Thursday, December 28, 2017

DVD Review: K. Gordon Murray Presents "Santa Claus" - or, "Life's a Pitch, Then You Fry!" 

It's been a VERY long time since we've done a Looong DVD Review around here, as comics - both old and new - have had quite a resurgence at this Blog.  But, here comes a REALLY WEIRD ONE! 

K. Gordon Murray Presents "Santa Claus" (1959)

Another looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Summary:  Alien Santa Claus vs. The Devil! ...Yes, really! 

This seems a very unlikely way to "extend Christmas" at TIAH Blog, but this all stems from the the Horror and Sci-Fi Film Appreciation Society that I attend each Thursday night.  

K. Gordon Murray Presents "Santa Claus" was the film of the week on December 14, 2017 - but, alas, I was not in attendance that evening, as I was up against a translation and dialogue deadline for "A Very Special Issue of UNCLE SCROOGE for IDW" that you will soon see... and hopefully enjoy.  

In consolation, I was given a DVD copy of the film by our Fearless Leader, Indie Filmmaker Keith Crocker, to watch at a later date. That date, for me, was December 22, post-Uncle Scrooge deadline but still well in time for Christmas.  

Before we get to my review, please visit the Blog of fellow member Marc Whinston, whose post on "the evening I missed" provides vital background on K. Gordon Murray Presents "Santa Claus" (...So I don't have to!) and offers a TRAILER for the film that you should very definitely watch before reading on... 

...You still here?  Go do it, and come back!  

Okay, now... Ready for some POETRY?  

'Twas the Day Before Christmas,
And Up There in Space, 
Santa Claus Lives,
In an Opulent Place!  

A Palace of Marble,
So Light and So Airy,
Contains Captive Children,
Now, THAT'S Really Scary! 

The Kids Sing for Their Supper,
And Make Toys for Their Keep,
Did Santa Fire the Elves,
Because He's So Cheap? 

Do We Root for This Santa?
Or Root for the Devil?
I'm Not Always Certain,
Just Who's on the Level!  

If I'm Forced to Choose,
'Tween the Two Guys in Red,
I Suppose I'll Pick Santa,
Let the Devil be Dead!  

Just imagine what this film must have done to make me create a Five-Stanza Poem-Parody for it!

Santa's an ALIEN?!  Presumably, his cloud city remains in fixed orbit behind the Dark Side of the Moon [Insert Your Own Pink Floyd Joke Here], which was unseen by man in 1959.  He PASSES the Moon on his way to Earth, bolstering that postulation.  

He opens with laughter far more maniacal than jolly, and apparently keeps CAPTIVE EARTH CHILDREN OF ALL NATIONS for his labor force - and his entertainment!  Since the children, at one point, wonder what they EAT on Earth, it's clear that Santa's probably taken them at a very early age, (perhaps from the hospital - or WOMB) as they do not miss their parents, and the parents are not searching for them!  BRRRRR!  

The children perform nation-specific musical numbers for Santa's amusement, like some bizarre living parody of Disneyland's "It's a Small World" ("After All") exhibit!  

But, still there are worse beings in the cosmos than this version of Santa Claus.  Specifically, "Lucifer the Devil", who sends his hapless minion "Pitch" to turn the children of Earth (the ones Santa has NOT labor-trafficked in) against Jolly Old St. Nick!  

The various elements of the film come together in an orgy of unparalleled weirdness...

We have ballet-dancing devils! 

Melodramatic, self-explanatory, and overly cautionary narration, the likes of which you would have heard in then-contemporary cartoons like RUFF AND REDDY - and was so manically lampooned by William Conrad in ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE!

Legendary magician Merlin and Vulcan (the key-maker) are also in Santa's thrall... 

What's on those FLOWERS Santa so often SNIFFS, Merlin?  

And, can you save some for Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse?

Santa's electronic equipment is outfitted with human body parts, eyes, ears, mouths, etc.   Did he get THOSE from the same place he got the children? 

Last, but far from least, are the Plastic Sleigh-Propelling Reindeer (Only FOUR? More economizing on Santa's part?) that TURN TO DUST AT THE LIGHT OF THE SUN???!!!  ...What are they, VAMPIRES?  

Can't ya hear it now...

On, Bela - On, Christopher,
On, Lugosi and Lee,
In Your Coffins 'Fore Sunrise,
Or Screwed You Will Be! 

Gosh, but I'm feeling POETIC today! 

Yet, despite all its weirdness, this film strikes an interesting balance between sentiment and comedy.  Sentiment with the stories of Little Lupita (the poor girl who wants a doll from Santa) and the poor (in another sense) rich kid who just misses his parents.  

And the comedy:  An indecisive family of cowards with guns (always a sure-fire laugh-getter) who thinks Santa is a burglar.  Pitch in soot-blackface after a chimney blow-back - with an exasperated camera-facing stare reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote, or Oliver Hardy - and getting butt-missiled by a toy cannon (below)! Santa treed by a Pit Bull, and Pitch doused by a fire hose!  

All of this stuff managed to work for me - meaning that I actually LIKED this film!   

I only wish I had the experience of seeing it with the group!  

