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Santa Claus

Conquers the Martians 

     "But Santa Claus, you will never return to Earth. You belong to Mars now."

-- Kimar   




Gonzoid Cinema




Santa tries the oldest one in the book, asking someone to pull his finger. Luckily, little Billy doesn't fall for it.


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Sights &
Santa Claus
the Martians
 Jalor Productions /
 Embassy Pictures

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Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Santa's Magic Kingdom

Santa's Enchanted Village

Santa's Fantasy Fair

Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny


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    And there, on the Plains of Cyrus Bentok, Santa, the Claus, known as Kringle to the Kelts, Uberelf to the Goths, and the Dreaded Red Scar to those from across the sea, astride his chariot drawn by eight stout reindeer -- the ninth, Rudolph the second, son of Donner, fell at the Battle of the Firfwood Tyne, struck down by an enemy sniper -- road out in front of his warrior elves, the Elfenhard. Verily, the once merry toy makers have long ago since beaten their toy tools into sword and spear to help repel the invasion from the Red Planet Mars.

    Across the way, of the field of battle to come, the Martian legions awaited -- the sun glinting off the shiny plastic barrels of their deadly Wham-O Air Blaster Freeze Guns -- primed and at the ready.

    Here, the Claus turned his battle sleigh and rode up and down the front of his lines, the adorning bells, jingling all the way. No words need be spoken as a chorus of cheers erupted while he rode passed, the elves giving voice to their beloved master, and beat their shields with their sword butts in a strong cadence. Then, the Claus swung the chariot back until he reached the center of his lines and dismounted. After a brief glimpse at the enemy across the field, he went from beast to beast along the hitch and rein, calling them each by name; and when he reached the front pair, he whispered into the lead right creatureís ear. Dasher, the swift, snorted his dismay but a stern look from his master made him lower his head. Dasher then looked to the right to his partner, Dancer, the not so swift, and they slowly turned and led the others back from whence they came.

    The gathered elf legions parted, like a green wave, allowing the team to retreat to the rear, and another cheer erupted as the noble beasts moved to safer ground. Soon they were gone and the assembled mass reformed and turned back to the Claus -- but the cheer only grew louder. No semblance of the Jolly Old Elf of old remained. In its place stood a pillar of stone resolve, hell bent on removing the Martian scourge from the universe.

    And then, with the raising of one, red-mitten'd hand, the Claus silenced his army, which became so quiet you could hear their Red Banners angrily flapping in the wind ... After several pregnant moments, he spoke, ordering Winky, son of Wonky, of the Funderburke-Dell elves, to have the archers stand at the ready. The Claus then removed his scarlet hat, and as his long, white locks dropped low and sifted in the wind, he drew a long saber from inside his magical toy sack and drove the blade through the removed cloth and began to swing it over his head. A low, guttural, growl slowly crescendos, and, in a blazing instant, his entire army was warped into a blood-rage frenzy.

    "They will write songs of what we do today," he roared, turning toward his enemy. "Remember the North Pole! And death to the sons of Mars!" The Claus then gave the order to open fire, turned, and led the charge towards his final destiny...

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Even though that loopy Tolkein hangover printed above is what a film titled Santa Claus Conquers the Martians might imply it isnít exactly what we get. Nope. Instead, we get a mind-warping kiddie flick straight from the well-meaning but horribly misguided 1960's that begins with the slightly off-key children's chorus bellowing their way through the insidiously infectious jingle "Hurray for Santy Claus!" After the credits end, we open on a TV set tuned into the KID Network, whose anchor cheerfully announces that since itís almost Christmas they have a special report lined-up directly from Santaís workshop at the North Pole. But as we slowly pan around to see whoís watching -- unless those rumors about sitting too close to the TV are true, we can p'rolly safely assume these green-hued children with the kitchen utensils glued to their heads are Martians.

