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Film / Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

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Hooray for Santy Claus!

"Santa Brings Christmas Fun to Mars"

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (also titled Santa Claus Defeats the Aliens) is a 1964 science fiction/fantasy film in which Martians, trying to cure the malaise of their children, kidnap Santa Claus (and a couple of earth kids that got mixed up in the plot) and take him to Mars to create the first Martian Christmas. Santa takes the whole thing surprisingly well and is only too happy to help. However, a small band of Martians rebel against the idea of Christmas or children being happy and try to kill Santa. By the end of the movie, the Martians discover that they can just get a really annoying Martian named Dropo to stuff a pillow down his shirt and DRESS as Santa, thus allowing Santa and the earth kids to go home.

A No Budget kids film with cheap sets, awful costumes, cheesy acting, and a laughably bad script, the film regularly appears on lists of the worst films ever made. It is regularly featured in the "bottom 100" list on the Internet Movie Database, and was also featured in an episode of Elvira's Movie Macabre, the 1986 syndicated series Canned Film Festival and numerous other venues for bad movies over the years. It was directed by Nicholas Webster, and it stars John Call as Santa Claus. It also includes an 8-year-old Pia Zadora playing the role of one of the Martian children, and is the first appearance of Mrs. Claus in an audio-visual medium.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page. Both Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax riffed the film as well. It also had a comic book adaptation that was mocked on Atop The Fourth Wall.

Santa Claus Conquers the Tropes:

