The Spirit Of Santa Claus In Film
Social commentary has often been at the center of many films. Morality, insight, wisdom gained from choice, all common themes while reviewing the extensive library of cinematic history. Especially unique are the holiday films involving the myth of St. Nicholas, known by many names in different cultures as Santa Claus or Papa Noel, El Espiritu De La Navidad.
Legend says: “For thousands of years, I have been coming to the planet Earth, a beautiful one to Be, that my spirit came from a very distant galaxy, and lives in the place that today is known as Scandinavia with contagious joy and power of precipitation, who shares with everyone my knowledge of life in other parts of the universe. I am tall, thin and very youthful of stature.”
Like all other legends, this one has meaning and resonance, of sharing and generosity. Santa Claus became the figure of a man always ready to offer millions of gifts every year. “The image of his great wisdom over time reflected as an old man. His body radiated reddish light, giving rise to the clothes of that color that always symbolizes Santa Claus and the traditional characteristics of the cold region which reflect the countries where he resided.”
A variation of this fable, passed down for generations, was explored in a searing 1964 Science Fiction film, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. Directed by Nicholas Webster, screenplay unknown. It received notice at the Canned Film Festival in 1986, and appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000. One of the martian children, Girmar, is played by six-year old Pia Zadora, in her dramatic film debut.
The plot originates on Mars, covers several themes using martian family relationships, exploring how their society educates its youth. Momar and Kimar are unhappy about their kids watching too much Earth TV, especially Old St. Nicholas interviewed on Nickelodeon from his workshop in the North Pole. Seeking the wise counsel of the 800 year old sage, Chochem, he criticizes martian culture for being too strict in the methods of educating their children, “fed knowledge into their brains through machines, they are not allowed individuality or freedom of thought.”
He suggests this path is stifling their creativity. “The only way to correct this control is to allow the children freedom to have fun.” He argues that a Santa Claus figure like the one Earth would give the children the spirit they need, enhancing joy and happiness in their lives.
Unfortunately, as with many, advice is often not interpreted as intended. The leaders devise a plan to kidnap Santa Claus and bring him to Mars to work in one of their factories created for him, to make toys for martian children, and bring laughter and happiness to all the land.
Kimar flies to earth with other members of “the council”, and Torg, a robot, (an anagram of Gort, in The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951). They use a freezing ray on Mrs. Claus forcing Santa to go Mars.
There are many complex subplots, the special effects, makeup, and robotics are extra cheesy, and some say it is the worst Science fiction film ever made, however the morals conveyed by the movie supersedes all that. Perhaps this film contains wisdom for adults and children alike. Don’t use TV as a babysitter; Be careful how you interpret advice from great sages, oracles and soothsayers; Don’t steal Santa Claus’s from other planets, and “It is” all about education, not assimilation (as in the Borg Collective).
As the film ends Santa is returned to earth as the martians choose one of their own to become the Santa Claus of Mars. Chochem, the guru would probably have said: “Listen up folks, you can’t find laughter and happiness by stealing it from someone else, but by finding it within.”
And so the tale ends as the spirit of Santa Claus conquers Mars, bringing laughter and cheer and a Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas.