12 Days of X-Mas: Santa Claus
If you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (and really, who isn’t?), you’ve probably watched their version of Santa Claus from 1959 at least once. When I put this on last night, I wasn’t watching the MST3K version (which I later regretted); I watched the full version put out by K. Gordon Murray. Who is K. Gordon Murray, you ask? Please, let me introduce you to his horrifying world of children’s movies.
K. Gordon Murray was a producer who took foreign movies, dubbed them into English and re-released them here in the US. He did this to many Mexican-made children’s movies, of which Santa Claus is one. It wasn’t only kiddie pictures that he focused on, he also dubbed and released (my beloved) Santo films (renaming him Samson) and also things like The Brainiac and another MST3K entry, The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy. Generally, I try watching the original films instead of (or as well as) Murray’s English dubs. Mexican horror films, in particular, from the late 50s and early 60s are fantastic and I’d rather see them in their natural state than watch a dubbed/edited version.
The original version of Santa Claus was directed by René Cardona. Cardona was a prolific director, chalking up 145 credits to his name, including several Santo titles. His Santa Claus is strange, terrifying (to this adult woman, anyway), and, oddly, sort of charming.
Santa is at his place in the North Pole on Christmas Eve. Instead of elves, he has children representing countries all over the world as helpers. Pretty, pretty, pretty sure that’s against child labor laws but maybe they do things different up there. Santa proceeds to introduce many of these children in what can only be called a stultifyingly dull version of Disneyland’s 'It’s a Small World' ride (but, you know, really annoying) that seems to run for an eternity. Santa is playing a pipe organ at the same time. I think at one point he was playing the theme from the Mr. Clean adverts.
While these seemingly never-ending intros are going on, we’re transported down to Hell (yes, I said Hell). Here we meet Pitch. He’s the Devil’s handmaiden and is sent up to try and get the children of the world to go rogue and turn against Santa. Who would you side with…
Really, they are both scary as fuck.
Anyway, Pitch goes around Mexico City trying to get kids, one little poor girl (both literally and figuratively) in particular, to do bad things. The helpless Santa can’t do shit until the sun goes down, so he watches the kiddies with all his contraptions. He also asks his roommates, Merlin and Vulcan to help him out by making stuff to help him with his nighttime visit.
Eventually (and not a minute too soon), Santa gets a move on and begins his trip. First stop is Mexico City. Pitch is still trying to convince kiddies to do bad things. I’ve gotta think Satan has better things to do with his time than want to punish Santa but, hey, what do I know? At one point, I looked up at the clock thinking the movie would be over any minute and realized it had only been on for one hour. When it hit the 1 hour 20 mark, I thought for sure it had to be ending but NO, it still went on for another 17 minutes. No children’s movie has any business being that long.
Am I recommending Santa Claus to you and your family this Christmas? Let’s put it this way, I’m not not recommending it to you. Honestly, I’m not sure your kid could sit through the entire film, I know my 6 year-old could not. If you’re watching Santa Claus for the first time, you’re probably better off watching the MST3K version. At least it’s shorter. And funny.