Comments Off on A Walk Thru Santa Claus (1959)
Today is Xmas, the most wonderful time of the year: a time when everything is perfect, when all boys and girls are well behaved, when man loves his fellow man (and woman, etc, etc.), when dogs and cats snuggle together in peaceful harmony, when fruit cake is a delicious confectionary treat, the time of the year when one’s soul cannot help but sing at the beatitude of the day. Or is it the worst wonderful time of the year: a time when everything is horrible, when all boys are girls are devils, when man loathes his fellow man (and woman, etc, etc.), when dogs and cats fight viciously for dominance, when fruit cake is a chunk of disgusting, the time of the year when one crawls into the darkest of corners and prays for death?
For René Cardona it was the latter. Granted, it was the late 1950s, a simpler time all around, and Cardona was in Mexico, which was a land in an unparalleled Golden Age, all of which likely influenced Santa Claus, also known as Santa Claus vs. The Devil, to fall on the happy-go-lucky side of the spectrum. Or maybe the world really is a candy cane dream in the waning days of the year. Whichever end of the spectrum your feelings on this matter fall into join me for this month’s walk thru where we’ll see if Santa Claus is naughty or nice.
High above the North Pole, way out in space, is Santa’s crystal and gold Space Palace. Within, Santa cackles madly as he arranges his nativity scene but soon remembers that he has to make presents for “good children” of the world. He tells the nativity scene as much, and that he mustn’t be late, to which it replies, “…,” because it’s NOT REAL. Undisturbed by this psychotic episode, Santa heads straight to his Hammond Organ to play a jaunty Xmas ditty. The organ has a built in video feed to “Toyland”, Santa’s sweatshop, erhm… toy factory. (Despite being the late 1950s, a time before trophies for all for simply participating, Santa’s P.R. team suggested the name Toyland. Toyland tested well, especially considering all the laborers are small children).
As Santa mashes away at the keys we watch the equal opportunity enslavement at Toyland. There are children from: Africa (half naked, bones in hair, banging drums—Toyland’s equal in conscripted service but still very backwards where race is concerned), Spain, China, England, Japan, Orient (Arabs), Russia, France (whom get special treatment, i.e. names other than “Hey, You”: Evette and Pierre), Germany, Italy, Caribbean, South America (Brazil and Argentina, the only countries in South America), Central America, USA, and finally, Mexico.
Hey, isn’t Mexico part of Central America?
Actually, to suggest this is a sweatshop is my cynicism. Actually, the children aren’t working at all. Toyland is a big room where they’re forced to stay in their ethnic groups and sing traditional songs from their respective homelands.
After all the different groups have finished their lamentations, the children bring Santa a devil toy. The doll has fireworks built into its buttocks which, when lit, causes it to spin around.
Cut to: Hell
In Hell all the devils are interpretive dancers, spinning around wildly like they’ve got a bottle rockets jammed in the buttocks. Wow! Here I was thinking this was going to be a sugar-coated, white-washing but this movie really nails Hell.
Thankfully, after only a few seconds, Lucifer has had enough and calls an end to this dancing tomfoolery, sending all the demons away in a flash, that is, all but Pitch, his chief demon. Lucifer has a special job for Pitch. He is to go up to Earth to cause a mother loving ruckus, Wu Tang Style. Should he fail again (how exactly is he chief demon if he fails all the time?) he will not have hot coals for dinner, he will be served ice cream—chocolate ice cream.
Ah, GAWD! The devil truly is vile.
A cackling animatronic Santa Claus gyrates in a store window, outside of which is a throng of people, mostly children, staring in at all the wonderful things they are too poor to afford. Among the unwashed mass are five children of particular interest: Good Little Boy, whose daddy is rich but negligent, Lupita, whose mother is poor but loving, and three rude boys, the Bad Brothers, whose parents are… ?
Pitch magically produces three rocks from the ground and gives one to each of the Bad Brothers. Without any prompting, and despite the large crowd to witness them, the hooligans throw their rocks through the store window. One hits the animatronic Santa, another slices and hits a Salvation Army bell ringer, the third goes so far off the mark it breaks the Earth’s atmosphere, rockets to Santa’s palace, ultimately hitting Santa in the forehead.
Cut to: Magic Observatory
Santa’s “Magic Observatory” houses the specialized spy gear he uses to look and listen in on anyone on Earth: the Ear-o-scope, the Teletalker (which knows everything), the Cosmic Telescope, and the Master Eye.
