Friday, December 17, 2010

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians!

This week's TCM Underground segment sees one of the more "interesting" Christmas movies out there Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, overnight at 3:45 AM ET.

The premise is that the good little boys and girls of Mars are sad and listless, and there doesn't seem to be anything on Mars that can bring them joy. Martians have access to Earth media, however, and see that here on planet Earth, we have Santa Claus come out every Christmas and give gifts to children and spreading good cheer. So, some of the Martian population decide that the best thing to do is to "convince" Santa to come to Mars and make the Martian children as happy as he makes Earth children. Others among the Martians, however, don't like this sort of Earth influence on Martian culture, and try to prevent Santa from spreading his cheer....

The plot itself is relatively ludicrous. You'd think, for example, that Santa, having been kidnapped and brought to Mars against his will, wouldn't want to take part in this scheme, yet he doesn't seem to have much problem with it. However, it's made infinitely worse thanks to horrid production values and mostly terrible acting. From the bad Martian sets to the North Pole set which is even worse, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians makes a movie like Detour look high-class. And almost all of the characters are uniformly one-dimensional and wooden. (And badly named, too; the Martian children are named Bomar and Girmar, obviously contractions of "boy Martian" and "girl Martian".) The one notable exception is a Martian who very quickly takes to the whole Santa Claus thing, and wouldn't mind spreading all that Christmas cheer himself. He's so far over the top it's a riot. The portrayal is reminiscent of the character who pops up out of nowhere in the control tower scene in Airplane!, but much more frequent. Actually, all of the characters are hilarious; this one is the only character that seems to be trying to be funny.

In fact, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is one of those movies that is so unbelievably bad that it will have you in tears. Such movies, especially when made by low-budget production companies, are more liable to have fallen into the public domain, making them ripe for DVD releases. Thankfully, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians has gotten the DVD treatment. It's just too awful to miss.

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