- Year: 1959
- Director: Rene Cardona
- Starring: Jose Elias Moreno, Jose Luis Aguirre, Lupita Quezadas
Here we are at the tenth and final Christmas special on the list, and I wanted to end with one I personally enjoy for its stupidity. While I had seen bits and pieces of some of these films before, and one or two in their entirety, this is one I’ve watched multiple times and always manage to get a kick out of. It’s the film simply titled Santa Claus.
No not that one.
Go back another 26 years.
There he is in all his terrifying, Zero Mostel-esque glory.
Santa Claus was originally released in Mexico, so yes, it’s a hilariously-dubbed movie. It was brought to America by K. Gordon Murray.
Murray also provides the voice of the narrator, although the credits list him as “Ken Smith.”
In the first line of the film, we learn that Santa Claus doesn’t live at the North Pole, you silly children. Santa obviously lives in a floating castle in outer space situated above the North Pole. (It’s in the Bible, look harder) Santa says he’s got to finish making toys for all the good kids, but then he goes and plays the organ for seven minutes.
Cultural stereotypes from many countries step up and sing, including Spain, the U.S.A., Mexico, Africa, and The Orient. Alright Ken Smith, if that really is your name, I feel like even though this was originally a Mexican film, this is somehow your fault. You already had China and then you’re like “Oh what about the Orient? While we’re at it, don’t forget that big country of Africa.”
A child comes up to Santa and asks if he likes the toy devil he has made.
Santa lights the toy devil, it spins around a bit, and suddenly we’re in Hell. I don’t mean the hell that was watching Santa play the organ for a seemingly endless period of time. I mean actual fire and brimstone Hell.
Remember in my review of Scrooge 1970 where I said the scene in Hell was bad, but thankfully we were spared of a musical number? Well here they give us the musical number. There’s no singing, but the terrible dancing is enough. No explanation is given, and this isn’t a musical! There isn’t one song sequence in the entire film, but oh sure, Sondheim-style dancing in Hell.
Satan himself commands it to stop, because he may be the Devil but even he knows this is sinful. We only hear the Devil’s voice, but he’s voiced by the same actor who voices Santa Claus! I’d say they’re going for some weird symbolism…
Except that only the dubbed voices are the same. It’s more likely that they only had so many English voice actors on hand (They’re never credited, so I can’t list them) and just went with it.
Satan commands his chief demon Pitch to go on the earth and stop “that bearded old goat Santa Claus.”
If Pitch fails in making all the children of the world do wrong, he will be punished by being forced to eat chocolate ice cream. Apparently Hell is comfortable for the demons and it’s only cooling down that tortures them.
Pitch is sent to Earth and tempts some boys outside a department store to throw rocks at the most terrifying Santa in existence.
What is that thing? I think it it’s some sort of animatronic, but it’s wrapped in clear plastic. Did someone go all Black Christmas on Santa Claus?
The narrator also manages to tell us everything we are viewing on the screen. As the boys pick up the rocks to throw at the department store Santa, “Ken Smith” cries out “This is bad.” Thanks, I assumed the Devil had a change of heart and was making boys do random acts of kindness.
The three boys throw rocks at the department store Santa Claus, and I cannot make this up, the rock hits the real Santa Claus.
When I think of the greatest match cuts in cinema history, it’s
- The bone into the spaceship in 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The opera in Amadeus
- The rock in Santa Claus
The movie gives absolutely no explanation as to why this happens. Does everything that happens to a department store Santa happen to this one? If so, he would be very drunk by this point.
Santa also spies on two little children in Mexico with his terrifying stalker equipment, which for some reason has an ear that hears the children and lips that relay their audio. WHY?
Santa spies on a rich boy (He’s never given a name) who only wants to spend more time with his parents, and a poor girl named Lupita who wants a doll. Pitch tempts Lupita to steal, but thanks to the intervention of the narrator, she puts it back, causing Pitch to mumble like the grandma from Rapsittie Street Kids.
The night as Lupita is sleeping, her mother tells her father about the sweet dreams she used to have and what Christmas meant to her… and how she also dreamed of the Devil. This randomly makes the Devil appear again, because we’re using that “Speak of the devil” thing way too literally.
In another extended dance-ish sequence, Lupita is tempted by life-sized dolls to steal. We then see kids writing letters to Santa (including one who wants a cannon and a machine gun) and Santa preparing for his flight. Of course, Santa can’t take off without the help of his best assistant, Merlin the Magician.
