On Christmas Eve, at noon
MST on the Comet Network, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” airs. Although
not aired in theaters, or much on TV anymore, the 1964 holiday film lasted in
theaters for a decade, and played often on TV for a couple more decades. It has
become legitimate cult film. I’m fascinated with the film, its durability and its
history as a staple of the Saturday Kids Matinee offerings once ubiquitous in
As you can see above, we’ve
researched Newspaper Archives to find examples of ads, marketing, publicity
reviews, etc. to provide our readers, this holiday season, a look at how it once was
for this fun, goofy film. -- Doug Gibson
At the very top is an ad for SSCTM from the Sacramento Bee, Nov. 20, 1965. Below it is a review from The New York Daily News from Dec. 17, 1964. The terms "far out" is included to describe the film. Just below is a list of films playing published in the Dec. 18, 1965 Los Angeles Times. SCCTM is playing in several theaters. As my friend David Grudt (who located most of these clips) notes, the film was playing in my hometown of Long Beach, Calif., at The Towne Theater. I was about 27 months old. Maybe my parents took me to the show! Who knows?
Here are a couple of previously published reviews of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The first is from my co-blogger, Steve D. Stones. Read on:
SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS: LITTLE GREEN MEN AND SANTA on MARS! The critics have not
been kind to this film over the years. Every time I view the film, I keep in
mind that it is intended for children. With this in mind, I am willing to
overlook the poor acting, bad make-up and cardboard sets. The title alone is so
campy and kitsch that it grabs my attention immediately.
The children of mars have grown bored, depressed and discontent. A Martian father named Kimar, played by Leonard Hicks, concludes that the children of mars have become this way from watching “meaningless earth programs.” The children see a newscaster interview Santa on television from the North Pole and wish that mars also had a Santa Claus. The newscaster complains of the cold outside Santa’s workshop, yet he wears no gloves and his breath cannot be seen as he speaks. This adds to some of the unintentional humor of the film.
Back on mars, Kimar meets with the “council of the wise” at Thunder Forrest. The council consists of Lomas, Rigna, Hargo and Voldar, and seeks the advice of an 800 year old Wiseman named Chochum. Long before Yoda was seen on movie screens, Chochum the wise was seen in this film. Perhaps the two wise men knew each other and trained at the Jedi academy? Not very likely, I’m afraid!
Chochum suggests to the council of the wise that they kidnap Santa Claus from the North Pole and bring him to mars to bring joy and happiness to the children of mars. Voldar, the protagonist of the group, opposes Chochum’s plan. He insists that he does not want the children of mars to play with games and toys and run around joyfully. “The earth has had Santa Claus long enough! We will bring him to Mars!” proclaims Kimar.
Despite Voldar’s opposition, the group is lead by Kimar to the North Pole in a spaceship that looks like a painted toilet paper roll. Shortly after landing, they see two children in a park and ask them where they can find Santa. They kidnap the children so that they cannot run to the police to report Martians coming to earth.
After finally landing at the North Pole, the Martians use their giant robot named Torg to kidnap Santa at his workshop. Torg appears to be made of painted cardboard and ventilation pipes. Voldar freezes Mrs. Claus and many of Santa’s elves with his ray gun that looks like a toilet plunger. Santa is brought to the spaceship and taken back to mars.
What follows for the rest of the film is a series of attempts by Voldar and his henchmen to either kill Santa or sabotage his efforts on mars. For example, in one particular scene Voldar rewires the toy machines in Santa’s workshop so that they create poorly designed toys. On their way back to mars, Voldar locks Santa and the two kidnapped children in a compression room of the space ship in an attempt to open a door and have them sucked away into space. The group conveniently escapes before the door can be opened.
Eventually Santa’s workshop on mars is running smoothly. Voldar and his henchmen are captured and imprisoned by Kimar for threatening Santa and the children. Kimar decides to allow Santa to go back to earth in time for Christmas. A happy ending always concludes any Christmas movie, which is certainly the case with this film.
In his book “Cult Science Fiction Films,” Welch Everman suggests that Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is such a terrible film that not even children would enjoy watching it, and would find it “stupid.” I disagree with this statement. Although I did not see Santa Claus Conquers The Martians until I was an adult, I can imagine myself enjoying this film even more so if I had seen it as a five-year-old child. If I had been aware of it as a child, I may have included it in my long list of Christmas films to view every December. I encourage you to gather up your family and watch Santa Claus Conquers The Martians this Christmas Season.
And here’s my more brief take on "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians." (I love the above ad from the Nov. 4, 1972 Park Forest (Illinois) Star (Carnal Knowledge on at nights and Santa Claus in the kiddie matinee. — This 1964 film was shot in an abandoned airport hangar in Long Island, N.Y., using many minor cast members from a NYC stage production of "Oliver Twist." It has a catchy theme song, "Hurray for Santy (sic) Claus," that you'll hum afterward. The plot involves Martians coming to earth, kidnapping Santa and whisking him away to cheer up the Martian kiddies. Two earth children are kidnapped along with Santa. Santa and the earth kids fight off a Martian baddie, prep a goofy Martian to become that planet's Santa, and launch off to earth in the spaceship.
We never know if they made it home — perhaps the budget didn't allow that. The acting has to be seen to be believed, but the film has a goofy charm. It was a big hit on the now-gone "weekend matinee" circuit and played theaters for years. Pia Zadora, who was briefly a sexy starlet in the 1980s, plays one of the Martian children. John Call, as Santa, does a mean "ho, ho, ho."
Here is a video podcast Steve and I did for Plan9Crunch 11 years ago on SCCTM. Below is another fun ad, also from the Dec. 17, 1964 New Yotrk Daily News, that shows SCCTM playing at the same theater also showing "roughie" horrors "The Awful Dr. Orloff" and "The Horrible Dr. Hichcock."
Finally, a couple more ads to see. The top is from the Dec. 1, 1967 edition of the Roselle-Register (Illinois). It played at the same theater showing a Best Picture Oscar. Notice Santa Claus Conquers the Martians secure perch as a perennial Saturday children's movie. Below the Roselle-Register as is one from the Nov. 19, 1965 Daily Independent Journal of San Rafael, Calif. It's advertised as a "small-fry matinee."
We hope you enjoyed this blog. Again, our thanks to David Grudt for his help.