Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)


USA. 1964.


Director – Nicholas Webster, Screenplay – Glenville Mareth, Story/Producer – Paul L. Jacobson, Photography – David L. Quaid, Music – Milton Delugg, Photographic Effects – Haberstroh Studios, Art Direction – Maurice Gordon, Martian Furniture – Fritz Hansen. Production Company – Jalor Productions


Leonard Hicks (Kimar), John Call (Santa Claus), Victor Stiles (Billy Foster), Donna Conforti (Betty Foster), Vincent Beck (Voldar), Bill McCuthcheon (Dropo), Pia Zadora (Girmar), Chris Month (Bomar)


Kimar, the ruler of Mars, discovers that Martian children have become addicted to Earth tv programs, to the extent they are not even sleeping. It is realized that they lack the spirit of fun. Kimar conceives a plan and goes to Earth where he kidnaps Santa Claus, along with two Earth children, to bring Christmas spirit to Mars. On Mars, Santa happily sets to work producing toys for the Martian children. However, a group of revolutionaries plan to stop him.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is recognized as one of the all-time stinkers. It was originally designed as a children’s Christmas film. Having passed into the realm of the Z-movie cult, this is ironically something that it is never seen as any longer.

There are many laughable parts to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The costumes for the polar bear and the robot are hilariously unconvincing. The Martian costumes consist of ill-fitting green tights, green painted helmets with corrugated tubes attached and what looks like boot polish on the actors’ faces. All the model shots are badly out of focus – a shot of the North Pole as seen through a telescope is represented by a static Christmas diorama of a house with toy reindeer and a sled parked outside. The plot is slackly thrown together – at one point, Earth launches a rocketship to pursue the Martian abductors but we never hear anything of it again.

Although what much of the bad movie cult do not seem to appreciate is that Santa Claus Conquers the Martians appears to have been made tongue-in-cheek. It tries to crack incredibly corny jokes eg. “What is green and toasted on a stick? Martian-mellows.” Certainly, the title collusion is one of those where you wonder what kind of substances the writer must have been under the influence of. It gets by with a certain amiability, while John Call makes a surprisingly convincing looking Santa.

The subtext taps into the undertow of many 1950s science-fiction films in some interesting ways. As is often the case, the alien civilization is a mirror distortion of things gone wrong in our society – in this case, the old chestnut of the Martians having become so advanced they have lost their ‘humanity’. In its wonderfully banal way, the film has them rediscover ‘humanity’ by getting in touch with the spirit of Christmas.

Around 2000, bizarrely enough, a remake was announced to be written by comic-book writer Ben Edlund, creator of the great superhero spoof The Tick, although this has yet to emerge.

Full film available online here:-

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