Santa Claus vs. Satan

December 18, 2009 | Comments (0) | by Adam Blank

No, this isn't part of our ongoing Pop Culture Gauntlet series, but a review of one of the most bizarre Holiday films ever made.

Christmastime is full of movie traditions. With classics such as It's A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, and about a hundred other essential holiday movies, it seems absurd to recommend another addition to our vast cultural repository of essential holiday films. But I'd be doing a disservice to the world if I didn't try to make the case for the 1959 epic simply titled Santa Claus.

This Mexican film was made by famed South-of-the-border director Rene Cardona, who directed a shit-ton of movies, such as: Rock 'N Roll Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy, Santo vs. the Diabolical Brain, and the schlock classic Brainiac.

An American producer, K. Gordon Murray, bought the rights to Santa Claus and a few other foreign children's movies. He then dubbed them into English and released them in the U.S. and made a fortune off the burgeoning kiddie matinee circuit, which Murray helped create in the first place. Santa Claus played theatrically for decades. Unsuspecting children were dropped off at the theater to endure this spectacle while mommy finished up last minute shopping. And what, exactly, were these generations of children exposed to?

For starters, Santa Claus lives in a crystal palace in outer space that sort of resembles a mosque. Here he's collected a small army of children of different races & creeds ("Even Russia!" the narrator informs us) who work to assemble the toys for the Earth children. No elves for this Santa. It's at this point that we're introduced to the various groups of children, who dress in the "traditional" garb of their native lands while corresponding stereotypical music plays in the background.

This scene alone lasts a good 5 or 6 minutes, so I'll give you the highlights: The African children wear loincloths and have bones in their hair. They dance to a tribal drum. A nine year old Harem girl from "The Orient" dances seductively. The German children wear lederhosen, the American children sing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and the Mexican children play "La Cucaracha."

Meanwhile, in HELL, Lucifer sends his most flamboyant minion, Pitch, to earth in order to trick children into doing evil. If he fails, he'll be forced to eat ice cream.

That's right. Santa Claus must contend with the forces of evil from the bowels of Hell. In hindsight, battling the denizens of Hell makes a foggy Christmas Eve without Rudolph seem as troublesome as not having an umbrella in a vagina storm.

Even though there are millions of children on earth, only five are to be tempted to do evil by Lucifer's obviously homosexual assistant. The first to be tempted is "a good little boy whose daddy is quite rich." The second child is the ridiculously adorable Lupita, whose family is comically poor and all she wants is a fucking doll. Any doll. Finally, we're shown three boys who look like they crawled out of a Monogram poverty row picture from the 40's. We immediately know they're bad news because they wear leather jackets and scally caps. Tempted by the devil, they throw rocks through a store's display window.

In order to find out who's naughty and who's nice, Santa employs surveillance devices that make our drone aircraft look like a cup-and-ball. These tools of omnipotence look like they came out of a hybrid of "Pee Wee's Playhouse" and Un Chien Andalou. With these devices, not only can Santa see you "in a cave or behind a million mountains," but he can also see inside your dreams!

Santa spies on the rich boy, who dreams of unwrapping two giant boxes which contain his emotionally unavailable parents. All he wants for Christmas is love. This poor little rich boy already has everything he could ever want, except a face that doesn't look like it's been stricken with Down's Syndrome.

Lupita falls asleep in her parent's one room shack, and soon the devil is blowing in her ear(!), which causes her to have a scary dream where 10 terrifying mechanical dolls come out of giant wrapped boxes and perform a synchronized dance in a large room with a fog machine. After the dance, the dolls gang up on Lupita and try to convince her to steal her own Christmas gift. Lupita won't give in, and Santa is thrilled; nearly to the point of orgasm.

With Christmas fast approaching, Santa receives letters from children all over the world. One boy asks for a baby brother. Santa is happy to oblige and forwards the letter to the stork. Another boy asks for an "Atomic laboratory and a machine gun." Without checking twice, Santa puts the kid's request in the "Nice" pile. Kid's certainly made out like bandits during the Cold War.

Before Santa goes on his Christmas Eve run, he goes to see his buddy Merlin the Magician, who apparently lives in his magic palace. Merlin has all sorts of bizarre shit to help Santa break into homes unnoticed, like a magic flower that makes him disappear and sleeping powder which has Rohypnol-like effects on children. Where can I get some of that?

After getting all his magic shit in order, Santa is ready to go. He boards his sleigh, which isn't pulled by 8 live flying reindeer but rather four freaky wind-up mechanical reindeer. Seriously, these fucking things are the stuff of nightmares. We're told that if the reindeer are exposed to sunlight, they turn to dust! Jesus fucking Christ, Santa! What kind of shady occult organization are you running in your outer space mosque of child slavery?

On Earth, Santa must outwit the devil and make sure all the good children of earth receive their presents. Will he succeed, or will Satan triumph over the children of earth? I'm sure you can guess the answer to that. But the real question is: Why would anyone make a movie this fucked up? Well, apparently Santa Claus wasn't big in ol' Mexico. Being a religious people, Christmas focused on the birth of Christ. Thus, the giving of gifts was done to commemorate the gifts of the Magi (the wise men, not the O. Henry story). So this was sort of like a half-assed introduction to the Eurocentric version of Santa Claus we've taken for granted all our lives.

Like Christmas itself, it's best to experience this movie with close friends & family. And whiskey... lots of fucking whiskey. Although it's sometimes dreamlike, sometimes absurd and always shitty, Santa Claus nevertheless looks and feels like Christmas. I've heard that a cheap DVD of this movie can be found at most Walgreens locations for a buck or two. Treat yourself to something nice this Christmas and get a copy, since you can't get this from Netflix.

Rating: 5 Creepy Mechanical Reindeer out of 5.