Sunday 27 April 2014

IMDb Bottom 100 review – 088 Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

There are several Christmas themed movies on this list. Some of them are pretty stupid, some are totally stupid, some are out of this world mentally challenged, then there is 500 metric tons of stupid, and then there is Santa Claus conquers the Martians. You may have already guessed what we're going to be gawking at tonight...

Santa and Mrs. Claus talk to some cornball reporter, that apparently knows where the Workshop is. 

This one is kind of an oldie. 1964 is, after all, quite a few years ago. I mean, just in case you didn't realize. I checked. It is. In fact, it's exactly 50 years ago. You know, because it's 2014 now. Anyway, all these technicalities aside, 1964 was 5 years before man kind had landed on the Moon. Manned space travel was still in it's infancy, which explains a lot of the stupid shit that goes on in this movie. I'll allow them on the grounds that a lazy layman just didn't really know any better. I say lazy, because if they did research, plenty in this movie could've been marginally better. In their defense, I am probably mistaken. It couldn't've been marginally anything, because seems to lie well outside the scope of sustained believability. So I guess I could be driving around, trying to make sense of everything, but I'd always come up empty. That's the burden I much carry.

Anyway, all that aside, this movie deals with pretty serious issues. Child abduction. Did I say child abduction? I believe I did. But it's not just your old run of the mill weird guy kidnaps kids and eats them while sticking needles into his own groin (Yes, that's a thing). No, these two kids are kidnapped by none other than Martians. Did the supreme ruler of Mars just figure what the hey, I'll just nip down to Earth for a brief spell, and snag me up some kids? Not quite. It was actually all part of some grander scheme, in which he wanted to get Mars its very own Santa. Of course, as you and I know perfectly well, there is only, and can only ever be one true Santa. Which is Santa Claus. Copying Santa just won't do the trick, so the obvious solution is to spend insane amounts of resources obtaining the actual Santa. You see, this here supreme ruler isn't really a bad guy. Turns out he's just a concerned parent, that realizes that his kids need something in their lives. Something jolly and giftbestowing. Who else could fill those two criteria, than our very own Saint Nick. But even Mars has it's fair share of douchenuggets, hellbent on just ruining fun time for everybody. They don't share the supreme rulers views on merrymaking. In fact, they mean to be a little more careful with spending massive amounts of resources on an essentially pointless endeavor. I guess I can't blame them really, but I suppose I'll concede they could've gone about making their points of view clear in another way.

Even kids on Mars have strict discipline to adhere to. Here they are told to go to sleep, when all they want are toys.

So Martian kids van watch Earth TV programs, for some indiscernible reason. And seeing how out of his mind jolly and good spirited Santa is, they fall into immediate and all encompassing despair and depression, because that's how kids operate. Their dad goes to Earth in search of this here Santa guy, and his first stop is to snatch up two kids, because every kid knows where Santa is. Or at least, the general vicinity in which he'll probably be situated. For those readers at home wondering what Santa's official address is, it's 1 North Pole Way, North Pole. It's a place, and I'll lay to that. The kids are a little weary of the whole spacecraft thing at first, and even more so about the Santa hunting party. But they seem surprisingly tranquil, circumstances taken into consideration. They did, afterall, just learn both of the existence of Extra-Terrestrial life AND that Santa is an actual person living on the North Pole. I'll chalk the acceptance of the latter up to childlike mindsets, but aliens are, even at that age, an inconceivably rare occurrence. In any case, they are horrified to watch as Santa is abducted and led onto the spaceship. Things are going down the shitter, and fast. Can they save Santa and Christmas? And possibly this movie? The answer is twofold. Yes and no. In that order.

The Martian Workshop, with typical child-labor in full effect. Not even on Mars can we get slave-free toys and gifts. 

