Christmas, Family, Fantasy

Santa Claus (1959)

0 Comments 23 December 2011

Studio: VCI
Blu-Ray Release Date: December 6th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: November 26th, 1959
Rating: Unrated!
Review by Craig Sorensen

Deep in outer space a mysterious man watches and waits.  With his sophisticated surveillance equipment he watches your every move, can read your mind and even spy on your dreams while you sleep.  This man is trapped in his space castle but for one day.  On that day his robot minions fly him down to earth where he sneaks into your home with his magic key…
Who is this man?  Why it’s Santa Claus!  Only this year he’s got trouble.  It seems Lucifer isn’t a fan of Santa’s work and sends his chief demon Pitch to try to stop him.  Will Santa prevail?  Maybe with the help of Merlin the Wizard and his blacksmith Vulcan!

Santa Claus is a supremely weird viewing experience.  That plot description above is absolutely accurate.  Santa doesn’t live on the North Pole, he lives in a castle deep in outer space that I guess is above the North Pole somewhere.  Santa does have a set of strange surveillance gear to spy on the children of the world.  There is a computer that “knows everything” that has a big creepy set of lips that move in a kind of sucking kissing motion when it talks.  There is a radar dish with a giant human ear that can hear everything.  There is a giant eye (with sexy eyelashes for some reason) that resembles the alien probe from War of the Worlds that can see everything you do.  And yes, Santa has a device that will read your mind and let him spy on your dreams.  Santa doesn’t have reindeer, he has robot reindeer that creepily roll their eyes around in their plastic skulls.  And yes, he does have a magic key that will open any door.  But that’s just the tip of the crazy iceberg.  He also has a magic flower that will turn him invisible and magic sleeping dust from Merlin the Wizard.  Yes, fucking Merlin lives in Santa’s space castle.  Santa also keeps children from every nation in his castle and they build all the toys while Santa plays the organ and mugs.  All the kids wear their “traditional” clothing and sing a national song.  By the way, Africa is now a whole country, their traditional dress includes loin clothes and bones in their noses and their national song is bongos and chanting.

So Santa can only leave his space castle once a year (Christmas eve).  If he doesn’t make it back to outer space before dawn his robots will turn to dust and he’ll be trapped on earth forever.  And because Santa can only eat ice cream and candy (I don’t know why either so don’t ask) he’ll starve.  This is where the demon Pitch comes into play.  Lucifer puts him in charge of not only trying to stop Santa from going back to outer space but also to corrupt the hearts of little children.  So most of this film is Pitch trying to get kids to steal or throw rocks while Santa spies on them from his castle.   Which is just as weird as all the strange Santa myth above.  Pitch is played by a man in a red unitard devil suit with red face paint.  I think I would be disappointed if he wasn’t though.  And Pitch doesn’t fuck around.  At one point after he has gotten rid of Santa’s magic sleeping powder (the dumbass lost the invisibility flower on his own) and has him stuck up a tree (a dog was chasing him), Pitch goes into a nearby house and convinces a father that Santa is an intruder that is going to break into his house and murder his wife and kids.  Yes, he convinces a guy that Santa is going to kill them all.

I don’t really know how to critique a film like this.  It’s so far out there that comparing it to anything else would not do it justice.  It was directed by René Cardona, Mexican madman director of over 100 mind melting features.  He is responsible for The Wrestling Women vs. The Aztec Mummy, Santo Against the Strangler, The Batwoman, Wrestling Women versus the Murderous Robot and my favorite Night of the Bloody Apes.  Santa is played by José Elías Moreno, who also plays the surgeon father in Night of the Bloody Apes.  I really wish that VCI was selling this as “From the creators of Night of the Bloody Apes”.  This movie was picked up by K. Gordon Murray for distribution in America and mostly played kiddie matinees.  I really wish I could see the looks on those kids faces as this thing played out.

The transfer quality fluctuates wildly on this new Blu Ray.  I’m sure that the print wasn’t in great shape though.  I can’t imagine that anyone was archiving this thing.  And as far as I know this is how it looked in theaters (although I doubt it).  So I don’t know if this will look any better than it does.  I don’t think that it looks bad however, it just shows it’s age.  There are a few issues though.  The title cards are obviously stills.  Maybe the title sequence was too damaged?  I don’t know.  They do kind of stand out though.  And the opening shot of Santa’s castle looks to me like a digital composite shot.  I’m just going to assume that it was a damaged part of the print and they did the best that they could to recreate the shot.  One thing that I can’t chalk up to print damage is at 50:00 there is a second of color bars for some reason.  It only seems to be a frame but you can see it plain as day.  That should have never made it out of quality control.  Maybe they fell asleep during that part?  The soundtrack is a little rough but adequate.  You can hear everything OK but it’s just not in the best of shape.

Santa Claus makes up for those problems with a whole bunch of special features.  There is the making of documentary Santa Claus Conquers The Devil.  It’s an interesting doc and filled with lots of tidbits from the making of the film to the American distribution.  It’s got an original trailer, although it looks like it’s been reedited from this newer transfer.  There is a radio spot and television spot that are both original though.  There are deleted scenes (one involving the damned souls of hell that was cut from American prints because Murray thought it was too strong for the kids) and a photo gallery.  You also get the short It’s A Howdy Doody Christmas, a super 8 Castle Films release.  This is the second Blu Ray of the year to feature super8 films and I hope that it continues in the new year.

The best special feature (in my opinion anyway) is the three K. Gordon Murray short Santa Claus films shot in Santa’s Village, an amusement park/zoo in Dundee, IL.  I thought that the feature was weird but I believe that I literally lost my sanity watching these three films.  All three look like they were transferred from an old tape source but are watchable.  They star Santa Claus (of course), Merlin the Wizard, Puss’n’Boots (Santa’s Chief of Security Police), Stinky the Skunk and Ferocious the Wolf.  They all work at Santa’s toy factory (where Ferocious is foreman) with a bunch of cute 60’s girls making toys for the “children of the universe” (actual quote).  All the animals are guys in the sorriest looking costumes.  They are all baggy and ill-fitting.  Puss’n’Boots looks like a homemade Ewok costume.  Any attempt by me to describe these wouldn’t do them justice so I’ll just say that it’s certainly an experience.

- who has written 151 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

Craig hails from 'Parts Unknown'.

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