The worst Christmas movie

THE GRIPE

The Gripe

December 16, 2005|By CHRIS KALTENBACH | CHRIS KALTENBACH,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

A feature in which Sun writers and critics sound off about the movies.

This Christmas season, you can watch It's a Wonderful Life on TV, not to mention A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Christmas Story (24 hours straight on TBS, beginning at 8 p.m. Christmas Eve), the Christmas episode of The Waltons and about 37,000 versions of Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Yep, just about everything ever filmed that has anything to do with Christmas is showing somewhere on TV over the next few weeks. With one notable exception.

Where's Santa Claus Conquers the Martians?

Certainly, no one who's ever seen this 1964 movie has forgotten its delightful story - OK, maybe delightfully wretched would be more descriptive - of a Martian plot to kidnap Santa and take him to the Red Planet, in an effort to stop Martian kids from whining about how desperately they want a Christmas just like the Earthlings.

Shot on a budget that must have approached $42.50, on sets direct out of someone's backyard and featuring actors emoting in ways that would make Olivier flinch, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is the sort of Grade-Z filmmaking that deserves to be celebrated.

Heck, its cast even includes 10-year-old Pia Zadora, who would grow up to become a pint-sized, second-tier sex symbol in the early 1980s. (She would win a Golden Globe as New Star of the Year in 1982, an award the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has yet to live down.) Just this year, a novelization of the film, written by humorist Lou Harry, was published (Penguin Books, $18.95).

And yet, no TV network has seen fit to put this meisterwerk on its schedule? No one is willing to give TV audiences the chance to sing along to the film's insidiously catchy theme song, "Hooray for Santa Claus"?

Oh, the shame.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

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