Dec. 8 – Mystery Science Theater 3000: Santa Claus
MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: SANTA CLAUS
Original Air Date: December 24, 1993
Just in time for the holidays, Mike and the Bots are forced to endure the most twisted version of Santa Claus the world has ever seen!
Mystery Science Theater 3000 was the brainchild of magician/comedian Joel Hodgson in 1988. What began as two puppets and a man yelling improvised lines over full-length movies on a small Minnesota UHF station transformed into two puppets and a guy writing incredibly insightful and hilarious lines to yell over full-length movies on Comedy Central starting in 1989, and then on the Sci-Fi Channel from 1997 to its cancellation in 1999 (10 years ago?!)
MST3K ran for over a decade on multiple channels and in syndication, and even produced one theatrically released movie
The show maintains a large cult following, and DVDs of the hour-and-a-half episodes (cutting out the commercials) continue to trickle out on a semi-regular basis. The hold-up is due partly to the need to purchase the rights to an entire movie for each episode in addition to the cost of licensing the show. Fortunately for fans, in 2009 Shout Factory finally released the highly sought-after episode featuring the 1959 Mexican film Santa Claus.
While Santa Claus received a very limited theatrical release within the states, it’s grown into a cult classic all its own due to an extended life on television throughout the last 50 years, as well as an absurdly loose understanding of the legend of Santa Claus.
The now immortal “Patrick Swayze Christmas” from a previous MST3K Xmas
Yesterday’s special, It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown put me into a whole “Midwestern Christmas” vibe, and I figured I’d ride that crest into one of my favorite shows ever: MST3K. Hell, it’s kind of a twofer if you think about it. Bear with me, though… it gets a little nuts.
These jerks shot a guy into space to make him watch really bad movies
Okay, before the dozen or so of you reading this blog start yelling at me… I’m aware that this isn’t animated. But technically, neither are The Muppets, and you can be damn sure I’m going to write about them again. Besides, it’s good for my sanity during this ridiculous marathon of daily bloggage, and I had to figure out some way to watch the DVDs I preordered months ago.
Apparently, Gypsy had started knitting the sweater for Joel
Anyway, after belting out a Christmas carol that goes horribly, violently wrong, Mike and the bots exchange horrible gifts with one another.
There is no present worse than a savings bond
Things don’t fare much better for the Mads. TV’s Frank got his boss, Dr. Forrester, a necklace, and then even shaved his head. Unprepared, Dr. Forrester gives Frank an old savings bond made out to himself. They introduce the south-of-the-border Christmas film… and this is where things really get weird.
And I’m not talking about this
In the 1950’s, Mexico didn’t associate Christmas with Santa so much…
A gateway to horror
Whether this film was meant as a means of spreading the holiday (or Christianity) down Mexico way, or was simply a case of one country presenting another country’s culture as quaint folklore, I can’t be sure. But the result is one of the most warped and disturbing versions of Christmas, Santa Claus and the Holidays ever carried out by well-intentioned people.
This’ll all make sense in a second
In this version, Santa Claus lives in Outer Space
Where he oversees the production of toys occurring in a place called “Toyland”
A Very Merry Sweatshop
And said toys are not made – day in and day out – by elves… but by children hailing from various nationalities. Santa’s got child laborers from America:
Fine, we’re an easy target
Okay… that’s a little racist
Full-fledged racism, nailed it
And even Africa:
And just when the film is done presenting stereotypes with the utmost of insensitivity, it introduces Satan.
Aww, Mexico! Don’t belittle our Devil too
Apparently, the Devil has assigned his best man, Pitch, the task of turning kids evil just in time for the merriest of holidays!
Psst… celebrate Kwanzaa
Meanwhile, we catch Santa as he literally watches over little boys and girls the world over. Hardly a mere voyeur, the big guy has an apparatus that lets him see into minds, dreams, and bedrooms…
Oh, it gets creepier
Wait for it…
Seriously, Santa? You could at least try and look less excited.
And the audience gets to revel in Santa’s hedonistic delight. Watch as a young “rich boy” dreams of exhuming his deadbeat parents from a pair of festive coffins, won’t you?
