Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
December 20, 2010
A holiday classic!
(We see Linkara sitting on the futon and watching Santa Claus Conquers the Martians on the TV; his back is to the camera, but he turns and faces it)
Linkara: Some people have holiday traditions that are silly or sentimental. I have one, too, and it's watching (points to TV) this movie.
(Footage of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is shown)
Linkara (v/o): To be accurate, it's watching the riffing of this movie. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is a 1964 film in which Santa Claus does not conquer Martians. It's a dumb film with horrible special effects, terrible music, and this guy.
(Said guy is the truly irritating Martian, Dropo, who, in one scene, is tickled by another Martian, Chief Kimar, using a "tickle ray". Yeah)
Dropo: (laughing) Turn off that ray!
Linkara (v/o): However, I've got to be honest, there's a real charm to this movie. It really feels like the people who made this didn't take it seriously. You just had a fun time making it. I could be completely wrong, of course; it could just be that every person involved in this production took one look at the final cut and spent their Christmases in a whiskey bottle after viewing it, but I'd like to think not.
(More footage of the movie follows, only this time, being watched by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang, which is arguably more famous than the movie itself)
Linkara (v/o): However, it's most famous for appearing on Mystery Science Theater 3000, that wonderful puppet show about a guy and two robots trapped in space and forced to watch horrible movies that they make jokes at.
(A montage of said jokes is shown, starting with Andy Henderson interviewing Santa)
Andy: Do you think you'll be ready by Christmas Eve?
Santa: Well, we've never disappointed the kids yet.
Joel: (as Santa) Except for the poor ones.
(Cut to Kimar and another Martian talking among themselves)
Kimar: They sit in front of their video set all day watching those ridiculous Earth programs. It confuses them.
Tom Servo: Especially Twin Peaks.
(Cut to two children)
Crow T. Robot: (as one of the children) I wish we had parents instead of this radio.
Linkara: But you're all probably wondering why I'm bringing this up now. Well, let me put it this way: welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall. And yes, Virginia, (holds up comic of review for today) there is a "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" comic.
(Title sequence plays; title card has "Hooray For Santa Claus" playing in the background; cut to the cover for this comic)
Linkara (v/o): Before you all ask, no, I have absolutely no idea how this thing came about. We've had movie-licensed comics on this show before, but never anything quite like this.
(Cut to the cover for "Bimbos in Time")
Linkara (v/o): No, that does not count since that thing was so amateurish that I'm surprised it wasn't drawn and printed in a notebook.
(Back to the current comic)
Linkara (v/o): From I have been able to glean, this was part of Dell Comics' "Movie Classics" line. Your mileage may vary on the term "classics", though. Now, your first reaction to this thing, given both the cover and the fact that it's a comic adaptation of a 1964 B-movie, is that it's a cheap, easy-to-produce tie-in that's basically a photo comic. You know, where they just have stills from the movie and add in word balloons. It's what I expected, anyway. But no! This is actually a real comic, with pictures drawn, inked and colored. Someone put effort into this thing, though not on the cover, as we see. The color is a still shot of the movie, and an inaccurate one at that. The robot with the coffee can head is Torg, and Torg never speaks in the movie. And just look at how cheap a robot it is, with a cardboard box for a body.
(Linkara is seen sitting with Pollo)
Linkara: I mean, honestly, who would make a robot out of cardboard boxes? (Pollo turns and looks at him) What?
Linkara (v/o): We open to two Martian children watching TV. Already, I see kind of a problem, because it looks like the comic book has better production values than the movie.
Narration: Something is the matter with the children on Mars. They are unhappy and depressed as they listlessly watch monitored television programs from Earth...
Linkara: (as a Martian kid) You think Dad is ever gonna spring for cable?
Narration: Kimar, the leader of the Martians, is very worried as he watches his two children, Bomar and Girmar...
Linkara: (as Kimar) The kids beg me for an Xbox, but do they ever play it? Of course not!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, yes, and the thing they're watching is an interview with Santa Claus. I'd just assume this was some publicity stunt from the news station, if not for the fact that I've seen the movie. Yes, they're seriously interviewing Santa Claus at the North Pole.