First Santa checks on Lupita. She’s wandering around the market with her mother taking in the festivities, dreaming about a dolly of her very own. As luck would have it, one of the vendors is selling dolls, and as she picks one up to hug, squeeze, and love, the vendor is swarmed by customers. Lupita starts to walk away with the doll but before she walks too far off she returns it. Santa is pleased and the narrator remarks, “If you’re good, somehow you’ll be rewarded.”
Ah, there’s the sugar-sweet reality!
Cut to: Good Little Rich Boy’s House
Next Santa invades the dream of Good Little Rich Boy with the Dream-o-scope. Good Little Rich Boy is dreaming of his Xmas presents. Huge gifts so big they dwarf the Xmas tree. Rich people get extravagant presents so naturally Good Little Rich Boy’s gifts are… his PARENTS!?! Awww. Good Little Rich Boy only wants their love, not more things. You’re such a good little Good Little Rich Boy! Again, Santa is pleased, though a little sad. He sighs, “A dream is a wish that the heart makes.”
Ugh. The movie is laying on the sweet so bit thick my cavities were hurting.
The touchy-feels do not last too long, because before Santa’s helpers could roll their eyes, Santa turns his gaze to Lupita.
Cut to: Lupita’s One Room Shack
Lupita is lying on the bed, shivering. Her family is so poor they don’t know how to use the blanket. After watching Lupita twitch uncomfortably for a while, Poor Father finally covers Lupita with his jacket. Pitch appears bedside and blows on the sleeping girl, one hopes to influence her dreams. Although I know this film was made in a simpler time, watching a man in red tights blow on a small girl trying to sleep triggered me something fierce.
In her dream Lupita is the center of a nightmare world thick with smoke-machine fog and populated with creepy adult-sized, dual-faced dancing dolls. The dolls swirl around Lupita. If this is Pitch’s idea of tempting Lupita to steal a doll it’s not working. She can hardly see what is happening; her head is only slightly above the smoke. If she were able to see what was happening it would scare her off of dolls for good.
Santa turns his attention to the Bad Brothers. They’re speaking so softly he has to employ the Ear-o-scope, which in the preceding scenes was the Dream-o-scope, but… whatever. They are making nefarious plans which include breaking their neighbor’s window in order to steal his toys. They “could” be good and get toys from Santa legitimately, but there’s no fun in that. Instead, they decide to write Santa a letter and lie, saying they’ve been good so they can get presents. What they don’t realize is Santa is snooping on them. Disgusted by what he hears, Santa uses the Cosmic Telescope to amplify his voice so he can tell them that he has heard they’re scheming.
Cut to: Montage of Children Writing Letters
Good Little Rich Boy is writing a letter to Santa asking for time with Mama and Papa. Another boy wants a little brother although he’s sitting at the dinner table with three other boys and two girls. A third boy, in bed in the orphanage, wants a Papa, or maybe a Mama. A fourth boy dressed like a businessman, sitting behind a big desk, asks for some toys. (Finally, a child asking for toys. Come on, Cardona! Even in a sappy world children want toys.) Then a little girl asks for a red ball—a big, red ball—and some shoes. Last, and very much least, the Bad Brothers are composing their letter about how good they’ve been and in return they want “everything.” Not only are they bad, their not very bright. Santa JUST told them he knew what they were about. Well, at least their consistent.
All the letters written, the sifting-through-the-letters-at-the-post-office montage starts. Letters to Santa are thrown in a big chimney which shoots them directly to Santa’s Space Palace a la pneumatic tubes, sans the tubes. Santa sorts the letters into one of three boxes according to the letter writer’s standing: a box for the good children, a box for the bad children, and a box marked Paris for the children who want little brothers or sisters.
Cut to: Merlin’s Workshop
Santa drops in on Merlin.
Merlin, we are told via the narrator, is Santa’s most devoted helper. Santa needs Merlin to makes a powder to knock out the children and give them happy dreams. (Remember, it’s the 1950s, and this behavior was not suspicious at all.) Merlin bumbles around, refers to himself in the third-person, by name, reciting the recipe for the sleep powder as he makes it: one urn made of copper, nickel, uranium, plutonium, and platinum; add 8 scoops of rose colored pollen of moon flower; 9 scoops of pollen from Lazy Yawner flower; 4 scoops of red pollen from Morpheus plant; powder from the Papalusa Grata (space butterflies); and finally take the mixture and urn and freeze with the Light Blue Flame of Frozen Fire. Viola, Kiddie Roofie Powder.
Merlin also gives Santa the Flower to Dissapear, incase the knockout powder isn’t sufficient. One sniff to disappear. One sniff to reappear.
Cut to: Blacksmith’s Workshop
Santa drops in on the blacksmith to get the golden key to unlock all doors.
