23/12/2013

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964)

Film: Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
Release: 1964, Theatrical
Starring: John Call, Leonard Hicks, Vincent Beck
Directed by: Nicholas Webster
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Descriptions: The children of Mars have started to obsess over TV-shows from Earth, oddly fascinated with the concept of "fun" & joy". In order to make their children behave normally again, Kimar the emperor of Mars and his elite council goes to kidnap the source of joy on Earth: Santa Claus.

Hans' thoughts:

On the planet Mars, children are given learning helmets from birth turning them into adults in children's bodies. It's an effective way of creating a logical society for sure, but when the video screens of Mars become able to watch Earth programming, the children stops eating and functioning at all causing the emperor of Mars to decide that Mars must have a Santa of their own, so why not kidnap the one from Earth? It's a completely ridiculous concept but somehow the movie just kind of - works.

Part of that comes from the actors portraying the characters, aside from Bill McCutcheon that plays a dimwitted but kindhearted martian, all the actors play out this concept completely straight. They take it as seriously as a child feasibly would and that's why, despite the horrible effect and the absolutely stupid costume designs on the martians, I completely succumbed to the atmosphere of the film. I credit Leonard Hicks the most with this, while the other actors play it straight but with a hint of cheesiness between the lines, the sheer dignity and badassery of Kimar the Emperor just shines through in his way too serious performance. Maybe it's the addition of the cape, but Hicks looks like he's playing a character from a serious sci-fi or a crime drama. It also has, despite how stupid it is, some hints of cool concepts. Mars being a world of complete logic that has taken away the childhood of their people is a pretty interesting science-fiction concept and it sorta mirrors the dangers of the educational system. Younger children are expected to know more to fit into society these days and the danger of turning them into little adults are a bit of a dilemma.

Not to be forgotten is the awesome spectacle of Santa Claus facing off against an attacking robot or being kidnapped by martians. Like any kid, I've always loved the Santa Claus character but he's honestly never been the focus of all that many movies. Here in Denmark we have 24-episode daily television series each year leading up to Christmas eve where Santa Claus usually shows up in some form or another, but even in those he rarely makes a big appearance. Therefore, seeing Santa as the main focal point of a movie is a treat, and he's exactly what you'd expect Santa to be. Loving and kindhearted, laughing and hard at work at making sure Christmas will bring joy to children all over the world. John Call plays Santa in this film, and although Santa isn't one of those big complicated roles to portray I have to say he does a bit of a generic job that even some mall Santas might scoff at. However he carries the look pretty well and for what it's worth he works in this environment.

On the other hand, I was not a fan of the child actors either. There are four kids in this movie and they read their lines terribly. This might seem like a harsh judgement on behalf of how young they are but there are drama classes for kids around, the studio could have cast someone from one of those. This just seems like they did a quick coaching of the kids of the crewmembers and put them in front of the camera. This is also a strange movie to be complaining about this sort of things, but the characters weren't all that well-developed either, they don't actually seem to have something that looks like a personality and they just kinda go along with whatever is happening to them at any given time with very little resistance. Then again, how much would a kid actually complain if they got to get a trip on board a Martian spaceship? not much.

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is worth a watch for that strange combination of holiday cheesiness and just plain bizarre concept. The film is kind of slow in the beginning but once they actually start having the Martians come to Earth the strangeness truly begins along with the dubious guilty pleasure of laughing at weird dialogue. If you wanted a science fiction christmas movie, well look no further! This is about as clear cut as the combination gets. I mean how do you get more in the holiday spirit than Santa Claus making sure Christmas gets to Mars? Easy answer, you don't. A curiosity of the space craze for sure, I'll say give the movie a try before you judge it too harshly.
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