Andy Henderson: (interviewing Santa) Do you think you'll be ready by Christmas Eve?
Santa: We've never disappointed the kids yet!
Linkara: (as Santa) As opposed to the Watcher, who enjoys disappointing kids in favor of drug addicts! Ho, ho, ho!
Narration: Kimar presses a button on his belt panel and the television clicks off...
Linkara (v/o): Okay, there are three buttons on that belt. One of them is the power switch to the TV. Kimar tells the kids to go to bed, and he pushes another button, releasing sleep gases to get the kids to sleep.
Linkara: (announcer voice) The new Parenting Belt 5000! Not content with hitting your child with your belt? Well, now you can switch off the TV, put them to bed, and force food down their mouths! Only $59.95, plus shipping and handling.
Linkara (v/o): Kimar's wife returns home with new food pills.
Kimar's wife: Hamburgers, mashed potatoes, chocolate layer cake.
Linkara (v/o): I call it bullcrap. Uh, not in the "food as pills" thing, but how do they have hamburgers if they don't have cows on Mars? Kimar says that this depression problem is affecting children all over Mars. Dude, if kids zoning out in front of the TV is your idea of being depressed and sad, you're in for a very disappointing time as a father. His wife suggests that he and the Martian Council chiefs consult with Chochem, the Ancient One. He contacts the council chiefs by... Hey, that button wasn't on his belt before! What the hell?! Anyway, they get to the swamp and meet Chochem the Gray.
Kimar: We need your advice. Something is wrong with our children. They don't eat... don't sleep. Their only interesting is watching meaningless Earth programs on television.
Linkara: (as Kimar) I mean, reality shows about runway models? Why??
Chochem: It is early December on Earth... close to the time of the Christmas when the Earth children eagerly await the arrival of Santa Claus and his gifts.
Linkara: Well, the Christian Earth children anyway.
Kimar: But, Ancient One, what has this to do with our children?
Chochem: We have no children on Mars! Our electronic teaching machines are attached to their brains while they are in their cradles. Information is fed into their minds in a constant stream. By the time they can walk, they are adults. They have never had fun.
Linkara: Then why are they watching TV and asking for permission from adults to continue watching TV and they have a bedtime instituted by parents?
Chochem: The children must be allowed to be children again. They must learn what it means to have fun! We need a Santa Claus on Mars!
Linkara: (as Chochem) Yes, they must experience joy and fun only once a year! This will solve their crippling depression and love of television.
Linkara (v/o): Chochem vanishes off-panel, and Kimar resolves to bring Santa Claus to Mars. Of course, the obvious solution is just to make toys for your stupid kids, but I think those things on their heads kind of squeezed too hard on their brains. Anyway, our Martian brain trust sets off that night to Earth. One of them, Voldar, opposes the brilliant idea of bringing Santa to Mars.
Voldar: Our children are fine as they are! I don't want Santa Claus here, bringing them toys and games. They'll be playing, laughing and running underfoot. They'll become a nuisance!
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, Voldar is that grumpy old man who wants to find any semblance of joy in the world and smash it underfoot. The Martians scan the cities of Earth and find many people dressed up like Santa, back when people actually did that ringing the bell for charity before that apparently was offensive to people who didn't believe in Santa Claus. They detect radar beams bouncing off their ship, and they engage their radar shield, but discover that it's not functioning. And why isn't it? Why, it's because inside of the radar box is Dropo! Yes, Dropo, the annoying comic relief from the film. He starts to explain why the hell he was sleeping inside of the radar box.
Linkara: But I think the truth lies in the fact that the radar box somewhat resembles a coffin.
Linkara (v/o): They land their ship and discover two children, Billy and Betty.
Kimar: We are from Mars. Don't be afraid.
Linkara: Dude, with those things on your heads, I don't think fear is quite the reaction people will have.
Linkara (v/o): Billy explains to the weirdos who look like humans with green face paint, but the real Santa Claus is at his workshop. There's actually a changed premise here from the adaptation.
