There’s a type of movie that is so terribly, terribly bad that they’re more entertaining than films that are simply ‘okay’ or ‘good.’ Everything about Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, from set design to writing to acting and everything in between, is horrible. But like a car accident unfolding before your eyes, it’s impossible to look away even if only to see how just bad it can get.
It seems as though the children of Mars are unhappy. They spend all of their time watching Earth television, staring blankly at the screen as news of Santa Claus and the fast approaching Christmas season is broadcast across the cosmos and picked up by the metal coat hangers they wear atop their heads. Back on Earth, Santa (John Call) and his little elves are busy putting the finishing touches on another year’s worth of toys. But it seems as though this cinematic Santa has a trouble remembering the names of his reindeer. But not to worry, he knows that all the boys and girls whose faith in him powers his sleigh on Christmas Eve know their names.
Seeing that Earth children are happy and Martian kids are not, the Martian infantry devise a plan to kidnap Santa. Not only do they succeed, they also bring along Billy (Victor Stiles) and Betty (Donna Conforti), two kids I swear I recognized as illustrations from my First-Grade reader but were really just ordinary humans.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians lives on only because it is so laughably awful. It’s no surprise that ranks among the worst movies of all time according to voters on the Internet Movie Database or that it was mocked on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. I enjoy really bad movies and have more fun with them than I do something that’s just so-so. I watch just to see if it can get any worse. Chances are, my wait isn’t long as some horrible line pops up, a cheap costume appears or a backdrop planet can be seen swaying back and forth on its string. The Martians are recognized by their green suits, light-green tinted skin and the decorated mixing bowls they wear atop their heads. Otherwise you’d swear they were just regular people. One of the so-called aliens even has a bushy moustache that would make Tom Selleck cringe.
Before George Lucas gave birth to Jar Jar Binks, there was Dropo (Bill McCutchean), the most annoying character in the history of cinema. Dropo is an archetypal idiot who’s always causing some sort of trouble all in the name of forced laughter. I have absolutely no problem laughing at this film, but only at the times when I’m not supposed to. When jokes are actually made, especially by Dropo, they’re hideously bad. Although I did laugh when the bad Martians confused Dropo for Santa. Ha, ha, that Dropo is sure wacky. Now please pass me a drill so I can put it to my head.
The production values of Santa Clause Conquers the Martians would make Ed Wood proud but the rest of the world cringe. The North Pole is a landscape of paper mache-looking white rocks and flood lights shining up a plain backdrop. A polar bear exists as a man in a bear suit with a head that looks as though it were cut off of a child’s Christmas teddy. The acting isn’t much better. I had a hard time telling whose speech was more stilted, the humans or the Martians. Early on the film the aliens flex their power by shooting a couple of rebellious elves with a freeze-ray gun. This is one of many points where you just have to use your imagination because although apparently frozen, the elves can be clearly seen rocking back and forth in the foreground. The camera doesn’t show their faces much as the scene continues, presumably because of the natural tendency to blink.
Of course, you can’t help but chuckle at it all. And that’s the whole point of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It’s bad fun at its best. Or worst, depending on how you look at it.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians Gallery