Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is a 1964 American science fiction comedy film directed by Nicholas Webster, produced and written by Paul L. Jacobson, based on a story by Glenville Mareth, that stars John Call as Santa Claus. It also features an eleven-year-old Pia Zadora as Girmar, one of the Martian children.
The film also marks the first documented appearance of Mrs. Claus in a motion picture (Doris Rich plays the role), coming three weeks before the television special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which also featured Mrs. Claus.
The film regularly appears on lists of the worst films ever made, is regularly featured in the “bottom 100” list on the Internet Movie Database, and was featured in an episode of the syndicated series of the Canned Film Festival of 1986. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians took on newfound fame in the 1990s after being featured on an episode of the comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000.
That episode became a holiday staple on the Comedy Central cable channel in the years following its premiere of 1991. It has since found new life again, as it has been the subject of new riffing by Cinematic Titanic and RiffTrax, both productions of former MST3K writers and performers. The film was also featured on Elvira’s Movie Macabre.
The Martians Momar (“Mom Martian”) and Kimar (“King Martian”) are worried that their children Girmar (“Girl Martian”) and Bomar (“Boy Martian”) are watching too much Earth television, most notably station KID-TV’s interview with Santa Claus in his workshop at Earth’s North Pole.
Consulting the ancient 800-year-old Martian sage Chochem (a Yiddish/Hebrew word meaning “sage”, though pronounced differently from the film’s version), they are advised that the children of Mars are growing distracted due to the society’s overly rigid structure. From infancy, all their education is fed into their brains through machines and they are not allowed individuality or freedom of thought.
Chochem notes that he had seen this coming “for centuries”, and says that the only way to help the children is to allow them their freedom and be allowed to have fun. To do this, Mars needs a Santa Claus figure, like on Earth. Leaving Chochem’s cave, the Martian leaders decide to abduct Santa Claus from Earth and bring him to Mars.
The Martians cannot distinguish between all the fake Santas, so they kidnap two children to find the real one. Once this is accomplished, one Martian, Voldar, who strongly disagrees with the idea, repeatedly tries to kill Santa Claus along with the two kidnapped Earth children. He believes that Santa is corrupting the children of Mars and turning them away from Mars’ original glory.
When they arrive on Mars, Santa and the children build a factory to make toys for the Martian children. However, Voldar and his assistants, Stobo and Shim, sabotage the factory and change its programming so that it makes the toys incorrectly. Meanwhile, Dropo, Kimar’s assistant, who has taken a great liking to Santa Claus and Christmas, puts on one of Santa’s spare suits and starts acting like Santa Claus. He goes to the toy factory to make toys, but Voldar mistakes him for Santa and kidnaps him.
When Santa and the children come back to the factory to make more toys, they discover that someone has tampered with the machines. Voldar and Stobo come back to the factory to make a deal with Kimar, but when they see the real Santa Claus, they realize that their plan has been foiled. Dropo, held hostage in a cave, tricks his guard Shim and escapes. Kimar then arrests Voldar, Stobo, and Shim. Santa notices that Dropo acts like him, and says that Dropo would make a good Martian Santa Claus. Kimar agrees and sends Santa and the children back to Earth.
John Call as Santa Claus
Leonard Hicks as Kimar
Vincent Beck as Voldar
Bill McCutcheon as Dropo
Victor Stiles as Billy
Donna Conforti as Betty
Chris Month as Bomar
Pia Zadora as Girmar
Leila Martin as Momar
Charles Renn as Hargo
James Cahill as Rigna
Ned Wertimer as Andy Anderson
Doris Rich as Mrs. Claus
Carl Don as Chochem / Von Green
Ivor Bodin as Winky
Al Nesor as Stobo
Don Blair as the announcer
Gene Lindsey as the polar bear (uncredited)