(aka SANTA CLAUS DEFEATS THE ALIENS)
(1964, U.S.) color 81 minutes (released on November 14)
Embassy Pictures / Jalor Productions
Story: Paul L. Jacobson
Screenplay: Glenville Mareth
Art Director: Maurice Gordon
Cinematography: David L. Quaid
Music: Milton and Anne Delugg
Produced by Paul L. Jacobson, Arnold Leeds, Joseph E. Levine
Directed by Nicholas Webster
SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS is a movie which has become a laughing-stock of Western civilization, suffering the butt of a million bad-movie jokes from posers and buffoons.
However, when one takes the time to really watch the movie, one finds that SCTM is one of the most innovative, exciting and ultimately successful examples of early 1960’s independent cinema, much like similar genre titles CARNIVAL OF SOULS and NIGHT TIDE. The filmmakers knew that “Cheap Sci-Fi” and “Cheap Fairy Tale” were popular (and virtually indistinguishable) genres, so in true post-modern fashion they spliced the two concepts together willy-nilly, even coming up with a title that sounds like a tabloid headline gone wild.
The enthusiastic theatrical quality of the film keeps it always entertaining, never dull, and the acting is melodramatic, to say the least. The film conveys a sense of sheer ecstasy at moments, capturing the feeling of the pure joy a child feels at the holidays better that most big-budget, “serious” film attempts. The groovy theme song (with trumpet solo by Al “He’s the King” Hirt) was released on a 45 rpm record and as part of a soundtrack album, and there was a popular photo-comic book of the movie.
SCTM played matinees at least into the early 1970s, even though it had already been on TV for years! The script communicates well the need for compassion and empathy, a most logical and well-articulated argument against war and hostility, and for forgiveness; indeed, very Christian messages all. Even the character names are cool; Bomar for “Boy Martian”, Nomar for “Mom Martian”, Kimar for either “King Martian” or “Key Martian”. Using this naming system, the Martians’ goofy servant Dropo would translate into “Drop Out” (from school or society?)
One of the best Xmas-oriented films of the 1960’s, the average viewer doesn’t get the joke, that the title and concept are parody, not just some stupid generic film that the dull, narrow-minded film “buff” can’t even imagine exists.
It’s too bad that the snide puppet-people at MST3K saw fit to choose SCTM as their sacrificial Xmas lamb, so that now nobody in their right minds would watch the real film and give it a chance. People now see SCM with both eyes closed and guns a-blazing, ravenous to tear apart the bad acting, the cheesy sets, the garish music, and other Grade-Z trademarks, not realizing that these are all an integral part of a knowing, well-crafted satire of both the sci-fi and holiday-flick genres. They miss completely the fact that as cinema, SCTM works brilliantly. But then again, the sniveling Mystery Science Morons haven’t a clue as to what they’re really watching…
There was a 2002 remake, but who cares? The original is gold!
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