Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) begins with a hastily prepared animation sequence set to the sonic stylings of children singing “Hooray for Santa Claus.” Once the songs ends, we are told by the newscaster for KID-TV that they have sent a news crew to the North Pole to interview Santa Claus.
I got excited upon hearing this news, only to find out in the end credits that the role of Santa was played by someone named John Call, which incidentally was my stage name for a brief while in college. Andy Henderson, on location from KID-TV provides a tour of Santa’s Workshop (though really just a set built for the film) and a quick run-through of some hard-working bearded elves led by Winky. Santa appears to enjoy his pipe more than the Standards and Practices people may have liked, but he enjoyed it in spite of them.
Meanwhile, some Martian children by the names of Bomar and Girmar (Pia Zadora) have tuned into KID-TV’s broadcast from Earth. However, their father, Kimar, is not at all happy with his children watching television, much less Earth television, though he realizes the significance of Santa. Kimar travels to speak with an old Martian by the name of Chochem. (I haven’t been this confused since reading Crime and Punishment.) Chochem explains that, being the month of Septober, the children are naturally intrigued by Santa Claus. Chochem suggests Mars should get its own Santa. Kimar agrees and he begins his mission to Earth to kidnap Santa and bring him back to Mars to distribute toys.
Several minutes of stock footage later, the crew is on the ship traveling to Earth. Since their names are all very silly, I won’t bother with introductions, except for the loveable Dropo. Dropo is always getting into trouble. He even stowed away on the ship so he could meet Santa. I picture Dropo as Jim J. Bullocks’s Martian dad. Keep an eye out for the clocks labeled “Mars Time,” “Earth Time,” and “Jupiter Time.”
Upon arriving on Earth and leaving Dropo on board the ship, Kimar and his crew kidnap Billy and Betty Foster to interrogate them on Santa’s whereabouts. After spilling the beans, Billy and Betty are aided in their escape at the North Pole by Dropo. However, they are soon terrorized by a man in a polar bear suit and are brought back to the ship. With much fanfare, Kimar releases the robot Torg to capture Santa. Torg, being a man in a silver cardboard box, doesn’t frighten Santa, though Santa agrees to visit Mars anyway.
I hate to reveal too much more – much like the ending of the comparable Citizen Kane, I don’t want to spoil the ending of SCCTM.
Many film aficionados consider Santa Claus Conquers the Martians to be one of the worst films ever made. My standards being what they are, I don’t think this is such a terrible film. I think it is safe to say this film was targeted to undiscriminating young audiences, for which it appears to be harmless fun. The sets are cheap with cardboard used profusely. Plus, Bill McCutcheon as Dropo seems to care about his Martian character, even if his comedic talents aren‘t so hot.
I suppose if all of your guests have left your Christmas party and you’re trying to finish the eggnog before it spoils, firing up Santa Claus Conquers the Martians could be a fine way to fall asleep. But probably not. Decide for your self, you can watch the full movie here above or download it to your computer and burn it on a DVD.