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Pajiba’s Twisted Masterpieces


All This Trouble For A Little Fat Man in A Red Suit

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians / Brian Prisco

Twisted Masterpieces | December 11, 2008 | Comments (31)


There exists a unique class of films that are cinematically terrible, absolutely world class wretched, and yet, they have become cult classics. Rocky Horror Picture Show, by itself, is a godawful movie. The plot is retarded, the acting fiendishly over the top, and the special effects look like they were done with construction paper and a Maglite. Yet, because of the crowd of fanatical crossdressers parading in front of and swearing horribly at the screen, it has become a legend. It’s gleefully twisted fun to watch, because it’s so insane, so ludicrous. Not every movie we love to watch is rote with quality. In most years, if you were to watch the top five best picture nominees back to back, you’d be ready to mix a Clorox Colada. Or as Lady Clevername has been heard to sing, “So have a cup of cheer! No. The detergent.” In our sumptuous buffet of filmology, we must add a few plates of cheesesticks and chicken wings. Which is where we can enjoy our Ed Wood, our John Waters, our campy crazy fucking fun stuff.

I offer to the buffet Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, a 1964 children’s film of such dubious quality it makes most critics worst movie of all times list, as well as a deserving chop shop treatment at the hands of Tom Servo and Crow during an “MST3K” episode. It’s a terrible movie. It really and truly is awful. Even the copy I watched through my Netflix Watch Instantly account actually has fading colors and ripples of burnt out filmstock, like you’re watching a drive-in copy stained with Mr. Pibb, Dr. Pepper’s less than savory country cousin. When I recommended it to my brother, he text messaged me throughout, asking if I’d had a recent head injury, what sort of cold medications I was on, and finally, lapsing into a silence that was only punctuated with one single text: “IM shitting in a box for UR XMas gift.”

The absurdity is what makes it so enjoyable as a movie to put on when friends are over. A DVD version of double-dog dare. It’s so wretched you stare at it rapturously, unwilling to believe it can possibly get stupider. You become as witty as the Rocky Horror audience shouting about Oprah’s heavy, black and pendulous breasts, or Mike Nelson berating Manos: The Hands of Fate. You will marvel at the fact this movie was legitimately made, with the premise that Martians kidnap Santa Claus to force him to bring laughter and joy to the miserable Martian children of Mars. It’s a twisted masterpiece because it exists. It was made. Not just some mad poet spouting on a street corner or some angry painter splashing acrylics over Polaroids of her ex boyfriends’ public regions. This took a group of hundreds of people several weeks or months to construct. This movie’s not just art, it’s a fucking cult of insanity.

We open on Santa Claus being interviewed at the North Pole by a less style-conscious Charles Nelson Reilly wannabe in a fur coat. Claus is busy training his army of bearded Munchkin also-rans in crafting wooden toys that wouldn’t be out of place under an Amish tree or below the sacks of oranges the Dutch hang to beat misbehaving youths. Santa looks like the old Dumbledore if he were smoking Gandalf’s weed. He spends the entire movie laughing deeply and touching people. Especially children. Of course, Mrs. Claus looks like Frau Blucher (whinny!), so it’s hard to blame Ol’ Saint Nick for stepping out on the town for some Pa-rump-pah-pum-pum. One of the enterprising midgets glued a Scuba Steve kit on a GI Joe doll slumming in boxer shorts, and spray-painted it green (because elves only work in primary colors and this Cold War era pick’ll be damned if one of the Reds or Yellows gets in the way). And that’s supposed to be a Martian? Where’s the exposed brains in jars? The Ben Stein accent? The Space Jam?

Cut away for no good reason to Mars, where everything looks like Dr. Evil’s television den, and green grease-painted children are ensuring that they will have no future generations of acting talent by dying of horrible lead poisoning in the name of bad cinema. The Martian’s costume consists of: a) a pair of tight shorts and a full body jumpsuit that makes them look a cross between Richard Simmons and one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men and b) a motorcycle helmet with a bedazzled scuba mask glued the top next to the unexplainable television antennas and giant novelty bendy straw stuck on as well. It’s what you’d expect would happen if you let slow-witted Girl Scouts run a dive shop. Of course, characters are easily identifiable with simple costume enhancements like a huge porn moustache, a big jaunty cape, or boobs.