So while the Devil’s favorite minion is off invading the dreams of of preschoolers, let’s take a break for my favorite host segment of the whole piece. Because this time around, Mike and the bots exit the theater to rock the Satellite of Love to its foundation, courtesy of their new-age synth-ensemble, Santa Kläws!
“Are you ready to be merry!?”
Do they, in fact, rock?
Oh, yes indeed
Now, nothing against the host segments here – they’re fine and the riffing is just above average. But the film itself is by far the star of this particular episode. I can’t recommend watching Santa Claus and it’s utterly bizarre interpretation of Christmas enough.
Just another day with the Devil
It’s one of those movies you might’ve heard about and always meant to watch, but lord knows I’d never get around to doing if not for the added draw of running commentary from a couple of robots.
Did you know Santa’s reindeer are white, crank-activated, creepy as all hell, and turn to dust if they don’t return to outer space by sun-up Christmas Day?
It’s a fact! (in Mexico.)
And how familiar are you with Santa’s technique for navigating the world’s households unseen?
A rope ladder, it’s so simple
Or did you know that he has a flower that makes him invisible? What about the magic powder he blows in the faces of woken children to knock them back to sleep?
Even inattentive parents will know Santa’s poison
SO, the devil continues to possess the minds of Spanish-speaking North Americans and still finds the time to sabotage Santa’s sleigh and its arsenal of dirty Christmas tricks…
If you don’t have a kid to force through this film, rent one
However, the demon’s final masterstroke proves to be his greatest: getting a dog to chase Santa up a tree.
Christmas better have a Plan B
With nothing left in his bag of tricks, the devil provokes the home’s residents into arming themselves – with guns! – and slaying Santa as if he were a dangerous intruder.
“But honey, I need these bullets for bullfighting”
Santa reaches out to his only remaining life line and calls out to the North Po…I mean, Galactic Headquarters! And what valiant hero heeds the call? Is it Jack Frost? Mrs. Claus? How about one of his many indentured children? None of the above…
Why it’s Merlin, of course
The Arthurian legend acts fast (for a man centuries old) and tells Santa to reach into his sack and pull out a stuffed cat to distract the dog long enough to make his escape. Christmas is saved, evil is punished, and all viewers under the age of 10 are scarred for life.
This picture is 1080p, so any dust or hair you perceive is the fault of your monitor
But it’s not like MST to end on a down note, heavens no. Borrowing the liberties taken with the film, a light snow falls on the Satellite of Love.
A rare moment of gravity and weather
And that’s not all! Pitch the Demon stops by for a visit to Deep 13 and is confronted by none other than Santa Claus, to deliver the fightin’ finale the film never did.
Will the Devil get his due?! Who cares, it’s a comedy!
Santa does mention The Lord Jesus Christ a single time, although I can’t be entirely certain it wasn’t a mistranslation of “Merlin.” But there can’t be a Devil without a Jesus, right? So, I’m awarding one cross for that, another for the nativity scene Santa fixes at the beginning, and the last for the following ending screen:
It’s that simple
SANTA’S METER OVERFLOWETH! I dare say there’s too much Santa in this movie… I know I certainly could’ve done with less.
Hanukkah Harry would be ashamed
Again, there’s just this “Gee, Gosh, shucks, it’s Christmastime dontcha know?” quality to both MST3K and the Peanuts special that makes me warm all over. It playfully mixes in the sweet with the cynical, and I can’t really imagine that ever becoming any less timeless.
PRODUCT INFORMATION (Support the site!)
Santa Claus is available on DVD in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume 16 box set, which also includes a personal favorite of mine, Warrior of the Lost World, and a kickass Tom Servo bust! If you’re bold enough to go Santa Claus alone, you can also purchase a bare-bones, bot-less version at your own personal risk. The immortal MST3K “Patrick Swayze Christmas” song appears in the episode Santa Claus Conquer the Martians, which is available in the Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Essentials collection, on a double bill with Manos: The Hands of Fate. You can’t go wrong with that disc, trust me.