This is another K. Gordon Murray redubbing of a Mexican film, and it has been quite extensively dissected at Jabootu. So you can go there and see the secret origin of most of my jokes, or you can stay here and read this. You fool! Ha ha ha, no Christmas gift for you, fool!
And we get the K. Gordon Murray Presents title page (first time I’ve seen that) and a “Jingle Bells” music background as we see our title, Santa Claus. The music holds a horn solo on Jingle Bells, before segueing into a more familiar type using the glockenspiel. Yep, Christmas is sure here. Either that, or we’re all in hell again! Our screenplay is by Adolfo Torres Portillo and Rene Cardona, and this MUST be a Christmas movie because none of those names are flagged as misspelled! The credits (almost wrote crediots, and that would be wrong) hold for a long, long time, as if children in the audience were going to read them and discuss the ways and wherefores of the musical director (Antonio Diaz Conde)’s artistic choices and how they reflected twentieth century bourgeois Western values. Well, they weren’t going to, so you can cut to the chase. Also, “Conde” is flagged as misspelled so I guess he’s getting coal in his stocking.
The producer is named as one “William Calderon” (oh, I’m sure), but director Rene Cardona has his own proud name splattered right there on the top of this…thing.
As the movie proper opens on some castles suspended on clouds, a narrator says, “A way up in the heavens, far out in space, in a beautiful golden crystal palace right above the North Pole, lives a kind and jolly old gentleman, Santa Claus…also known as Saint Nicholas,” he adds, so we won’t be confused and have our brains explode just in case we hear the other name somewhere else. I don’t think the Mexican Santo Studios were insured for exploding brains, though you might think otherwise if you have seen the Santo films. But this isn’t a Santo film. It’s a Santa film, a distinct distinction, with real-looking gold.
”The best friend of boys and girls everywhere,” our narrator assures us, as we thrust in through the clouds, and…well, he seems to lose his train of thought. “But let’s move in for a closer look!” And we see some familiar red-suited arms, uh, doing some tai chi or something like that. No, actually, he’s just removing an angel ornament from some fog. “Come along!” says the narrator, as Santa removes the ornament. No, scratch that, that was me jumping the gun again. He was just touching the little guy’s hands, making sure they were not up to any mischief, then he adjusted some more figurines in a crèche setting, while laughing that familiar Santa laugh. Though truth to tell, it slipped a tad past “jolly” into “maniacal” but that’s just between you and me. And we pull back as Santa finishes stuffing some cotton into his crèche scene, and we see that…well, he’s a typical Santa type, but he is pretty Mexican looking. Of course, this is a Mexican film, so that’s perfectly logical, and after all, Santa could be from south of the border, so that is okay. I mean, he looks all Santa and stuff. Are we okay yet?
After laughing a while longer, while some fog rolls down, Santa notes that “it’s almost Christmas, and I must finish the toys for all the good children on Earth. I hope you’ll pardon me,” he says to the crèche, “but you know I mustn’t be late!” And he makes sure his coat is on okay and he goes off to more Santa duties. Specifically, he goes off through his white with gold trim kind of Arabic/Mexican looking palace, while la la la la-ing Silent Night. He sits down at his pipe organ and, well, puts his hands on the keys and his feet on the pedals, but just keeps on la la la ing Silent Night. He moves his feet on the pedals and kind of (if you are charitable) moves his hands on the keyboard, but the sound never changes and kind of makes it all a bit sad. I mean, here’s Santa Claus, arguably the most powerful person on the earth—he could make whole nations devastate their entire selves just to be seen as “nice” and not “naughty”--and he has to hum to himself. He doesn’t have a pipe organ that makes music, but he still sits down (I bet) every day just to see if today his luck will chance. Makes Hulk sad.
Good for you Hulk, makes the rest of us impatient. As it turns out, Santa’s keyboard skills seem to have more to do with video monitoring, as a screen appears on his organ saying “Toyland.”
He keeps moaning out a wordless “Silent Night” as the narrator returns to say “This is Santa’s toyland.” Hey, the narrator can read! “A sort of international toy factory. Here are gathered together boys and girls of different races and creeds—they have come from many lands to help Santa bring joy and happiness to all the Earth’s children.” There’s a pretty quick shot of a bunch of boats out in a blizzard, but I for one find it hard to imagine that Santa (or his narrator) would have kids in a blizzard because he was feeling so imperial. For some other reason, sure, okay, maybe, but not for an egotistical one. Much.
So, he’s looking at his organ (the keyboard one) and it says AFRICA on it now. I’m sure that means something. I’m sure it will right after I have this beer.
”These little helpers are from Africa,” says the narrator, and we cut to some…extremely stereotypical African kids, leaping around some…candy canes. They beat on drums and one kid has a golden skull he waves around. Just in case we’d forgotten the true meaning of Christmas and everything.
Santa goes a bit nuts on the keyboard, and we see snow descending on the boats, but it is kind of crappy snow. It looks like filth, but not rich filth.
Next up are some kids from Spain. They, dressed in red, sing a song that sounds more like “Spare Us, Devil Man” than anything happy, but Santa is sure happy about it as he plies his video synthesizer some more. He even applauds them. They still don’t seem like they’re enjoying any of this. The narrator goes on to say that next is China, whose kids “lend a hand as well.”
We cut to the same group of boats as before. But a Chinese chord progression sounds and we see the Chinese kids sing as Santa accompanies on the organ. Truth to tell, in their silk robes and stuff, they look more Japanese but since it is Christmas season I’ll let it slide THIS time.
Next up is England, and we hear some kids sing “London Bridge is Falling down” which would probably be way at the bottom of my personal list of Christmas songs. And we don’t even see these kids! They probably didn’t wash, or maybe they’re in a boat in the center of the blizzard. Next comes Japan, and they sing a song too as Santa plays along. And on the screen next is “Orient” so that could be like Canada or Spiceworld or almost anything! Wow!
“Talented children form the Orient!” enthuses the narrator, and we
hear some bellydancing music as we watch kids gyrate. One kid has a giant flute, a girl is dancing the dance of the
seven veils—seven Christmas veils probably, while the other kid is painting
something as if it’s his own death notice, he’s so desultory. It kind of looks like there are rifles in
the background. Oh yeah, great, uh,
damn it. How could we not be filled
with the Christmas spirit now! Rifles!
Apparently, no one thinks we are full enough yet, as RUSSIA appears on the keyboard screen. “Even Russia has a delegation,” the narrator tells us. Man, I don’t know what it is with narrators. I just know I’ll be at some swank soiree and I’ll ask someone what they do for a living, and he’ll say “I’m a narrator” and the next thing you know, I’ll have my hands around his throat.
Santa’s organ apparently functions now, as he plays one of those Russian dance things where people fold their arms and kick dance, and we cut to some kids in a heavy storm who shout “Ting Tom!” or something. Santa is totally groovin’ on the keyboard now, and the kids are getting into it as well. One of them sits in toy car, a red car if you can believe that. Another appears to be polishing a sabre! And we get a wide shot of all the boats, still there in the storm.
Santa plays sour chords as FRANCE appears, and we’re told specifically that Yvette and Pierre head this group of chumps. They sing some damn French song. Yvette and Pierre look about as bored as they can possibly be, even though surrounded by dolls of various creepitude. Also, they both look like girls. Now GERMANY is next and they sing a song too. It’s a song in a minor key and is probably about hoping not to die. The chorus goes, “Coo coo coo coo” for a couple of eternities.
This is getting pretty damn dull, folks, can we just have a title that says “…AND THE REST” and get on with something resembling a story? I’ll give you a dollar and, let me see, fifty-seven cents.
I can see my offer was spurned, as ITALY comes next, and kids singing a song to a bunch of wrapped packages like beef or something that they hold in their arms. I could swear I hear the phrase “almighty dollar” in there, but that’s probably not what they’re singing. THE CARRIBEAN comes next. Their song is a bit happier, though they don’t look it themselves. The one kid on the right looks like a cardboard prop. SOUTH AMERICA now, as the narrator notes that this includes Brazil and Argentina, for any audience members who might have become bored with the film and are doing crossword puzzles. Again Santa gets down with a Booker T groove as the kids shake percussion and the girl has a Carmen Miranda hat. The kid dead center looks like he was informed, right before the take, that his puppy had just died.
CENTRAL AMERICA now. One kid has a rifle and I hope he uses it. Hey, the song they’re singing is Yankee Doodle! We come to USA next. Two kids wearing cowboy outfits—because we know the US is filled with cowboys—sing the most offkey version of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” ever while playing toy dobros. Again, it’s not a song that resonates with me in either Christmas tones or Americana, but how can I complain. I’m just one guy!
Now, MEXICO appears, bringing a very animated group of kids singing “La Cucaracha.” Actually, it’s just the uke player who’s animated but he or she (it’s honestly hard to tell) more than makes up for the stoniness of the others.
