Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Movie Marathon Day 26

           I'm trying something different to get in the holiday spirit this year. Every day, from now through Christmas, I will be watching a different Christmas movie or television special. I have compiled the list of features ahead of time and am drawing one, at random, from my Christmas stocking everyday to determine what gets watched. Thank you for joining me in this endeavor. Day twenty-six is on deck. Will it hit a home run?

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

           So here we are, day 26 and we are staring down a film that frequently finds itself on worst of lists. Originally released theatrically in 1964, this film gained new life after being featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. However, I have never actually seen that version nor any version of this film. I haven't even seen clips. Unless I have gone insane from writing about so many Christmas features, I believe that fact makes this feature unique amongst the picks from the stocking. This is the only feature that I have no prior experience with. It figures that the only one truly new to me would be one that many consider terrible. I'm a glutton for punishment. Let's get this over with.


           The film opens with a broadcast from KID-TV. They are interviewing Santa live at the North Pole. All of this seems pretty normal, but the film then pulls back to reveal two Martian children watching the broadcast. Their father, Kimar, is concerned. They have been spending a large amount of time watching the Earth broadcasts and have seemed sullen and listless of late. In fact, he has been forced to use the sleep spray to get them to go to bed everyday recently. His wife, Momar, shares his concerns and suggests that he call together the Martian council and see the advice of Chochem, an 800 year old Martian sage.
           With the council assembled, they seek out Chochem and explain the issues they are experiencing with their children. Chochem states that he is not surprised and that he has seen this coming for some time. The source of the problem, according to him, is that Martian children are machine educated from the moment they are born. By the time they walk they are already like adults. They need to be allowed to have fun. The only solution he can see it that Martian children need Santa Claus. Voldar, one of the other council members is strongly opposed to this solution, but Kimar is resolved. The Martian council sets out to Earth to capture Santa.

You can tell Voldar is evil because of his mustache.

           They arrive in Earth orbit but are spotted by Earth radar as their radar shield is malfunctioning. It turns out that Kimar's assistant Dropo has stowed away in the radar box and is the cause of the technical issue. With him found and removed, the radar sheild is fixed and the Martians can begin their search for Santa in earnest. They quickly encounter an issue in their search. They are incapable of figuring out which of the many guys in Santa suits is the real Santa. To resolve this the Martians find two Earth children, Billy and Betty, and press them for information on where Santa can be found. The children tell the Martians and then Voldar suggest that they take the children with them as otherwise the children may tip off the Earth authorities to their plot. Kimar is reluctant but eventually sees the logic in what Voldar suggests.
           With the children in tow, the Martians go to the North Pole and soon capture Santa with out much difficulty. Santa is obviously perturbed at being taken against his will but he also can't allow children, even Martian children, to go without knowing the joys of Christmas. Voldar continues to oppose the change that Santa and the Christmas spirit are bringing to the Martians and makes multiple attempts on his and the Earth children's lives. These attempts are thwarted and Voldar is forced to flee to the wilderness to continue his plots. With Voldar dealt with for the short term, Kimar sets Santa up with an advanced Martian workshop to begin construction of the Martian Christmas presents. However, as Kimar's children improve in spirits, Billy and Betty begin to get sullen. Momar accesses that they are homesick and tells Kimar that they must be sent home. Kimar doesn't think that is possible as the Earthings would then arrive to take back Santa.

Stockholm syndrome has set in pretty well by this point.

           Dropo is taking a great interest in Santa and his work and happens to be trying on an extra Santa suit just as Voldar launches an operation to sabotage the workshop. Mistaking Dropo for Santa, Voldar and his men kidnap him. With what they think is Santa secure, Voldar and his men go to use this captive to negotiate for the end of this folly of experimentation with Christmas. Surprised by the presence of a second Santa, Voldar and his men are overcome by Santa, the Martian and Earth children, and Kimar. It is decided that Dropo will become the Martian Santa and Santa and the Earth children are allowed to return home.

Witness Dropo the Martian Santa.  Martian Christmas is doomed

Final Thoughts

           I am surprised to find myself saying this, but this wasn't as bad as I was expecting. Don't get me wrong, it looks like it was made for about $5.00. And, there are plot threads that go nowhere, such as the U.S. Space Force's pursuit of the Martian ship. Also, it falls into the trap of a lot of low budget 1950s and 1960s sci-fi and uses copious amounts of military stock footage. But if you can get over the goofy sets and less than great acting, there is at least an attempt at a charming Christmas tale. It doesn't always or even often work but there is an effort there. Sometimes that is all you can ask for. It was good enough for day 26. What will I see tomorrow? Come back here to find out (please).

This is the level of effects to expect if you watch this.  Brace yourself and abandon all hope.

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