Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Review: Santa Claus (1959)

With this job I can be sure of a few things. First, that I must love writing, otherwise I wouldn't keep punishing myself by sifting the cinematic wreckage I often talk about. Second, that there will never be a shortage of strange shitty movies to talk about at length. Occasionally I make an exception and talk about good movies, so I don't choke on the festering bile. Today's film is no exception though. And it also requires a slight history lesson. Directed by René Cardona, this movie is one of many lampooned on the legendary series, Mystery Science Theater 3000. As such, by writing about it, I will undoubtedly open myself up for comparison to their work. The truth is...I can't compete with what they did. They're masters of riffing and any jokes will likely pale in comparison. But there's no rule saying that just because MST3K did it, then you can't. And, as a shameful aside, I have to admit that I actually didn't watch too much of their series.

And here's the moment when I lose all of my credibility.


This is likely due to a combination of DVRs not existing yet and me spending more time hanging out with friends. But I have been slowly revisiting them and I find them honestly very inspiring. So, maybe consider this a small tribute to them? I haven't seen their episode riffing it, but it's probably better that I don't until after I do, otherwise I'm just going to second guess myself. So yes, I do know that this has been done before, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway. The other thing needed to be said about this movie going into it is that it is a Mexican film. Now, while this isn't really a bad thing as a rule...they cranked a lot of bad movies. Especially in the era this particular film came out. And not surprisingly, more than a few of them were helmed by René Cardona. Not only that, but his son also followed in his footsteps. Bearing all that in mind, let's dig into this movie.

I'll bring the shovel because there's going be a lot of shit.
Now, we all know the basics of Santa Claus. He lives in the North Pole, he delivers presents, he wears red, he's got reindeer, somewhere there are elves, and Tim Allen is involved somehow. Forget all of that, because that's not here. Well, the red suit is and he does deliver presents, but that's about it. First off, we're introduced to his home, a castle....in space. Yep, that's what's happening here. First Santa's a pirate and now he's an astronaut. Why not? Maybe in the next movie I watch he'll be a fucking quarterback. Who cares? It's only Santa! But yeah, he lives in Toyland Castle and has the creepiest fucking laugh I have heard in ages. But he doesn't live there alone, noooooo. He shares his home with a large group of children from all over the world. Children who don't seem to have parents...or names...who just stay there with him all the time. Who he makes sing for him. Nope, not creepy at all! Moving on.

Sweat shop or underage harem for an aging pedophile? You decide.
One kid shows Santa a devil toy (after Santa laughs creepily again), which begs the question...why does this kid have devil toy? We then see Hell, because that's what a movie for kids needs, and Lucifer tells his number one guy, Pitch, to go ruin Christmas by turning the kids all over the world against the jolly old creeper. So that's a part of the story. It's stupid, but what do you expect? This isn't going to get better. I know it, you know it, so let's just watch the carnage. The true crux of this story of Santa versus Satan seems to depend on one girl named Lupita, who we keep flashing to throughout the film. Other than here though we also have Billy, a rich kid who feels lonely because his parents are never around. Finally, we also get introduced to three rude little shits who Pitch easily manipulates, because they're already shitty kids. Santa can't stop this though because apparently he can only go to Earth on Christmas Eve. So, instead of going to Earth, he watches it via his magic telescope.

It has lips, for some reason. I guess maybe Santa just has needs. Terrible horrible needs.
Anyway, they observe Lupita as she steals a doll while Pitch whispers in her ear, but the narrator encourages her to do the right thing, which she does. Pitch is a dick, but is still somehow a lot less creepy than Santa. Next we go to Billy, who is sleeping...which means a grown man who collects children and keeps them in his secluded home is watching a sleeping child. They gaze into his dream and he opens giant presents that hold his parents. So, what? Does this mean that he wants his parents stuffed in boxes? Because there were no visible air holes. Or maybe it means he wants Santa to build him new parents? Yeah, there we go. Remember, kids, if your parents don't love you Santa can always build you some new ones. They go back to watching Lupita as Pitch tries to influence her via a really fucking scary dream where she sees creepy giant dolls dance around her. I'm serious.

This is what nightmares are made of. Get your Silent Hill out of this Christmas film!
One of the dolls stops and tries to convince her to be evil, but Lupita refuses, ultimately waking up from the horrible nightmare and we go to the three little shits. It turns out they're not only planning to break their neighbors windows and steal toys, they also plan to straight up jump Santa and steal his bag of presents. But that's not what makes Santa mad though. No, he gets angry because they call him old. Good to see he has his priorities straight. We then go to a little boy writing Santa to ask for a little brother, and other kids who get less attention from the film who name off what they want. This includes the three little shits, who write in the hopes they can trick Santa into thinking they're good. All the letters get collected by the postmen, who promptly throw all the letters into the incinerator. But through some sort of magic, they fly upwards, into space, and go to Santa who bathes his body these letters from children while laughing the familiar creepy laugh he's had throughout this film. He goes through the letter, organizing the good from the bad, and gets to the kid who wishes for a little brother...and tosses that in a box for the stork. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait...Santa tells the stork when it's time for babies to show up? What the fuck?

