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Recap / Mystery Science Theater 3000 S05 E21: Santa Claus

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I saw mommy killing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last murder!

Dr. Forrester: Your movie today, Mark, is called Santa Claus. It's a thoughtful, well shot documentary about the Crimean War.
TV's Frank: It's a stupid Mexican kids' movie!

Film watched: Santa Claus (1959)

In the words of the MST3K producers: "Just when we thought it couldn't get any more bizarre, it did." Its dramatic departure from established Santa Claus legend, combined with B-movie production standards and an awkward dub provide ample source for mockery. MST3K's send-up first aired on Christmas Eve 1993 as the show's second Christmas Episode (following Santa Claus Conquers the Martians two years earlier). The devil Pitch became a recurring character for a while, played by Paul Chaplin, who notably was one of the rare ones to even appear in the Sci-Fi Channel episodes. Plus, it's the true Trope Namer for Nightmare Fuel.

The episode is available in the Gizmoplex here.

The Segments:

  • Mike and the 'Bots try their hand at caroling, but are interrupted by spilled cocoa.

Segment 1

  • Mike treats the 'Bots' injuries. The Mads exchange gifts: Dr. Forrester gets a watch fob, but TV's Frank gets a savings bond that matures in 2023. Back on the SoL, Crow gets a Steve Alaimo album, Servo gets the 1991 Drug IV handbook, Mike gets a Joikenote  sweater and Gypsy gets a plastic candy cane full of underwear.

Segment 2

  • Performing as Santa Kläws, Mike, Crow and Servo play "The Warrior of Christmas". The Mads get psyched.

Segment 3

  • The 'Bots try to surprise Mike by setting up a video call to his family back on Earth. Unfortunately, they've called up a completely unrelated Nelson family from Green Bay.note 

Segment 4

  • Mike, Crow and Servo sing the new multicultural holiday song, "Merry Christmas... If That's OK."

Segment 5

  • Mike says to the 'Bots how he misses the winter on Earth. Suddenly, it snows outside the Satellite, and Mike and the 'Bots to go outside and play. Back in Deep 13, Santa and Pitch duke it out. An instrumental version of "Merry Christmas... If That's OK" plays during the credits.

