Jon de Vos: Christmas on Mars
December 23, 2011
What a difference just 60 days makes in holiday movies!
Two months ago it was all zombies and vampires, goblins and stupid teenagers getting chewed into burger-bits with a chainsaw.
But now it’s Christmas. Movies are all Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart, filled with dreams achieved, love requited and lives repeated until they’re gotten right.
So I figure what better time to ask, what’s the worst Christmas movie ever made?
I quickly found that you don’t have to wade deeply through Google to find a recent Fandango poll that showered heaps of praise upon the 1964 “Santa Clause Conquers the Martians” as the ultimate worst Christmas movie ever made. Martians, it turns out, are insanely jealous of happy earth kids who get all their greedy little Christmas wishes home-delivered by a jolly fat man. What to do?
Well, thinking Martianally, the obvious answer is to invade Earth and kidnap the fat, cookie-thief. Then Santa could be forced at raygun-point to bring happiness and Nintendos to Martian sprouts, just like he does for every good little Earth boy and girl.
Mars’ insidious plans are upset when they discover bell-ringing Santa’s on every New York street corner and can’t decide which to abduct.
Beware – spoiler ahead: Everything turns out OK. “SCCM” was produced for $20,000. Most of the backgrounds were painted cutouts from refrigerator cartons and it was filmed almost entirely in an abandoned airplane hanger. There’s a point in the movie where the alien communicators are speaking to each other through cardboard toilet paper tubes.
There’s also a point where bad becomes baaad and turns good. Like sour cream. This movie is also notable as the cinematic debut of actress Pia Zadora, arguably the worst actress ever put up on the big screen by monied boyfriends.
There cannot be a list of bad Christmas movies without including two heavyweights like Hulk Hogan in “Santa with Muscles” and Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Jingle All the Way.”
Hulk, portraying muscle-bound Blake Thorne, has become wealthy marketing health food and supplements for horribly inflated prices. Success turns him into an obnoxious, self-centered jerk. The cops get involved and Hulk dashes into a mall and steals a Santa suit. In a foretaste of the movie’s future, Hulk jumps down a garbage chute and bangs his head. When he comes to, he thinks he really is Santa and runs off to save an orphanage from the evil clutches of an insane doctor. The movie ran for two weeks in November 1996, raising just over $200,000 before mercifully closing.
In a Christmas grapplefest, 1996 also produced “Jingle All the Way” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was arguably a much worse movie than “Santa with Muscles,” teaching rampant consumers that it was OK to pepper-spray your way to the front of the mall line to get your kid the latest action-figure doll. The movie grossed well, probably because that’s back when the Shrivers and Kennedys were still buying tickets to his movies.
A fourth contender out of a surprisingly large field of bad holiday movies is “Surviving Christmas.” The happiest and most satisfying part of the movie was when James Gandolfini snuck up behind Ben Affleck with a shovel, shouting “Bad actor. Bad, bad, bad actor!” Whack! OK, he didn’t really yell anything, but he did smack him with a shovel. Which he should have. This 2004 mindbendingly bad movie opened in October but it was so poorly received that it went to DVD before Christmas.
So if you’re not doing some last minute shopping, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” is available to play instantly on Netflix. The entire results of the Fandango Worst Christmas Movie poll are available on the Fandango website.
And to all, a good night.
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