Anyways ... as Bomar (Chris Month) and Girmar (Pia Zadora) watch with a cold detachment, the newscaster tosses it over to his wacky weatherman, Andy Henderson (Ned Wertimer), live at the North Pole, who cracks lame jokes about the subzero temperatures while making his way toward Santa's Toyshop. Inside, he finds the elves hard at work under the supervision of the Big Red Cheese himself (-- who appears to have been hitting the rum. A lot. Yeah ... I think that jolly red nose has finally been explained). Giving their visitor the nickel tour, Santa Claus (John Call) shows off one of the latest toys: a toy rocket that uses real rocket fuel! (Keep your Wii. I want me wanna those.) Next, when Henderson spots a familiar looking green doll discarded in a pile of wood-shavings, Santa says Winky, the weird elf, made that and claims itís a Martian. (And thus Winky invents the action figure, ushering in a dark chapter in the history of toy making as hordes of speculators run over defenseless children to get their Martian, mint on the card, to sell later for a sinful profit on eBay.) And as the roving reporter ominously wonders if Mars has its own version of Santa, to bring joy to the Martian children, Mrs. Claus (Doris Rich) comes in and starts cracking the whip, sending everyone back to work. Interview over, I guess.

But there is no joy on the Red Planet, where High Lord Kimar (Leonard Hicks) finds his servant, Droppo (Bill McCutcheon), sleeping on the job. Taking what looks like a cattle-prod, Kimar jabs it at the prone Martian. But as Droppo flops around in a spastic fit, turns out the device is only a harmless tickle-ray. (And fair warning: Droppo will remain in this highly agitated state for the rest of the film.) Meanwhile, Kimar and his wife-mate, Momar (Leila Martin), openly worry about their children, Bomar and Girmar. They wonít eat their food pills; wonít sleep without the help of the sleep-ray; and spend their entire day in front of the tele-screens, watching those silly Earth programs. Case in point, with bedtime approaching, Kimar has to pry his kids away from the screen and set the sleep-ray to full blast.

Itís the same way in households all over Mars, and Kimar doesnít know what to do until Momar suggests they consult with the ancient Chochem (Carl Don), who's, like, 800 years old and should know what to do. Kimar agrees and calls together the high council, including the spiteful crank, Voldar (Vincent Beck), to meet him at the endless caves. Once there, Kimar calls to Chochem, and, in a puff of smoke, the wizened old coot appears. And after the dilemma is laid out for him, Chochem says the answer is obvious: the Martian children are rebelling. From the day they are born, theyíre hooked into Martian learning machines and are adults before they can walk. Thus, the listless children must learn to have fun. In other words: Mars needs a Santa. (And Larry Buchanan kicks himself for not thinking of this movie first.) Then, in another puff of smoke, Chochem vanishes. (Wait, no he didnít. Heís still there.)

In spite of the source, Voldar thinks itís a terrible idea and doesnít want to turn their children into mush-brained idiots like those Earthling's offspring. Besides, Where are they going to get a Santa Claus? Well, Kimar says, theyíll just have to go to Earth and get one. Thus, Kimar, Voldar, and a Martian contingent board a giant Tinker Toy, blast off, and reach Earth in no time at all -- but, I point out, Voldar still bitched the whole way. Achieving orbit, the Martians start scanning and are shocked to find Santas scattered all over the place. (Theyíre looking at several gents in Santa suits ringing the bell for the Salvation Army and such.) Taking this as a good sign, Kimar feels with all those Santas around no one will ever miss the one they decide to kidnap. But before they can choose, several alarms sound off as their ship is scanned with radar beams. Now, that should be impossible but something's wrong with the ship's Radar-Jammer -- which has come down with a bad case of Droppo, who stowed away under the control panels ... Nevertheless, the Martians quickly fly below the radar screen and begin their search for a perfect isolated victim.