Apparently, Martian children are depressed, and by the fit of those jumpsuits overweight. They spend all their time watching Earth television and taking pills. Sadly they are exactly like 21st century Earth children. Mars gathers all of its leaders to have a summit with the old wise one, Chochem. All of Mars is controlled by four dudes, one of whom appears to be John Candy’s Turkish masseuse from Who’s Harry Crumb? and the evil one who looks and acts like John Michael Higgins in For Your Consideration. He’s one sixteenth Choctaw. Anyway, they chant, and through the magic of Cinescope, an actor appears who’s somewhere on the bearded robe cycle between Yogurt and Miracle Max. Only instead of a healthy Yiddish phlegm gargle, this guy speaks in a warbly old man voice. He tells them they need someone like Santa Claus to spread the joy of toys to the Martian children. This obviously translates to KIDNAP THE FAT JOLLY ONE!

We find ourselves back on earth with Billy and Betty, a Rockwellian Hansel and Gretel who need Ralphie to deliver eye justice post haste. They spend their times napping in the woods and listening to transistor radios. The Martians kidnap them with their devastating sci-fi hairdryer/plunger guns. They force the children onto their spaceship where the kids meet Droppo, the retarded Martian. He’s not so much retarded as fat and unkempt. He spends most of his time doing an imitation of Don Knotts as a walrus. Which is appropriate, as the little turncoats lead the Green Invasion directly to the North Pole. The action cuts back to actual footage of military airplanes circling to prevent the attack. I was waiting for Ralph Wiggum to start singing Yvan Eht Nioj. The lesson to learn is, whether communist, terrorist, or alienist, don’t fuck with the Red White and Blue.

Of course, the aliens are too slick, what with their giant lightbulb encrusted wooden radar box cleverly labeled Radar Box. The ship is expertly piloted by Nordic Track to the North Pole, where the aliens land, and promptly let the children escape into the frosty air. Let’s recap, cold war fans. The US Military is stupider than Martians who are stupider than two small children. Hooray for America!

I know your thinking this movie can’t get any better, but by god, we’ve reached the North Pole, and the finest sequence in the film. The Martians release the robot Torg, who looks nothing at all like he was constructed from pots and pans in my Italian grandmother’s kitchen. Torg staggers off after the children, who have taken refuge in a cave from … the mascot of the Richmond minor league hockey team. Actually, it’s supposed to be a polar bear, but it’s clearly a dude in a furry costume who menaces the children before running away. Which opens them up for attack by Torg. The children are recaptured by the Martians, who then send Torg to attack Santa. Santa disables Torg just by thinking he’s a toy. Back off Jesus, Santa’s got telekinesis. All you’ve got is water-based skills. Santa is bravely defended by his elves, one who actually picks up a baseball bat. He must have been one of my ancestors. But alas, the wee ones are no match for the Martian hairdryer/plunger technology, which with a pop sound, makes people do theatre games. The elves freeze. Mrs. Claus freezes. Santa thanks the Martians for finally shutting up the missus. Oh, spousal abuse, are you never not funny?

Santa and the Bobsey Twins are whisked off to Mars. En route, Voldar, the bad alien, tries to release Santa and the children out of an airlock. But Santa uses his magic creepy laughing-hugging powers to shoot them up a chimney (air duct — even in a fucking crappy Christmas movie, the heroes have to escape in a ventilation shaft!) and are saved! For now.

I’ll allow you to enjoy the rest of the film, which involves Santa not actually engaging in battle with the Martians, but conquering them with uncomfortable fondling and laughter. Suffice it to say, you can easily fight off the Martian threat with soap bubbles and squirt guns and cheaply made Japanese toys.