(Cut to a clip of the movie that Linkara describes)
Linkara (v/o): In the movie, Voldar insists that they take them along so they won't warn Earth's authorities... because we all know that the police and military take advice from ten-year-olds named Billy... and Kimar agrees.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): However, in the comic, Voldar insists, but Kimar says it's the choice of the kids, who quickly agree because they want to meet Santa. I don't get that. This isn't like it was fixing a mistake in the movie; this makes less sense. Anyway, they reach the North Pole, and Dropo is put in charge of the children while the rest prepare themselves to go out and take Santa, along with their robot Torg. Kimar says that no one is to be harmed.
Voldar: Bah! Nobody is to be harmed! What's happened to the great warriors of our planet? Mars used to be the planet of war! You will destroy us with your softness, Kimar!
Linkara: Voldar is the Patton of the Martians.
Linkara (v/o): The Martian commandos reach Santa's workshop and send in Torg to retrieve Santa.
Santa: Where did you come from? You're the biggest toy I've ever seen! Turn around!
Narrator: Obediently, Torg obeys...
Linkara: Redundantly, the caption was redundant.
Linkara (v/o): And remind me again why Torg is obeying him? Worst programmed killbot ever. The green commandos storm in and take Santa by force. The elves try to stop them, but naturally, magical elves are no match for the Martians' weapons.
(Cut to concurrent footage of this scene in the movie, in which the Martians use these weapons to freeze the elves in place)
Linkara (v/o): For those of you who've never seen the movie, the guns are actually a toy that Wham-O invented called an Air Blaster.
(Cut back to the comic, with the same thing happening)
Linkara (v/o): Naturally, it looks exactly the same in the comic, only now, instead of a shot of compressed air, it makes some sort of splat noise. Weird. Anyway, the elves are frozen by the toy, and Santa is taken away. On board the ship and on their way back to Mars, Santa tries to console the kids.
Santa: Now, I have a riddle. What's soft and round, and you put it on the end of a stick and toast it in the fire... and it's green?
Linkara: Mmm, nothing like cabbage s'mores.
Santa: A Martian marshmallow! Ho! Ho! Ho!
Linkara: Okay, it's a dumb joke, mildly amusing... except you screwed it up! "Martian-mallow," not "Martian marshmallow!" It's supposed to be a play on words!
Linkara (v/o): Voldar, overhearing, is worried that Santa's presence will turn his civilization weak and soft. So he plots to kill them all! He brings them on a tour of the ship and leads them into an airlock. After locking them inside, the three speculate on how they'll escape. Santa notices a pipe.
Santa: What did you say this pipe was?
Billy: The air duct. But it's too small for anyone to crawl through.
Linkara: (as Santa) Don't tell me what I can't do, you little pipsqueak! I'm freakin' Santa Claus!
Linkara (v/o): Up on the control deck, Kimar confronts Voldar about the airlock. Voldar admits to sending them to their doom, and a fight erupts.
Kimar: (punching Voldar) You fool!
(Cut to a flash of light in a movie of some sort – I don't know what it is, though)
Voice: Argh! You fool!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): The fighting and the bout is dignified here as it was in the movie.
(The video alternates between the fight in the movie and the fight in the comic for a time)
Linkara (v/o): However, they're interrupted by Santa marching onto the bridge. Naturally, Santa escaped via the air duct because hey, he's freakin' Santa Claus; he goes through worse chimneys than that thing. How he got the kids out is more of a headscratcher, but we'll let it slide. When they reach Mars, Voldar has escaped from his cell. Kimar orders a constant guard on Santa and the children while they search for their little green fugitive. Meanwhile, Santa is brought to Kimar's children, and for some unknown reason, they decide to keep this scene from the movie: the disturbing laughing scene.
(A clip of said scene is shown: Santa laughing while the Martian kids look on, dumbfounded. The Earth children laugh, as well, and the Martian kids smile and then they laugh, too; cut back to Linkara, who is also laughing)
Linkara: (in between fits of laughter) We need an adult!
