krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
It seems just about time to get myself into the Christmas spirit in a Mystery Science Theater way, but to do that I decided not to watch Joel's probably pretty well-known Christmas episode, "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians," but instead Mike's, simply titled "Santa Claus" and produced quite early in his tenure as main character. At times, it's easy enough for me to look at particular episodes featuring Mike and see them as attempts to follow up on certain genres Joel had already covered: low-budget Cold War paranoia, muscles-and-mythology southern European imports, folkore-and-fantasy northern European imports, James Bond ripoffs, and eventually dubbed and daffy Japanese movies. A "Christmas episode," to be rerun once every year, would seem to be an obvious thing to cover, and so after the undefinably off-kilter yet definably cheap "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians," it was on to a film Dr. Forrester describes as "A thoughtful, well-shot documentary about the Crimean War." Or, as TV's Frank (in a bad mood after shaving his head, giving Dr. Forrester a watch fob he didn't buy by selling his hair, and getting a twenty-five dollar savings bond that will mature "in 2023") describes, "It's a stupid Mexican kid's movie!"

I suppose that "Santa Claus" also comes across as a bit off-kilter when it comes to that mythology we think we all know: in it, Santa lives in a castle in the clouds, assisted by a sampling of singing children from around the world. The children from Mexico show up last, right before the first commercial break: the scene does drag on a bit. A devil named Pitch is dispatched to turn the children of the world (although mostly from Mexico) against Santa, but the impoverished yet faithful Lupita ("She is aggressively cute.") resists his urging to steal a doll. Eventually, Santa descends from his castle in a sleigh drawn by rather disturbing clockwork reindeer to outwit Pitch's best efforts and deliver presents and good cheer to the children of the world (although mostly in Mexico). There's one subplot involving a boy living in a very fancy house who wants most of all his parents to return from their nightclub life for Christmas; combined with Lupita's story, the movie gets strangely socio-economic right around the time the same holiday music being repeated in the soundtrack starts to get a little obvious. ("Santa's laughter mocks the poor!")

In some ways, the "riffing" doesn't seem to treat the movie as all that terrible, just strange, and that's acceptable enough for me. The "host segments" get off to a start involving a carolling Mike spilling hot chocolate on Crow, resulting in a frenzied reaction that knocks everyone over and leaves Crow's yellow ping-pong ball eyes popped out on the desk; I suppose this might have contributed to a suspicion I'm convinced at times some fans had at the start of Mike's tenure, that his connection to the robots was somehow "nasty" in a way that soon made them abandon the show. However, we also get two musical numbers, as if in response to "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" featuring "Let's Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas," and ends with a snowfall in space and Santa Claus battling Pitch down in Deep 13.

Date: 2007-12-17 12:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've got to admit that despite the occasional encounter beforehand (such as "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" winding up on my grandparents' cable system during childhood Christmases), Mystery Science Theater has provided me with a window onto weirdness I might have at best snickered at from afar otherwise.

Date: 2007-12-17 04:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I thought I'd seen a lot of bad movies before MST3K, but many of their features took it to a whole new level. I'd never know what a Sampo was otherwise ;).

Date: 2007-12-18 01:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Your average Joe has never seen a film like today's experiment. Your average person on the street has not even begun to conceptualize the horror which is your experiment today, Mister Joel Average... I give to you 'Manos! The Hands of Fate.'"

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