Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
Released by: Kino
Released on: December 4, 2012.
Director: Nicholas Webster
Cast: Pia Zadora, Vincent Beck, John Call, Leonard Hicks
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Directed by Nicholas Webster and released in 1964, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians begins when two Martian children, Bomar (Chris Month) and Girmar (Pia Zadora), are tuned to their Martian TV which inexplicably picks up stations from Earth, specifically KID TV, who have, for the very first time, been allowed to broadcast live from Santa’s workshop at the North Pole. Their parents, a high ranking Maritan official named Kimar (Leonard Hicks) and his wife Momar (Leila Martin), are concerned but after visiting Martian wise man Chochem (Carl Don), Kimar knows what to do – kidnap Santa Claus (John Call) and bring him to Mars so that he can help the kids learn how to have fun.
This turns out to be pretty easy, actually. Before you know it, Santa is wobbling around the red planet being nice to everyone while an evil Martian named Voldar (Vincent Beck) tries – with his freeze ray that looks like a toilet plunger and an awesome robot named TORG - to get rid of him. Santa, on the other hand, struggles to figure out just how exactly the new mechanical workshop the Martians have built him actually works. Thankfully Kimar is starting to see the real meaning of Christmas and with some help from a dopey Martian named Dropo (Bill McCutcheon), he’s out to set things right for Santa Claus and two Earth kids who have been taken along for the ride, Billy (Victor Stiles) and Betty (Donna Conforti).
One of the great things about low budget movies is seeing how the filmmakers overcome financial obstacles with creativity – and while this one looks to have been made for less than the cost of a load of groceries, that aforementioned creativity is never lacking, not for a second. Can’t afford prosthetics to make the Martians look different than humans? Put the actors in green leotards, paint their faces green and make them wear bike helmets with pipes stuck to them. Problem solved. Can’t afford any sort of animatronics to make TORG move? Put a dude in a shiny suit made of boxes and tinfoil and stick some dials to him and let him lumber around the set. It’ll work, right? This is a kids movie, nobody will notice because the Martians are green and running around with toilet plungers that are supposed to be freeze rays. Everyone will be too blown away by the mashed potato flavored food pills that Martian mom feeds Martian kids to care about any of this!
At eighty one minutes this one moves by at a good pace. None of it makes a lick of sense and logic was obviously not a concern on the part of anyone involved in the production but you’d have to be dead not to have a good time with this movie. John Call wanders around ‘ho ho ho’ing a lot and may or may not have hit the sauce before the cameras start rolling. Pia Zadora looks confused and rightly so, while Vincent Beck is remarkably stupid every time he appears on camera.
So filled to the brim with B-movie madness is this movie that it’s almost, but not quite, too much to take. Santa even gets his own theme song, "Hooray for Santy Claus!" Crazy candy colored sets, bizarre costumes, incredibly overdone performances from the adults and amazing none acting from the kids – all of this and more in Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, a movie in which Santa doesn’t actually conquer any Martians at all. Madness!
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians debuts on Blu-ray from Kino in its full length eighty one minute version in its open matte aspect ratio of 1.33.1 in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation. Taken from a 16mm European print, the elements have been color corrected but dirt, debris and print damage still remain obvious throughout. None of this is particularly distracting and the colors do look great but it’d be a lie to say this transfer looks pristine. Regardless, the increase in clarity, detail and texture should make most fans happy and, as is the norm with Kino, thankfully there are no issues with noise reduction, edge enhancement or filtering. Skin tones look lifelike and natural, even when covered with goofy Martian face paint, and whatever softness creeps into the image appears to be inherent in the original photography. All in all, this is a perfectly decent high definition presentation.
The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD Mono track, there are no alternate language options or subtitles provided. We get some hiss and pop here and there but the levels are generally well balanced. The fact that the track is a bit flat is forgivable when you take into account its age and low budget roots while dialogue remains plenty easy to understand throughout.
Extras include a forty-five minute ‘archival footage reel’ made up of a collection of Christmas themed oddities. Shari Lewis and Lambchop show up here and are as creepy as ever, and we get some cool old cartoons courtesy of the Max Fleischer Studios, Abbott and Costello and a few vintage Christmas themed commercials as well. None of it relates to the feature but it’s all good fun and absolutely worth taking the time to sit through for nostalgia buffs and Christmas aficionados alike!
Aside from that, we get a small still gallery, a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. All of the extras on the disc are in high definition.
The Final Word:
Quite possibly the goofiest Christmas movie ever made, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is loaded with low budget sixties naiveté and screwy charm. Kino’s Blu-ray won’t take home any awards for best A/V presentation of the year but it’s a nice upgrade from previous DVD releases in every way you’d hope it would be and it comes recommended.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!