And, his video monitoring chores done for the day, I guess, Santa shuts off his organ and begins his very zealous laughter and leaves the room. You know something? All that was ten minutes of screen time!
He walks through his palatial palace and meets a couple of the kids. One of them hands Santa a toy demon on a stick and asks the old guy if he likes “this devil”? Santa takes the stick and frowns upon the rather grotesque puppet and proclaims “I don’t think anyone ordered this!” Meanwhile, the other kid has a lit sparkler or maybe, if we’re lucky, it’s a stick of dynamite and we can go home early. “How does it work? What is the sense of it?” Santa asks, but he’s talking about the Devil toy and not the movie.
”Like this, Santa,” the other kid says, handing Santa the sparkler (darn). “You must light it!”
”Let’s have it!” Santa says, taking the sparkler. He applies the flame to the toy, and it spins around. And we cut to a guy in a Devil costume, and he does ballet while we pull out to see we’re in hell! No, no, literally, we’re in hell! There’s red rocks and flames and stuff, it looks like the set of a play. There’s a bunch of devils there, all in red with red faces and with huge horns, giant pointed ears (they are the size of dishes), beards and shorts, and they all ballet around the set while slightly discordant music plays. It’s actually not bad for ballet but we have to wonder what it’s doing in this movie. In a larger shot, we can see a bunch of folks in white robes standing around.
”Stop!” commands a voice from a fiery crevice. “I, Lucifer, king of Hades, order you to stop and disappear!” Oh sure, like that ever works. “Begone, all of you!” And wow, it works! Through the magic of editing, everyone, devils and hooded folks alike, disappears instantly. “Except Pitch!” Lucifer says. Pitch, one of the devils, pops back into the scene. “You, Pitch, chief of all my demons, must listen closely! The time is almost here when you must abandon the brimstone pits and journey up to Earth. But this time you must not fail,” he says, then gets specific, “as you’ve done in the past! You must not be defeated by that bearded old goat, Santa Claus! If you do not succeed in making all the children of the Earth do evil, you shall be punished! And instead of burned hot coals, you will be chocolate ice cream!”
Well, as you can imagine all of the preceding has put Pitch into a rather worried state. “No, no Lucifer, king of all the evil spirits, not that!” he protests, wringing his hands and speaking rather like John Fiedler imitating Walter Brennan. Continuing his twitch-fest, he goes on, “By the horns of everything Satanic, I beg you! To live I must have heat, and frozen meals are bad for me, especially chocolate. It’s very bad for my digestion which is so delicate. Yes I promise oh priceless Prince of Hades, that by my money-wise [that’s what it sounds like] I’ll finish old Santa forever. And see that the children commit terrible deeds and make Santa Claus angry.” Before or after he finishes him? Seems kind of silly to wait until after.
Lucifer seems to think this is a good enough show from Pitch that he’ll be serious this time, so he sends him up. And Pitch sits somewhere which looks like more Hades and laughs and laughs while the Narrator wonders about stuff we don’t care about. And we see a newspaper, “The News” which headlines, “Spirit of Christmas Invades The Earth” which sounds rather alarming, but that’s the press for you, isn’t it. It starts to burn, and Pitch flicks his finger toward it, and it totally bursts into flames…and also becomes a Spanish language newspaper. Or maybe there were two.
And we cut to Santa laughing, but this Santa looks like a bad robot copy or a reanimated cadaver, his eyes are glassy and he just looks all wrong. We pull out and see Santa is in a kind of glass case, surrounded by onlookers. So I guess it is a robot of some kind. Yes, sigh, there’s a good idea, a robot Santa that sits in a chair and laughs without a pause. (That was me being sarcastic.) The robot never stops laughing. If I saw that kind of a robot when I was a callow youth, I would have grown up all twisted. I heard that.
I mean, really, a Santa robot should wave and say, “Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas!” and then repeat that, but with a pause. A robot, or for that matter, anything that laughs and laughs without breathing is just so WRONG it baffles science. Look, there’s science, all baffled! Now it’s trying to hide.
And we cut to a bunch of folks looking through a shop window at an array of various Christmas stuff. The narrator tells us that one kid has rich parents, so he’s set, and then we see another woman with hair bluer than Clark Kent’s, and her daughter Lupita “whose fondest dream is to own a doll” but they’re poor so one suspects nix on that prospect. All the while the Santa bot laughs and laughs and laughs, well illustrating insanity for us. We see some of the dolls in question. Good, good, we might not have known what a “Doll” is so this is educational. Except we already knew. Lupita is very, very young and the actress seems to be confused about what emotion she’s supposed to convey. It seems to be mostly puzzlement or resignation. Anyway, mom takes her by the hand and leads her away from this cornucopia of pleasures. The other kids crowd around, putting their hands on the window and looking like a junior version of the mall zombies from Dawn of the Dead.
Three other boys push up against the glass, and the narrator notes how this is rude, but they puts a positive spin on it by saying the Devil likes rude little boys. Hey wait a minute! Anyway, Pitch blinks into existence beside them and mimes furiously about, uh, bad ideas and stuff. The three boys go off and sit on the curb, and the narrator says that Pitch has turned these three against Santa Claus. Wow, here I thought turning all the world’s children bad would be a lot of work—boy was I wrong! Pitch then appears again next to the kids, and blinks three rocks into existence, right next to a boy each. They dutifully pick up the rocks and fling them at the robot’s glass prison, striking the robot, while the narrator informs us that “this is bad!” in case we weren’t sure about this.
And one of the rocks bonks the real Santa on the head, right in the middle of a laugh. He clutches his forehead and emits a powerful beam of radiation which coats the entire earth in a thin crust of paper. Well, no, he doesn’t do any of that (other than clutch his head) but I keep hoping we’ll be done soon. He says that the Devil should be darned and all, then apologizes for his ribald tongue. He notes that he’d like to go down and punch the Devil’s lights out, but he can only go to Earth on one day, Christmas Eve. All the while he seems to be explaining this to someone, and finally, we see the someones: three kids, two of them in traditional Mexican garb (one of them is the uke player from earlier) and another wearing a dark robe. While they speak, a toy robot glides along the floor in the background.
The three kids…I suppose they express their solidarity, but I can only make out “In the meantime,” before their poor enunciation defeats my ears. There was something, I think, about Pitch causing a blizzard. One kid notes, though, that he saw the Devil taking to four kids (“and one was a poor little girl”), and Santa asks if he got their names.
Uke player pipes up, ”I got their names, the bad boys are—“
Santa hastily cuts the kid off. ”The naughty boys are not important, they will get punished in due course,” Santa threatens, looking really vengeful. .”The ones I must reward are the other children, like the good little girl.”
The boy points to his head. “I’ve got their names in here, the girl is called—“
Again, Santa cuts the kid off. “Better look through the telescope, Pedro, we’ll find out what they’re doing.” And we cut to (as the narrator names it) Santa’s Magic Observatory. There’s a big telescope in the midst of it all, but the most disturbing machine is one that has prominent lips, beneath a glass tube nose and dials for eyes. The tube and the dials appear to be coincidentally facial, but the lips are just…big lips. It’s an electronic Angelina Jolie machine! (Hope I can get one of those on eBay.)
The narrator names all the machines and says that nothing that happens on Earth is beyond Santa’s knowledge. Pedro asks one of the machines to find the little girl, “whether she’s in a cave, or behind a million mountains.” Uh…Pedro, didn’t you say you saw all this? And you’ve already forgotten where? Sheesh.
Well, never mind. And too bad. The Lips machine’s lips say, “All ready.” And a portal opens up so the telescope can look outside. But not before a tentacle with an eye on it pokes through the portal and peers around. It strongly resembles the Martian eye probe from George Pal’s film, though it has a human eye. It even has an eyebrow. This film is…educational I guess is the mildest way to put it.
On the Lips Box, two readings appear—“America” and then “Mexico” and Pedro announces that he’s found the girl in Mexico. Uh…you mean where you were looking not long before, kid?
Santa wants to see so he rushes to the telescope and peers through. And we see…the planet Earth. It’s suspended in the midst of some clouds, and we close in on it. Then a shadow appears across the telescope view! But don’t be alarmed, that was just the zoom function kicking in, we are now looking at some folks watching a puppet show. That’s one hell of a zoom!
Eww, gross rubber headed puppets whose faces collapse with every motion…they look like they’re chewing—no doubt chewing on brains they robbed from the medical waste truck. I was going to point out that neither puppet is the little girl, but then we cut to her in her same sweater. What a great telescope! Of course it’s a magic one, they are the best kind.
The puppets, who are both males, go into a rather elaborate routine of kissing each other’s hands and then foreheads, luckily we cut to the kids before we can follow this course to its hideous conclusion. Oh my GOD we cut back to the puppets and one of them is trying to use its tongue! Luckily the other is having none of that and the smacking starts. Then there’s hugging and, just then, Mom I guess notes what kind of depraved crap her kid is watching and Lupita is taken straight away from there.
