Santa Claus (1959)

There have been a lot of epic battles throughout history.  The Union versus the Confederacy, Cassius Clay versus Sonny Liston, Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader.  But I don’t know if you’re ready for the battle of Santa Claus versus Satan.  Yes, that’s right: the movie Santa Claus is all about Santa’s struggles to outwit the Devil.  The movie opens with Santa in his workshop, which is located in outer space above the North Pole, with his multi-cultural child helpers.  It’s Christmas eve, so you’d think that Santa has a lot to do, but rather than load up his sleigh, he takes the time to have all his helpers perform songs from their home countries.  This scene goes on for about seven minutes and really doesn’t have much to do with anything.

Meanwhile, in Hell, Satan demands that his head minion Pitch (who is very fond of wearing pantaloons) travel to Earth and turn children against Santa.  And if he doesn’t, Pitch will be forced to, horror of horrors, eat chocolate ice cream.  One of the children Pitch targets is a young girl named Lupita, who is from a very poor family.  Lupita desperately wants a doll of her own, but her parents can’t afford one, so Pitch tries to convince her to steal one.  But eventually, Lupita decides to stay on the good side and doesn’t steal the doll.  Instead, Pitch manages to convince three brothers to join his ranks.

Before Santa embarks on his big journey, he sees his old pal Merlin, who gives him some dreaming powder (in case anyone wakes up and sees him), a flower to disappear, and the blacksmith gives him a key to open any door.  Once his robotic reindeer have been wound up (yes, robotic reindeer), Santa is finally ready to head to Earth and deliver presents.  Meanwhile, the three brothers are hard at work planning a way to capture Santa and Lupita is praying for two dollies (one to give to Baby Jesus).  There’s also Billy, a kid from a rich family, who only wants his frequently absent parents to be with him on Christmas.

Once Santa comes to Earth, he has to deal with Pitch’s Home Alone-esque efforts to stop Santa from bringing everyone presents.  But once he gets to Billy’s house, he realizes that Billy is left at home alone, so Santa takes the form of a waiter at a restaurant his parents are at.  He gives them a special Cocktail of Remembrance, which helps them realize what is most important to them, and they hurry home to be with Billy.  The three brothers still want to capture Santa and take all his toys, so they wait for him on the rooftop.  But when they see Santa’s sleigh fly by overhead, they run back inside to see what they got.  Realizing they were given coal, they start fighting with each other.  Even though Puck didn’t succeed in getting the kids to capture Santa, he does manage to cut a hole in Santa’s bag of dreaming powder and sets it up so that someone calls the fire department while Santa is cornered by a dog.  Realizing he needs help getting out of this mess, Santa calls his dear friend Merlin again for advice and manages to escape.  Before he heads back to his workshop, he makes one last stop at Lupita’s to give her the doll she so desperately wants.

Oh, my.  Where to even begin with this movie?  I guess I’ll start by trying to defend it a little bit.  This movie was produced in Mexico, where the whole concept of Santa Claus wasn’t as widely celebrated then as it is in the United States, so that would explain why the movie doesn’t really represent Santa Claus as Americans know him.  This movie definitely set out with good intentions, but there are so many misunderstandings that it just didn’t work out.

But things that can be explained by cultural differences aside, a lot of things in this movie are just bizarre.  Things like those robotic reindeer, Santa laughing maniacally while looking at a manger scene, and Pitch mincing around in pantaloons are all just hilariously weird.  And I can’t forget the bad dubbing in the scene where Lupita’s mother says that Christmas is a time to remember Craig or the awful special effects like the listening device that was clearly just an oscillating fan with a plastic ear glued to it.  One of my favorite episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is the Santa Claus episode.  This movie was definitely perfect fodder for the MST3K crew, they did a brilliant job of providing commentary.  It’s one of those episodes that makes me laugh until I hurt.  The MST3K way is definitely the best way to watch it.

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2 comments

  1. I just now watched “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (1964) and I wonder if this is as bad as that was.
    Haha It was really, really bad. Bad color, bad sound, terrible acting

    1. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is a real doozy, but I ‘d actually say it was better than Santa Claus. For all its faults, at least SCCTM managed to remain amusingly cheesy and not just plain creepy and bizarre like Santa Claus is in some scenes.

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