This movie begs to be remade for once. It would benefit from a campy re-do, though there’s something outstanding about seeing it in all its shady, poorly crafted glory. It’s even got a horrendous ear worm of a theme song “Hooray for Santy Claus,” that involves jaunty brass playing over the shrill shrieking of a children’s choir led by Pia Zadora. It’s sure to fill your holiday season with a fresh nog of whatthefuck? Because why should the entire season be pleasant?

Brian Prisco is a burger whisperer from the hills and valleys of North Hollywood, by way of the fiery streets of Philadelphia. When not casting his slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in an attempt to make sense of this crazy little thing called love, he can be found with his nose in a book in an attempt to make a grown woman cry when he beats her in the Cannonball Read. You can pick a fight with him via email at .com or decipher his crazy ramblings at The Gospel According to Prisco. Hail Discordia!









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Comments

And the protest continues.

Posted by: admin at December 11, 2008 10:06 AM

"You spell it, S-A-N-T-A, but you say it S-A-N-T-Y?"

Hooray for Santy Claus!

Best MST3K episode ever.

Posted by: JH at December 11, 2008 10:08 AM

We are NOT gonna forget what you us, funboy.

Posted by: BarbadoSlim at December 11, 2008 10:14 AM

So, we get an EE today...right?

Posted by: Mike R. at December 11, 2008 10:14 AM

"healthy Yiddish phlegm gargle".

You, sir, turn a brilliant phrase. Your imagery is vivid enough to trigger my gag reflex.

I now want to throw a Bad-Sweater-An-Worse-Movie Christmas Party, featuring gawdawful applique-ed holiday outfits and films such as this. Plus, of course, as much liquor as it takes to get through the end of the movie.

Posted by: Tammy at December 11, 2008 10:30 AM

One of the enterprising midgets glued a Scuba Steve kit on a GI Joe doll slumming in boxer shorts, and spray-painted it green (because elves only work in primary colors and this Cold War era pick'll be damned if one of the Reds or Yellows gets in the way).

Hate to break it to ya Prisco, but green ain't a primary colour

Other than that, awesome review of one of my favorite MST3K episodes (how you watched it without Crowe and Servo though, I do not know)

Posted by: Bethy at December 11, 2008 10:48 AM

Excuse me.

There seems to be a word missing in your review.

Oh yeah....JOEL.

JOEL was there with Tom and Crow on that episode.

JOEL was ALSO there with Tom and Crow for "Manos".

In fact, JOEL, with Crow, Frank, Proto-Tom and Pearl, as it were, have roasted this move AGAIN just this month with Cinematic Titanic.

You're avoiding doing your homework by avoiding doing your homework? Just give some bastard a white elephant or some shit if the new shirts aren't ready and make that list. They've seen your face now. It could get dangerous for you.

Chochem if you got em!

Posted by: Jay at December 11, 2008 10:55 AM

The site might be the better w/out a weekly pissing contest.

Posted by: Recondite at December 11, 2008 11:13 AM

Hold up, Jay. I'm as big a fan of Joel as anyone, but I'm almost certain Mike Nelson was the humanoid during the screening of 'Manos, Hands of Fate'.

It took me awhile to get used to Mike after Joel left, but I think he filled in pretty admirably.

Posted by: TMax at December 11, 2008 11:13 AM

Isn't this the space where the EE is supposed to go?

I know what's going on here. Don't think I don't. I hear you two talk:

BP: I just can't do it anymore, Rowles, you know? It's like 3,000 comments I have to plow through every week and I Just. Can't. Doit. I mean, most of them are pretty good -- that Slim guy is The Shit. But that fuckin' bucdaddy ... He's been on here how long? And I'll be damned it he's made ONE FUNNY COMMENT the whole time. I'd rather stick a Jart in my eye than read his bullshit anymore.

DR: I sympathize. Guy's a monster douchebag.

BP: Thinks he's funny, writing faux dialog and all that, the old motherfucker ...

DR: Yeah ...