On board the ship, things start heating up between the Martians. The main antagonist, Voldar, is none to pleased with how this whole operation is being handled. He, and his two accomplishes, plot to change things. They couldn't give less of a shit about Santa. What the fuck is Santa going to do anyway? He doesn't even have a workshop on Mars. Or does he? Of course he does. Kimar, the supreme leader of Mars, leaves nothing to chance. He went ahead and build a workshop for Santa, blindly trusting that they'd find him or that he even exists to begin with. Follow me here, if he was watching Earth TV, imagine all the weird shit he'd be believing happened down here. How would he be able to discern what was real and what wasn't? I suppose I'm not going to get any answers from just watching this movie, but it's a thought. Meanwhile, the kids are roaming the ship, trying to free Santa, because if anybody would be able to magically travel millions of kilometers through the vacuum that is space, with no more than a snap of his fingers, it'd be Santa. Slapstick shenanigans ensue, and we learn that one of Voldar's henchmen is Dropo, a Harpo Marxesque character. And also one of the two people in this movie, whose agents have cared enough to add a picture to their IMDb profiles. Well Dropo is long since dead and gone, so why the fuck anybody bothered with his picture beats me. For his legacy, presumably. What legacy? Well he was in Steel Magnolias, a moderately successful dramedy from the late 80s, featuring pretty much every famous female actress of the time bar Meg Ryan. Ach so.

Evil personified. The moustache alone gives Voldar's sinister ulterior motive away. 

Despite the crazy hijinks of the kids, which include them actually steering the, apparently, unattended spaceship controls, the ship arrives on Mars, and Voldar takes the kids to his own place, where his wife and kids are eagerly waiting. Santa is thrown in the dungeon. No I'm totally kidding. We don't know what happens to him. I was just thinking of best case scenarios. The kids are well pleased to know, that the mission was successful, and more so to find two earthlings as their new friends. Voldar's wife is a little concerned that he didn't feel kidnapping Santa was enough, and had to grab to kids too. But what's done is done, right? At this point I didn't notice that one of the Martian kids looked vaguely familiar. Only later did I learn, that the Martian girl is none other than the magnificent Pia Zadora! Tadaa! You're thinking 'who?' and that's a fair cop. I only know her name because of a childhood affinity for watching the The Naked Gun movies, the third of which she is in as, none other than, herself. Or rather a parody of herself, sort of. She's the singer at the Oscar show, that has her act completely ballsed up by Frank Drebin in, what is actually, a rather hilarious scene. So she's here too, as a Martian. You gotta start somewhere, right?

Take a look at this jackass. What. The. Eff. 

Santa is put straight to work, operating a huge machine that has four kinds of toys outputted from it. Interestingly they are sort of exactly the same kinds of toys you'd find on earth. What do you know, Martian kids, despite having access to, what can only be, vastly superior technology, still enjoy antiques like toy cars or dolls or teddy bears. Some things just never grow old. Santa, meanwhile, is surprisingly upbeat about the whole affair, despite being kidnapped without the chance of future release. At least not on paper. His work on earth, which was in it's most vital phase, has been interrupted. Presumably Mrs. Claus can take over some of his duties at the Workshop, but who are we kidding? Without Santa himself things are sure to turn into an unmitigated disaster in 2 seconds flat. But Santa takes it all in stride. He realizes Martian kids are people too. Just like himself. So he sets about completing the tast at hand, effectively dismissing his more long term worries. Honorable man, this Santa. There isn't even a need to argue for a case of Stockholm Syndrome, since Santa never really appeared to be distressed by the whole kidnapping business. It's all good, as far as Santa is concerned. Either he has epic anger management skills, or he just doesn't give a shit about his old job anymore.

Martian wise elerdly hermit type dude is the basis of all learned decisions on Mars. He knows what's what, and convinces Kimar to kidnap Santa.