"Santa needs me! I must go make sure two people go forth and fuck a whole lot!"

But if that's enough of a "what the fuck" moment, it also turns out the Merlin lives with Santa too and is responsible for all of his magic. Hey...um...movie? What about the elves? Did you forget about the whole magical elves thing? Because I feel like you're kinda pulling this shit out of your ass. He supplies Santa with sleeping powder and a flower that can turn him invisible, because for some reason Santa can't be seen. I'm not sure why it's so important here, because seeing Santa in other stories never really had any negative connotations. Actually, it usually made people feel good and truly believe in Christmas. Fuck that though, right? Santa must have really bad anxiety. He also has a key maker who looks an awful lot like Oliver Reed in the Baron Munchausen film. There sure are a lot of strange old men living alone in this castle populated with children. The more I think about this, the more uncomfortable I get. But don't worry, it only gets creepier as the kids prepare his sleigh and...BLOODY HELL!

JEBUS SAVE ME FROM THIS HORROR!
If you can't tell from that horrifying gif, the reindeer aren't alive. They're quite literally robotic wind-up reindeer that pull Santa's spaceship sleigh (oh yeah, he calls it a spaceship). And they make the most horrible noise too. After leaving his castle and nearly hitting the moon (STOP DRINKING, SANTA!), he finally gets to Earth and begins dropping off presents. We see Lupita asking her mother why Santa's never brought her anything, creating a terrible situation that many poor parents have had to deal with over the years, and her mother tries to comfort her but seems to imply something bad happened to her around Christmas. Five bucks says she used to be a part of Santa's child harem. But Pitch hasn't given up being a dick yet, so he spends the night trying to bugger things up for Santa. For his efforts he gets speared up the ass by the jolly old fat man.

To be fair, he did give Santa a perfect target. Dat ass.
So after showing how dangerous toys used to be in the 1950s, we go to Billy who Santa shows reassures and sends back to bed, followed by Santa then going to the restaurant where the kid's parents are and drugging them so they remember to love their kid. Remember, kids, if your parents don't love you then Santa will roofie them on your behalf. Ho ho ho ho! The three little shits get foiled after it appears a friggin' rocket is fired at them, because Santa's fucking crazy, and they all end with coal somehow. Pitch then convinces them to beat each other to death. Hey, they're three shitty kids who wanted to jump Santa, I wouldn't be shocked if they kill each other with those big hunks of coal. Finally though, Pitch seems to mess up our plump hero as he cuts a hole into his magic bag and he loses his sleeping powder and magic flower.

Pitch, you cheeky bastard. You know, because Santa shot him in the ass cheek.

Then he gets attacked by a vicious dog, Pitch tricks the people in the house into thinking he's a burglar, and the emergency services are all called in while Santa cowers in a tree as useless as can be. The child harem sees this and, rather than trying to escape their confinement, go to get Merlin who then tells Santa to use a toy cat from his bag to lead the dog away. So...Santa could've bailed himself out but was too much of a dumb ass to do it? Greaaaat. He gets away and Pitch ends up being sprayed with a fire hose. He makes a final trip to deliver Lupita's dolly and then seems to explode in the sky, because that's what it looks like. but no, the final scene shows us he's going back to his castle where he will no doubt be greeted by the child harem who seem to be suffering Stockholm syndrome.

"Now run along, kids. Santa wants to spend some...private time...with the telescope."

Thus ends this journey into a terrible Mexican film and, while it isn't the worst film I've watched, it's definitely not good. This movie was just weird, creepy, and so crappily nonsensical. It took the story of Santa Claus and made it into a strange drug trip where he has all these kids from different countries living with him and two other guys, has a spaceship pulled by robot reindeer, and only seems to ever visit kids in Mexico, because fuck all the other kids. The only possible way I would recommend watching this very odd film is via the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode I mentioned earlier, because at least they'll offer something funny to the experience. No one talks about this movie and now I see why. As far as forgotten Christmas films go, this one needs to stay forgotten. So, until Tim Allen remakes this movie as The Santa Clause 4: The Devil in Mexico City, I'll be here shoveling this shit into a deep dark hole. Later days, bleeders.

Oh, and don't forget a healthy dose of 1950s racism. Ho ho ho, Merry Shitmas!

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