It turns out that this one is not as obsolete as I had thought. It is actually scheduled to be shown at the Bow Tie Theater at the Annapolis Mall in Maryland on December 10th at 10:30 a.m. If you are anywhere near Annapolis that morning, leave. Just leave. Leave as fast as your feet can carry you. You have been warned!
There is absolutely nothing that redeems this film, not even cute little pre-pubescent Pia Zadora as Girmar, one of the Martian childern. I saw this movie several years ago and have had bad dreams about it ever since. I haven't the words to describe this film, so let's go with a brief description from Wikipedia (that trusted source of all human knowledge):
"The story involves the people of Mars, including Momar ('Mom Martian') and Kimar ('King Martian'). They're worried that their children Girmar ('Girl Martian') and Bomar ('Boy Martian') are watching too much Earth television, most notably station KID-TV's interview with Santa Claus in his workshop at the North Pole. Consulting the 800-year old Martian sage Chochem (a Yiddish word meaning 'genius'), they are advised that the children of Mars are growing distracted due to the society's overly rigid structure; from infancy, all their education is fed into their brains through machines and they are not allowed individuality or freedom of thought.
"Chochem notes that he has seen this coming 'for centuries,' and says the only way to help the children is to allow them their freedom and be allowed to have fun. To do this, they need a Santa Claus figure, like on Earth. Leaving the Chochem's cave, the leaders decide to abduct Santa Claus from Earth and bring him to Mars. As the Martians could not distinquish between all the fake Santas, they kidnapped two children to find the real one. Once this accomplished, one Martian, Voldar, who strongly disagrees with the idea, repeatedly tries to kill Santa Claus, along with the two Earth children. He believes that Santa is corrupting the children of Mars and turning them away from the race's original glory."
Aaah! I can't take any more! There's a whole lot of bad movie (and summarizing) going on there! And they don't even mention Vomview ("Vomiting Viewer").
***Steady, Jerry. Breath deeply and relax. You can do this. You CAN finish this post. Keep calm and carry on. It will be all right.***
OK. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was directed by Nicholas Webster, who had mainly done documentaries and commercials previously to making this film. He went to direct a few television episodes for various series. The script was written by Glenville Mareth from a story by Paul L. Jacobson. IMDB lists no other film contribution by Mareth, making me wonder if the name was a "Cordwainer Bird."* IMDB also gives this movie as Jacobson's only writing and only producing credit. Hmmm. Crackerjack team there.
Actor John Call, who had some previous film and television credits, left the Broadway production of Oliver to play Santa Claus -- his pentultimate Hollywood role; seven years later he had a small role in The Anderson Tapes. Leila Martin (Momar) had one television credit six years earlier and one television movie credit rwelve years after SCCTM. Leonard Hicks (Kimar) capped his career with SCCTM; his earlier credits consists of one episode of Route 66 and an uncredited appearance in a 1961 film. Belarus-born Carl Don (Chochem) had a total of 19 television and movie credits -- all supporting roles -- from 1950 to 1998. Vincent Beck (Voldar) began his film career with SCCTM and spent the next nineteen years playing various villains and monsters. Chris Month (Bomar) played one episode in a 1964 television series I had never heard of; three years earlier he had been on a segment of The Ed Sullivan Show (doing what I have no idea). SCCTM was Month's only other credit; presumably the Martians finally did get him, or he was eaten by dingos, or something.
And then there was Pia (Girmar), the New Jersey kid who got her start with SCCTM and then grew pneumatically to star in Butterfly eighteen years later as she began her career as a well-known actress and Penthouse model. Somewhere along the line, she put on enough clothes so people could realize her other talent: singing. She became a popular vocalist who dabbled occasionally in acting. So, perhaps, good things can happen to good Martian chikldren who believe in Santa Claus.
Not unsurprisingly, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians finds itself consistently on lists of the 100 worst movies, which is why it was featured on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. For those who are strong of stomach, week of will, and both brave and foolhardy, I've embedded the movie here:
* Cordwainer Bird was the pseudonym Harlan Ellison used whenever a studio completely fouled up one of his scripts, making it almost unrecognizable. This was Ellison's way of giving the "bird" to the studio. Likewise, movie directors who wish to distance themselves from films that have been ruined by tinkering executives will often use the name "Alan Smithies" on the credits.
For more obsolete films today, go to Todd Mason's blog, Sweet Freedom.