Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
The children of Mars are in a funk, and nothing on the red planet seems to be able to cheer them up. Martian King Kimar comes up with the only reasonable solution: kidnap Santa Claus from Earth's North Pole and bring him to their planet to make toys for their joyless, listless little green kids. Meanwhile, two Earth children get wise to the plan and are abducted along with Santa to prevent them from talking to the authorities. Luckily for them, Dropo, the Jerry Lewis of the fourth planet from the sun, is there to help them. The fiendish plot doesn't go according to plan, and there's plenty of intrigue, double-crossing, mistaken identity and stock footage for kids of all ages and planets to enjoy.
Poorly conceived, sloppily made, and unfailingly bizarre, "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" is the ultimate Christmas movie-riffing classic (as fans of MST3K know) which is why Cinematic Titanic chose to revisit, re-riff, and release this holiday hamfest with all new jokes. Merry Crap-mas!
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JoelRe-riffing Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was...
Re-riffing Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was controversial among some of the fans of movie riffing, however it was done for a good reason: to let people know that any movie can be re-riffed. To me, cheesy movies are like beats in the world of music-- they can be repurposed endlessly, so “Santa” was the first experiment in that. It was an attempt to break new ground, or at least some old ground, and in doing that break some new ground. Like George Clinton said: free your mind and your ass will follow.
The movie itself is a riff confection-- I just love the design element of the red-suited Santa juxtaposed against the green of the Martians, and the slap-happy “Hooray for Santy Claus” theme song. To me, it’s pure conceptual catnip. I saw the trailer for this movie when I was six years old at the Fort Theatre in our little town of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin and it was there that SCQTM was burned into my memory forever, as it presented everything I wanted and needed at the time: Santa and Martians and rockets and robots. I remembering having genuine fear at the strange sight of the children being grabbed by the giant robot on the surface of the moon. I can see it as it was even now, and to me, it was just the best, in a quaint, misty-water-colored “Christmas Story” kind of way. I also remember feeling like the male Martian’s form-fitting outfits were what I would have called “girly”, which I guess I still agree with. In a kids' movie should you be able to look at a Martian and be able to make out the position of his “Mantenna”? I was however, thrilled when we got to present this on MST3K and then release it again with an all new set of riffs via Cinematic Titanic. Thank heaven for movies that forget to apply for copyright.
For a very spartan production, I also like that they did everything on the sound stage, even when the kids are first approached by the Martians in the field, every shot was art directed. Some nice craft went into the sets, like the North Pole with the exterior of Santa’s workshop, the Martians' spaceship and the futuristic Martian domicile. It’s pretty seamless for a movie this cheap, though in some scenes, I swear I can still smell the paint drying. Obviously shot in New York and representing the “work for cheap” talent at the time, I also recognized some of the character actors from kids' TV emanating from New York-- Captain Kangaroo, “Tootsie Pop” commercials and yeah, did I mention I watched way too much TV as a kid?
Traveling with Cinematic Titanic this last year, we’ve gotten to meet lots and lots of people who grew up watching MST3K and some of them have mentioned that it became a ritual to watch “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” when their families got together for the holidays. That makes me really glad. I’m happy to have been able to help inject just a little bit of cynicism into a holiday that, for the time being, has way too many layers of frosting piled on it.
Merry Christmas, no matter what time of year you happen to be reading this.