Ho ho holy shit, what I won't put myself through for the readers of Horrorview.com…
There are scads of terrible Christmas movies out there.
The first kind of bad Christmas movie - another variant on Charles Dickens' classic tale A Christmas Carol starring a former A-list star who goes from asshole of the year to benevolent dictator after meeting with the trinity of Christmas ghosts, such as Ebbie starring Susan Lucci, and Scrooged with Bill Murray.
The second kind of bad Christmas movie - comedies about neighbors trying to outdo one another with lights and other holiday doodads such as Christmas with the Cranks and Deck the Halls.
The third kind of bad Christmas movie – Okay, it's not Christmas, but Channukah, still… that animated Adam Sandler movie that is listed by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Committee as a weapon of mass destruction.
The fourth kind of bad Christmas movie – Live action films based on existing animated titles. Airing the live action Grinch who Stole Christmas is considered an act of war in several European countries.
The fifth kind of bad Christmas movie - Films about some obsessed parent, a dad usually, battling to get a specific popular toy for his kid, such as Jingle All the Way.
The sixth kind of bad Christmas movie – Any film made by John Hughes, and he has plenty on his plate that just aren't funny, Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Planes Trains and Automobiles, and even Christmas Vacation (which has exactly three funny scenes in it).
I fucking hate John Hughes. But where was I…
None of these, as bad as they are, can hold a candle of awfulness anywhere near as bright as Nicholas Webster's abysmal Santa Clause Conquers the Martians. This film is to Christmas movies what obsessively smashing yourself in the head with a cast iron frying pan is to good mental health.
Shot on a budget that couldn't even afford strings for two pairs of shoes, making use of several actors on loan from various Broadway plays, shot in a New Jersey airplane hangar, borrowing enough stock footage to make three lesser movies, and featuring a song so saccharine and awful that the only way to get it out of your head is with a Rigid 12 volt cordless drill, Santa Clause Conquers the Martians is enough to turn Santa himself into a Libertine Ebenezer Scrooge.
The shreds of plot that make up this agonizing 80 minutes are few, so pay attention. The children of Mars, represented here by Bomar (Chris Month) and Girmar (Pia Zadora) are overfed on Earth TV which, in early December, is overcome with stories about the North Pole's very own jolly toy making fat man. They want Christmas too, but don't really know what Christmas is. Other things of which they apparently have no knowledge include, orthodontia, speaking without sounding like an extra on The Sopranos, finding their mark on a soundstage, not mumbling their lines. Bomar and Girmar demonstrate their dismay by refusing to eat their food pills.
Ah yes, food pills, the staple of golden age science fiction… Anyway… They also refuse to go to sleep on their own forcing their parents to use "sleep spray" on them nightly.
Dad to these two cardboard rugrats is none other than Kimar (Leonard Hicks) the apparent leader of Mars itself who, in order to bring peace and harmony back to his unhappy household, confers with his wise council, then with the ghost of Chochem (an 800 year old dead Martian), and decides that the only way to bring smiles to Bomar and Girmar is to kidnap old Saint Nick from Earth.
However, within Kimar's wise council is a skeptic, Voldar (Vincent Beck) who doesn't want Martian kids to be like obnoxious stupid Earth kids. Why he's allowed to tag along on this mission is anyone's guess. But he does and immediately starts making trouble, not as much trouble as Dropo (Bill McCutcheon), Mars' answer to Peterson/America's answer to Dirch Passer of Reptilicus fame.
Dropo is "the laziest man on all Mars" so Kimar dubs him after finding the idiot sleeping beneath a Formica table in a plywood set that vaguely resembles a conference room. Dropo is so intrigued by the whole Santa Clause mythos that he hides out in Mars' flagship and hitches a ride to Earth.
On Earth we have spent a little time with Billy (Victor Stiles) and Betty (Donna Conforti), 10 and 8 years-old respectively, who are also spending way too much time in front of the Earth Videos and all hopped up on Christmas.
In the one video we do get to see, roving reporter Andy Henderson (also called Mr. Anderson by Santa) is preparing to interview Santa in his North Pole workshop. This vast enterprise is displayed as a single matte painting propped up about a foot behind Mr. Henderson as soap flakes float down and tangle in his hair.