  • Aborted Arc: Much is made of the Earth's militaries coming together to save Santa Claus (complete with tons of stock footage and a goofy 'German' Guy) but we never get the payoff.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Kimar chuckles at Betty asking the Martians if they're television sets.
  • Advanced Civilization, Hollow Imagination: Mars' child portion of their civilization has become this, according to Chochem. Their knowledge is fed directly into their brain by machines, but are distracted by Earth television broadcasts because of how uninteresting and fun-lacking their culture is. To bring some into their lives, a few martian explorers travel to Earth and kidnap Santa Claus. Voldar, one of them, is more of a General Ripper and a traditionalist, thinking that this would undermine their glory.
  • Advertised Extra: Every synopsis of the film (including the one here!) mentions Pia Zadora, who's not really important to the plot.
  • Aliens Speaking English: The Martians all speak English.
  • Another Side, Another Story: A satirical novelization published in 2005 retold the story from Girmar's perspective.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Santa escapes being Thrown Out the Airlock this way. Given that this is Santa Claus, shimmying through vents should be a given.
  • Aliens Steal Cable: The alien children learn about Santa Claus through the reception of Earth TV shows programs.
    Kimar: They whittle their days away watching these silly Earth programmes. It confuses them.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Betty Foster spends most of the story whining at her brother about how much she dislikes the current state of affairs.
  • Badass Santa: Santa doesn't ever fight anyone, but it should be noted how easily he escapes, shrugs off, and laughs at the numerous attempts on his life.
  • Big Bad: Voldar, who seems to be some kind of Martian purist, and therefore tries to keep Christmas out of Mars at any cost.
  • Big Good: Santa himself, despite the misleading title. He's Mars' last hope for goodwill and cheer.
  • Captain Ersatz: Wernher von "Green".
  • Christmas Elves: Unfortunately, they don't stand a chance against the Martians' Wham-O Air Blasters.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Santa, big time! You'd think even jolly ol' St. Nick would be a little confused by the sudden revelation of extraterrestrial life, but...
    Servo: What’s in the pipe, Santa?
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Dell published one as part of their "Movie Classics" line in the 1960s.
  • Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Nixon: During a TV interview, Santa Claus dismisses the rumor that he's using a rocket-powered sleigh this year, then bungles the names of his reindeer immediately after.
    Santa Claus: No, sirree! We're going out the good old-fashioned way, with my reindeer! Prancer and Dancer and Donder and Blixen and Vixen and Nixon and, uh... [indecipherable muttering] Oh consarnit, I get those names mixed up. But the kids know their names!
  • Didn't Think This Through: Voldar has the Foster children captured and taken to Mars specifically so that they couldn't tell anyone that Martians had kidnapped Santa. But then during the actual kidnapping, the Martians use stun weapons to disable everyone in workshop other than Santa, and Mrs Claus reports the kidnapping as soon as it wears off. So the Martians really didn't need to bother holding the kids, and even if there was some need to hold onto them until they actually got their hands on Santa, they could have just stunned the kids and left them behind in the workshop, since they apparently didn't care if the kidnapping was reported after the fact.
  • Enclosed Space: The air lock where Santa Claus and the earth kids were trapped. Oddly, it has an air duct.
  • Epic Fail: The Martians have voice-activated technology for their doors, and have been able to create devices that receive Earth television transmissions... yet no one on Mars seems to have ever invented locks, which would have kept Droppo from stowing away in the ship's radar box and prevented Voldar from sabotaging the toy machine.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Voldar really chews the scenery.
  • Evil Reactionary: When Mars takes a turn for the peaceful, relaxed and fun, Voldar wants to go back to the days of Mars the warmongering, cold and spartan.
  • Final Battle: An extremely goofy one involving Voldar and his two goons getting pelted by toys while the movie's theme plays.
    Servo: Good idea. Risk the children’s lives, Santa.
  • Food Pills: The Martian cuisine of choice. The script goes through the old "list off delectable dishes and then reveal they're actually pills" gag.
  • The Fool: Dropo, though without the whole "stupidity working in his flavor" angle.
  • Foreshadowing: Dropo is warned that he might be left on Earth in place of Santa Claus. The film concludes with Dropo being Mars' Santa.
  • Good Hair, Evil Hair: Of the facial variety; Santa's full, floofy white beard of Good vs. Voldar's wicked, shaggy Mustache of Evil.
  • The Grinch: Voldar rejects the idea of "a Santa Claus on Mars" out of hand.
  • Henpecked Husband: Implied. When Mrs. Claus is frozen by Martian Wham-O Airblasters, Santa remarks that he can't remember the last time she was that quiet that long.
    Crow: (as Santa) We’re having her committed.
  • Here We Go Again!: The epilogue of the novelization mentions that some years later, Dropo Claus would be kidnapped and taken to Venus because they wanted a Santa too.
  • Hermit Guru: Chochem, the Troll doll. The Martian leaders come to him for advice; his response is basically "What the hell did you think taking their childhoods away would do?"
  • Herr Doktor: Dr. Werner von Green, the German military space travel expert guy.
  • House Wife: Momar is the Martian version. Her name even comes from "Mother Martian".
  • Jerkass: Voldar is very insistent that Mars should remain a planet of warriors, and sees this whole Santa Claus business as undermining said goal.
  • Killer Robot: Torg (an anagram of "Gort", the killer robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)).
  • Laughing Mad: Although John Call as Santa is generally an unassuming, pleasant fellow, his laughter sounds more like a man undergoing a frenzied psychotic breakdown than a jolly old elf.
  • Laziness Callout: Dropo is introduced by Kimar as "the laziest man on Mars" and lives up to that title throughout.
  • Ludd Was Right: Hinted at after the toy-making machine is sabotaged.
  • Mechanistic Alien Culture: The Martians: Food Pill-eating, joyless, humorless humanoid creatures with metallic-green skin and distinctly robot-like headgear incorporated into their costume design; the dullness of their heavily mechanized lives results in their children getting addicted to joyful, cheery Earthling holiday television programming.