The Mystery Science Theater 3000 presentation has examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: After Santa uses the toy cannon to shoot Pitch in the butt:
    Servo: This is funny. I don't care what anybody says.
  • And the Rest:
    Narrator: The South American group includes children from Brazil and Argentina.
    Mike: And a few other countries not worth mentioning now.note 
  • An Asskicking Christmas: In the last host segment with Kevin Murphy as Santa Claus (credited as "Krusher Kringle").
    Santa: I'm here to eat candy canes and kick ass, and I'm all out of candy canes!
    • During the film, Mike wonders why Santa has a US Air Force star over his door, and Servo points out that Santa flew 23 missions in the Korean War.
  • Artistic License – Space: Played for Laughs. After the movie, it's snowing. In space.
  • Big Brother Is Watching:
    Mike: Santa's tendrils reach far and wide. There is no hiding from the Klaus Organization.
  • Bigger Than Jesus: Invoked by Servo as Santa.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor:
    • Mike makes a wise-crack about Comedy Central competitions being a waste of time. This was a few months after the "Win a visit to Best Brains" contest.
    • During a scene of Santa pulling various things from his sack, Crow jokes that one of them is a CableACE award, and "worthless". MST3K got nominated for CableACE awards eight times during its run, but never won.
  • British Teeth:
    Narrator: Boys and girls from England...
    Crow: Have rotten teeth!
    Mike: Crow...
    Crow: What?
  • Call-Back: When singing "Merry Christmas... If That's OK", Tom's head is replaced with a snow-globe... the same snow-globe he replaced it with in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: With his head shaved TV's Frank looks like a real-life adult Charlie Brown.
    • When Pitch first appears on camera...
    Servo: "Jamie Farr!"
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Servo quips "Retreat! Retreat!" during the French kids' song.
  • Christmas Songs: Mike and the 'Bots start singing "Jingle Bells", before immediately going to the typical variation:
    "Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg..."
  • Crossover Cosmology: As if Santa fighting the Devil isn't strange enough, Santa also calls on Jesus for support.
    Crow: This is weird theology.
  • Clothes for Christmas Cringe: "Santa Claus" features a bizarre gift exchange on the Satellite of Love, where everyone receives something genuinely lame, but they all get weirdly excited for them anyway. Mike receives a Homemade Sweater from Hell with "JOIKE"note  on the front, and Gypsy receives a novelty plastic candy cane filled with underwear.note 
  • Cuteness Proximity: Lupita is so adorable even Mike and the 'Bots find it pretty heartwarming.
    Mike: (upon seeing Lupita) Awww...
    Servo: She is aggressively cute.
  • Deceptive Disciple: Mike and the bots joke that Santa's top assistant, Pedro, is secretly scheming to replace Santa.
  • The Devil Is a Loser: Pitch gets mocked for a lot. Crow sings, "The Devil is a wiener." Servo also belittles Pitch's goofy theme tune.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Santa may not be as good as he appears:
    Servo: A pentagram? And reindeer, laughing. You figure it out.
  • Doorstopper: Seeing Santa’s massive toy bag, Crow quips, “He’s got a Stephen King manuscript in that bag.”
  • El Spanish "-o": Mike and the bots identify a bumbling father character as “el Don Knotts-o”, and refer to a guy in a uniform as “Juan, the Maytag repairman-o”.
  • Evil Laugh:
    • Santa's laughs already sounded like this, so the riffing plays it up even further.
    Crow: Santa's laughter mocks the poor!
    • Paul Chaplin is able to mimic Pitch's perfectly.
  • Equal-Opportunity Offender: Mike and the Bots mock every single culture that appears in the multicultural song at the beginning, including several cracks about the United States.
    Narrator: Children from the USA—
    Crow: —are too spoiled and lazy to help Santa! Ha-ha, there, that makes it better.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Merlin is one of Santa's helpers.
    Crow: I didn't know Santa and Merlin were buddies.
    • When Lupita's mother crosses herself:
      Crow: In the name of Santa, and Merlin, and the elves. Amen.
  • Feet-First Introduction: During the scene where the rich boy wakes up to find Santa standing in front of him, the camera pans up Santa. Tom Servo and Crow turn it into an Eating the Eye Candy scene.
    Tom Servo: (sexy muted trumpet noises)
    Crow: (as Santa) Like what you see, kid?
  • Gift of the Magi Plot: Horribly subverted for TV's Frank; he buys a watchfob for Dr. Forrester and, unclear on the concept, shaves his head just for the heck of it.
    Dr. F: Oh, you sold your hair to get me this beautiful watchfob.
    Frank: Sold my hair? No!
    • You'd expect Dr. F to have sold his watch and get Frank a gift certificate to a hair salon, but instead he gives him a savings bond—in Forrester's name, no less—that will mature into $25... in thirty years. Poor Frank.
      Frank: (howling) MY HAIR! My beautiful head of TV's Frank hair!
  • Godwin's Law: When the name Adolfo appears in the credits, the MST crew remark that "Ah, this is a fascist Santa!"
  • Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut: Santa Kläws.
  • He Knows Too Much: As two kids are about to see Santa deliver some presents:
    Narrator: Look out, Santa! They'll see you!
    Crow: (as Santa) Ha ha! Well, that's the last thing they'll ever see!
  • Homemade Sweater from Hell: Gypsy makes Mike a sweater with "JOIKE" on it. She explains that she started knitting it back before Joel's escape earlier that season. Mike seems to actually like it, though.
  • How Can Santa Deliver All Those Toys?: Referenced a couple times during the film.
    "Three houses down, 650 billion to go."
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    Servo: And now, the hollow feeling that follows any puppet show.
    • Mike berates Crow and Servo for "offending everyone" during the multicultural song exchange, forgetting that he had also made fun of Japan and "South America".
    • Crow jokes that Comedy Central contests are a waste of time. MST3K had just run its Turkey Day Contest on Comedy Central.
    • Santa has great memory:
    Santa: (to Pedro) Thank goodness I still have a very good memory, eh! And I know every single child on Earth.