As they leave the fair, Lupita steals a doll while the narrator, somewhat in shock, tells her this is not a good idea. Pitch then pops into the frame and argues that since she’s poor she should take the doll, since she’ll never get one through any other means. His plastic pointed ears shake as he gestures theatrically. The narrator pipes up (and Lupita looks at the camera the instant he does) and notes that stealing is wrong. Well, that’s good enough for her, and she puts the doll back. Pitch shakes his fists in frustration.
”Curses, wehwehwehwehwehwehwehwehwehwehwehwehweh, curses,” he notes.
Lupita and her mom stride off into the night, but Pitch pops up again as they pause. “Whe!” Pitch says, and he notes that now she’ll not have a doll. “Little girls must steal, or do without the things they like! Weh!” He then pops away.
”That’s not true, Lupita!” the narrator counters. “If you’re good…somehow you’ll be rewarded,” he says, sounding like he’s just run into a rather sticky problem about goodness being rewarded by magical means. The doll is wistfully gazed at. I suppose. Lupita’s expression doesn’t change a whole heck of a lot. She mostly looks bored. Then the doll gets bought by an unseen hand, Lupita looks on sadly, and fog rolls around.
Back with Santa, he gets really animated and starts singing. “Hooray for her, hooray for her!” You know, this Santa is pretty scary, considering. I don’t think I’ve seen a more maniacal one, at least one that didn’t carry an axe and have a grudge. Anyway, he says that all kids have to do to win against the Devil is “to be good in spirit.” And to have a narrator around too, don’t forget that.
They decide to look at the other kids from the store front. The eye extends out again, and some toy robots mill about in the meantime. And we go through a lot of the same footage, and the Lip Box says “America” and “Mexico” again. Well, since all the kids were LOOKING AT THE SAME STORE WITHIN MOMENTS OF EACH OTHER, I would imagine they could have saved some time by programming those two locations in advance. Computers back then! Wow, what a bunch of tooties!
Well, they find the kid they want, and he’s asleep. So Satan…I mean, SANTA decides to peer at the kid’s dream on the DreamScope. Oh, I was hoping they’d use that one. The DreamScope, by the way, has an antenna with an ear on it. Before you ask, no, Salvador Dali was doing this kind of schtick way back before this movie was made (in any language), so he didn’t steal this. But he might have stolen a doll! A Dolly for Dali! Ha ha ha, yes, I get beat up a lot.
So, everyone strides toward the DreamScope, including the cameraman, and we get to see this thing for rather a long time before the fog rolls in. “Let’s watch the little rich boy’s dream,” the narrator tells us. I thought they were only interested in Pitch’s victims, silly me. Anyway, the dream kid goes downstairs and finds two giant boxes. “Can these be toys?” the narrator asks. But it turns out they contain “what a child loves best” and before you answer, you’re all wrong, because they contain his parents. Live parents, not dead or replaced by Batman or anything like that, no, just his regular parents.
They group hug, and we fade back to the most depressed looking Santa ever. It really looks like he was hoping for a knife fight. One of the kids says something that sounds Japanese. “A dream is a wish that the heart makes,” Santa says, again sounding totally bummed out, like there could have been mayhem and he sure wanted to see it.
One of the other kids garbles out that this kid could have anything he wants, and Santa notes that all he wants is the love of his parents. “Don’t they love him?” asks Pedro, and Santa avers that “Maybe they do…and maybe they don’t!” You know, you jump to a lot of conclusions here, Santa. We have no idea how his parents react to their kid. We never even saw his mom before now, and just a glimpse of his dad.
But just in case, I do not want this Santa anywhere near me. Good thing it’s only a movie. In fact, it’s just a DVD. Anyway, despite the fact that they just saw her, they think Lupita might be sleeping so they decide to look at her dream. Hey, you know, I bet she’s going to dream that she has a doll. It’s been slammed into our faces like a bucket full of cement many, many times. She wants a doll. Really wants a doll, rather a lot. I imagine her dreams are pretty commonly about this desire.
Well, we see Lupita sleeping on her bed while her parents do various things. Dad notes that she must be cold, because she’s on top of the blankets, so he takes off his jacket and puts it on her. This is pretty nice of him, but you know, if she’d gotten under the covers it wouldn’t be necessary—now, if their level of poverty was such that they didn’t have any blankets or beds, or even a roof, if they were starving in a cardboard hovel in a shantytown balanced on a cliff, with a storm raging outside and no radio and vengeful ghosts rising from the sea…well, we’d be watching a far less tedious movie than this one, that’s for sure. But no one cares about our Christmas wishes, do they!
Having very carefully put his jacket on Lupita, Dad says, “I wonder if our child is dreaming.” Without waiting for an answer, he goes back to his desk. Mom goes all bug-eyed and twitchy as she relates that when she was a kid, she dreamt often of “great riches” but she didn’t really have a care in the world because she had her family around and this was entertaining to her. “But at times I also dreamed of the Devil,” she huffs, and POP, there’s that loser Pitch again. The narrator goes on about why can’t Pitch leave decent people alone, especially since, you know, Lupita’s asleep and can’t really steal things or commandeer biplanes or otherwise wreak havok. Nonetheless, he (Pitch) gestures ballet-wise over her sleeping self.
He then blows on her. Really. And he’s so pleased with himself for his sheer evil, that he starts panting, then he blows on her again. And my What-The-Hell meter just spanged really loudly. I mean, does he think she’s made of straw or something?
Santa, watching all this stuff back at Stately Claus Manor, is really all hopping mad about this. He thinks that Pitch is going to make Lupita steal again. By blowing on her while she sleeps. Uh…I can’t think of anything to say.
”He’ll be part of her dream!” Santa moans. “How awful!” He pauses. “Better look at her dream now,” he says, and he and his minions move in close to do just that.
And Lupita dreams that she’s in a big fog-bound chamber, with large boxes (the kind parents come in) all around the edges. Well, she sings a song about how she has “a dolly and her eyes are blue” and goes on to note that “her name is Sue.” She sings another verse, I think about how often the doll wets herself, but the song was recorded with so much echo it’s hard to make out anything. Except her accent sounds suspiciously French.
And all the boxes open, and bunches of giant man-sized dolls all emerge. And they start doing some ballet. This movie is full of ballet, is that what we want to teach our kids? Lupita looks like she’d just as soon not have all this happening around her. When she’s not stony faced, that is. I mean, she rarely watches any of the ballet, not that I can blame her. After all, she’s not paid to watch this, and I…I’m not paid either! Damn it, I want to fire someone for that!
Well, as noted, Lupita seems more disturbed by these dancers than enticed, so I’m guessing this is another of your so-called triumphs, Pitch. You jerk. You got some kids to throw rocks at a Santa Droid that probably should have been stoned anyway. I hope you like being chocolate ice cream.
One of the doll dancers, with a sad face, says that Lupita should steal all the dolls. Lupita sticks to her guns, though, and says that stealing is bad and she wants to be good.
”You must learn to steal!” insists the doll, but Lupita repeats her philosophy from earlier. The doll says, then, that they don’t want to be owned by her. Lupita repeats that “to steal is evil, and I don’t want to be evil.” You know, I THINK I GOT THE FRIGGIN POINT. There are even more repetitions of this inane conversation. It’s like that Argument Clinic sketch from Monty Python, except that was funny and this is just repetitive without any funny in it. Finally, back in the bedroom, Pitch blows (I’ll say, ha ha ha) once more and Lupita wakes up. She calls for Mom, who duly appears to comfort her.
And back at Santa’s Fortress of Bulgitude, he is pretty seethingly angry with Pitch and promises that this demon will pay for what he’s done. And, hey, Santa, since Lupita’s been pretty damn good, maybe you could give her a doll. It would be decent of you and MAYBE prove that being good has some rewards to it. Or, you could just laugh like a mad person and get sad when people hug each other with arms rather than flame.
Pedro mentions the three window breakers, and Santa suggests they should be found. However, since everyone else is asleep (including yours truly) I bet they are too. Which means…oh, crap…we’re going to see their dreams, too. Probably each. Well, here’s my Christmas gift to you: we’re barely over twenty-eight minutes in. What do you mean, that’s a bad gift? Ha ha ha, that’s the point of a gift, in the world of this movie! (It’s to make people sad.)
Once again, the kids intone some instructions (the third boy gives them this time, and honestly, it sounds like he’s speaking Japanese) and the eye pokes out and looks, and the Lip Box says the three are in America, in Mexico. AGAIN. This machine is stupid, but it’s in good company. Pedro announces that the three boys “are beneath a large bed, but they are speaking in a low voice.”
