Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

For those of you who missed my last post, since Christmas 2020 looks lined up to be one of the worst of all-time, I figured I’d make my way through some of the worst Christmas movies ever too. Yesterday, we covered the 1959 Mexican film Santa Claus, which has the jolly one fighting against the forces of Lucifer himself. I highly recommend that write-up. It was a lot of fun. Today, we’ve got another “Santa Vs” movie coming our way, but this time the forces are a bit more extraterrestrial. 

The title of this one kind of gives you everything you need to know. It’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Santa is going to fight some Martians. Well, kind of. He never actually fights anyone. He’s kind of just a willing victim to the Martians. But, that’s not nearly as flashy of a title: Santa Claus Willingly Works for the Martians. But, the plot is more or less what you’d expect. The people of Mars are having trouble with their children. They have no joy in their lives, because apparently being a Martian frickin’ sucks. There’s nothing fun for them to do. But, the kids have become obsessed with Earth programs featuring Santa. In a strike of genius, the parents decide that they need to kidnap Santa (que The Nightmare Before Christmas music again) and bring him to Mars where he can make their children happy. Santa kinda just goes along with it, not really putting up much of a struggle. And, of course, there’s a villain who is opposed to the whole “make Mars children happy” plan. He’s just a mustache, so you know he’s evil. And, that’s pretty much it. 

Unlike yesterday’s entry, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians isn’t really a “so bad it’s good” movie. It’s kind of just a bad movie. Saying that you’re going to watch it or that you have watched it is actually more fun than the experience itself. It’s a really exciting title for a pretty dull movie. If you told me this was a Christmas episode of a crappy Star Trek ripoff, I’d buy it. It’s the type of thing you’d come across on TV Land, pause for a second, laugh about how weird pop culture used to be, then flip onto the next channel. There’s no way it’d hold your interest past the first commercial break. Which, well, kind of makes it hard to make fun of. It’s more or less just straight bad. There’s not a lot of wtf moments and the pacing is incredibly slow. Santa doesn’t even meet the Martians until almost 40 minutes in. But, there are a few noteworthy moments that need to be brought up. 

So, like most 60s sci-fi, a lot of the humor here comes from the low budget. Everything just looks fake. But, where Santa Conquers the Martians seems to get hit essentially hard is the costume department. Holy. Crap. These costumes are atrocious. Luckily, Santa looks pretty alright. The Martians though… woof. First of all, I think they only could afford one tube of green makeup, because they were not very liberal with the application of it. Even the main characters have a white skin popping out. I’ve seen community theater plays with better makeup departments. Also, they have what looks to my 2020 eyes what appears to be Among Us crewmates on their heads. Seriously, on their helmets, you can make out the little viewing window and some tubes and antenna. They’re little crewmates! Yo, green is sus. But, then, on the rest of their buddies they’ve got these incredibly tight outfits that show off everything. And I do mean everything. I’m surprised they let these guys around the children actors. I wouldn’t even say the Martians got the worst end of it though. There’s a robot, briefly, who looks like he’s made of cardboard. And, then, best of all, there’s a polar bear. Oh my god. I’m never going to forget this polar bear. He’s just a guy with a typical mascot polar bear costume walking around on all fours. And it’s supposed to be intimidating. It’s not. It’s hilarious. You know what. Maybe this is worth viewing just for this moment… Nah. This scene is on YouTube. Just look it up there. It’ll make your Christmas season a bit brighter. 

Lastly, I gotta talk about the ending. Sorry if you don’t want spoilers. You can skip ahead. As you’d probably expect, the acting in this movie is quite bad. There’s one moment when Santa first meets the Martian children that plays out a bit awkwardly. You know that scene in Austin Powers where Dr. Evil clearly wants to do an evil laugh even though there’s no reason to. So, him being the boss, everyone kind of just goes along with it awkwardly. Yeah, this moment between Santa and the kids feels a lot like that. They’re just having a swell old time laughing for no reason, even though the kids clearly don’t understand what’s going on. But, that’s not even the moment I wanted to talk about. I just got distracted when bad acting was brought up. Anyone, the very last scene of the movie, of course, features the downfall of the villain. And, the way it’s done is quite entertaining. Taking places in Santa’s Mars workshop, it’s an intense, climatic battle between all of the children and this grump. The kids use every toy and bubble maker against him. He gets pelted with balls and bubbles and toy airplanes and bubbles and darts and, well, bubbles. Fortunately for the actor, none of this really looks like it hurts all that much. Unfortunately for him, he’s supposed to be thwarted in that moment. So, he’s got to treat it like it’s the worst thing ever. He does this by kind of just spinning around, screaming and covering his face. Like, he definitely could’ve fought back or hid or, really, any number of things. But, he just takes it like he’s powerless. Then, to top it all off, the soundtrack literally does the sad trombone thing. I’ve never actually heard that in a movie. It’s glorious. 

But, other than those handful of moments, I was mostly just bored by Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. I can’t recommend it. Shocker, I know. This one is kind of just bad in the way a lot of old science fiction is. It’s weird, but not super weird. It’s poorly acted. It’s low budget. But, damn, it sure is slow. There’s not a whole lot of fun to be had here.  Even if you’re looking for some good ol’ fashioned holiday laughs, I wouldn’t put this on. Definitely go with Santa Claus instead. That’s the much more entertaining option. But, I’m not giving up yet. There’s got to be something worse out there. And, we’ve still got a whole month to find it. Oh boy…

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