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First, a tip of the hat to one of Badmoviedom’s great unsung heroes: Mr. K. Gordon Murray. Mr. Murray is best known for providing cheesy drive-in movie fare in the Sixties. Generally, he’d buy up flicks from Mexico’s Churubusco-Azteca studios and fix them up with barely adequate dubbing. Then they’d be put forth for bewildered Anglo audiences to ponder and enjoy. Included in Mr. Murray’s body of work is The Brainiac, a film to rival Plan 9 From Outer Space and Robot Monster. He also allowed us to savor the adventures of such characters as Santos, the masked wrestler, as he fought criminals, spies and monsters; Nostradamus the Vampire; The Wrestling Women (wrestlers are very big in Mexico); The Aztec Mummy (in fact, the prior two met in the imaginatively named Wrestling Women vs. The Aztec Mummy), along with the odd (very odd) children’s fantasy film. Which is where we come in.

Santa Claus opens with a shot of Santa’s Gold and Crystal Palace in Outer Space (don’t worry, it get weirder from here). Inside, the constantly chuckling Santa is walking around, seeing that things are being prepared for Christmas. He then sits down at his pipe organ. As both The Announcer and a title card on the organ keep us informed, he plays native songs to the singing of his helpers, children from all nations who help Santa make his toys. All the kids are in the stereotypical dress of their country, region or continent. Mexico’s low ranking on the Political Correctness Scale is immediately apparent: the first group of kids is from Africa, and as Santa plays a "jungle drum" tune, they caper around in their leopard skin tunics, with bones adorning their hair. Santa goes on to play for fourteen (!) more groups, and this scene alone runs for seven straight minutes of screen time.

Organ Dancing Africans

When Santa finally finishes, one of his little serfs comes in with a "devil" doll prototype. This is used as a segue device to take us to Hades, where guys dressed up like devils (yep, horns, tails, red makeup, little black beards, the whole smear) caper around in a dance so awful it actually reminds you of the "Dante’s Inferno" number from Staying Alive. Lucifer comes over the Infernal PA system and orders Pitch, Chief of all his Demons, topside. He’s to hinder Santa, as well as perform the rather ambitious task of making "all the children of the Earth do evil". If he fails, Lucifer will make him eat chocolate ice-cream, which, because he’s a demon, would be bad for him. This is the movie’s idea of humor.

We cut to a large toy shop in Mexico City (surprise). Children stare in wonder at the fabulous selection of toys, knowing that soon Santa will be bringing them to rich little boys and girls all over the world. Here we meet the rest of our principal cast. There’s Billy, the Poor Little Rich Boy, who has all that money can provide, but is denied the one thing he really wants: the loving attention of his parents. Next, there’s Lupita, a little poor girl who desperately wants a doll, any kind of doll. And finally, there’s three "rude little boys". They will be Pitch’s main assault force in the war against Santa. Pitch materializes three rocks, and as The Announcer notes, "his evil plan goes into action". Sure enough, the three brats throw them through the store window. Wow, what Evils may envelope the world when Lucifer’s minions bestride the globe!

Next we are introduced to Santa’s Orwellian surveillance devices. These allow him to monitor all of the children on Earth. The aforementioned activities have all been observed, and Santa will continue to keep track of our cast. Lupita grabs a street vender’s doll without being noticed, but in spite of Pitch’s entreaties to steal it, she puts it back. Santa’s pleased at this display of virtue. Santa then invades the very dreams of Billy, the Poor Little Rich Boy. Yes, even in sleep, there is no refuge from the Bearded Watcher.

In Billy’s dream, he receives two huge boxes for Christmas. Inside: his parents, who come out and hug him. Santa then proceeds to Lupita’s dream, which it turns out Pitch is influencing. As Lupita plays with a doll, large boxes (Hey, they’re exactly like the ones in Billy’s dream! What are the odds?), open up. Scary giant doll woman come out, do a rare dance (in that it’s not well done), and then try to convince Lupita to steal. This debate basically amounts to the dolls saying, "You must steal if you want a doll!", and Lupita replying, "No. Stealing is bad, and I want to be good", back and forth about ten times. Santa is proud of Lupita, and vows to kick Pitch’s big red ass (well, not in so many words) later.

