Merry Christmas to all of the diligent readers of the Progressive Cinema Scorecard, as well as those of you who stumbled upon this by Googling for “sex with chupacabras” (haha - caught ya!). This year, we wrapped the nanobots in garland and mistletoe to gird them from one of the most ridiculed Christmas movies of all time: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
A film on every bottom 100 list you can think of, riffed on by everyone from Svengoolie to MST3K, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is about as schlocky as you can get. But is it really as bad as everyone says it is? We ask this question in the name of science – Christmas science!
- "Hooray for Santa Claus" has to be one of the catchiest songs about Santa Claus ever to be included in a Z-rate Christmas film. = +10pts
- Despite it being nearly 100 degrees below zero at the North Pole, the news correspondent covering the first telecast of Santa Claus still finds the time to fit in a few cornball jokes before his frostbitten toes snap off like flesh-cicles. = -3pts
- Santa Claus’s laugh is less the ho-ho-ho of a jolly old elf and more the rum-soaked chuckle of your soused uncle. = -10pts
- After fumbling over the names of his beloved reindeer, Santa recovers by pointing at the camera and reassuring the viewers at home that the kids remember the damn names. = -20pts
- Mrs. Claus is so excited to be on TV that she flutters her skirts and titters away like a gibbering schoolgirl. = -5pts
- “Winky is in charge of our space department.” = +4pts
- Saying that you were dozing on the job because you forgot how to fall asleep at home and needed to practice is the best worst excuse to cover for workplace ineptitude. = +6pts
- When the leader of all Mars seeks out the wise man of the forest to figure out how to stop Martian kids from thinking about Santa Claus, the only Martian who suggests that they think for themselves instead is the film’s antagonist. Let that soak in, kids: only bad guys rebel against authority. = -25pts
- When the wise old space hermit says that Mars needs a Santa Claus so that kids can be kids, the Martians take the wisdom literally and embark on a quest to snatch St. Nick. = -15pts
- ‘60s alert: liberal use of stock footage to show that important things actually are happening right now. = -6pts
- Two kids talking about not believing in Martians immediately have laser guns pointed at them by Martians. What are the chances of that? = -4pts
- The mustachioed “villain” Voldar once again voices his opinion against the “hero” Kimar’s wasteful ideas, this time regarding the use of an assuredly expensive murder-bot to kidnap the Santy Claus. Shouldn’t the villain relish the idea of Santa’s fleshy body being manhandled by the merciless steel of a robot’s claw? The nanobots certainly think so. = -10pts
- Aww, it’s cute how the kids think that the USA is equipped to pursue the Martian kidnappers to outer space. = +2pts
- After narrowly escaping the clutches of a crazy person in a polar bear costume, the children are attacked by crazy man in a robot costume. = -5pts
- Voldar finally does something villainous by commanding the man in the robot costume to crush, kill, and destroy the Earth children. = +4pts
- Since Kimar anticipated Voldar’s treachery and reprogrammed the robot at some point off-screen, why didn’t he just not bring the robot? Martians are obstinate in really boneheaded ways. = -8pts
- Watching a robot smash its way into Santa’s workshop as the elves look on in horror. = +11pts
- Santa disables the robot’s murderometer simply by marveling at the robot’s fine workmanship. = -5pts
- The Martians kidnap the children so that no one knows who stole Santa, then they leave their robot behind and dozens of witnesses in their wake. Unsurprisingly, the newspaper headlines all read, “Santa kidnapped by Martians!” = -30pts
- The German doctor in charge of this ‘60s universe’s NASA says phooey to testing their space shuttle and astronauts for interplanetary flight – they’ve gotta get Santa back! = -6pts
- Kids not laughing at Santa’s corny jokes. = +3pts
- Having “the Christmas Spirit” means following someone who openly hates you into an airlock. = -9pts
- Awkward Martian fistfight choreography. = -5pts
- Santa introduces himself to the Martian children by laughing, going from an unsettling chortle to a maddened guffaw. It’s unclear whether the children join in genuinely or because they fear for their very lives. = -12pts
- Voldar’s big-nosed henchman either suffers from tardive dyskinesia or is straight-up fiending. = -3pts
- If Mars had the capability to build a machine to make an infinite number of toys at the push of a button, why did they kidnap Santa in the first place? The plot is falling apart faster than the USA’s pursuit rocket to Mars. = -22pts
- After Santa body-shames Dropo for not being fat enough to fit into his jacket, the inept manservant binges on dessert pills, puts a pillow down his shirt, and sings Christmas carols in an attempt to hold back the tears from not living up to his idol’s expectations. = -6pts
- Watching Voldar devolve from a war-hungry council leader with no qualms murdering children to a bumbling buffoon who can’t tell the difference between the real Santa and Dropo in a fake beard. = -13pts
- Another scene of a character not laughing at Santa’s corny jokes. = +3pts
- Foiling Voldar’s plan to kill Santa by gleefully attacking the villain with bubbles and toys. = -7pts
- After appointing Dropo (who was referred to earlier in the film as the “laziest man on Mars”) as Martian Santa, Ol’ St. Nick and the kids dash away back to Earth in a rocket that one of them apparently knows how to pilot safely. = -9pts
- Including a sing-a-long to "Hooray for Santa Claus" after the credits. = +5pts
Availability: Netflix, YouTube, and in novelized form
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was most assuredly a bad movie. But one of the worst? It’s certainly one of the worst portrayals of Santa Claus. Being a creepy, child-endangering half-wit isn’t what people look for in a Santa – especially not when he’s the titular character of the film.
The movie certainly teaches terrible lessons to kids. Capture-bonding, following orders even when their mental faculties are in question, not running away from approaching robots – these shameful behaviors are all showcased predominantly in the film.
The film is also insulting to anyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas. All Mars needed to be happy was the magic of Christmas – take that, Chanukah!
While Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is fantastically entertaining for all the wrong reasons, it’s definitely not one of the worst movies ever. It’s still pretty bad, though. Hopefully Santa leaves this scorecard under your tree so that you too can sing, “Hooray for Santy Claus!”
Score Technician: T.J. Geise