Meanwhile, the nation is alerted that the military has picked up a UFO and are scrambling the nationís defenses [via stock footage]. Of course, the Russians deny they have anything to do with it as we cut to two children, Billy and Betty Foster (Victor Stiles and Donna Conforti), sitting under a tree, listening to the news reports about a UFO and wild speculations that Martians are invading. Well, obviously, they are, and the children have picked the worst possible spot for their siesta as a Martian scouting party finds them. Luckily for them, Kimar says they come in peace and are looking for a Santa Claus. When helpful Billy says thereís only one real Santa Claus, who lives at the North Pole, Kimar is excited because there is no more isolated place on Earth than that. (Oops. Way to go kid.) Still, Voldar demands that they take the kids with them, so they canít rat them out. Kimar reluctantly agrees. They load up, blasts off, and head north.

Along the way, Droppo lets the kids out of the brig and gives them the grand tour, showing them the repaired Radar-Jammer and several other, vital pieces of equipment. [PLOT POINT!] Hearing the other Martians coming, Droppo hides the children in the same spot he hid earlier. When the ship lands, Kimar orders Droppo to stay and guard the kids while the rest go after Santa. And taking no chances, the Martians will activate Torg to take Santa down. (Whatís a Torg? I donít know but it doesnít sound good.) Overhearing these plans, Billy and Betty sabotage the Radar-Jammer again, give Droppo the slip, and escape into the sub-sub-zero temperatures outside and disappear into the snow dunes to warn Santa. Meanwhile, as the Martian strike-force disembarks, Voldar discovers the Earth children have escaped. Sending the rest after them, Kimar stresses to take them alive, then turns his attention back to the ship. He then adjusts some knobs on his belt and calls for Torg to come out.

Out in the snow, Billy and Betty spot Voldar and take refuge in a cave. But Voldar finds their footprints and circles back. (And I donít think he plans to take any prisoners.) But before he can close in for the kill, Voldar hears something and turns to see a [really sad looking] polar bear, which frightens the Martian away -- but then it goes after the kids! Luckily, the cave is too small and it canít get at them. Eventually, the guy in the bear suit gives up and moves on. Once its safe, the kids come out and spot several lights nearby that must be Santa's workshop. But those lights are moving, and getting closer! And then, from out of the snow shuffles Torg, the Martian Robot of Death, who closes in on the frightened children. 

And as it comes into the light, we see the Martian Robot of Death is a refrigerator box and some heating ducts wrapped in tinfoil. A few doohickeys are glued to itís front, sure, and a bucket is propped on top for a head. And here, we slowly shake our heads, realizing this is the zenith of Martian technology.

When Torg seizes the fugitives, Voldar orders it to crush them -- but the robot only obeys Kimar, who sends the kids back to the ship under armed guard. The rest, including Torg, press on to Santaís workshop, with Voldar still bitching until they reach it. With orders to retrieve Santa, Torg busts his way inside and starts tossing elves around. But Santa, thinking itís one of Winkyís new space toys, is intrigued by the giant robot, which inexplicably shuts down as he examines him closer. Yes! The power of Santa has rendered it harmless. Undaunted, when the other Martians bust their way in, Kimar orders Santa to come with them because heís needed on Mars. As the elves move to defend the boss, the Martians turn their Wham-O Air Blaster Freeze Guns on them, much to Santa's distress. But Kimar assures the effects will wear off eventually. And when Mrs. Claus comes in and gets blasted too, Santa knows the old battle-axe will be plenty pissed when she wakes up -- but Kimar says not to worry, they wonít be here when she does.

As news reports flash across the globe, the United Nations burn the midnight oil to get Santa back. (All together now: Give sanctions more time!) On the Martian ship, Santa is already having a strange effect on his captors. With an odd combination of Christmas Carols and lame jokes, Santa seeds the beginning of the end of Martian life as we knew it. Meanwhile, Voldar fumes and schemes against Santa and the kids. In the brig, Santa tries to cheer the kids up, who feel guilty for leading the Martians right to him. But Santa says not to worry, insisting he always wanted to visit Mars anyway. When Droppo brings them dinner -- a three-course meal, condensed and concentrated into several small pills, the general consensus of the Earth kids, so far, is that Mars kinda sucks. 