Linkara (v/o): The next day, Santa is shown his new workshop. You know, Santa is taking his kidnapping rather well, all things considered. Poor guy must have Stockholm Syndrome or something. Santa shows Dropo the spare suit that Kimar's wife had made for him, and Dropo tries it on, wanting to make himself look like Santa, too. He puts a pillow under the coat to fatten himself up, and then, in yet another bizarre plot hole they kept from the movie, Dropo puts on a fake beard. Did Kimar's wife make one of those, too? That evening, Voldar and two goons arrive at the workshop to sabotage it, but find Dropo dressed as Santa, mistaking him for the real deal. The people of Mars must have issues distinguishing colors because they can't tell that the Santa they're kidnapping is green! The next morning, Santa and the kids start running the toy-making machine, but much to their shock, the dolls and teddy bears have swapped heads!
Linkara: (as Santa) Get Todd McFarlane on the phone! I've got a great idea for a new line of figures! Ho ho ho ho ho...
Linkara (v/o): I'd also like to reiterate this: What the heck do they need Santa for again? They admitted that the entire process is automated and you just needed to push buttons for toys to come out. Do all Martians just have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and can't push buttons? Voldar shows up and confronts Kimar, saying that he'll going to kill the Santa in his possession if he and the children aren't sent back to Earth and the toy factory destroyed.
Kimar: But Voldar, are you sure you have Santa Claus?
Voldar: You know I have him.
Kimar: (noticing Santa, who is clearly not in Voldar's possession) Then who is that?
(A dramatic sting is heard)
Voldar: But I left him in my cave...under heavy guard!
Kimar: Maybe Santa has powers you don't know about!
Linkara: (as Kimar) Teleportation is only one of Santa Claus' many magnificent, godlike abilities!
Linkara (v/o): Voldar manages to disarm Kimar, but Billy overhears the two struggling. He warns Santa, and he and the children make a plan. A few minutes later, Voldar walks in, but (exaggeratedly) uh-oh, the kids have all their toys to throw at Voldar! (laughs) So, all that talk about how Martians were this great race of warriors, and we see firsthand that Voldar can't even face down four kids who are throwing toy airplanes and suction cup arrows at him. Maybe they were really a civilization of wusses and they made up the warrior thing to make themselves feel better about their loser status. Kimar recovers and orders them to stop, Voldar thoroughly defeated by the power of plastic and Nerf balls. Dropo shows up, too, having escaped off-panel from the cave he was being held in. Santa says that they don't need him since Dropo can be the Martian Santa. And so, our comic ends with the Martians saying farewell to the three.
Kimar: Goodby, Santa... Thank you for bringing happiness to our children.
Santa: I've left you in good hands. My substitute will carry on for me.
Dropo: Merry Christmas, everybody! Dropo Claus is here!'
Linkara: (as Santa, pretending to take out and hold out a card) Uh, here's my card. Call me in three months after he screws the pooch on the whole thing.
Narration: In a few minutes, the spaceship is on its way toward the planet Earth to deliver the children and Santa Claus... just in time for Christmas...
Linkara: (as Dragnet narrator) Billy and Betty went through several years of therapy when no one believed their story of the Martian kidnapping. Santa Claus was arraigned in Superior Court, County of Los Angeles on charges of child abduction and theft of the Martian robot Torg. In a moment, the results of that trial.
(Footage of the film is shown once again)
Linkara (v/o): This comic is stupid, and the movie it's adapted from is equally stupid. And of course, I love watching it. There's a lighthearted goofiness to it that I really enjoy. Sure, the production values are terrible, the story is ridiculous, and Santa does not in fact conquer the Martians, but I love John Call as Santa Claus. There's a real jolliness to the guy, and he really embraces the fun tone of the film.
(Cut to the MST3K gang watching the film, followed by the cast of Cinematic Titanic doing likewise)
Linkara (v/o): Of course, I do recommend recommend the MST3K or Cinematic Titanic versions if you're gonna watch it. Sure, they rip it apart, but if you can't laugh at a cheap-looking polar bear or a robot with a coffee can for a head, then you have no soul.
Linkara: And in the spirit of that film, we here at Atop the Fourth Wall just want to wish you and your own a happy holidays and a Merry Christmas, so let's end this with one of my favorite Christmas carols, "A Patrick Swayze Christmas.
(The credits roll to the MST3K gang singing "A Patrick Swayze Christmas", but they had been cut for copyright reasons)