    Crow: (as Santa) Isn’t that right, Pueblo? Uh, Peco, uh, whatever.
  • I'm Going to Disney World!
    Narrator: What are you going to do now Santa?
    Servo: I'm going to Disney World!
    Mike: All references to Disney World are the property of the Walt Disney Corporation.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: The reaction to seeing Japanese children in Santa's workshop.
    Mike: By investing in Santa's toy-making corporation, they now own Santa lock, stock, and barrel.
  • Laughing Mad: Mike and the 'Bots' reaction to the Laughing Nightmare Reindeer.
  • Leave the Camera Running:
    Servo: Santa’s mounting-up procedures don’t make for good cinema.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narrator calls out to the characters a couple of times, such as urging Lupita to resist Pitch's influence. Because of the confusing timing, Mike and the Bots treat him as if he were an Interactive Narrator.
    Crow: Ah, the classic battle between evil and the narrator.
  • Let There Be Snow: This happens right at the end. In space.
  • Lounge Lizard: During the "rich Christmas party" scene:
    Servo: That cuckoo Tannenbaum...
  • The Mafia: Servo reinterprets the Italian children as this.
    Servo: Okay, we're gonna whack Santa. He's tryin' to muscle in on the Easter Bunny's turf.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg:
    Pedro: What food do they eat on Earth, Santa?
    Santa: Oh, everything in sight! They eat most of the animals, the plants, the flowers, the roots, the birds, even smoke and alcohol!
    Servo: And they eat at Hardee's.
  • My New Gift Is Lame: The gifts that Mike and the Bots give each other are pretty lame, but they genuinely love them anyway.
  • Never Say That Again: Mike's reaction to Pitch's strange frustrated mumbling.
    Mike: Don't you ever do that again!
    • The non-dialogue variant occurs when Pitch spreads his legs while moving the chimney. Mike tells him not to do that ever again.
  • Nightmare Fuelinvoked: The reaction to the animatronic Santa is the Trope Namer.
  • No Indoor Voice:
    Crow: Santa? Could you nudge the volume down a little? We're standing right here.
  • Off the Rails: The prologue host segment, where a Christmas carol quickly descends into chaos and screaming.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!:
    Servo: Uh, oh. Santa got drunk and delivered all the presents to the moon, again.
  • One-Steve Limit: When the 'Bots try to get Mike in touch with his family back on Earth:
    Mike: Tom, this isn’t my family.
    Servo: But they’re the Nelsons, Mike!
    Mike: Well, they’re a Nelson, but there’s more than one Nelson in the world.
    Gypsy: Oh, that explains the 700 other Nelsons in the Green Bay phone book.
    Mike: I’m not from Green Bay!
  • Parental Abandonment: Already present in the film, but implied to be maliciously intended when the rich boy's parents arrive at their dinner party.
    Servo: (as another customer) Hi! Did you leave that brat at home?
    Crow: (as the father) Oh, you bet, he's such a pain!
    Servo: Ha ha, I know!
  • Punch-Clock Villain:
    Narrator: That confounded Devil! Why can't he leave Lupita alone?
    Crow: Hey, he's just doing his job.
  • Repressive, but Efficient: When the credits for the screenwriters (Adolfo Torres Portillo and Rene Cardona) are shown:
    Crow: Hey, wait, this is a fascist Santa Claus!
    Mike: Yeah, at the end of the movie, Santa gets hung upside down.
    Servo: Well, at least he made the sleigh rides run on time.
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    Mike: You know, that Lucifer is like Satan... from Hell!
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: As Lupita wakes up from a nightmare:
    Lupita: Mama! Mama!
    Crow: (as Lupita) I had the 'Nam dream!
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sickeningly Sweet: The SOL crew identify Lupita as this.
    Servo: She is aggressively cute.
  • Special Guest: Santa Claus and Pitch, at the end of the show.
    Dr. Forrester: Oh Frank, think of it. A full tilt battle between pure evil and Santa Claus in our own home!
  • Spoof Aesop: “Booze helps parents care for their children!”
  • The Stoic: The Nelson family (no relation to Mike) from Green Bay has absolutely no reaction when they get a random video-call from robots in space.
    Crow: Your family anything like those Nelsons, Mike?
    Mike: Well, yeah, a little. Only they’re not so emotional.
  • Take That!: Servo mistakes one of the children for a demon-possessed doll. Crow points out that it's just Keith Magnuson.note  "That's even worse!"
  • Take Your Time:
    • As Santa slowly, laboriously, climbs down his ladder to deliver toys to the first house of the night:
    Crow: You know, Santa, it’s about 4 am. You better get a rush on.
    • And as Santa (disguised as a restaurant waiter) has a drawn-out conversation with one table, Mike and the 'Bots chime in as a bunch of other patrons who're angry they’re not getting any service.

  • Thing-O-Meter:
    Crow: Clown-o-meter on overload!
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Underlined when Lupita is thinking of stealing a doll from a street vendor, looking between her mother and the vendor.
    Mike: (as Lupita) I'm at a moral crossroads, Mummy!
  • With Catlike Tread: Santa delivers presents to one house while the child is asleep right in the living room.
    Servo: (as Santa) MERRY CHRISTM—Oh!
  • With Lyrics: Servo does this to Pitch's theme.
    "It's the Devil's theme, this goofy little song.
    Even though he's the embodiment of evil, he's still got a goofy song.
    In his tights he brings death, despair, destruction and disease.
    Now, let's all join him and a-laugh along...the Devil."
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Whispering Christmas Warrior".
    Mike: The warrior of Christmas has cast out the neon prince!
    Hail the new Claus, your hair he will rinse!
    Crow and Servo: Silver bells fall from your nose!
    Santa Claus and mistletoe!
    Rudolph's found the Emperor's clothes!
    Mike: Vixen, let's explode!
    Joy to the woooooooooorld...
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Servo deploys what sounds like a little fake Yiddish to describe Mike's holiday depression at his first Christmas in space: "Mike, what's a matter, honey? You look a little... geshmublikite, or something, I dunno."