  • Mistaken Identity: Voldar's scheme is foiled by confusing Droppo-Dressed-As-Santa for Santa, kidnapping the former instead of the intended latter.
  • Mrs. Claus: This film has the strange historic distinction of presenting the first-ever depiction of her in an audio-visual production (the character had existed for over a century, but only really took off in popularity in The '60s).
    Joel: (As Santa, after her introduction) Hands off.
  • Mundane Fantastic: In a refreshing departure from many a Christmas Special, Santa Claus is acknowledged as real and the army is dispatched when he gets kidnapped.
  • The Musical: Several satirical musical adaptations have been made of the story.
  • Neutral Female: Momar does nothing of import. She doesn't even leave her house.
  • Never Trust a Title: The film is called Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. There's not really a lot of "conquering" going on, although it's probably meant in terms of hearts and minds.
  • Nice Guy: Santa Claus, as per usual.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Wernher von Green is very blatantly Wernher von Braun, German rocket scientist and ex-Nazi Boxed Crook.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Kimar assures the kids they don't need to be afraid while sticking a rifle in their faces. No one seems to notice this.
  • Nuclear Family: Kimar, Momar, Gimar, and Bomar - father, mother, 2.3 children.
  • Obviously Evil: Voldar spends any screen time he doesn't use for committing evil trying to argue other Martians into committing evil.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: The Martians are armed with Whammo air guns.
  • Only Sane Man: Chochem appears to be the only Martian who realized it was a bad idea to force Martian children into a mechanistic life from birth. His verdict that Mars needs a Santa Claus appears to be his way of telling the others that Martian children need their childhoods back.
    Chochem: I have seen this coming for centuries.
    Crow: Why didn’t ya tell us, Pops?
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: After Droppo dresses as Santa, he's mistaken by the bad guys for the real Santa, despite the fact that his helmet can clearly be seen as well as his green face.
  • The Pollyanna: Santa never loses his cheer, even when threatened with being blown into the vacuum of space.
  • Porn Stache: Voldar's Facial Hair of Evil.
  • Planetville: Mars apparently consists of a house, a factory, and a cave.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Dropo is supposed to be this. The vast majority of viewers would use the term "Odious Comic Relief" instead.
  • Portmanteau: Kimar (king Martian), Momar (mom Martian), Bomar (boy Martian), Girmar (girl Martian) etc. Not sure if Dropo means anything. (Dropped on head?)
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: At the climax, Voldar attempts this with Santa note , only to get stopped by being pelted with toys.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: According to Voldar the Martians used to be like this. He's hoping killing the humans will be a move back to what he considers Good Old Ways.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Torg! COME. Out. Of. The. Spaceship."
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Kimar wants nothing more than the security and comfort of his fellow Martians, and when he's told Mars needs a Santa Claus, he doesn't even try to argue the point.
  • Repeat to Confirm: The Martian crew, while flying to and from Earth: "Fire retrorockets five and six." "Retrorockets five and six. Fire."
  • Robot Antennae: The robot has what appears to be an antenna atop its head. Of course, the Martians wear helmets with antennae on them, so this might just be a Martian aesthetic.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: A small theater in CA has adapted this to stage and performs it every holiday season. It is snarkerific. The tickets for every seat of the season typically sell out within a few weeks of going on sale and the competition grows every year since people who've gone once want to see it again the next year. Much of the humor comes from the improvisation that the actors produce, so it's worth seeing every year even if you've already seen it.
  • Shout-Out The robot "Torg" was likely a reference to "Gort" from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) except with much, much less budget or creativity.
    • Voldar mentions being able to destroy a city with a blast of the Martian Q-Ray.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Justified, as it is, well, Mars.
  • The Slacker: Dropo is introduced as "the laziest man on Mars", and lives up to that title throughout.
  • Spelling Song: "You spell it S-A-N-T-A C-L-A-U-S, hooray for Santy Claus!"
  • Stock Footage: Used to show how "much" the armed forces are defending the Earth.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Voldar's goofy sidekicks, Stobo and Shim.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: "I'm cold! I'm tired!"
  • Tin-Can Robot: Torg. More accurately Cardboard Painted Silver Robot.
  • Toys: Check – Santa makes ‘em on Mars.
    Girmar: The doll has a teddy bear’s head, and the teddy bear has a doll’s head.
    Joel: (as Santa) No problem. We’ll just give ‘em to dyslexic children.
  • True Meaning of Christmas: The movie's theme is teaching the Martians the meaning of Christmas: To have fun.
  • Tyop on the Cover: "Custume Designer".
  • Underground City: Voldar hints that this is the standard of Martian architecture when he criticizes an Earth city being "above ground." It seems to add up, since anytime we see any of the Martians outdoors, they're in a barren, red desert instead of streets.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Hoping to keep his and other Martian children from becoming too depressed and aloof, Kimar resorts to armed kidnap and forceful coercion to bring Santa to Mars. Thankfully, Santa is extremely cooperative and agreeable, so Kimar doesn't become too cruel after Santa's in his custody.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The whole "Earth's militaries search for Santa" subplot, it just sort of disappears, never to be mentioned again.
    • While this movie marked Mrs. Claus first appearance in audio-visual format. She never reappears in the movie after she gets frozen by Martian's Wham-O Air blasters nor was ever seen getting unfrozen (though she is mentioned in a news report to have identified Santa's kidnappers as Martians).
  • Would Hurt a Child: Voldar tries to throw the Earth kids out into space with Santa.
  • Would Not Hurt A Child: The novelization states that Martians are incapable of harming Martian children, which explains how four kids, two of them Martian, were able to defeat Voldar with nothing but toys in the finale.