Ten Best Christmas Monsters: #9 — The Martians

Mars might need women but it also needs Santa, at least according to the 1964 special Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. To be fair, the martians in this classic tale aren’t really all that monstrous, though a case could be made for the mean spirited Volmar. Second string bad-guys include a polar bear that looks like a reanimated rug, and maybe Torg, the martians’ robot that appears to be made of paint cans and cardboard boxes spray-painted silver. The real reason why they collectively appear on this list of the Ten Best Christmas Monsters is because “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” is quite likely the most horrifyingly weird Xmas special there is– simply a must see.

Too many snobs misread SCCTM as being simply “bad.” It is rated obscenely low on the IMDB and frequently makes lists of the worst films of all time. Mystery Science Theatre mocked it – an honor of it own, sort of. Yet, and I say this as a snob myself, many of these same critics ooo and ahhh over the style of Mad Men and camp of the Pee Wee Herman’s Christmas Special. “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” should be seen squarely in the context of those two works.

But make no mistake, there’s something seriously weird about SCCTM. Certain elements of society are extrapolated as in normal speculative fiction but here, they’re just strange. For instance there is a critique of automation that now some fifty years later appears quaint if not bizarre. The low budget production for the most part enhances this effect from the curious face paint of the martians to the set dressing of the martian spaceship. What the HECK is a “radar box???” Sure, you could go insane while contemplating the words of Lovecraft’s forbidden tomes — or you could pop in a video of SCCTM for a similar brain scramble.

But for the record we should go through the checklist. Are they monsters? Well, they’re definitely not human. And since they kidnap Santa Claus, the martians can be considered antagonists of Christmas, even though I suppose they’re more concerned with importing than eradicating the practice. But it’s mostly the work as a whole that earned the martians from “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” slot 9 on the DailyNightmare’s Ten Best Christmas Monsters.

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