Next up is spying out the Unprincipled Trio. They discuss some oddly vague schemes, like breaking "our neighbor’s" window and stealing "that kid’s toy", because "he’s got a lot of ‘em". One of them points out that they could get toys by being good, but this is voted down as being no fun. Then they reveal their biggest plan yet: write letters to Santa pretending to be good children, and reap the illicit rewards. Unfortunately for them, though, they are in fact the only bad children in the entire world Santa is listening to right now.

Lupita Billy The Rude Three

Back to Billy’s, where he’s writing his letter to Santa, asking that his parents stay home with him on Christmas. This leads into a montage of children writing and mailing Santa their requests. These run the gamut from a bicycle to a "Papa" ("…or even a Mama." Boy, those macho Latin cultures, huh?). At the post office the letters are tossed down the incineration chute, but the magic of reverse photography shoots them up the flue to Santa’s (in Outer Space?!). Santa sorts them into good and bad children piles, and sends requests for siblings on to The Stork, who (giggle) lives in Paris. Ha ha. Say, who appointed Santa to decide who, and what, are "good" and "bad"? Aren’t these very concepts the repressive tools of a Imperialist Western Elite? And what about the self-esteem of the "bad" children, as they are maliciously labeled? When is Government going to do something about this!

Getting ready for Christmas Eve, Santa visits Merlin (!) in his lab. Merlin, of course, has a long, gray beard, and his blue robe and conical hat are arrayed with stars. Merlin is in charge of Santa’s familiar magic equipment, like the powders that put people to sleep and the rose that when sniffed makes Santa invisible (look, I know you’ve never heard of this stuff, but let’s not drag this out any more than we have to). The Dream Powders have to be mixed fresh, setting a long, long "comic" scene as the absent-minded Merlin collects the ingredients. Next up is the "Master Blacksmith and Key Maker of the Palace", who provides Santa with the Golden Key that Opens All Doors. Then Santa takes a pointless trip to his "gym" (a reducing machine), and then practices climbing into a plaster chimney. This vigorous regimen completed, he’s ready to go.

Santa heads for his sleigh, which is being loaded by his underage labor (does Kathie Lee Gifford know about this?). To get back at Santa, they sing an awful little song as they toil. Santa’s sleigh is drawn by the familiar four bone-white mechanical reindeer. Presumably, this is the compromise Santa made with the ASPCA and PETA over the whole "reindeer issue". Oh, yeah, we’re also informed that if the reindeer will turn to dust if exposed to sunlight (!!). Should this happen, Santa will be trapped on Earth, where he would starve, as he only eats pastries and ice-cream made of soft clouds (!!!). Santa brings the reindeer to life by cranking one of them up with a giant key. Their eyes rolls, their mouths open and close, and they make an eerie laughing bray. This scene is really quite creepy, sure to inspire bed-wetting nightmares for its young audience.

Santa starts flying through space (?) on the way to Earth. You would think that after all these years Santa would know how to fly this thing, but his almost crashing into the moon argues against it. Of course, you’d also expect that scientists would have figured out that the moon is about fifteen feet across and looks like a giant golf ball, as we can see here. As Earth comes into view, The Announcer wonders, "…where Santa will go first? Europe, Africa, America?". Gee, I don’t know, maybe….MEXICO?

Observatory Sleigh

We check in on our players. Pitch is waiting, curled up next to a warm chimney. Billy’s parents leave him alone for the night. The Unlawful Triad are hatching an ambitious scheme: trip Santa with a rope and steal his bag of toys. I don’t think they’ve thought it through, though. After all, we’ve seen their room, and it’s not big enough to store all the toys in the world. But when they discuss making Santa their slave, well, that’s a bit over the top. Lupita, over in the poor side of town, is wondering if Santa will bring her a doll. She tells her mother that if Santa brings her two dolls, she will give one to "little Jesus". Lupita is either extremely generous, or really knows how to kiss up.

Pitch and Santa fight a battle at each house Santa visits (about six all together). First Pitch pushes a chimney out of place (uh, it’s magic or something). However, Santa uses his magic parasol to float to the ground and goes in with his Golden Key. When Pitch moves the chimney back, Santa blows up the flue and blows ash all over Pitch. Boy, that’s a riot. Next, Pitch tries to burn Santa alive as he comes down another chimney, but jumps the gun, and Santa is just singed. He heats up a doorknob so Santa will burn his hand, and Santa uses a toy cannon to shoot him in the butt with a little missile. Yuk, yuk.

