Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) – By Duane L. Martin

The Martian children are depressed. Their brains are trained from birth with machines, being programmed with all the knowledge of their people, and they’re really never allowed to be children. As they watch television from Earth, and see how happy the Earth children are at Christmas and how happy Santa makes everyone, they become so depressed that they almost become comatose. To that end, the Martian leader and his team head to Earth to kidnap Santa and bring him back to Mars for the Martian children. While on Earth however, they end up bringing back a young brother and sister they encountered as well, so they can’t tell anyone what happened to Santa Claus. While Santa works to make the children of Mars happy, a vile and miserable Martian named Bomar, just wants to see him and the children dead, so they can’t corrupt the Martian way of life. Now Santa and the Children must win over the hearts of the Martians and their children, and find a way to create a situation where Santa can be allowed to return to Earth, so he can take care of the children there as well.

This film has always been an enigma to me. People either know of it, or have never heard of it. People who’ve seen it either love it, or think it’s the most annoying bit of drivel ever committed to film. Let’s talk a bit about why this is.

First, this film is famous in b-movie fan circles, not only for it’s utter cheesiness, but also because it was very difficult to find a complete version of it for a very long time. Early on, the only DVDs that were available were edited versions, missing several minutes, and those were of questionable quality at best. Eventually, a release did find its way to DVD that was complete, and of a better quality than the others, but the film had been resting in obscurity for so long, that only a limited number of people knew about it, or were even excited to see this first complete release.

Fast forward now to 2012. Kino Lorber’s Horzon Label took up the challenge to not only release a complete version of the film on DVD and blu-ray, but they also cleaned it up and released probably about the cleanest and best looking version of the film that will exist for the forseeable future. Fans of the film will rejoice. It’s haters will produce a collective yawn, and those who have never been introduced to this film, will finally have a chance at a proper introduction.

So why do some people love it? Well, first there’s the cheese factor. This film is just simply, cheesy as hell. There’s no denying that, and that cheesiness is highly appealing to those who appreciate such things. Second, there’s a child-like innocence to this film that is a nice change from the heaviness we’re inundated with in our daily lives. Third, it’s an escape. It’s like going to your happy place, only it’s a film.

Now, as to why people would hate this film, I don’t think many would hate it because it’s cheesy so much, but because it’s really a genuinely stupid story with some unbelievably annoying characters, including Santa Claus himself, and most especially, one of the Martian servants named Dropo, who is kinda the Jar Jar Binks of this film, at least as far as how annoying he is. Also, I think some people in the world of today, are just so jaded that they can’t appreciate the innocence of a film like this anymore. It’s sad that such appreciation has become a casualty of our high pressure society. I wish more people would try to rediscover it.

As to the film itself…

Being made in 1964, this film looks like it was made in 1964. The costumes, the sets and just the general look of it scream 60’s sci-fi. I half expected Captain Christopher Pike to come rolling through one of the scenes, blinking the yes/no lights in his weird robo coccoon thing. (Star Trek fans will get that reference.)

The acting in the film, while not great, wasn’t bad either. The Earth children were really cute, but the Martian children were incredibly boring, and were little more than cardboard cutouts on the screen until the end when they were helping Santa and the Earth children to stop Bomar’s evil plans. It was only then that they really started acting like normal children, but that was the end of the film pretty much. In general, the characters are likeable though. Even the mentally deficient Dropo exudes a happiness and innocence that becomes infectious.

For special features, this release includes a 45 minute archival footage reel of all kinds of great old classic Christmas things, a trailer for the film and a stills gallery.

Love it or hate it, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is a film that has earned both fame and infamy. If you’ve never seen it, check it out. You might just enjoy it. If you have seen it and want to see it again, be sure to get the Kino’s release of it on their Horizon label, because you’re not going to find a better copy of the film anywhere.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Kino website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the DVD or blu-ray releases from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.