Well this arouses Santa’s suspicions. “Let’s tune in the Ear-Scope. Now we will know exactly what they are planning!” He turns some dials on the Lip Box and we see the Ear-on-an-Antenna turn for a long time, finally the Lip Box says (in little kid voice) “I’ve got it, we’ll break our neighbors’ windows, yeah, and we’ll steal that kid’s toys. He’s got a lot of ‘em. If we were good boys, we’d get toys too.” Santa nods at this moment of epiphany. “What’s the fun in that?” the (same) voice goes on, and it then notes that Santa Claus doesn’t care about them. The voice (I’m going to start assuming it’s three kids who all sound alike) says they should write a letter to Santa, saying how good they’ve been, and Santa will be totally fooled (Santa nods happily, believe it or not) because “he’s too old” to know “what goes on.” Santa continues nodding happily, then after a moment, he says “…what?”
He then protests that he’s not that old, not compared to the Devil who is “very many centuries older” than he is, so if these kids are using age as a guideline, they’re all at the wrong end. “Next to the Devil, I’m just a child!” Santa says. He does note that he hasn’t “been well lately.” And he further says that these kids have really steamed him, so he’s going to use the Eye-O-Scope and see who the kids really are.
We swirl through the fog to the three kids, hiding under the bed, and Santa announces to them that he can see and hear everything they do. The three decide to scram.
And we cut to the rich kid, who is writing a letter to Santa saying that his only wish is that his parents can stay on Christmas Eve with him. We get each and every word painstakingly written out as the kid slowly enunciates each. And we cut to some other kid, writing (and speaking) in the same fashion, asking for a little brother “about my age” because he’s tried of being bored. Hey, I hear ya. We pull back and, in what is no doubt intended as comedy (and it actually kind of is) we see he’s surrounded by four other kids…all girls.
Elsewhere, the letter writing sequence continues, with some more kids in bed writing. This one spares us the write-talking and just wishes for some parents. So, he’s an orphan, and this is an orphanage, we take it. Well, Santa it’s up to you. Maybe this kid could be adopted by the previous kid’s family.
Our next Santa correspondent wants a train, as well as assorted other vehicles, and he spares us not the write-talking. Our next kid, a girl, stiffly informs us that she wants a ball and some shoes.
We quickly cut to (I think) the Naughty Trio, writing that “As my two little brothers have behaved very well, you must see to it that they get everything.” Yes, it’s them all right as we’ve apparently concluded our letter-writing scenario and are now off to see these letters mailed. The Naughty Trio mails theirs, and I swear there’s a mushroom cloud in the background of the shot! Wow, this is timely!
Next, we see the mailman retrieve all these letters, and we cut to the post office where some guy is going through the letters, reading “Santa Claus” as he picks up each one. Is he magically chanting to Santa Claus, hoping for a toupee or are these all addressed to Santa Claus? I guess it’s the latter, because a flunky brings up another bag of them. And Bald Guy orders them all flung into the furnace (which is luckily right there in the office). Turns out this is what they’re supposed to do, as (in an orgy of special effects footage) all the letters fly up the flue on their way to the North Pole. And they all fly into Santa’s face, and he laughs like a madman as they knock him down and begin to cover him. He laughs and laughs and is sure glad no one has forgotten him. I’d like to forget him, this is seriously disturbing me.
He pulls out one at random and, taking a long time, opens it. The kid claims to be good (Santa reads the letter to us) and has a long list of demands, including “an atomic laboratory” and “a machine gun.” Santa is sure bemused by the length of wants on display (the letter is several pages). Finally, Santa pronounces, “So be it,” and he puts the letter in a slot marked “Verdad Surtase” and I don’t know what that means, but I guess it is in the “nice” section.
A confusing swish pan (it looked like we followed the letter down the chute, to another Santa Claus on a lower floor, and for a moment I feared it was that laughing robot) I think shows us Santa reading the last of the letters. And it’s the one from the Naughty Trio. ”And as my two little brothers have behaved very well,” Santa reads with skepticism, “you must see to it that they get everything.” He snorts. “Ha! A falsehood!” The narrator notes, “See? There’s no fooling Santa Claus,” as Santa gets up to put this letter where it belongs—“Into the liar’s box!” he says, pushing it in a slot marked as some other kind of “Surtase” (can’t read it from the angle).
Finally, he reads the one about the kid wanting a brother. He chuckles over that and puts it in a slot marked “Paris” with a little sign of a stork carrying a baby. “Here’s one for you, Mr. Stork!” Santa says. You clown, Santa. You could have grabbed the orphan kid and stuffed him in your sack and brought him to the brother-wanter. And all would be happy. But no, you took the easy way out.
Well, having read all the letters and filed them appropriately, unthinking Santa laughs and laughs and laughs and walks out of the shot.
And we’re back to the storm with all the kids of the world in their little boats. Except now that I can see it a bit more clearly, they’re not boats, just some sort of holding pens or something so no plagues can spread (I guess). They’re not out on the water, it’s all one solid arena. But there’s still a raging blizzard.
Santa appears to give them a pep talk about how Christmas is practically right here and everything so all must be ready. “And we still have thousands of things to do!” he shouts. Having given this, uh, pep talk (no one pays any attention to him) he chuckles and departs.
We cut to some guy in wizards suit (pointy hat with Moon and Stars on it) cooking up various chemicals while a pentagram broods above the guy. “Here is Merlin the Wizard!” the narrator says…just like that, no warning, nothing. I mean, this has to be the ultimate sort of non-sequitor and this narrator guy just treats this as nothing! Who’s next, Sherlock Holmes? No, no…no, forget I said anything!
”A little absent-minded, perhaps, but Santa’s most devoted helper,” we’re told, as the Santa Claus mythology spins out of control and smashes into a round table. In case you’re keeping score, like I know I am, we are precisely at the thirty-six minute mark. Oh my God. It has to end soon, right?
Santa stomps into the lab (there are beakers full of bubbling fluids) and calls for Merlin over and over, finally poking him when he gets no response. Merlin starts and notes that he was startled, then talks about some chemical paste he’s whopping up in order to make the sky turn hundreds of different colors. Well, that will probably confuse Galactus when he arrives to drain our planet of life energy, so that’s okay then. Santa asks about the sleeping powders and is told they’ll be ready in three minutes (it takes a lot longer to say this in the film). Merlin goes off and gets a bowl of these powders and Santa laughs and laughs and laughs. Merlin mentions some kind of metal…or maybe it’s the powders…which is an amalgamam of various metals, including uranium and plutonium. Yes, that will put folks to sleep all right. There’s a bit of “comic “ business as Merlin forgets the urn and has to go back for it. He also seems to be weakly hopping as if he’s riding a horse and murmuring a riding fanfare.
He goes to a bunch of huge flowers and gathers pollen from all of them. He brings the bowl back, and then goes back to the flowers for another ingredient but forgets the bowl again. This sure adds to the running time, but Santa finds it all hilarious. Next, Merlin gets some dandruff from some mecha-bird or something and this is the last ingredient. And it goes on and on, until our heads fall off and burst like ripe water balloons. Santa complains about getting old. Merlin notes that he’s now so old he’s “useless” and he gets no argument from me. Santa asks for some kind of flower (or maybe flour) that will allow him to disappear, and there’s some confusion on the part of addled old Merlin. It isn’t funny so I’m not writing it down. You’re welcome.
Finally he hands over a flower, Santa sniffs it and disappears, and then (I guess) he sniffs it again and reappears. This also takes much, much longer to work out than what I’ve written here. Anyway, Santa thanks Merlin and departs.
And we cut to some beefy guy with a beard and no shirt, pounding on an anvil. Oh my God, I hope this isn’t Hercules. This movie really has it in for me. What the heck did I do? Think, man, think!
”Next, Santa calls on the master blacksmith and key-maker of the palace,” the narrator pipes. Santa approaches the guy (“My dear key-maker”) and the guy says, “The golden key that opens all doors is ready, Santa. It is at your disposal.” And he points to a big box, and Santa scrambles over. The key-man follows and opens the box and gives Santa the key. They talk about how great this key is and all, but I thought Santa used chimneys? What does he need a key for?
The key-man invites him to try it out “on a thousand magic portals” and Satan exits stage left to do so. And I bet we get to see ALL THOUSAND of them.
Actually, we only see three of them, remarkably enough (for this movie). The key doesn’t really go in the lock, it just sparks dangerously and the door opens.
Then we fade to Santa walking through the last door, which is shaped like a giant keyhole. And the film goes whacky for a moment, as the narrator says, “This is Santa’s train—“
And the film blurgs up pretty bad, the soundtrack wobbles out on us, and we cut to Santa’s boots. We pan up and see he’s trying to reduce his waistline with one of those vibrating belts. He has his full costume on so I’m not sure this is going to work for him. The narrator says this is important (using a lot more words). But if he HAS A MAGIC KEY, INVISIBILITY and SLEEPING POWDER, why does he need to use the chimneys then? Argh and some more argh.
He then goes to a ladder and climbs up it, and gets into a…practice chimney. He goes up and goes down, then repeats, showing us he has reduced his waistline, so he can fit in every chimney now. Okay then. So I guess the narrator was telling us this is Santa’s training room, but we lost a bit of footage, how sad (sniff). Pity we didn’t get to see Santa run laps around the track in slow motion, while Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire” music played. That would be…well, better than anything we’ve seen.