BP: Hip(replacement)ster douchebag.

DR: Heh, good one, Brian. Ha ha ha!

BP: Hehehehehe.

DR: Ahhh ... so, whatta we do about EE? I mean, the peasants are about to storm the gates with tar and torches and pitchforks. But we've tried farming that damn thing out and it just keeps boomeranging back to us, and I know YOU don't have the time with your burgeoning acting career ... what's your next project?

BP: That "Citizen Kane" remake.

DR: You Kane?

BP: Of course.

DR: Cool. But I don't have the time, I have my hands full as it is keeping these sorry excuses for critics happy whilst amusing the dolts we have for readers.

BP: Sorry excuses, indeed. Lame-ass, worthless, moronic, untalented, unfunny ...

DR: Yeah ...

BP: Stupid, idiotic, dumb, cretinous ... is that even a word?

DR: Dunno. Use it in a review and if it isn't some fool will "correct" you. Hahahahaha.

BP: Good idea! Maybe I'll see if I can work it into that "review" of "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" I'm going to throw against the wall this week instead of an EE, cause ...

DR: I know, I know ...

BP: 3-fucking-thousand, Rowles! I can't anymore. I. Just. Can't. bucdaddy ... just ...

DR: There, there, my friend. Look, we just ... we won't do another EE, OK? Ever again. OK? And after awhile these Twatwaffles will just forget the EE ever existed. They have short attention spans anyway. They watch TV! Hahahahah!

BP: Yeah? You'd do that for me?

DR: Sure.

BP: Gee, you're a swell guy, DR.

DR: Yes, yes I am.

BP: Sigh ... now I'm happy ... IN MY PANTS!

DR: Me too.

BP: You wanna?

DR: OK.

*smooch, smooch, tongue, fondle ..."

Posted by: bucdaddy at December 11, 2008 11:25 AM

Oh, I like Mike a lot too (and I don't know why his Michael Feinstein at the end of "Gamera vs. Guiron" isn't legendary).

But I will not hold up. Do not try to dispute me on this.

Posted by: Jay at December 11, 2008 11:26 AM

TMax: Nope, it was Joel. It's one of the few that is on DVD.

What is Cinematic Titanic?

Posted by: TylerDFC at December 11, 2008 11:28 AM

Posted by: Jay at December 11, 2008 11:29 AM

Thanks. Unfortunately the Nazi Websense system blocks the site so I'll check it when I get home.

Posted by: TylerDFC at December 11, 2008 11:34 AM

I concur, it was Joel.

Prisco, I would never be able to sit through this unless it was the MST3K version. You are a warped young man.

Posted by: Julie at December 11, 2008 11:40 AM

People, I don't care to be combative about this, but I even remember Mike doing the Torgo character during a break in 'Manos' (damn good imitation, too). I'll have to go home & re-check my DVD.

Y' suppose they could have done it twice??

Posted by: TMax at December 11, 2008 11:47 AM

Mike was definitely Torgo, TMax, but Joel hosted the episode. So everyone wins!

Posted by: Julie at December 11, 2008 11:52 AM

*salutes bucdaddy*

It's probably fairly accurate but I think the sexual tension needs to be cranked up a bit.

Posted by: admin at December 11, 2008 11:57 AM

Plus admin, and this may be me projecting, but I think there'd be a bit more tweaking.

Posted by: Julie at December 11, 2008 11:59 AM

Oh yeah, Mike's Torgo appeared in three or four episodes, usually delivering pizza, and then escorting Frank to Second Banana Heaven as Torgo the White.


"yeah, here I go--vroom"

Posted by: Jay at December 11, 2008 12:12 PM

Heeheee....damnitall but I love Prisco's reviews.

I was sitting here, seething because the ants ate my baby rosebush, pissed at the entire world...and then this, and it made me laugh, hard, and forget to hate the world even a little bit.

Don't listen to all these whiners, Prisco. I'll love you even without the EE.

Now, can you review Manos, Hands of Fate next?

