By Steve D. Stones
I thought I had seen all the terrible Christmas movies to be watched, until I recently saw “Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny.” The folks at RiffTrax, formerly Mystery Science Theatre 3000, provided hilarious commentary about the film on the evening of Thursday December 3. Without their commentary, I may have walked out of the theatre. The movie is so bad that it is not listed in any film encyclopedia I own. No film critic seems to be anxious to write about “Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny.” It is on the Internet Movie Database.
Somehow Santa ends up stranded on the beaches of Florida soaking up the sun in his sleigh. His reindeer have abandoned him. He calls on some local children to help him get his sleigh back in operation. Each child is called by their name, except one little girl Santa calls "Kid." The children bring farm animals one by one to try and attach to Santa's sleigh. None of the farm animals, including a sheep and donkey, wants to be hitched to the sleigh.
The children suggest that Santa take a plane back to the North Pole, but he refuses to leave his sleigh abandoned. He complains about the Florida heat and sheds some of his clothing. Since Santa's sleigh is empty, the viewer is confused as to whether or not Christmas is over, or if Santa is just behind in delivering presents to children for Christmas.
With the failed attempt to get his sleigh in operation, Santa decides to take a rest and tell the children a story. Suddenly, the movie abruptly shifts to the story of Jack and The Beanstalk. This sequence was produced by Barry Mahon, a director who made soft-core sex features and films about fairy tales appealing to children. Other prints of “Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny” insert Mahon's Thumbelina (1970).
Jack purchases some seeds from Honest John — a cow salesman. Jack lives in a land where everyone is dressed like the Partridge Family. What follows is a series of bad musical performances by little Jack and the giant he steals a golden goose and harp from. Jack stands in front of out-of-focus, rear-projected images of the giant as he attempts to steal the poorly sculpted paper mache goose and harp on the table in front of the sleeping giant.
As the story of Jack and The Beanstalk finishes, Santa reappears on the Florida beach with the children. Suddenly, an antique fire truck driven by someone in a bad bunny costume appears to take Santa back to the North Pole.
This ice cream bunny makes the evil bunny in “Donnie Darko” (2001) look like the Trix rabbit or Bugs Bunny. He drives the fire truck like a drunken clown, nearly running over a dog and steering into pot holes. The most freaky part is when the bunny winks at a little girl who runs up to him after the fire truck arrives on the beach.
Before “Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny,” RiffTrax screened three Christmas shorts — “Santa Claus's Story,” “The Tales of Custard The Dragon” and “Santa's Enchanted Village.” The three shorts are also really bad holiday entertainment, but the RiffTrax commentary makes them more enjoyable to watch.
The one good aspect going for “Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny” is the beautiful black, white and red poster art created for the film of Santa in the fire truck with the ice cream bunny. This poster is likely a sought after collector's item for fans of bad movies.
For a much better holiday feature by Mahon, see the animated “Santa and The Three Bears” (1970).
This review was originally published in the Standard-Examiner newspaper. Art by Steve D. Stones.