Later, Voldar pays a visit to the prisoners and wants to give them a more extensive tour of the ship -- especially the airlock. And while Billy and Betty donít trust him, Santa thinks everyone deserves a chance, even Voldar, who takes them right to the airlock. And as Billy explains to Betty and Santa what an airlock is, Voldar sneaks off and shuts the door, sealing them on the wrong side. The kids panic, but Santa tells them not to worry. Outside, Voldar throws the switch, the airlock opens up, and sucks whatever was inside out into space. Kimar catches onto him too late. But as they brawl around they hear a familiar laugh. Then Santa, Billy and Betty round a corner, safe and sound. Breaking up the fight, Santa tells Kimar heís sure it was just an accident. Voldar canít believe they escaped -- the only way out was a tiny air duct. But he'll have plenty of time to contemplate that miracle while confined in the brig. (Behold the power of Santa, you Martian moron!)

Well, the rest of the trip is relatively uneventful. But after they land, they find Droppo tied up in the brig, meaning Voldar has escaped. And knowing heíll be back to cause trouble, Kimar orders a 24-hour guard on Santa and the children. But thatís a worry for later, for now, the children of Mars are waiting. Taking them to his home, Kimar first head-butts his wife (-- I think this is a standard Martian greeting), and then introduces the Earth children, who get head-butts of their own. Then, Santa makes his grand entrance and apologizes for his bombastic behavior. Seems heís not used to coming in through the door since Martian houses have no chimneys. (Ho-ho-ho. Heís got a million of them, and, unfortunately, we get to hear every stinking one of them.) The Earth troupe is then marched over to meet the Kimar's kids, and it isnít long before Santa has the stoic Martian children cackling like idiots. So pleased by this is Kimar that he quickly takes Santa aside and reveals his grand plan to build him a factory to produce all kinds of toys. Santa believes that's a grand idea, and will do all he can to get it up and running so he can return to Earth in time for Christmas. Here, Kimar solemnly breaks it to him that, no, he will not be returned but will remain on Mars -- forever.

Meanwhile, Voldar and his two stooges, Stobbo and Shim (Al Nesor and Joe Elic), hide out in a cave and conspire to bring Kimar and Santa down. But Shim thinks itís impossible because Santa is too well guarded. Stobo has even seen the new toyshop and was mesmerized by the fantastical products. That is the key, says Voldar. For there are other ways to get at Santa, like discredit him -- and turn him into a laughingstock -- by sabotaging the factory ... At said factory, Santa is quickly growing bored with the pushing of the buttons. See, all he has to do now is hit the right switch and the Martian machines will regurgitate the desired toy onto a handy conveyor belt for further distribution, with Billy, Bomar, Droppo and Girmar collecting the toys while Betty reads Santa the wish lists. Deciding to call it a day, Santa shuts the equipment down. As they head out, he picks up a spare suit that Momar made for him. When Droppo asks if he can try it on, Santa ribs heíll have to put on a little weight first.

Back at Kimarís for the night, Santa complains about his finger being tired and heads straight to bed. The Martian kids, meanwhile, ask if they can watch some Earth TV before they hit the hover-sack. Kimar gives them the OK but notices Billy and Betty aren't all that interested. In fact, they're acting pretty glum. Asked if theyíve been mistreated, the Earth kids say no; theyíve been treated real swell. Kimar doesnít understand what the problem is, then, but Momar does: the kids are homesick, and she begs Kimar to take them back to Earth. But Kimar says thatís impossible. As they argue, Droppo steals the spare Santa suit and starts Bogarting food pills, trying to gain the necessary weight. He then tries the suit on, but, still too scrawny, uses a pillow to fill it out. He also finds a spare Santa beard lying around [???] to complete the ensemble. With that, he excitedly decides to return to the factory and make more toys.