We then get a sign, reading “TRANS HEAVENLY AIRWAY – Flight SC 707 – THE SUPER REINDEER SPECIAL – Red Carpet Flight to EARTH, MARS, JUPITER & SATURN – Via the Milky Way.” An announcer reads all this too, in case we were illiterate or stupid or maybe both (I am, after all, watching this movie because I chose to).
We get another mist-fade and the narrator invites us to see Santa’s sleigh and reindeer, and a troupe of children (all singing) are coming along to make sure everything “works.” The kids sing a song in Spanish as they proceed to polish the reindeer, but don’t worry, they are all fakes anyway. The reindeer, not the children. They also hammer on them a bit.
And Santa approaches his…blue sleigh. That’s what color it is. I…guess that’s okay, I always thought it was red but my dreams are all so fragile. Anyway, one of the Russian kids has a lengthy speech in a foreign tongue, though I think it is Spanish. Santa answers in kind, then says (in English) that “it’s not a bad idea to use modern spaceships for interplanetary flight…but to convert my white reindeer into Sputniks? Noooooo, I should say not!” he finishes, wagging his finger. He also notes that they’re just fine for getting to Earth.
”Well, I guess that’s okay,” says the narrator, not quite in the spirit of the modern age. He does note that he would find Sputniks pretty unusual combined with Santa. Then all the kids run away as fast as they can, except Pedro who runs in with a big book of all the names and addresses for tonight’s delivery.
Say, what happened to Pitch, anyway? Not that I really care (guy’s a loser), it just struck me that we haven’t seen him for over twenty minutes now. He probably got lost in the extensive men’s room somewhere. I hope he has a magazine. An old magazine.
Anyway, Santa thanks Pedro for the list but says he won’t need it, as he still has a great memory despite his confession to Merlin earlier that he was getting old and wasn’t what he used to be. (Compared to the Devil, though, he’s a child.) As this is fairly contradictory, Pedro looks a bit dubious and puts the book in the back of the sleigh, you know, just in case. Santa notes that it is almost time for the crystal clock to strike ten.
Pedro slowly spells out that Santa has to get back before the sunrise, because if sunlight strikes the reindeer they’ll turn to dust. Santa laughs that this is important, because if that happened he wouldn’t be able to get back. Uh…right. That’s why Pedro was saying you should be back before…oh, I give up! Besides, wouldn’t Santa know this? Or was he just humoring Pedro, since Pedro is a slow kid?
There’s some discussion about what people eat on Earth (in Santa Land, they only eat desserts—this is apparently all that Santa can eat). Santa says that Earthers eat everything in sight, including “smoke and alcohol!” Pedro looks appropriately shocked and I sure wish I had me some of that alcohol, myself. This sequence, by the way either proves that Pedro isn’t human (he has no idea what humans eat) or that he’s stupid (he has to be told what he himself eats everyday) or maybe even both. Either way it’s at least a strike against Pedro. Maybe two strikes.
Santa then terminates the discussion by noting that they’re wasting time. But that’s been happening THE WHOLE MOVIE, you’re just now noticing? Oh my stars. I have to stop now, almost all my blood has drained from my ears. Back tomorrow.
Round Three. Today before enduring today’s torture I happened to glance at the IMDB’s entry about this particular celluloid whizbang. Since I like to write these things with an innocent heart, I read none of the reviews or user comments, but had a sneaking suspicion that would not go away. So I scrolled to the bottom. Literally. Found out this movie’s running time. Right now, we’re at forty-seven minutes in.
We’re halfway. If you could imagine my face, it would be very scowly right about now, when it wasn’t filled with tears.
So, where were we? Bored to tears and wasting our time, but with a movie. If you can call it that.. To cheesy organ music, Santa boards the sleigh and a bunch more kids show up. They sing a song in English this time, but it still isn’t memorable. Fortunately, the organ drowns out most of the singing, from what little I can decipher it is awful. The kids toss presents into a huge paper sack. Oh, and Santa has for the first time in this movie put on his Santa hat, famed all over the world for being red and having a white ball on it.
”Hurry up my children,” Santa sings, “get on with your packing, it’s the night for Santa Claus to fill all those stockings.” His voice is pretty bad for singing, he reminds me of John Schuck who you kids might remember as the Klingon Ambassador in Star Trek movies Three and Four. And Six, I think, too. Anyway, the kids enthusiastically mumble out more song, and more presents are put in, including two guitars. Santa continues the song (looking really maniacal). “Merry, merry greetings, I take to one and all, so hurry if you want to enjoy the yuletide fun.” He then smiles at a song well murdered. And more presents are tossed in including one more guitar. (I bet those presents are for the Ramones.)
And Santa’s sack duly crammed, the kids leave wishing Santa a safe flight and a quick return home. And he begins his mad laughing and decides to see if he’s got everything. While he goes over his magical inventory, we see Pedro miming it all. Is there no end to this kid’s talents? Well, not really because there’s no beginning either.
Finally, Santa produces a huge key, because he has to wind up his reindeer. The narrator notes that Santa’s sleigh is really a toy sleigh. Yeah whatever, just end faster please. And we get to watch Santa key his reindeer, in loving detail. And their feet all start moving, and they start twitching and their eyes move like the tentacle eye. All of this of course makes Santa laugh like a crazed person. One of the reindeer attempts to join in but it makes a noise like a giant stinging insect would just before it strikes.
So, Santa takes off and wishes that his giant Fortress of Solitude should enjoy peace while he’s gone. Well, without all that laughing it’ll sure be quieter. “And,” he adds, “Jesus the son of God join us on Earth, so we can have peace and goodwill.” I’m actually kind of surprised Jesus wasn’t already up there. Maybe His scenes got cut.
And the sleigh takes off as Pedro waves, and Santa slowly makes his way through the heavens, because everything is slow in this movie. Like brains. And Santa is heading toward a giant golfball. Oh, sorry, the narrator says it was the Moon. We next see the Earth, and the narrator asks where Santa will go first before naming a few places in his excrement. Oh, I meant excitement, I guess I was just…you know, projecting or thinking out loud.
And we cut to a seedy rooftop, which Pitch has managed to conquer by his fearsome power of sleeping right on it.
But enough of that, we cut to the Rich Kid, as his parents bid him goodnight on the way to their nightly orgy. They tell him he can practice his piano if he gets bored. He sure looks bored after they leave, then he decides to try sleeping. Oh, that was exciting. My heart’s pounding, but that’s because I’m hitting it with a clay hammer to try to keep it beating.
And we cut again to the Naughty Trio, shooting craps, like the cameraman of tonight’s feature. The narrator opines that “the Devil is nearby” after telling us that he “knew it.” We then hear the kids tell us in detail how they plan to stun Santa and throw him in a sack and take all the toys, then come back later and make Santa their slave. They’re so excited they barely manage to tell each other to shush because, as proven, Santa can hear them.
And of course we cut to an organ grinder, striding through the streets. There are various children dancing and some are playing with sparklers. Lupita is watching this festive mayhem as she prepares for bed, and she asks her mother something about Mr. Claus (I think it is about who he is, exactly) and Mom answers about the Cyberdyne Systems Claus 2000 she saw earlier, who’s laughing powers make the Joker look like a total piker (the Joker has to breathe). Mom appears to be preparing some giant doll for burial. Anyway, she continue to talk about Santa, and Lupita asks at one point (I could swear) if Santa knows about her butt. Mom laughs indulgently, and starts to tell us all about the Santa we just saw in his castle in the sky, who brings toys to children who “are obedient.” Lupita looks a bit worried about this. As much as Lupita can look anything, I mean.
She notes that Santa must not like her, as he has never brought her a dolly (or a Dali). Mom looks a bit caught by this, and says that perhaps Lupita forgot to ask for one. Lupita asks if she can ask now? Mom, barely keeping it together, says she could go ahead, but you can smell the heartbreak a-formin’, as Mom has no money to go out and hold up Santa’s illusions.
Lupita requests that Mom knock off the crying, and Mom notes that Christmas makes her sad, because it brings back memories (after I’m done with this film, Christmas will bring back sad memories for me, too, because I’ll remember watching this film).
Lupita senses Mom’s about to become a real downer, so she asks what Christmas is for, anyway. “Lights, please,” says Linus at this point in that animated Peanuts special, but here Mom notes that we’re all supposed to think of Christ, and how he was even poorer than Lupita’s family, and Lupita senses another lesson coming on and says she’s already prayed to Satan…cough, I mean, Santa, and asked for two dollies, so she can give one to Jesus. Mom thinks this is swell and really starts to tear up seriously, luckily we cut to Santa soaring…er, slowly trundling…above the clouds, before you all get holiday-whacked and there’s not a dry pair of pants in the house.
