes several jokes to the kidnapped children, Betty and Billy Foster, laughing to himself and met with silence. He then slowly laughs in disappointment each time.
When they arrive on Mars, Santa and the children build a factory to make toys for the Martian children. However, the grumpy Voldar and his assistants, Stobo and Shim, sabotage the factory and change the programming so that it makes the toys incorrectly. Meanwhile, Dropo, a moronic Martian who has been acting silly ever since Santa came to Mars, puts on one of Santa's spare suits and starts talking and acting like Santa Claus. He goes to the toy factory to make toys, but Voldar mistakes him for Santa Claus and kidnaps him.
When Santa and the children come back to the factory to make more toys, they discover that the machine has been tampered with. Voldar and Stobo come back to the factory to make a deal with Kimar, but when they see the real Santa Claus in the factory they realize that their plan has been foiled. Dropo, held hostage in a cave, tricks Shim, who was guarding him, and escapes. Kimar then arrests Voldar, Stobo and Shim. Santa notices that Dropo is acting like him, and says that Dropo would make a good Martian Santa Claus. Kimar agrees to make Dropo a Santa Claus on Mars and sends Santa and the children back to Earth.
Legacy and influences
The movie was featured in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode number 321, which premiered on Comedy Central on December 21, 1991. The tagline for this movie by the crew was "You're the laziest man on Mars!" and is available on the MST3K video collection titled The Essentials. A new and racier version by MST3K spinoff Cinematic Titanic became available in late November 2008. A clue could be found under Santa's feet in the attic. Scenes from the movie were used in The Price is Right during their Christmas Week shows in the first few years of Drew Carey's hosting, A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! (during the song sung by Toby Keith), and Eloise at Christmastime (when Sir Wilkes is watching television).
The movie spawned a tongue-in-cheek novelization by Lou Harry, released by Penguin Books/Chamberlain Bros. in 2005. The book, which includes a DVD of the original film, presents the story from the perspective of a now-adult Girmar, who has not only succeeded her father as ruler of Mars, but also narrates the tale in a "valley girl"-esque type of language.
In 1993, a theatrical production of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, the Musical premiered at the Factory Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, adapted and directed by Sean Abley. A second theatrical production premiered in 2006 at the Maverick Theater in Fullerton, California, this version was adapted by Brian Newell and Nick McGee. The Maverick's production has become a comedic success, a local tradition and performed every holiday season there since 2006. In November 2008, St. Anthony High School in Effingham, Ilinois produced their own theatrical production for their fall play. This version was adapted and directed by Nick Slicer.
Brazilian comedy group Hermes & Renato spoofed the film in their MTV program Tela Class, redubbing it as "Santa Claus e o pozinho mágico" (Santa Claus and the Magic Powder; "magic powder" being more loosely translated here as "angel dust"). In this version, Santa is a drug dealer.
- ↑ "David Zucker Biography (1947-)" FilmReference.com, November 7, 2007
- ↑ url = Zucker Punch, Mike Russell, In Focus, September 2003.
- ↑ Paul Chaplin, et al. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, Bantam Books, May 1996, Page 59.
- ↑ "Season Three: 1991-1992" Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Unofficial Episode Guide, Satellite News
- ↑ "Mystery Science Theater 3000: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1991)" Internet Movie Database
- ↑ Lou Harry, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, New American Library, published 27 September 2005
- ↑ "Factory History", Factory Theater website
- ↑ "Biography for Sean Abley", IMDB.com
- ↑ "Sean Abley: Writer/Director/Producer", Dark Blue Films
- ↑ "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" The Maverick Theater
- ↑ "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians", St. Anthony High School, 2008
- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians at the Internet Movie Database
- Satirical review of the film at X-Entertainment (Warning: Contains foul language)
- Cinematic Titanic promo for film
- The film on YouTube
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