Though I did the NEXT BEST THING!  I watched it back-to-back with FAMILY GUY's "Road to the North Pole" - with it's rather unorthodox portrayal of the legend of Santa Claus.  Everyone should see these two back-to-back for maximum effect!  

They kinda GO TOGETHER, Don't They? 

Back quickly to reviewing the DVD itself... This DVD version of K. Gordon Murray Presents "Santa Claus" comes with no subtitles, extras, or even a Theatrical Trailer... but I'm never one to look a gift disc in the mouth!  

Oh, did I say "mouth"?   

Please send your thoughts - especially if you've actually seen this film!  ...I wanna know what you think!  


Achille Talon said...

…Well isn't this just strange. (You'll forgive me for not being more talkative at the moment, but it is almost midnight in France; I will be back tomorrow with a little more insightful comment.)

Debbie Anne said...

The only time I saw this film was on Mystery Science Theater 3000. And there were these three guys talking through the whole thing! (Which is pretty normal for MST3K, actually...). This one and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians were both featured in different episodes. MST3K can be pretty funny... until you realize "Hey, Waitaminnit...I'm still watching one of the worst movies ever made!"

Joe Torcivia said...


Yes, this IS just about as strange as things can get!

Oddly enough, beyond the strangeness, what was done by K. Gordon Murray and his people with this Mexican children’s’ film is not all that far removed from what the different countries do with Disney comics, when they translate and localize them.

…Though never, even at their absolute weirdest, has the source material ever been at this level of bizarre!

Santa, Pitch, and I eagerly await your “more insightful comments”!

Joe Torcivia said...


Funny, like you, the only folks I know who have ever seen this film have seen it on MST3K!

Now, I know I’m in the minority on this so don’t write-in but, just as with my dislike of the comic strip Pogo, I hold MST3K in similar regard. Unlike Pogo, which despite being slow-moving and way too wordy is undeniably clever and even profound, I find MST3K more annoying than funny. I don’t need them to tell me how “bad” a film is. I’d rather behold the spectacle for myself. …And, believe me; our group – or just Li’l Old Me by my Li’l Old Self – can come up with stuff just as good, if not better.

I think their ultimate film-shredding was “Manos: The Hands of Fate”… I certainly remember seeing that on MST3K. It wasn’t nearly as enjoyable an experience for me as seeing it all by my lonesome – as part of a 12-movie DVD collection appropriately called “The Best of the Worst”, which included (among other such “classics”) “The Beast of Yucca Flats”… and “Eegah”! I’ve not yet found the time to view the latter (…I won’t tell you why, but its initials are “Horrifically Busy”), but I’m guessing we won’t find Mickey Mouse’s Man-of-Tomorrow in here!

Seeing “Manos: The Hands of Fate” as its producers intended, I got more a sense of what the film really was and what it tried to do… and could THEN rip into its flaws with more of a “clear and unfettered conscience”! I’d say it would be the same with K. Gordon Murray Presents “Santa Claus”.

Because, as I note in the review, there are some moments of attempted genuine Christmas sentiment, that I’m certain our friends at MST3K overlooked in their rush to (okay, deservedly) ridicule!

Achille Talon said...

I'm mostly on the same side as you, Joe, when it comes to Mystery Science Theater. As far as what it's trying to do goes, for one thing, I simply often find The Nostalgia Critic funnier (although, like all comedians, he doesn't always hit his mark). Something the Critic at his best has that the Theater crew usually doesn't is that the Critic presents, as his name implies, a genuine review. One filled with comedy and over-the-top jokes, yes, and the "Critic" persona is noticeably a fictionalized version of Doug Walker, but the reviews often give an end message summing up what was good about the movie that the Critic overlooked for the sake of comedy.

And, moreover, unlike MST3K, which, because they watch the whole movie in one go, gives people the impression that they can dispense with watching the original, the Critic has a different format where he splices the clips he wants to make fun of with his own footage, for an end result of about 25 minutes, meaning that having watched the review isn't going to replace having watched the mvoei.

Joe Torcivia said...


I think the key point is exactly in what you said… That being MST3K made their reputation on putting down the works of others.

Never mind the fact that those works might be bad (intentionally or otherwise) long before being “tributed” on their program, would this crew have achieved the fame they have WITHOUT putting down the works of others?

To me, anyway, there’s a BIG difference in doing a review that points-out the flaws of a movie, TV show, book, comic, song, album, DVD, etc. (even in a largely humorous way - HECK, *I* did it in THIS review), but still gives it credit where (or IF) it’s due, than setting out with the intent (largely or solely) of only making fun of it.

But, despite my views, MST3K has been very popular for many years, and remains so to this day – and, ironically, has ADDED to the legend of certain movies that would have otherwise slipped into complete obscurity, so my hat’s off to them.

The fact that Deb and others have ONLY seen K. Gordon Murray Presents “Santa Claus” as a result of its being lampooned on MST3K speaks to that!

I may also be the odd-duck here as well, but MST3K (for the admittedly very few times I’ve seen it) never gave me … “the impression that [I] can dispense with watching the original”. Indeed, it’s made me WANT to see the original all the more – and be able to judge it without their wisecracking – as I did with “Manos: The Hands of Fate”.