Posted by: figgy at December 11, 2008 12:23 PM

Oh shit, I own the unfiltered "Manos".

It is harsh. This one is at least stupefying. Manos really tests how well you can amuse yourself in the face of death.

Only Coleman Francis is more horrid.

However, in the same vein, a good friend has initiated me into "Wizard of Gore" and "Basket Case" in recent times. Stone cold WTF classics.

Posted by: Jay at December 11, 2008 12:42 PM

My brother found Santa Claus Conquers the Martians in a 8x-discounted DVD basket ala Kmart the day after Christmas last year, so I can say I not-so-proudly but oh-so-conveniently own a copy of this treasure. It was a welcome break from the same five holiday movies I watch every year. I'd compare it to getting a pool's water jet to the genitals.

And you can poke-fun, but blow dryers are Bangkok dangerous.

Posted by: ThunderSacTriumph at December 11, 2008 1:44 PM

Thanks for the clarification on Mike/Joel/Torgo, Julie and Jay - my fragmented memories keep me in constant doubt about most anything that's happened in the last 20 years or so, but apparently there are still some brain cells that, while deeply damaged, manage to retain some of that totally useless information that I've squandered my life trying to commit to memory. Happy times (or do I just remember them that way?)

Posted by: TMax at December 11, 2008 2:00 PM

Your right Julie, but only after the soft, loving caresses.

Posted by: admin at December 11, 2008 2:15 PM

Holy sheepshit. I just realized that I watched this unholy Yule Log of Destruction way back when I was a small peripatetic, and sat through it AGAIN when Joel and the Bots took it apart. Everything from a very young Pia Zadora angling for her Golden Globe Award to the cheerfully puke-inducing soundtrack by Milton DeLugg.

But for my taste, Manos is the absolute worst, worse than the Coleman Francis films I've seen (and I've seen The Skydivers, Red Zone Cuba and Beast of Yucca Flat). And I'm still at least 85% sane!

Posted by: The Wanderer at December 11, 2008 2:30 PM

I've never seen this movie, but I'm pretty sure Nellie McKay used footage from it as a backdrop as she performed at Aimee Mann's Christmas concert last weekend.

Posted by: DarthCorleone at December 11, 2008 2:33 PM

I'd disagree on one issue: Manos is fairly bright and in color.

Red Zone Cuba.........is not.

Although, the John Carradine theme song earns a fair amount of points up front so...

No, no, I've still gotta give it to Coleman on that one. Manos beats Skydivers and Yucca Flats though, sure.

"Drink Night Train, go to the basketball game. Throw up under the bleachers"

Posted by: Jay at December 11, 2008 2:37 PM

Future War - this is the most awesomely bad movie ever. EVER. cyborgs! exploding dinosaurs! cardboard boxes! Daniel Bernhardt! nuns! watch this now.
Zombi 3 - this movie was like 7 hrs long and every character was dead before it was halfway over, so they just introduced a whole bunch of new characters and started over.
Phantasm 4 - there is no way to understand how bad this movie is. just watch it and be amazed. the world is a better place because people actually got together and made this movie.

i don't think Manos really counts as a horrible movie. it is bad, but it really isn't an actual movie, it's more like the movies you made with your friends when you were a kid only it was shown in an actual movie theater once.

Posted by: The Ross Sea Party at December 12, 2008 12:48 AM

It definitely was Joel on "Manos, the Hand of Fate." Mike had a cameo at the end playing Torgo as a pizza delivery man who arrives after the 30 minute limit.
That is my favorite MST3K episode. Yes, please review it soon!!!

Posted by: mfg at December 14, 2008 2:43 AM

or some angry painter splashing acrylics over Polaroids of her ex boyfriends' public regions.

Maybe if those regions weren't so public, he wouldn't be the ex-boyfriend and we wouldn't be plagued with more crap that's deigned to be "art."

btw, awesome reference to Manos: the Hands of Fate. I love that episode.

Posted by: duckandcover at December 14, 2008 5:58 PM