krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Once again, it's time for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 part of the holiday season. Last year, I convinced myself I was being "unconventional" by watching Mike's Christmas episode, "Santa Claus," instead of Joel's. This year as well, I contemplated figuring out how to buy the new "Cinematic Titanic" take on "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" to again be different... but then, I happened to see a review that noted the "riffing" used that movie's "comedy relief" as a springboard for some anti-Phantom Menace sentiment. Seeing that kind of stuff in post-1999 MSTings seemed to invariably then-and-there kill my enjoyment of the entire work, so I wound up deciding to just watch the Mystery Science Theater version (while thinking back to my odd appreciation of one commentator who seemed to disagree without much elaboration with the "official interpretation")... not that I would dismiss that as just a "second-best fallback."

Like "Robot Monster" and "Eegah," "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" managed to get mentioned in "The Fifty Worst Films of All Time." (Whereas the mad scientists made a point of this in the first season's "Robot Monster," though, by the third season they didn't seem to need to bring that up.) I also recall that years ago (before Mystery Science Theater premiered), a "quirky, independent" station would show the "raw" movie around Christmas time. In any case, the movie has its own notoriety. The children of Mars (the two of them we ever see) are despondent while watching broadcasts from Earth of an interview with Santa Claus himself (which is where even I start to get the feeling that most of the acting is pretty bad, although the Martian leader seems to have a sort of "pained dignity"), and the Martian adults (who have often-crooked antennas sticking out of their headgear and whose faces are greasy with makeup I think is supposed to be green, although the well-worn film as a whole tends towards "brown") learn from a doddering sage that they need Santa Claus to bring joy to all. Rocketing off to Earth in a cheaply constructed spaceship ("Hey, look, their ship runs on a Simon game."), the Martians evade the United States Air Force's best stock footage ("And now for your enjoyment, some suggestive scenes of jets refuelling!") and, after being briefly confused through spotting "Santa's helpers," manage to kidnap two Earth children to get directions to the North Pole. Santa's ability to reduce the towering (yet cheaply constructed) robot "Torg" to a harmless toy just makes the Martians break into his workshop themselves, and once on Mars he's put to work in a toy factory run by pushing buttons. The Martian traditionalists have already done their best (such as it is) to dispose of Santa and the Earth children on the way ("Ah, Mr. Claus. You have a nasty habit of surviving."), but a case of mistaken identity involving "Dropo, the laziest man on Mars" and a spare Santa suit (and spare Santa beard) helps wrap everything up and get those from Earth back there.

There's a certain undercurrent of lamentations about commercialization running through the "host segments" and "riffing" of this episode, and yet I found myself wondering if that's a well-worn Christmas tradition in itself. Bits like Crow composing "A Patrick Swayze Christmas" and Tom's holiday essay "A Child's Christmas in Space" seem a bit more fresh and entertaining to me, and the "invention exchange" is also fun, with the "mads" creating the "Wish-Squisher" (although it's easy enough to see how it works) and our heroes coming up with "misfit toys" such as "toaster dolls," "Road House: The Board Game," the "Easy Bake Foundry," and "Mr. Mashed Potato Head." The riffing itself seems to become particularly good as the Martians land at the North Pole and the Earth children escape through the fake snow ("All of a sudden, it's To Build A Fire." "Ice Station Zebra, the early years.") to have a fake polar bear topped by Torg himself.

Date: 2008-12-22 06:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lazypadawan.livejournal.com
You spell it S-A-N-T-A C-L-A-U-S, hooray for Santy Claus!

Heh heh...it has a young Pia Zadora in green makeup. That alone makes it worth watching.

Date: 2008-12-22 10:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krpalmer.livejournal.com
"Will you buy me a Golden Globe, then?"

I happened to notice just lately that Pia was mentioned the season before in "First Spaceship on Venus (http://krpalmer.livejournal.com/78824.html)," in order to test Tom Servo's recently adjusted "sarcasm sequencer." He's polite enough there, but mention Gallagher to him...

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