But back at the toy factory, Voldar and his gang have already broken in and thrown a monkey wrench into the mechanisms. They hear someone approaching and hide. In the dark, they look past the green face and antennae and mistake Droppo for Santa. (At this juncture I donít think I need to point out that all Martians are morons, so this stretch of the plot isnít that big of stretch if you think about it.) Hauling the prisoner back to their hideout and securing him behind a nuclear curtain, Voldar exclaims that with Santa out of the way Mars will now return to normal.

The next morning, Momar canít find Droppo and Santa canít find his extra suit. Quickly putting two and two together, they realize when they find one theyíll probably find the other. Santa also correctly assumes Droppo went back to the toy factory, so he and the children go to look for him. But Droppo isnít there. Not to worry, Santa assures, as he cranks up the machine, their friend will show up eventually. But as the machine rumbles to life, it starts spitting out mutant toys! (Charlie in the Boxes, trains with square wheels, cowboys riding ostriches etc.) Told to call Kimar, Bomar tunes his father in with his antennae. When he arrives they discover the switched circuits and figure only Voldar could be behind this dubiousness. And to make matters worse, Santa is convinced that Voldarís has Martian-napped a disguised Droppo, mistaking him for the real thing.

As Kimar promises to find Droppo and leaves, he runs right into Voldar, who claims to have Santa as a prisoner and demands the factory be shut down immediately. Think again, Kimar says, opening the factory door, revealing the real Santa inside. Meantime, Droppo somehow miraculously manages to engineer his escape without disintegrating himself. With that, Kimar draws his Freeze Gun and herds the bad guys into a storage closet and calls the police, over his internal radio, to come and pick them up. But Voldar and Stobbo manage to overpower Kimar, knock him out, and take his weapon. After cranking the Freeze Gun up to the highest setting, Voldar declares heís tired of playing around and will remove Santa Claus -- permanently. 

Luckily, Billy overhears all this and warns Santa, who decides itís time to teach Voldar a lesson. And as the kids set up an ambush, Voldar breaks in and gets pummeled by several volleys of toys. What follows is an embarrassingly long assault, and vintage toy commercial, as Voldar is bopped and splattered into submission. Even Kimar wakes up, and Droppo returns, just in time, to witness the carnage. Then the Martian police finally arrive and drag Voldar off to jail.

With that crisis in the can, Santa tells Kimar that Mars doesnít need him anymore for they have their very own Santa, and points to Droppo. Kimar happily agrees and they all share a laugh. And in no time the Martians say goodbye to the Earthlings as they board the Tinker Toy and rocket back to Earth. And thus began the reign of Droppo, the First Martian Claus; and he ruled all the lands with a benevolent -- if not spastic -- hand. And there was much rejoicing.

The End

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"All this trouble over a fat man in a red suit."

-- Voldar the Cranky             

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Though not quite the holiday staple on the level of Itís A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians has carved itís very own little niche in Christmas lore.

Using three converted World War II airplane hangars at Roosevelt Field in Garden City, (Long Island) New York, for the sets, the film was shot and produced for $200,000. Producer Paul Jacobson's regional feature was then picked up by Joseph E. Levine's Embassy Pictures for national distribution, cashing in on the Kids Only matinees, pioneered by fellow exploitationeer, K. Gordon Murray, with his equally demented holiday import, Santa Claus. Now, if you've seen Jacobson's film, you, like me, are probably wondering what that money was spent on because you see very little of it on screen. It couldn't be the minimalist cardboard sets. Or the Martian costumes -- or custumes [sic], as the credits credit, consisting mostly of skin-tight leotards showing bulges in all the wrong the places, completed with those aforementioned kitchen utensils adhered to everyone's noggin. We've already discussed Torg's shortcomings, and the less said about the polar bear suit, worn deftly by Greg Lindsey, the better. Still, the film manages to overcome this and finds the perfect balance between being, as one person a lot more smarter than I rightfully noted, "incredibly enjoyable, yet hopelessly inept."