The narrator pipes up to note that, yep, that sure is Santa piloting that display of bad animatronics. And we see Pitch again, conqueror of the world of about three cubic feet, feeling around the smokestack he’s clinging to for warmth. The narrator assures us that Pitch is just waiting for Santa to come to Earth and he’ll show him a thing or two, but my guess those things would be two black eyes that Santa will give him, probably almost by accident.
And Santa’s first stop is Mexico City. Wow, what luck! That’s where all the letters came from, so this will be a real time saver, and because we’re…
…fifty-five minutes in, it means, oh GOD it means we have almost forty minutes to go! Man this situation stinks. Sigh.
Pitch just sits and shivers and wishes he was back in Hell, where I am. But then he hears Santa laugh and this is just what he needs to set his nefarious plans in motion. He starts stretching, and pushing on the chimney, and before our befuddlement becomes terminal the narrator explains that Pitch is trying to push the chimney out of place so Santa won’t be able to get into this house. This ONE house, out of MILLIONS. Well, there you go, Christmas is totally ruined. Pitch, you completely suck. A stiff breeze would snap your neck. Here’s me hoping. All Santa has to do is laugh and you’d go sailing into the sunset.
He manages to move the chimney without crushing his wrists, so he rubs his palms together at an evil well accomplished. And does he go to the next house, to do the same? No, he hangs around to enjoy his inevitable defeat. Well come on, that’s what’s coming.
Santa lowers a rope ladder to this very house, then he lowers a sack of toys, then he lowers himself, while Pitch fidgets. Finally, Santa jumps into the trompe l’oiel chimney and finds himself still on the roof. However, he smells sulfur, and that explains everything. He knows Pitch is around, so he jumps out of the faux chimney and has a look around. I must confess, I thought when Pitch moved the chimney it would leave a big hole in the roof, but somehow he seemed to move the chimney and cover the hole at the same time. So the people below are suffocating! Well, there’s one notch for your belt of evil, Pitch.
Santa, though, takes out the world’s tiniest umbrella and gently floats to street level. Pitch is utterly defeated and snarls and stuff, then he leans over inhumanly to watch the happenings. Really, he leans over the way a cartoon character would. It’s almost interesting.
Santa uses his spark key to open the gates, and goes inside, and some kids wake up and almost see him in the act (even the narrator is in a panic), but Santa uses the sleeping powders and the kids yawn way more than humanly possible and Santa’s rear is saved.
Back up top, Pitch decides to put the chimney back. Wow, how nefarious, is there no limit to his YAWN evil, that blackguard, etc. Santa is wise to this game, though. After squeezing out the presents from his loaded sack, Santa blows into the fireplace, right when Pitch is looking into it. Pitch gets his ashes hauled over himself. And Santa pings out of sight.
Next, we see Pitch gamboling in a swank living room, doing all kinds of stunts and ballet-moves. The narrator notes how he seems pretty gay, I mean, cough, pleased with himself and stuff over his next move. He looks out the window and sees Santa approach, then he goes to the fireplace and starts blowing. I’ll say. But flames roar in the fireplace and shoot up the chimney, and Santa gets a tad roasted in his nethers. But the narrator hastens to point out that Santa is unscathed.
Hm. You know, it just occurred to me I should do a bit of a list. A psychotic Santa and an ineffectual demon. A stony-faced little girl and a Pedro in a hat.
I wish there was someone on screen I could view as a protagonist.
Well, where were we? Pitch laughs at Santa’s predicament, until he stops, because the narrator says he was foiled. Damn that narrator, I bet Pitch thinks. But he gets another idea. Actually, it seems to be an idea to ballet all over the furniture (Pitch is kind of like Donald O’Connor here). Then he uses his super heat breath to make the doorknob super-hot. Why, the fiend! The narrator helpfully tells us that Santa will burn his hand, also the magic key won’t work.
Luckily, Pitch is so engrossed in his heat-breath that he doesn’t note Santa entering through a window, and seeing perfectly well what Pitch is up to. While Pitch continues to blow (I’ll say, again), Santa sneaks around and delivers all the presents. But then Santa finds a toy cannon! The narrator notes this is mischief time. I note that it’s Miller Time.
Santa fires the cannon, an arrow embeds itself in Pitch’s ass, he yells and runs around and Santa laughs (it’s surprising how often I type “Satan” instead of “Santa” and have to backspace. But then, it really isn’t that surprising).
And now we’re at the home of Rich Kid, going downstairs as slowly as possibly, to play piano because he’s bored. I hope we don’t get a whole song but I would not put anything past this movie. It’s in the eyes, you see, in the eyes. If we do get a song I hope it’s “Hey Ho, Let’s Go” because that would wake me up for sure.
Sure enough, he sits at the piano and plays a few chords before getting bored and gazing at the Christmas tree. He looks a tad strung out, and I am sure he is a few more Christmases away from becoming a Santa Claus himself. We track in on his fire, which looks like the remains of a burning giant spider, before the flame burns down and we fog out to Santa. Hope he’s got a pair of parents in the bag or we’re all screwed.
Santa blows him a kiss (eww) and puts a big bag under tree, which has a bowling board, a, uh, bottle of liquor, a guitar, a, um, fine selection of cigars…damn the rich grow up fast, eh?
Santa approaches the sleeping tot, and notes that said kid (now asleep of course) doesn’t care about the presents, but he (Santa) will give the kid a great gift—the ability to see Santa “as I really am.” I hope he’s not a poisonous octopoid or anything. So he gives the kid a sniff of the “powders that will let you dream that you are awake.” Oh…okay. That’s all right then, officer, move along. And Santa blows crap on the kid, and the kid awakens, but still looks like a ventriloquist’s dummy. A kind of creepy one. He dashes forth and clutches Santa’s boots and demands to be told that Santa loves him. I want to look away from the screen but am spellbound.
Well, Santa picks him up, and the awkwardly built kid looks even more like a wooden dummy. Santa avers that of course he loves this kid, “just as much as your parents. Because no one loves a child as much as his parents. Only at times the parents…don’t understand their children…and the children don’t understand their parents.” Like, some parents need to party hardy every night, and kids should respect that. I guess.
Rich Kid asks if Santa is sure his parents love him, and Santa says, sure, “now go back to sleep again.” Hey, problem solved! Pitch, you are such a loser. Someone could probably poke you with a rubber band and you’d explode into a shower of golden fats. And you would probably not get that right either. Probably end up a shower of golden cats.
Santa puts the sleeping kid back into his chair, saying that it was all just a dream. Which I guess means that his parents don’t love him after all. Pitch, Santa is better at evil than you. Explode, Pitch, please. “When you awaken,” Santa says, withdrawing, “I wish you much happiness.” And Santa tenderly takes his leave. And we hold on the now empty living room so long I expected Pitch to pop into it, but as usual my expectations for Pitch are way too high.
Instead, we cut the swinging gin orgy Rich Kid’s parents are at. Before they can throw off their clothes, they meet some other couple and shmooze, then Rich Kid’s parents are served a strange, smoking pair of drinks, by a waiter we never see. Santa’s offscreen voice describes them as “the cocktail of remembrance, which only I can prepare.” He then talks about love, and forgetting loved ones, and being sincere in loving someone so that love is loved and everyone loves love a lot. Sounds good to both of them, so they down the drinks ex post facto.
And of course, the offscreen Santa vanishes. Rich Mom avers that she knew that face, that white beard, when she was a child; Rich Dad notes that if his beard was that long and white when his wife was a child, that person would “be dead and buried by now.” (He’s sleeping on the couch for sure tonight.) He toasts this thought with another slug of Santa Claus Sling. And now both of them feel the urge to see their kid, and the leave the party while Santa spies from an unguarded window.
So the Rich Parents return home, and wake up Rich Kid, and everyone has a group hug, and Santa smiles upon a job well done. This is going to take forever, isn’t it? Somewhere I died and went to hell. Well, they always said it would happen (in shop class) and I refused to listen! Serves me right.
We cut now to the Naughty Trio, discussing further mischief, and then Pitch appears, blinking in and out and apparently encouraging the lads to do bad things, at least according to what the narrator is telling us. So they plan to use a rope to trip Santa, so they can be beaten up by him (how it might turn out if Pitch is in charge). Pitch is delighted at the potential.
They sense Santa approaching, so they get the rope ready, then they hear a bunch of tuneless whistling and some low tones, and a fireball shoots out of the sky right at them. Terrified, they abandon their rope and huddle together. Pitch appears nearby and tells the kids they made a mess of the plan, and “you’ll never lick me!” He then lets out a WOO-HOO that would do Howard Dean proud. He then pops off.
The kids recover from the invasion from space and speak in odd, stilted tones about what they just experienced. They then decide that maybe Santa left them something after all, so they go back to their bedroom. They find rocks in their shoes, literally. Pitch appears and makes them fight amongst themselves. Way to go, there, Pitch, you’ve accomplished something they probably do every day on their own.
