Tuesday, December 15, 2009
SANTA CLAUS (1959 Mexican): Don't be naughty this Christmas Season!
By STEVE D. STONES
This has got to be the most bizarre film in my collection. And believe me, I have many of them. I don’t think there are words in the English language to describe how strange this film is, but I will try my best. My good friend Doug Gibson was kind enough to record this film for me off of a cable show known as Off-Beat Cinema a couple of years ago when it first aired. This film certainly qualifies as “off beat,” no question about it.
Like most Christmas films, the target audience of Santa Claus is obviously children. However, I think it is safe to say that even children would find this film just too unusual, not to mention unwatchable. Only viewers with a strong stomach for the usual and obscure may get a kick out of it. Not even Howard The Duck or Garbage Pail Kids The Movie can compete with this turkey! Perhaps the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) should replace Troll II with this film as the “worst film of all time?” At least Troll II is very entertaining and has some redeeming qualities.
Santa lives high in the sky in a palace above the North Pole. The inside of his palace looks like strange Islamic architecture gone bad. A part of the palace is known as Toyland, where children from all over the world serve as Santa’s helpers. In this film, his helpers are not the stereotypical little elves with red hats, beards and green outfits. Santa plays an organ as children from China, Russia, France, England, Africa, Spain, Japan, Germany, Italy, Mexico and the USA perform bizarre dance and musical performances.
A child from Mexico gives Santa a doll of the Devil. The child lights a fuse on the doll and it spins like a top. This releases the real Devil down in Hell. Before coming to the earth, the Devil dances in Hell with several other Devils.
When arriving on Earth, the Devil tempts a little girl named Lupita to steal a doll her mother cannot afford to give her for Christmas. Lupita stares longingly at the doll in a store front window. Lupita attempts to steal the doll, but decides to be a good little girl and put it back. Santa observes this in a giant telescope from his palace, and is pleased by Lupita’s decision not to steal the doll. She has now made Santa’s short list of good little girls this Christmas.
The Devil also tempts three little boys to throw rocks through the storefront window where a Santa is greeting children. Unlike Lupita, the three boys decide to be naughty and throw the rocks through the storefront window at the Santa. This does not please the real Santa at the North Pole.
One of the strangest sequences in the film is a dream sequence in which little Lupita is dreaming of getting the doll she wants for Christmas. She stands in a large room full of giant boxes. The boxes open to reveal giant dolls that perform a bizarre dance for Lupita. One of the giant dolls again tempts Lupita to steal the doll she wants. It must be the Devil in disguise! This scene reminds me of something out of Babes In Toyland.
A boy with rich parents dreams of opening giant boxes on Christmas Day with his parents inside the two boxes. All he wants for Christmas is the love and affection of his parents. This is a touching scene because it suggests that not all children only want toys and gifts for Christmas. They also want love from their parents.
Another strange sequence shows a key maker who looks like a prehistoric caveman forging a giant golden key for Santa. The key is to be used to open any door to enter every child’s home on Christmas Eve. Santa tests the golden key on several doors in his workshop.
Santa also spends some time exercising on a conveyor belt and practicing going down fake chimneys while his helpers load up his sleigh with gifts. His reindeer look like giant white plastic toys that require a key to wind them up. He tells a child helper from Russia that he cannot replace the reindeer with sputniks to make the sleigh travel faster. This is a very strange comment coming from Santa. It’s an obvious reference to the cold war and the space race that was going on at the time this film was made.
A funny sequence in the film shows Santa on his way down a chimney as the Devil blows fire up the chimney, burning Santa’s backside. Santa gets his revenge as he finally makes his way into the house and shoots the Devil in his butt with a dart from a child’s dart gun as the Devil is trying to escape out a window.
If there is one important message to be taken from Santa Claus it’s the timeless Christmas theme that Santa rewards good little boys and girls and carefully watches out for the bad ones. Little Lupita is tempted several times to steal the doll she wants, but she refuses because she is hopeful Santa will bring it to her for Christmas. Her good behavior is rewarded at the end of the film.
Beware little children this Christmas Season! Santa may be watching you through his giant telescope from his crystal palace high above the North Pole! I hope you are being nice little boys and girls!