December 6, 2011

Eyes on Christmas: Santa Claus (1959)

Well, the first day of the Christmas marathon was not all that Christmassy. Sure, the holiday was there, there were some decorations and the need for a present, but it was not your standard jolly holiday fare, it was one that used the season as something of a backdrop. Well, the second movie is much more in line with the season. It is also much more bizarre, strange, quirky, and just plain weird. It is a Mexican film called Santa Claus. I know, imaginative, right?

The movie was made way back in 1959 and never had an official release I'm the US. It is my understanding that it was booked to play a few festivals but that was about as far it goes, theatrically anyway. Frankly, I am not sure how well it would have done on he national stage. You see, this is a weird, weird movie. It is a movie that plays to the cult crowd, or at least that is who it plays to these days. It is a movie that appears to have been born or a drug induced fever dream. It is a trippy twist on the Santa story and one that defies explanation.

Santa Claus tells the story of, duh, Santa. He can come to Earth one day a year where he does battle with the devil Pitch. He must beat Pitch and deliver all his toys in one night. Fortunately, he does not have to do it alone, you see Santa has his own gadget man, like James Bond's Q. This gadget guy is none other than Merlin the Magician. Yup, you read that right. Merlin provides things like sleeping powder, a universal key, and a flower that will turn you invisible if you sniff it. Not only that, Santa has some tech he uses to keep an eye on the kids of Earth, like a telescope with a big eye on a stalk, an ear mounted on an oscillating fan, and creepy mouth that knows all!

Wow, I am getting a bit ahead of myself. Before the story starts, we are introduced to Santa's "helpers." They are not elves, more like indentured servitude, kids with questionable singing skills from all over he world separated by nationality (or region). The kids are presented as stereotypically as possible, and you will scarcely believe your eyes. This takes a good ten minutes at the start as the groups of kids are introduced while Santa plays an organ with some seriously creepy expressions.

Meanwhile, Pitch is on Earth influencing some kids to do bad things. Fortunately, not many buy into his wants. There are two other kids who become the focal point for our battle of good and evil. There is a little rich boy whose parents are never around, all he wants is them to be there with him. There is also a little girl, Lupita, who only wants a dolly, and to be good.

This movie is so out there that it really needs to be seen to be believed. The weirdo Santa, the racist depiction of kids, the nightmare creating clockwork reindeer, Santa being chased up a tree, the interpretive dance of the dollys in Lupita's head, the rich kid's parents in boxes, Santa's chimney room, his memory complaints, Pitch's prancing about, and countless other bits.

What a crazy, crazy movie. I have to say that I liked it. It is not a good movie by any stretch, it has even been immortalized on Mystery Science Theater 3000. This is definitely the sort of movie that can become an annual tradition. If you like the weird, you have to see this.


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