Pitch laughs and laughs, very pleased with himself, and notes that Lucifer ought to be pleased with him as well. “See you later!” he says to the kids as he pops off. He then appears around a wall, doing that weird leaning trick that’s the only interesting thing about him, though I have to admit his miming is getting better. He peers around a wall and sees Santa going down his rope ladder into another chimney. When Santa climbs down awkwardly in real time and disappears from view, Pitch appears at the ladder and climbs up. Oh, this ought to be good…if your idea of entertainment is watching a potato freeze.
Pitch climbs up into the sleigh, now devoid of presents (and reindeer, too) and takes the reins. But the reindeer (turns out they were just out of shot) won’t budge. Just then, Santa starts climbing up. Oh no, he might be at the sleigh in fifteen minutes and punish Pitch by barely touching him, causing severe bruising. It’ll be the battle of the, erm, uh, what time is it? Anyway, Pitch gesticulates and a pair of scissors appears. Oddly, though, he doesn’t seem to use them on the rope ladder, as Santa slowly climbs up and heaves his bag and his self into the sleigh. Maybe he cut the reins, or maybe he cut his own damn throat, or maybe he cut the film and will suddenly appear in a much better light in my view. Or more than likely he simply cut the cheese.
Santa slowly heaves up the ladder, and slowly climbs into the seat, and slowly looks around, and slowly detects sulfur. He knows Pitch is around, but otherwise takes no action. And Pitch appears at the back of the sleigh, and cuts the bag containing Merlin’s sleeping powder.
”Oh my!” says the narrator in horror, “Mr. Merlin’s magic greening powders! Now Santa won’t be able to put anyone to sleep!”
Mr. Narrator, he’s been doing a damn fine job putting me to sleep, powder or no.
Santa calls for his reindeer to take off, and he hears coughing, and turns and sees Pitch, who apparently got a face full of the sleeping powder. What an ignominious end, no wait, that’s not the word, oh, what is it…oh yeah. Sucks. Santa also turns forward so fast he loses his magic flower which drifts away. I guess the key will be the next to go.
Well, Santa takes off through the storm, and the flower of disappearing floats slowly down…so slowly, in fact, that it’s clearly being lowered on a wire. The narrator hopes it won’t fall into bad hands. Yeah whatever. We cut to an extreme close up of Santa floating down to a house, no rope ladder or nothing. He goes through a gate, using the magic key. He goes through a strange looking garden, laughing, because when you’re trying to deliver toys, laughing is a great way to keep from being detected. He passes a dog house labeled “Dante” with a sort of boxer or Boston terrier in it. The dog barks, Santa laughs, the narrator notes with alarm that “Santa isn’t afraid of that dog! He still thinks he can disappear!” And Pitch pops up and frees the dog and tells him (the dog) to go bite Santa.
Santa turns and shows no fear, until he discovers he lacks both brains and…I mean, he lacks both his powder and his flower. So he runs and climbs a tree.
”Good thing Santa’s friend Superman is always ready to lend a hand!” the narrator says, as a familiar blue and red uniform streaks into the scene. Okay, I made that up.
Pitch appears in a window ledge and taunts Santa. “That certainly was a very funny sight,” he says, “old white beard and his sack, running as if the Devil himself were going to take him below.”
Santa, angrier than a hat of bees, says, “You’ll pay for your mischief, you just wait and see!”
”Hm,” Pitch admits, “but first you’ll have to come down from that tree, and I can have a lot of fun before you can get rid of Dante. Cos you know what I’m gonna do?” he asks with a flourish. “I’m going to wake up everybody!” Not in this movie you aren’t.
”Bah!” Santa says, “Nobody can hear your voice!”
Pitch waves impatiently. “They hear it in the form of their own private imagination or ideas,” he explains. “Let them see how foolish you appear!” he yells, then laughs and laughs. Then he pops off again, and we cut to the inside, where some people are sleeping. Pitch appears to the husband and tells him that there’s a vicious murdering prowler out in the garden, but the man stays asleep for a long time. One imagines many of the audience were in a similar state.
Outside, Santa bellows at the top of his lungs for Merlin or the key-man, but in the Santa Lab, no one’s around to hear. When the cat’s away, etc. Back on Earth, Pitch tries to get the wife aroused. I mean, out of bed. Both the parents suddenly dart awake. The husband grabs a revolver to go shoot Santa Claus. Make every shot count!
I’m sparing you the alleged comedy. The husband is cowardly and doesn’t want to go, he starts coughing saying he has pneumonia, blah blah blah. It goes on for a long time and isn’t funny. Pitch next appears in someone else’s bedroom, and in the only really clever bit in the whole movie, he picks up a phone, dials zero, holds out the receiver toward the sleeping woman, and as he gestures, she starts yelling, “Help, police, there’s an assassin in the trees,” as Pitch conducts her. He then pops into the father in law’s room and blows the guy. With his breath. He then does the same trick with the phone, and the old guy yells, “Fire department! Firemen! Firemen! The house is burning! I’m on fire! You don’t believe me?”
Pitch looks nonplussed at this disbelief on the part of the fire brigade, so he blows the phone and, at the police station, fire comes out of the telephone. (It’s the police station, though, and not the firehouse, you can tell by the hats.)
And the music turns sad, and we see Lupita shivering as Pitch tells her she ain’t gonna get nothing and she shoulda kept that doll, what a fool, etc. She wakes up and says “Don’t poor people get anything from Santa Claus?” I transcribe it here because if you ever see this movie, the line is so slowly and badly delivered that you might not understand her. Not that it makes the slightest difference anyway. Mom goes to comfort her. She explains that Santa is even-handed, but Lupita notes that dawn is almost here. Mom tells her to get some rest, maybe it will all be okay in the morning.
Back at the tree, Santa is still calling for Merlin. In the Santa Lab, Pedro is walking around dusting and hears the frantic call. He runs off to find someone who cares. And maybe a quarter, too.
Back at the house where Pitch was fomenting trouble, everyone runs down stairs. One guy even has a shotgun. Be sure to aim well, you only have one shot at this. They all try some awful comedy about who’s going to go first. Then a child says, “Hey, everybody, I want to play cops and robbers!” and everyone really goes all moany at this.
Back in Santa Land, Pedro finds Merlin in his lab, there’s some attempted comedy before Pedro outlines the situation re: Santa Claus. Merlin decides there’s no time to lose and hobbles along as fast as he can’t go, still muttering his riding fanfare.
At the house, Pitch appears to three out of four adults and convinces each that they are the bravest of the bunch. This leads to infighting and delays everything. Way to go, Pitch, that’s snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We get some stock footage of emergency vehicles on their way to the scene. The narrator notes that this could be bad for Santa.
Pitch shows up again and taunts Santa some more about how the sirens are coming for him (Santa) and the reindeer will turn to powder, Santa will starve to death, “and I will rule the Earth!”
Pedro and Merlin finally show up at the lab, and Merlin calls down to Santa. “Merlin! Merlin! Merlin!” Santa answers. “Where are you?”
Merlin notes that he is in the lab. Geez, Santa, even I knew that. He asks what the matter is and says Santa ought to be coming back really soon, okay? Santa explains why he can’t do that, using a whole lot more words. Merlin hops off to do something. Shoot himself, I hope. Actually, he climbs the tiny ladder to the telescope. He asks Pedro where to find Santa, and Pedro reels off the countries and continents Santa has already visited.
Merlin notes that he’s found Santa, in Mexico, and Santa is in a terrible fix and there’s no time to go to his rescue. Okay, are we done then? Can we go home now?
Merlin tries some free association (“Black is white,” etc) which suddenly gives him the idea that what is needed is…a cat! There’s this long conversation between Merlin and Santa in which they note they don’t have time for long conversations, and Merlin finally manages to geezer out that Santa should use a wind-up toy cat to make the dog run away. Santa thinks this a clever idea.
More stock footage of vehicles. Just sayin’.
Santa finds a stuffed cat, tosses it, and the dog runs after. We see a great shot of the stuffed toy just shooting along the boulevard, dog in hot pursuit, and Santa takes some valuable time to laugh. There’s always time to laugh, unless you’re watching this movie.
Dozens of cops all pour into the garden, along with the family. Gosh, you mean that wasn’t stock footage? Huh.
”Nothing around,” one of the arriving cops stonily intones. “Can’t see anything. Better look around.” CSI, eat your heart out.
Everyone arrives in the garden, and the fire brigade sets off the hose which soaks the family. That was probably hilarious to someone. Not me, though.
Elsewhere, we see Santa sneaking off, while Merlin informs him he’s got to get back right away, but Santa insists he has one more stop and he can’t fail this one, “first come the children.”
None of the cops or anyone finds Santa or anyone. Pitch is so mad about this, he starts smoldering. So the fire brigade, spotting the smoke, soaks him good with the hose, and he runs off, the narrator hoping that he (Pitch) gets pneumonia, because he deserves it.