Aside from being delightfully lampooned on MST3k, the film is best known as the first screen appearance of Pia Zadora, as the young Martian girl, Gimar. And the film had a brief spurt in popularity in the 1980's when the actress won her, deserved or not, Golden Globe for Butterfly. Here, we can put another false assumption to rest. The Martian playing Stobbo is not Jamie Farr, as some would have you think. It was Al Nesor, who also played Evil Eye Fleagle, another kooky character in the cinematic adaptation of the Lilí Abner musical, who everyone also mistakes as being Farr. In fact, most of the cast was culled from Broadway theater stock. And according to a very reliable source, Leila Martin, the Martian mom, was still in the game as of 1999, playing Madame Giry in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera -- a fact Martin touts in her bio for the show's Playbill, which I find to be incredibly cool.

Speaking of musicals, Milton Delugg composed that infectious title song and wild soundtrack. Now Delugg had served as bandleader for The Tonight Show when Jack Paar was the host. But he was replaced by Doc Severnson after Carson took over. However, Delugg went on to be the bandleader for Chuck Barrisí The Gong Show -- cranking up Count Basie's Five O'Clock Jump for Gene Gene the Dancing Machine. A 45-record of "Hooray for Santa Claus" was included with the Dell Comics adaptation of the film. Both are highly collectible.

Of course Santa Claus is the centerpiece of the show and Call takes the role and runs away with it, cackling the whole way. He makes a pretty good Santa, despite what the script calls on him to do, with plenty of scenes where his laughing and cackling come off as sinister and menacing, when theyíre supposed to be jolly, making him more of a creepy uncle instead of a saint (Again, It appears Santa has been hitting the Christmas punch a little too much.) And then thereís the disturbing scene when heís complaining about his tired finger and points it around and shows it to everyone -- like some rogue proctologist. Eek.

And for those of you who think product placement is a recent thing, I say, think again. The Louis Marx toy company got itself a big screen credit, and during the closing fight there a several, lingering shots on some of their wonderful toys. (Man ... I miss my old Marx Battleground and Comanche Pass playsets.) Not to mention a long commercial for the resurgent Slinky as one Martian marvels over it. Also of note, the Martian's main weapon, the deadly Freeze Guns, are simply Wham-O Air Blasters painted black. The notorious Air Blaster, that came out about 1962, were a big hit and relatively harmless. You cocked the gun, pulled the trigger and the trapped air would pop out the barrel. However, when kids started stuffing the barrels full of things -- n              ails, glass, molten lava -- and shot them out under the same compressed air, thousands of children were maimed and killed -- or so Consumer Product Safety groups would have you believe. Friggin' Toy Nazis. Feh.

Okay, so, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is by no means a great film, but it is nowhere near as bad as its reputation. It got branded in the Medvedís Golden Turkey book as one of the worst films off all time but, like a lot of films in that dubious tome, I'm sure a major percentage of its inclusion was based on that title alone. Iím sure weíve all seen worse, and I think its heart is definitely in the right place. And let's give the film some credit because it uses that to it's advantage, raising itself several notches above the worst films off all time and is just a demented good time.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) Jalor Productions :: Embassy Pictures Corporation / EP: Joseph E. Levine / P: Paul L. Jacobson / AP: Arnold Leeds / D: Nicholas Webster / W: Glenville Mareth, Paul L. Jacobson / C: David L. Quaid / E: William Henry / M: Milton Delugg / S: John Call, Leonard Hicks, Vincent Beck, Bill McCutcheon, Victor Stiles, Donna Conforti, Pia Zadora
Originally Posted: 05/29/02 :: Rehashed: 06/10/11

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.

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