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Film / Santa Claus Is a Stinker

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Santa Claus Is a Stinker (in French Le père Noël est une ordure) is a 1982 French comedy film directed by Jean-Marie Poiré and starring some of the Splendid' theatre troupe — Anémone, Josiane Balasko, Marie-Anne Chazel, Christian Clavier, Gérard Jugnot and Thierry Lhermitte. It is adapted from a 1979 play of the same name by that troupe, which also made the similarly slapstick French Fried Vacation films and Gramps Is in the Resistance.

Pierre (Lhermitte) and Thérèse (Anémone) work as volunteers in a suicide crisis line. They have to spend Christmas Eve together in the office of the association. The night will go awry: the elevator will break up and quirky people will show up: Josette (Chazel), a homeless woman, her violent boyfriend Félix (Jugnot), a Bulgarian neighbor and a crossdresser (Clavier).

Mixed Nuts (1994) is an American remake of this film.

Santa Claus Is a Stinker provides examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Josette accidentally kills an elevator technician while emptying Félix's gun.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: In the play, Jean-Jacques was Thérèse's ex-husband. In the movie, they never met before, and Jean-Jacques came over simply because he was depressed.
  • Agony of the Feet: Félix shoots at Jean-Jacques's foot when Jean-Jacques tries to grab his gun.
  • Amusing Injuries: Every main character suffer these except Madame Musquin.
    • The champion is Felix, knocked by Josette with an iron, slapped by Madame Musquin, punched by a pharmacist, then by an ape, and Jean-Jacques finish him with a Groin Attack.
    • Jean-Jacques gets shot in his foot, barely avoid a door slammed on his hand, and is knocked out with a chair, all by Felix. Pierre also accidentally slams a door in his face.
    • Thérèse gets kicked in the nose by Madame Musquin while helping her out of the elevator, then slapped by Pierre while she was on the verge of Fainting. Pierre stuck a finger in a fuse box, Mr Perskovic in a door, and Josette was nearly strangled by Felix.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: Not only the cast fight frequently, but someone end up murdered.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Félix beats his girlfriend Josette. Josette wants to leave him, but he chases her. Josette hits him with an iron to put him off. However, when Josette accidentally kills a technician, they bond again and Josette praises Félix's cleverness when he brings up the idea of carving the body and wrapping the cuts up in gift packages.
  • Bad Santa: Félix disguises himself as Santa Claus to advertise a strip-tease show. He wears this outfit during the whole film. He is a violent man: he beats his girlfriend Josette and he threatens everybody with a gun.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: At the very beginning of the evening, Pierre remark that it is exceptionally quiet, and admit it will be better if it last. It won't last.
  • Black Comedy: A comedy about a suicide crisis line, domestic abuse, accidental murder, poverty...
  • Bungled Suicide: In the pharmacy, Félix swallows pills and hair lotion in an attempt to kill himself. It fails: he just vomits a lot.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: Pierre and Thérèse are going to have sex in the shower. Josette enters the bathroom, but they do not even notice it and do not stop.
  • Covered in Kisses: Jean-Jacques kisses Pierre's forehead when he leaves and a lipstick mark is left.
  • Cranky Neighbor: Monsieur Leblé, the neighbor who always complains about the noise made by the association.
  • Crazy Homeless People: Félix and Josette live in a slum. Félix is a shoplifter. He beats his girlfriend Josette. He threatens people with a gun. He has no qualms about carving a body. Josette does not make a much better impression: she carelessly empties Félix's gun and accidentally kills someone. She helps Félix to carve his body.
  • Dismembering the Body: The poor elevator technician, carved by Felix and Josette. Then, they wrap the members to make them pass for Christmas presents.
  • Disposing of a Body: Félix and Josette carve the body of the elevator technician who Josette accidentally killed and they wrap the cuts up in gift packages. In the end, they throw the packages in the cages of the zoo with Pierre and Thérèse.
  • The Ditz: Josette is not very bright. The way that she fills in an administrative form is very revealing. She also asks for the oyster shells to make ashtrays.
  • Domestic Abuse: Félix beats his girlfriend Josette.
  • The Door Slams You: Pierre opens the bedroom's door and the door hits Jean-Jacques's nose.