Surely you remember Merlin the Magician from the Santa Claus mythos. He helped Santa pull the candy cane from the ice block, making him the king of this floating space castle… WHY IS MERLIN IN THIS? We’ve got Santa Claus, Satan, and Merlin the Magician. This is the strangest Christmas special of all time.
Merlin gives him some magical stuff for his trip, like the “flower to disappear” (a flower that makes him disappear). Apparently in Spanish, this was a pun on a certain kind of flower, but the pun was lost in translation and Ken Smith just figured no one would notice.
Alright, well we need one more random character in this thing, so let’s spin the wheel and see who it’s going to be.
Well the wheel has spoken. Santa goes to his key maker, the Roman god Vulcan, who has made him “the golden key that opens all doors” (a golden key that opens all doors). Santa tries this out on a thousand doors just to be sure (thankfully we don’t see all of them.).
How else can we crap on the spirit of Christmas? How about the reindeer? Yeah, apparently Santa’s reindeer aren’t actually reindeer, but wind-up toy reindeer that turn to dust if he’s not back to the North Pole before sunrise. Who put that design flaw in them? Did the Empire from Star Wars design his reindeer?
Santa flies off into the night, but not before making a quick shout-out to Jesus. This is really strange, as it seemed to be playing up Santa as the God figure in this thing, but apparently he isn’t. Why is Satan using all his energy to fight Santa? Is Kirk Cameron aware of this?
Alright, here we go. It’s time for the funniest line of the whole movie. Santa is flying to earth, and the narrator, genuinely worried, says, “That was close, he almost ran into the moon!”
Why is this in the thing? What is the point of having him not fly close to the moon but having the narrator saying “He almost ran into the moon?” It’s not conflict, because it’s not more than one line. I bet this narration wasn’t even in the original. I’m starting to think “Ken Smith” was just K. Gordon Murray recording his reactions the first time he watched this with this three-year-old. However, the awful lines like this are exactly why I enjoy this movie.
So what is Pitch’s big plan to stop that old bearded goat Santa Claus? Slapstick comedy. Yep, Pitch just keeps doing these little Wile E. Coyote antics to stop Santa. First, he moves a chimney so Santa won’t be able to go down it.
No worries though, because Santa uses his magic parasol to float down and goes to the front door (I’m assuming he got this from Mary Poppins in a deleted scene.)
Before Santa gets there though, Pitch goes all Kevin McAllister and makes the door scalding hot. However, Santa looks through a window and sees it, so he decides to go all Clarence Carter and be a Back Door Santa (Who knew? That’s what the song was about this whole time.)
This is apparently the house that wanted the cannon though, because Santa pulls it out (It’s a toy, thankfully) and shoots an arrow into the Devil’s anus. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.
The narrator informs us that the Devil is almost green with anger, and like the moon thing, we’ll just take his word for it. He also apparently isn’t aware that green is envy and red is anger, but I’m not sure why I expect Ken Smith to understand the proper correlation between colors and emotions.
Santa goes to the rich boy’s house and tells him that he loves him just as much as his parents do… which has been shown to be not much at all. Seriously, they ditched their own son on Christmas Eve to go to a dinner party. Santa also calls him the insincere name “Sonny,” proving that he does clearly love him as much as his parents do. Santa then goes to the restaurant where the boy’s parents are and makes them drink from the Milk of Human Kindness or something like that… They eventually go home to their son.
Next, Pitch wakes up a family so they will shoot Santa Claus, and Santa gets attacked by their dog Dante (Normally I would assume the name is a coincidence, but it’s Christmas so I’ll be nice.) We get a Deus ex Merlina where Santa Claus is spared and the Devil gets doused with water by the very fire department he got the homeowners to call (The narrator even mocks that he’ll probably get sick.), and Santa gives Lupita her doll. THE END.
So, Ken Smith, what do you have to say about this special?
“THIS IS BAD.”
Yes, yes it is. It’s also one of the most hysterically funny Christmas movies ever made, if you enjoy that kind of thing. It’s never anti-Christmas or pro-commercialism (looking at you Kirk) so it’s perfectly harmless, and if you know what you’re getting into, it’s a good time.
Make sure to stay tuned for my final thoughts.