Voldar is still not quite with the whole Santa kidnapping program, and everything is about to get a shot of serious, when his personal vendetta turns into an aspiring revolution. He means to take over Mars, because he doesn't feel the previous leader is representing the best interests of the planet. I suppose I can follow his reasoning, but I'd still say he should've gone through a legislative branch of government, voicing his concerns the old fashioned way instead. But sometimes action is just called for. Sadly for Voldar, he takes Santa's abduction to represent his frustrations with how Kimar is running the show, and firmly leads him to believe, that killing Santa will put things back on the right path. This leads to more attempted conviviality. I say attempted, because it's not in the least humorous. Dropo does some convoluted slapstick, and they try to reverse the toy making machine top produce dangerous toys instead. The kids and Santa foil their plot, and Kimar is finally alerted to the brooding troublemakers. Things are set right, and along the way Kimar understands, that in granting his Martian kids a Santa, he has effectively robbed the kids of Earth of their Santa, so he's solved one problem, but created another. Kimar, being a benevolent ruler after all, knows he erred, and that to err is only Martian. We finish up this drab story, with a tearfilled farewell. Santa returns to Earth and hard work at the Workshop. The kids are returned to their parents who probably didn't notice and/or care that they were gone to begin with. Everybody wins.

Typical Martian greeting. Kimar's wife looks disconcertingly happy to meet these alien kids. 

This movie marks one of the few occasions, where the over all plot of the film, while relying heavily on the suspension of disbelief (obviously), actually sort of consistently makes sense. Stuff happens relatively sequential and chronologically without major parts being omitted that shouldn't have been. It's all very tame and moves along really indifferently. But at least it's consistent, and that fact alone raises this movie just a fraction above most of the others. A fraction of a fraction. It's all pretty ridiculous, and like most of the other flicks, I just ended up more bored than appalled. The Martian make up and costumes are pretty standard for the time, I suppose. Humanoid, even with facial hair. Helmets with antennas and greenish skin color. Their abodes are futuristic kind of, but nothing serious. And it turns out, Santa doesn't really do much conquering after all. He lets other people do the hard work, and takes credit. Typical Santa.

The Martians first encounter with the, conveniently labelled, Santa's Workshop. 

It's kind of hard to find a lot of interesting shit to say about this drivel, because when push comes to shove, and we know it always does, it's just pretty uninteresting. The titel pretty much gives away the ending right off the bat, even if there wasn't much suspense to begin with. Most of the actors, if not all but the two mentioned, are unknowns then and now. For a movie like this, IMDb offers a surprising amount of trivia, but none of which is actually that interesting. The movie was shot at an abandoned aircraft hangar in New York state. One thing the always surprises me about, well most anywhere in the United States is the amount of abandoned buildings. A friend of mind travels the lower midwest and shoots lots of pictures, and it seems he can't point his cam anywhere, without taking, otherwise stunning, shots of abandoned buildings. Hell, there's a whole website dedicated to ghost towns around lower 48 states. I was going to visit one on my last trip through California, but sadly I didn't have enough time. I suppose this phenomenon can be chalked up to the sheer vastness of the US as opposed to where I live. There just isn't enough room here for an abandoned village to just be left alone. And the property taxes are sky fucking high, so if you have a building, there's no way in hell you'll just go on paying tax and rent and shit on it, and just leave it empty and in decay. Ok, it happens from time to time, but then it's mostly due to legal battles over ownership or responsibility. I enjoy abandoned buildings, and find they have an awesome air of decay about them. But alas, I am straying from the point here. Santa Conquers the Martians. He doesn't actually. He just fudges up the toy production, foils a burgeoning attempt of a coup d'etat, and then is returned to Earth where he goes back to his old slave laboring ways. Mars goes on just as before. Nothing happens. Nothing is resolved, because there wasn't really a conflict. Goodnight.  

Dropo - his life long dream of becoming Santa is ruined. 

1 comment:

  1. Truth can be stranger when compared with fiction! if biochemist Dr. Steven Benner of your Westheimer Institute with regard to Science AS WELL AS Technology with Florida is usually correct, your own precise Martian invasion associated with Earth came very long sooner 1938--billions connected with years before. throughout fact, when i may almost all always be MY favorite Martians!