The people of Mars kidnap Santa Claus and two children in an effort to capture the Christmas spirit for their listless children who have seen how happy Earth children are via television stations they have intercepted from Earth.
The campy 1964 sci-fi flick Santa Claus Conquers the Martians featured a young, unknown Pia Zadora as a spunky Martian girl, and was filmed in an aeroplane hangar on Long Island, New York.
It had cheap special effects, cheap props, stock footage, a razor-thin plot, a Martian freeze-ray that didn’t work (because the actors couldn’t stand still or stop blinking), a man in an extremely fake polar bear suit with a visible zipper, and a robot made out of cardboard boxes and dryer tubes.
Santa (John Call) is either an alcoholic or suffering from Alzheimer’s (unless one of his reindeer really is called ‘Nixon’). Mrs Claus (Doris Rich) is a frantic goofball. The Martian children sleep under strange lights and eat only pills.
The bad guy’s hideout looks like a King Crimson album cover. And then there is that annoying theme song- “You spell it S-A-N-T-A C-L-A-U-S, Hooray for Santy Claus!” . . . – but hey! It’s an absolute Christmas staple in our household. How could you hate this movie?
Scenes to watch for and savour: The Martians using the robot Torg to kidnap Santa, but Santa making him into a toy; The ‘suspenseful’ space door scene; The ‘amazing’ toy conveyor belt; Dropo (Bill McCutcheon) passing himself off as Santa – with antennae and all; and the final showdown between the evil Voldar (Vincent Beck) and Santa, utilising bubbles, water guns, soldiers, and other conveniently placed toys.
He’s fat and round but jumping Jiminy
He can climb down any chim-e-ney
When we hear sleigh bells ring
Our hearts go ting-a-ling
‘Cos there’ll be presents under the tree
Hooray for Santy Claus
The stock footage showing the air force pursuing the Martians is the same footage used in the opening credit sequence of Dr Strangelove (1963). Bill McCutcheon (Dropo) played Owen Jenkins in the movie Steel Magnolias (1989).