At Billy’s house, The Announcer’s prediction that Billy will get "all the toys a boy could want" is vindicated when Santa leaves a toy boat, a ball, a miniature guitar and two toy cars. But Santa knows that even this fabulous bounty won’t heal Billy’s wounded heart. So he goes incognito to the resturant where the parents are dining and serves them "Cocktails of Remembrance" (oh, for crying out loud!). "Now that’s strange," Father notes, "I have an urge to see our little boy!" Gee, how sweet. They rush home, hug Billy, and one plot line is thankfully resolved.

Pitch is watching the Unruly Three as they get ready to execute their plan. However, Santa is too bright for them, and after scaring them, they find they’ve only gotten (yes) lumps of coal. However, Pitch manages to cut open Santa’s magic fanny pack, and Santa loses both the Dream Powders and the Flower of Disappearing. "Now Santa won’t be able to put anyone to sleep," The Announcer frets. No worries there, dude. Santa’s put plenty of people to sleep already, and not with any Dream Powders, either.

By the time Santa’s discovered his losses, he’s been treed by Pitch’s latest tool, a Pit Bull named Dante. This is a fairly clever allusion, but it’s ruined because all the dubbed voices refer to him as "Dan-tee", rather than "Don-tay". Didn’t anybody who worked on the dubbing know who Dante is?! The sun will soon rise, trapping Santa on Earth (with consequences as outlined earlier). Pitch has also convinced an armed family that a murderous prowler in on the grounds, as well as arranged for the police, fire department and Red Cross (!) to shortly arrive. This is inconvenient in that Santa, of course, isn’t never supposed to be seen.

Santa with Merlin Pitch

Santa calls for Merlin to help him. The message is finally heard in Santa’s observatory, and Merlin tells Santa to distract the dog with a stuffed cat from his toy sack. It works, and Santa makes his escape. Pitch is hoisted on his own petard when he gets sprayed by the firemen. "He’ll probably catch pneumonia," The Announcer approvingly notes, "but he asked for it!"

Santa, with only seconds to spare, drops by Lupita’s to leave her a gigantic doll. Personally, that thing would have scared the hell out of me when I was a kid, but then Lupita’s probably seen a lot fewer horror movies than I did. As Santa makes it back to his castle, The Announcer tries to cover-up Santa’s rather poor job performance. "He’s happy, gay," he announces, "for once again he has brought joy to the children of the world!" Yeah, except for the like two billion houses he didn’t get to. No wonder everybody’s parents buy their kids presents rather than rely on this guy! The Announcer concludes the film with "Blessed are those who believe, for they shall see God." I say, Blessed are those who left their TV off, for they didn’t see this movie.

IMMORTAL DIALOG:

As Santa plays for various children in his Toyland sweatshop, the Announcer introduces us to all the relevant groups as this seven minute sequence drags on and on:
"These little helpers are from Africa…Here are Santa’s helpers from Spain…Tots from China lend a hand as well…Boys and girls from England… Japan also helps Santa…talented children from the Orient [India, although Santa’s sign just reads "Orient"]…even Russia has a delegation…the group from France, headed by Yvette and Pierre…German boys and girls help Santa, too…Here’s a happy song from Italy…the islands of the Caribbean…the South American group includes Brazil and Argentina…the countries of Central America…children from the U.S.A. …a neighborly group of helpers from Mexico…"

Er, would that be before or after you, uh, finished Santa Claus off forever?
Pitch makes a vow to his Evil Master:
"Yes, I promise, oh Priceless Prince of Hades, that by my many wiles I will finish Santa off forever, and see that the children commit terrible deeds, and make Santa Claus angry!"

Not even in Fox Mulder’s wildest, most paranoid dreams…
Our Announcer explains why we must abandon any hope of eluding the iron hand of Santa
: "This is Santa’s magic Observatory. What wonderful instruments! The Ear-scope! The TeleTalker, that knows everything! The Cosmic Telescope! The Master Eye! Nothing that happens on Earth is unknown to Santa Claus!"

Damn Japanese instructions! Are you sure this is how you get this thing to work?
Pedro recites the incantation required to get Santa’s Big Brother Observing Mechanism to seek out the unknowing Lupita
: "By thy magic powers, look for the child we’re seeking, whether she’s in a cave, or behind a million mountains."
Santa’s big-faced contraption responds
: "All righty
."

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