Santa is not the industrious manufacturing giant we have all come to know and love from such fun holiday fare as The Year without a Santa Clause and Santa Clause is Coming to Town, but is instead visibly baffled by the two elves and their incessant hammering taking place nearby. It's no surprise that Santa almost always has a lit pipe between his teeth, and it's easy to imagine his increasingly insane and carefree attitude as the film goes on to be attributed to whatever illicit weed he has in the briar.
Santa shows off one of the elf's "Martian" action figures, which not surprisingly, look exactly like Kimar, Voldar, and Dropo (a green painted Ken doll with a green cape and a stupid helmet that sports rabbit ear antennae).
We'll get back to the workshop later…
Cut to about 10 minutes of mixed stock footage of military hardware including every type of jet fighter available in 1963/64, B52s and scads of whirling radar dishes. A newsman carefully informs us by reading from the script at his desk that an unidentified flying object is approaching Earth. Several scientists dismiss this as a rogue meteor, but the authority on all things space, Dr. Von Green declares it to be a spaceship from Mars. He also promises that the US Space Force will respond immediately.
I didn't know we had a space force. Cool!
The Martians are so technologically advanced though that aside from sporting a pair of antennae, they also have a radar blocking shield on their pipe cleaner and cardboard space vessel.
The Martians are confused by all the Santas they see as they make their final orbit before choosing a landing zone. See, they spot all the Salvation Army Santas outside various businesses and can't figure out which one is the real Santa. They land all of 10 feet from Billy and Betty who explain that there is only one Santa and that he lives at the North Pole with his wife and two elves.
Vodar figures the kids will spill the beans about the Martians if they are left behind, so Kimar reluctantly takes them aboard the Martian ship for the ride to the North Pole. Dropo, the idiot, is put in charge of making sure the kids are safely locked away. Therefore, as soon as the ship touches down in the snow they make a break for Santa's little tabletop house model to warn him of impending kidnapping. Kimar dispatches the awesome might of the Martian Automaton Military (I made that up) to retrieve them, meet Torg. Torg is constructed of one cardboard box, painted silver, some silver pants and sleeves, and a five gallon bucket for a head.
During the chase Vodor is chased off by a man in a polar bear costume.
Torg captures the children and Vodor orders the cardboard monstrosity to crush the kids into paste. However, Kimar has programmed the man in the cheap robot costume to obey only him. Thus Vodar's true motives are made clear.
Man… three pages of this…
Let's wrap up shall we?
1 - The Martians kidnap Santa
2 – Vodar tries to kill the captives by shoving them out the air lock
3 – Santa teaches the Martians how to laugh and be merry
4 – The Martians build Santa an automated workshop
5 – Vodar, awaiting trial in a cave, captures Dropo who is wearing Santa's spare clothes
6 – Vodar launches an attack on the automated toy factory that crumbles beneath the might of four kids and some burp guns
7 – Kimar allows old St. Nick and the kids to return to Earth
8 – Dropo becomes the Martian Santa
There, that's it. The script is about as awful as you can get this side of a bunch of winos just making shit up in front of a stolen video camera. The special effects are anything but. The music causes permanent ear and brain damage. The two places where Santa Clause Conquers the Martians doesn't collapse is the acting, which is mostly pretty good considering the cast were all from somewhere on Broadway, and the direction which looks like a standard TV episode of just about any series from 1960-1980. It's no surprise that Nicholas Webster went on to direct a shitload of TV episodes either. Leonard Hicks, John Call, and Vincent Beck do a fine job with the crap they are saddled with. They all reminded me of other actors, so that might help you-
Leonard Hicks looks and sounds and acts like Michael Rennie.
John Call looks and sounds and acts like Cameron Mitchell in Space Mutiny.
Vincent Beck looks and sounds and acts like Elliot Gould.
Here's what great about this particular holiday review, you can watch this sumbitch right now, for free, right here! That's right, Santa Clause Conquers the Martians is in the public domain and it's legally hosted all over the net. The copy at Google video ain't perfect, and has the same visual quality of an old VHS tape that's been eaten a few times, but it doesn't detract from the film, hell, your computer exploding and killing you with silicone shrapnel couldn't detract from the film.
Hooray for Santy Clause!
Now, someone, please… kill me.