  • Driven to Suicide: The film is about a suicide crisis outline. One of the people calling actually commits suicide: he is holding a gun against his head when he makes the phone call. He has a bad connection; at some point, Thérèse tells him to push the button and he pulls the trigger of the gun. Later in the pharmacy, Félix tries to commit suicide by swallowing pills and hair lotion.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Josette, who is not very clever, immediately guesses that Pierre and Thérèse are in love with each other.
  • Elevator Failure: The elevator breaks down when Madame Musquin is inside it. She is locked inside for a long time. Finally, she has to pee and Pierre helps her to go out through the ceiling of the cabin. At that point, the elevator starts up and Pierre and Madame Musquin very nearly fall down in the elevator shaft, then are nearly crushed between the cabin and the shaft's ceiling. Later, Madame Musquin uses the lift again and again she is locked inside it. Finally, Monsieur Leblé, the neighbor, gets her out of it.
  • Ensemble Cast: Several characters have an important role: Pierre, Thérèse, Josette, Félix, Jean-Jacques, Madame Musquin, and Preskovic.
  • Everybody Lives: Well, everybody but the elevator technician. In sheer contrast with the play, which had a "Everybody Dies" Ending due to the final explosion of the building.
  • The Film of the Play: It is adapted from a 1979 play of the same name. The same actors played it on stage.
  • Foreign Queasine: The Bulgarian specialities prepared by Preskovic are disgusting for all the other characters.
  • Funny Foreigner: Preskovic, the Bulgarian émigré, has a strange accent and prepares disgusting specialities.
  • Gift-Giving Gaffe: Thérèse gives Pierre a Homemade Sweater from Hell. In return, Pierre gives her a self-made painting depicting a naked Thérèse chased by a pig.
  • Groin Attack: Jean-Jacques delivers one to Félix in the zoo.
  • Harassing Phone Call: A stalker calls two times, in order to insult women. The first time, he pretends to be terminally ill and asks to talk to Thérèse. Josette takes the second call and yells at the pervert when he insults her; Madame Musquin takes the phone and "calms him down" while pretending to be interested in his speech, until the confused pervert hangs up.
  • Here We Go Again!: In the end, Pierre ask Thérèse if she will volunteer too on New year eve night.
  • Holiday Volunteering: Thérèse and Pierre chose to volunteer at a suicide crisis line during Christmas Eve.
  • Homemade Sweater from Hell: Thérèse gives Pierre as Christmas gift a hand-knitted cardigan that is so awful that Pierre initially thinks it is a floorcloth.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Josette accidentally shoots down an elevator technician while emptying Félix's gun.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: Félix beats his girlfriend Josette even if she is pregnant.
  • Informed Deformity: Felix once call Thérèse "ugly", and is corrected by Pierre. He assures that she is not ugly and simply have a graceless appearance. However they are both wrong as Anémone, who played Thérèse, was effectively not ugly, or at least less than Josette as Marie-Anne Chazel, her actress, had to wear buck teeth for the role.
  • Intimate Healing: Thérèse is under shock. While she is naked in the shower, she asks Pierre to hug her to warm her up. It ends up in a sexual intercourse.
  • Ironic Name: His name means "happy", but Félix is a depressive guy with suicidal tendencies.
  • Ironic Nickname: Jean-Jacques, a crossdresser, is called by his father "Charles Bronson".
  • Just Got Out of Jail: Félix just got out of jail. He does not reform.
  • Karma Houdini: The main cast get away scott free with the technician's murder.
  • Mall Santa: Félix disguises himself as Santa Claus to advertise a strip-tease show in front of a department store. A boy starts asking him questions and finally pulls off his beard. In return, Félix slaps him in the face. Then someone from the department store notices Félix and tells him to go away. Since Félix does not obey, he orders a black mall santa to chase him.
  • Naïve Everygirl: Thérèse and Josette are both called out for this at some point. Thérèse states in the very beginning that she can't figure Pierre cheating on his wife. A few hours later, she will be the one Pierre will be cheating with. As for Josette, she is the only character who never realized that "Katia" (Jean-Jacques) wasn't an actual woman.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Thérèse is so nice that she is the only character who never gets mad, insults, or hit someone during the whole story. In fact, she always tries to calm everybody down and smooth the rough edges.
