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Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Entry updated 12 August 2018. Tagged: Film.

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Film (1964; vt Santa Claus Defeats the Aliens). Jalor Productions. Directed by Nicholas Webster. Written by Glenville Mareth, based on a story by Paul L Jacobson. Cast includes Vincent Beck, John Call, Donna Conforti, Leonard Hicks, Bill McCutcheon and Victor Stiles. 81 minutes. Colour.

In an effort to cheer up the children of Mars, who have learned about Santa Claus by watching television programmes from Earth, the Martian Kimar (Hicks) resolves to bring Santa Claus to Mars. The Martians (who are green-skinned humanoids with antennae) travel to Earth and abduct two children, Billy (Stiles) and Betty (Conforti), who lead them to the North Pole, where they seize Santa (Call) and bring him back to Mars. There, Santa strives to play his usual role as a toymaker for children, though he frets that Martian Technology makes him superfluous, while the evil Martian Voldar (Beck) plots to kidnap him and remove this threat to Martian traditions. After his scheme is thwarted, it is decided that the kind-hearted Martian Dropo (McCutcheon) should become the Martian Santa Claus, allowing the real Santa and the two children to return to Earth.

Along with renowned disasters like Robot Monster (1953; vt Monsters from Mars) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), this film is another popular candidate for the status of the worst sf film ever made – though one could argue that the presence of Santa Claus actually makes this film a Technofantasy, which adds some scientific flourishes to the familiar Fantasy of a toy-delivering elf who lives at the North Pole. However one classifies the film, few adults – or even children – will find themselves able to endure watching the entire film. Yet it surely inspired, decades later, a story along similar lines, Berkeley Breathed's charming children's book Mars Needs Moms! (2007), which then became the basis for the less charming animated film of the same name (see Mars Needs Moms [2011]). Clearly, this film's tired conceit that Mars is inhabited by human-like beings longing for Earthly pleasures, already scientifically indefensible in 1964, has a stubborn hold on the Western imagination. [GW]

further reading

  • Mareth, Glenville. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Alternate Histories, 2014) [script for the film: in the publisher's Alternate Classics of Filmdom series: pb/]


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