Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
Some movies are notorious for their badness, which gives you forewarning of what to expect. This is one such film, which the collators of my SciFi Classics box set saw fit to include. I do not think they understand what 'classic' means. Though at least this is actually a science fiction film, unlike several of the other movies in the set.
So anyway ... is Santa Claus Conquers the Martians as terrible as is commonly claimed? Honestly, not really. Sure, it's a buffoonish, slapstick film with terrible acting, laughable effects, and an absurd, nonsensical plot, but it's also pretty clearly aimed at 5-10 year old kids. And judged purely on that basis, it's merely poor. A good kids' film also works for adults, after all, and this certainly doesn't except as something to ridicule.
The plot, such as it is, is that for centuries, Martians have been raised only to be productive and useful. This always worked fine, but the latest generation of Martian kids have grown up being able to watch TV broadcasts from Earth, and they've become listless and depressed. The Martian leader consults the most ancient and wisest of his people, and learns that children must have joy in their lives. So he decides to kidnap Santa Claus to give it to them.
Now if this film had the wit to be a Galaxy Quest-like bit of tomfoolery where the aliens grabbed a department store Santa, it might have been better than it is, but the target audience still believes in the Father Christmas thing, so it's off to the North Pole we go, after first picking up two Earth children as ... well, as Santa-sniffing devices, basically.
The quest to capture Santa, and what happens after he gets to Mars, are the basis for the rest of the movie's allegedly humorous shenanigans. And you may occasionally laugh ... generally at how lame it all is, but a chuckle is a chuckle, right?
For all it's vaunted awfulness (and it is twee and silly) this is at least a movie which has a plot and a purpose. It's ten times as entertaining as say White Pongo. Of course, that's still not very entertaining.