    • Subverted with Pierre. He's nice at first glance, working as social volunteer and is usually polite. But he can loose his temper (notably because of pain) and is homophobic.
  • Old Maid: Thérèse is one. She is uptight and her hobbies include volunteering for a suicide crisis line and knitting clothes for the Third World.
  • Percussive Maintenance: The elevator is locked. Josette punches the button and it starts up.
  • Potty Emergency: Madame Musquin is locked in the elevator and she has to pee. Finally, she can get out of it. She runs to the toilet, but Josette has just locked herself inside to escape from Félix. Madame Musquin breaks the door open with the help of Félix.
  • Pregnant Badass: Josette, despite pregnant, manage to knock out Felix with an iron.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Félix and Josette are the Red Oni (they are extroverted, they do not respect the rules...). Pierre and Thérèse are the Blue Oni (they are uptight, cultured, polite...).
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Pierre arrives late to work because of his kids, but Madame Musquin assumes he's late because he has an affair. Later on, after she goes upstairs to call a taxi (as her car would not start), Madame Musquin witnesses Pierre dancing with a woman, and it confirms her suspicion that he has a mistress. Actually, the "woman" is Jean-Jacques, whom Pierre is reluctantly dancing with. Still, it's true that he will have an affair — a few hours later, and with Thérèse.
  • Shower of Angst: Subverted. When Thérèse realizes that the elevator technician is dead, she is under shock and she needs a shower. When she is in the shower, she seems to be still under shock and she asks Pierre to hug her to warm her up, but it ends up in a sexual intercourse.
  • Shower of Love: Thérèse and Pierre have sex under a running shower.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Downplayed. Pierre and Thérèse are not from the highest social classes (Thérèse for example is a social worker), but they are much higher than Félix and Josette, who live in a slum. Pierre wants to get rid of Félix and Josette to spend the Christmas Eve alone with Thérèse.
  • Stylistic Suck: The subject of Pierre's painting (a naked woman chased by a cartoonish pig) is very weird.
  • Suicide as Comedy: The whole film is about a suicide crisis line. A suicide is played for laughs: someone is holding a gun against his head when he calls the suicide crisis line. He has a bad connection; at some point, Thérèse tells him to push the button and he pulls the trigger of the gun.
  • Taking the Heat: Subverted. Pierre proposes to tell the police that he accidentally killed the elevator technician instead of Josette, who is pregnant, so that her baby will not be born in prison. Finally, he does not have to do it because Félix has devised a way to get rid of the body.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: All night, Pierre tries to get rid of Preskovic, Félix, and Jean-Jacques.
  • Title Drop: When Thérèse states that she and Pierre have a Twisted Christmas because of Josette and Felix, Josette states that "This Santa Claus is a stinker". Later on, others characters call Felix a "stinker" a couple of times.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Pierre, who is initially very polite with everybody, ends up telling Preskovic that he has gotten on his nerves for years.
  • Twisted Christmas: The events happen during Christmas Eve and they involve a man beating his pregnant girlfriend and threatening everyone with a gun. An innocent elevator technician is shot down. His body is carved, his limbs are hidden in Christmas gift packages and they are fed to the animals of the zoo.
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation: Thérèse and Josette were cousins in the original play. Here, Josette is simply Thérèse's protégé since they met in a charity.
  • Verbal Tic: "C'est cela, oui..." ("That's it, yes it is...") for Pierre. He often states, as well, "C'est une catastrophe !" ("This is a disaster!")
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: After swallowing pills and hair lotion, Félix has to vomit in the back of the pharmacy. The scene is filmed from the entrance door, and Félix is vomiting behind a partition wall.
  • When Elders Attack: The pharmacist. This old, distinguished man knocks Félix down when he gets mad.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Jean-Jacques/Katia is a crossdresser who is presented as a relatively "normal" person compared to the other characters.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Pierre and Thérèse are idealists who volunteer to help people in need. Josette and Félix, the people they want to help, are yobs who do not hesitate to commit crimes and who use them cynically.

Alternative Title(s): Le Pere Noel Est Une Ordure