Director: Nicholas Webster
Writer: Glenville Mareth
Cast: John Call, Leonard Hicks, Vincent Beck, Bill McCutcheon, Victor Stiles, Donna Conforti, Chris Month, Pia Zadora, Leila Martin, Charles Renn, James Cahill, Ned Wertimer, Doris Rich, Carl Don, Ivor Bodin, Al Nesor, Joe Elic, Jim Bishop, Lin Thurmond, Don Blair, Carl Don, Tony Ross, Scott Aronesty, Ronnie Rotholz, and Glenn Schaffer
Composer: Milton Delugg
Release Date: 11/14/1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Hoping to provide the Martian children with Christmas cheer, aliens Kimar (Leonard Hicks), Voldar (Vincent Beck), and Dropo (Bill McCutcheon) decide to kidnap Santa Claus and return with him to Mars. A complication later arises when Voldar, unwilling to participate in Kimar’s plan, attempts to murder Santa Claus—now accompanied by two Earth children—by ejecting him from the airlock of a spaceship.
Combining the Z-grade production values of Plan 9 from Outer Space with the Christmas tropes of a Rankin/Bass holiday special, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians should be required viewing for enthusiasts of the sci-fi/family crossover genre. Casual science fiction fans, however, may wish to avoid this film for its juvenile humor, cringe-worthy dialogue, and anti-climactic ending.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians deserves praise for the contrasting performances of Leonard Hicks and Vincent Beck. Specifically, Hicks’ portrayal of Kimar embodies the gravitas that one would expect of a dignified alien leader. On the other hand, Beck’s character of Voldar—a Martian supervillain who, in spite of his evil personality, makes a compelling case for eliminating Santa Claus—frequently clashes with Kimar given his strict adherence to ethical guidelines and fondness for the Earth children, thereby enhancing the tension of an otherwise campy, outlandish narrative.
Also worth commending is John Hall’s portrayal of the fat man himself—possibly the jolliest incarnation of Santa ever filmed. By tricking his way out of a terrible predicament, for example, the Santa character reinforces the lighthearted nature of this movie—an aspect that viewers of a critical or overly serious nature may tend to overlook.
Featuring cardboard background sets, uninspired makeup effects, and embarrassing costumes for the people of Mars, this production fails to capture the realism of an epic sci-fi/adventure film.
Additionally problematic are the antics of Dropo (Bill McCutcheon), a comic relief character whose impersonation of Santa borders on tedious.
By teaching the children of Mars to partake in fun activities while completing their coursework, the character of Santa serves to challenge the formal structure of modern education systems.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians offers a clever, holiday-themed twist on the alien invasion genre. Science fiction buffs with a strong Christmas spirit should therefore enjoy this film, which provides enough good, clean entertainment for the whole family to appreciate.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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