Sunday, December 25, 2016

Movie Review: Santa Claus (1959)

Santa Claus a.k.a Santa Claus vs The Devil 
Cinematográfica Calderón S.A., Mexico, 1959. 

Part of Mill Creek's Family Holiday 20 Film Collection. 

Up in the space flies castle of Santa Claus (José Elías Moreno). Santa's multicultural child labourers sing Christmas songs for ten minutes. Then the story gets going. The kids are making strange toys and meanwhile in Hell the devils practice ballet because what else. Santa's eternal enemy Lucifer the King of Hades is annoyed and he sends Pitch the Devil (José Luis Aguirre 'Trotsky') to Earth to turn children evil and make Santa angry. 
José Elías Moreno
José Luis Aguirre 'Trotsky'
Pitch and the three naughty boys
Three naughty boys turn into Damien-trio and throw Santa's representative with rocks. Poor girl Lupita (Lupita Quezadas) wants to have a doll. Pitch tries to urge Lupita steal a doll, but she is too good for that. Elsewhere rich boy Billy (Antonio Díaz Conde hijo) dreams about his parents as he is lonely. Meanwhile Santa and his helpers are trying to find out the good girl's name. Now Santa has spy equipment that NSA would kill for. has They also have a machine called Teletalker... OMG WHAT IS THAT?
Santa's buddy Merlin the Wizard (Armando Arriola) brews potions for Santa in his laboratory. Such as powder that makes kids sleepy (obviously Sandman also uses Merlin's services) and a flower that makes Santa invisible. Keymaker (Ángel Di Stefani) provides Santa with ultimate lockpick. Then Santa is ready to deliver the presents. Little kid Pedro (Cesáreo Quezadas 'Pulgarcito') reminds Santa that he must return before sunrise or the mechanical reindeer will turn into dust! Now that would surely ruin Christmas mood! Pitch does all kind of naughty tricks to make Santa fail. But Santa has some tricks in his sleeves too! But the three Damiens are back with a vengeance. And finally Santa gets stuck in a tree.
José Luis Aguirre 'Trotsky' and Lupita Quezadas
Pitch tries to tempt Lupita
Armando Arriola
Merlin's lab
Ángel Di Stefani
Will Santa survive the evil tricks? Will Lupita get her doll? Will Billy's parents realize that their son needs love too? Does Pitch have to eat ice cream?
Reindeer service
Antonio Díaz Conde hijo
Ho, ho, ho! Now I have a cannon!
The Mexican Santa Claus folklore sure looks different, so it is a bizarre film containing weird scifi-movie elements combined with religion. It still seems to be popular in Mexico, being shown on television on Christmas. In the early 1960s it was also popular in the USA winning even film awards, so it is quite unfair to put it in the IMDB Bottom 100 list just because of the weirdness and its antiquated world views. The production values are good by standards of cheap 1950s scifi movies, so it is not Ed Wood style hilarity but entertaining in the style of Hong Kong/Japanese superhero/monster strangeness (no fights though). That is not to say that it isn't campy, wacky and often downright creepy (watch out for Santa's crazy laughter). It is a quite different Christmas movie, silly but basically traditional tale of good versus evil.

Rating: Good (as a weird Christmas movie experience)

Starring: José Elías Moreno, Cesáreo Quezadas 'Pulgarcito', José Luis Aguirre 'Trotsky', Armando Arriola, Lupita Quezadas, Antonio Díaz Conde hijo, Nora Veryán, Polo Ortín, Manuel Calvo, José Carlos Méndez, Jesús Brook, Rubén Ramírez, Queta Lavat, Ángel Di Stefani, Guillermo Bravo Sosa, Graciela Lara, Rosa María Aguilar, Keith Hetherington, K. Gordon Murray (as Ken Smith), Juan Antonio Edwards, Pablo Ferrel 
Directed: René Cardona, Ken Smith (English version)

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