And we cut to the flower of invisibility, it tumbles off its ledge and falls right into Lupita’s house. What luck, eh? And we get a really great looking shot, honestly, it’s almost hauntingly poetic. You think I’m being sarcastic, but I’m not (this time). The shot shows Lupita’s mom, wrapped up in a blanket and sleeping in a chair, apparently having some troubling dream. Outside the window, a trail of sparks goes by, followed by a rope ladder. It’s really a haunting, subtle view of Santa’s arrival. If the movie had more shots like this I might have liked it some.
There’s a knock at the door, and Mom wakes up and goes to answer. It’s Dad, who announces that he has not found any work. Lupita wakes up and relates some dream she had about Santa Claus, which I honestly couldn’t decipher. Mom seems to be in a similar state, as she just says Yes, yes, go back to sleep. Lupita says that in her dream, Santa said he left her a dolly somewhere outside (hopefully not in a merchant’s cart, like last time).
Mom tries to be stoic, maybe next year, etc, but Lupita gets out of bed and goes outside. And outside is a doll as big as she is (at least). Mom and Dad look upon this miracle and raise their eyes to the heavens. (Dad looks like a young Dustin Hoffman in this scene.) Mom does the sign of the cross (really).
Lupita goes to the window and notes that one of the stars “is a palace of crystal and candy, the home of Santa Claus. He’s just arriving with his sleigh and his white reindeer. Thank you, Santa Claus. Goodbye, Santa Claus. Thank you for a wonderful Christmas, Santa Claus.”
And we see a ball of fire shoot off into the skies, trailing sparks. Then we see the sky palaces as the miniature sleigh goes back toward them, like in the earlier shot when it was going away from them, only different.
The narrator tells us that Santa is happy, because “once again, he has brought joy to the children of the world.” And we see lots of footage of Santa in his sleigh, and miniatures of same, and giant rotating androids, and wolfmen, and finally, a title card, which reads (as the narrator does same) “Blessed Are Those Who Believe For They Shall See God. PEACE ON EARTH…GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN.” Finally, the narrator says “Merry Christmas” and we get that on a title card, and finally the swellest present a person could ever want: THE END. On a title card. And it IS the end! Merry Christmas, movie house!
For a lot of people, this is a hilarious camp classic. A number of K. Gordon Murray productions have this surreal, goofy charm to them; they’re like Ed Wood films in their naïve, quiet refusal to play by the rules of ordinary storytelling, and I can appreciate some of them. The Santo movies, for example, are fun, if a bit depressing (never be a pal of Santo if you want to survive the film), and it’s weird to see a detective superhero wrestler have to interrupt his investigation so he can participate in a match. The Brainiac is another favorite, a film that is so odd, it’s like a David Lynch film made by Martians.
But this was just boring. The endless talking, the endless routines, the endless repetition…you know, after a while, it all just seemed endless. None of the kids could act a damn. Poor little Lupita was the worst. This was clearly a kid who was, at the very oldest, four years old. She could barely talk, let alone deliver a line. The Naughty Trio were slightly better at portraying characters, but not by much, and besides, they contributed almost nothing aside from getting that creepy robot stoned.
That was the problem with a lot of the sequences here—they contributed nothing other than running time. The Rich Kid’s whole story could have been entirely excised, saving probably ten minutes of screen time. Merlin, too, could have been entirely eliminated, and as slow as he did everything, that would probably cut out another fifteen minutes from the film. Ah, but how could Santa have gotten away from the dog? How could he have made a sleeping flower and a disappearing sauce or whatever the hell? Well, how about if he saved himself? He could have concocted those drugs and thought of the toy cat all by himself, and we might even have respected him some for that.
Okay, then, so. Was there anything good about the film? Well, it was certainly colorful. Pitch was bright, fire-engine red. Santa’s castle was clean-looking and some of the sets were okay, but—and I emphasize this—just okay. While the guy who played Santa got on my nerves, he kind of grew on me there after a while, and whoever dubbed him sounded like Orson Welles. And while Pitch was the least threatening supernatural being in the history of such folk, I must admit that the guy who played him was a very good mime. Toward the end of this thing, I actually enjoyed watching Pitch go about his exaggerated bits of business, because he was really good at moving and gesturing and such. Those phone things he did really belonged in a better movie than this one, they were that clever.
As a villain, however, whoo boy.
On the front cover to this DVD, a little green bubble contains the text, “Pitch is on the loose! Can Christmas be saved?” Well, Christmas was never in the slightest danger from Pitch. Not even a tiny tad in danger. When Lucifer said that Pitch had to turn every kid in the world against Santa Claus, I thought that was a pretty tall order for someone who is for the most part a ballet dancer. Don’t think I don’t respect ballet dancers and their astonishing powers, but they’re not that useful for wreaking havok and sowing discontent. The fact that Pitch (or perhaps Piatch would be closer, if you get my meaning) couldn’t succeed to the tiniest degree led me to believe that Lucifer really wanted chocolate ice cream, and was too lazy to go to the store. Further, on the back it notes that Santa, Merlin and the children of the world team up to fight Pitch. Such an array of might would be totally wasted against Pitch. I suspect a slight scowl would be enough to make him wither into ash. Pitch=Loser. And Loser is congruent to Weed.
Granted, this is a kid’s movie, so you can’t have anything in it that’s really scary (so the logic goes). Never mind how frightening parts of The Wizard of Oz were, and how that is beloved by children, never mind Harry Potter either and some of the things he faced, never mind any of that--no one involved in this film wanted to be responsible for some kid having a nightmare after he saw another kid have a nightmare about giant sad-faced dolls who insisted on petty theft.
But still granted, Pitch sucks (or blows, literally). He’s kind of the evil version of Dropo, seen in this month’s co-feature, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Makes me wonder if the Devil’s real work against humanity is producing Christmas films.
Speaking of Devil’s work, I have to note the theological aspects of this film, and yes that is not a typo. Santa mentions he hopes Jesus will accompany him (in spirit) on his trek, he also has a creche scene in his palace, and when Lupita gets her doll, her mom makes the sign of the cross. The narrator ends by saying, “Blessed Are Those Who Believe For They Shall See God.” What does he mean by this quote? The only way it could tie into this movie is if Santa Claus is supposed to be God. If we believe in Santa, we’ll see him, in the form of this movie. The fact that, should Santa be defeated, Pitch will rule the world seems to support this idea.
You know, once you start to think these kind of thoughts, all kinds of parallels occur. Jesus was crucified on a cross of wood, and cried to the Heavens, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Santa was chased into a tree of wood by a dog (“god” spelled backwards) and cried to the heavens for Merlin to save him. Jesus didn’t get an answer, and Santa didn’t get one for a long time (because Merlin was old). Santa also compares himself (favorably) to the Devil, which is not something a lot of people do casually I bet. Especially when the comparison is for someone who will judge your behavior. Plus, Merlin totally sucks which has nothing to do with theology but I felt like saying it anyway.
Also, note that there are three castles in the sky, though I think we’re supposed to understand that Santa lives in only one of them. Who lives in the others? Well, following our admittedly ludicrous theory, it might be Jesus and the Holy Ghost in the others, to make the Holy Trinity. I didn’t get struck by lightning for typing that, by the way. (And I woke up the next day, too.)
(You know, I just noticed that not only is God "dog" backwards, but with a slight revision, Santa becomes Satan! So we have God chasing Satan into a tree! Maybe Pitch is actually on the side of good, and like so many on the side of good, that's why he's so ineffectual--he can't promise rewards! ...I just was kidding.)
Lastly, we have to look at Santa’s role in the behavior of the kids in the film. God is always watching and judging us, and so is Santa (with the aid of technology and Mexican kids). If they’re good, they’ll be rewarded, but the Devil is always around tempting them to be bad. It all starts to look like an allegory. Even the letters and their chutes, you know, the letters could be souls and the chutes, well, “nice” is like Heaven and “naughty” is like this movie, I mean, like Hell. It starts to get a tad disturbing.
Let me wrap this up by saying once again, hoo boy. I can’t imagine any children watching this movie being anything other than bored out of their minds. The whole God parallel stuff above is total hooey, as this film probably started a lot of juvenile delinquents down their chosen path, since they were so depressed by this movie that they started tearing up theatre chairs with knives. Some adults might think it’s funny, but only if you’re drunk out of your skull (that’s me in the corner) or so inured to tedium and boredom that swatting a mosquito on your forearm constitutes a battle royale.
Maybe if you had a bunch of friends who were similarly drunk you might have fun with this thing, but I kind of doubt it—you’d have to be really drunk, and then who’s going to operate the remote control? Who’s going to put the disk in the player? Who’s going to yank the damn disk out of the player after ten minutes and fling it into the fire, hoping to spark some peace on earth and goodwill toward men? No one, that’s who, except someone who wants to be my hero. They’ll all be too drunk!
I just hope there aren’t any guns in the house when this all happens or it’s going to get messy.
So, anyway. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!
That oughta hold the little buggers.