Santa hits the gym to work on his gut. He has to make sure he’s slim enough to fit down all those chimneys. His ”work out” consists of 5 seconds on a belt-driven belly shaker machine. Though satisfied after only seconds, he goes to the test chimney and, yep, he’s trim enough to fit, with even some room to spare.
Take that, Science, what do you know!
Cut to: The Sleigh
The children have finished making the toys, or singing, or whatever it is that they have been doing. Now they’re gassing up the reindeer and cleaning the sleigh to make it more aerodynamic for the long space trip to Earth. Speed is of the essence because Santa has to return to the Space Palace before sun up. Fun Fact: sunlight turns space reindeer into dust. Granted, the sun never “sets” in space, but…
Cut to: Space
On the way to Earth Santa almost crashes into the moon.
Hey, I thought Santa lived in space above the North Pole.
Cut to: Earth
Good Little Rich Boy parents leave him at home alone with the intent of not returning until the morning. The Bad Brothers are lying in wait, ready to whack Santa when he lands on their rooftop. Lupita is watching the people in the street outside her shack’s window.
Santa’s first stop is Mexico City. In fact, he never leaves Mexico for the rest of the movie, but that makes sense because Mexicans are God’s chosen people, why would he go anywhere else? At the first house Pitch pushes the chimney so Santa can’t get into the house. This is no problem because Santa just goes down to the front door and uses the Master Golden Key. While fidgeting with with the door Santa wakes the two boys who live there, necessitating he drug them before he proceeds to put out their gifts. When he finishes he has to use the Flower to Dissapear to transport back up to the sleigh since the chimney is not an option.
Hey, wait a minute. Since when did the Flower to Dissapear do that?
At the next stop Pitch lights a fire in the chimney to block Santa’s entry that way. He also heats up the door knob so Santa will burn himself if he tries that work-around again. Pitch does not realize Santa’s watching his machinations from the window and just sneaks in that way. While Pitch is preoccupied keeping the door knob hot, Santa shoots a dart in Pitch’s buttock using the cannon toy he was leaving for one the little boy of the house.
Ho, ho, ho! Yule shoot something out, kid!
Good Little Rich Boy plays the piano as his mother suggested should he should find himself lonely. Well, he plays for 5 seconds. Then he slumps his way over to the chair in front of the fire where falls asleep thinking about all his toys but how all he wants is his parent’s love.
Tough luck, kid. Although Santa knows what’s troubling you, all he is bringing you is more toys.
Before he leaves, Santa uses his Inception power to pass a message into Good Little Rich Boy’s dream, i.e. he wakes Good Little Rich Boy and says, “Your parents definit— well, they probab— that is, I’m pretty sure your parents like you alright. Don’t think about how they’ve got better things to do than spend time with you. Look at this! Here are some toys!”
Cut to: Neglectful Rich Parents at The Club
Neglectful Rich Parents are served the special, ham-fisted cocktail called “The Cocktail of Remembrance”. The waiter is familiar. Big belly, jolly, long white beard, he reminds Neglectful Rich Mom of someone from her youth. Oh well, bottoms up.
“Oh, Snap! We left our pre-teen child at home alone. We’re horrible parents.”
Ho, ho, ho! Yes. You are.
Cut to the Bad Brothers’ Rooftop
The Bad Brothers are lying in wait for Santa. Pitch is firing them up, not that he needs to considering they are already hatching their evil intentions.
Santa shoots by in fireball form, never setting down, never giving the boys a chance to realize their plan. The boys tire quickly waiting for Santa, whom they don’t realize has already passed them by, and turn in for the night. Inside they find their shoes filled with coal. Wow! Santa can magically drop off gifts to people without leaving the sleigh. Nifty.
Hmmm. That raises the question, why doesn’t he do that at all the stops?
Well, at least the Bad Brother will be warm tonight by the fire of the coal. Thanks Santa! Not so fast though, boys. The night’s still young and Pitch is furious at missing another opportunity to cause mayhem. So he sets the Bad Brothers against one another. If Pitch cannot get Santa he will get a grudge match out of the Bad Brothers.
Cut to: Another Stop
While Santa is delivering the toys, Pitch tries to steal the sleigh. Unfortunately he can’t get it started. Even if he could, Santa always locks down the reindeer antlers with The Club. Still, Pitch is determined, so he stows away, lying in wait for Santa’s return. As Santa leaves for the next stop, Pitch cuts the bottom of Santa’s bag, emptying the Kiddie Roofie Powder and the Flower to Dissapear.
Pitch is waiting anxiously because he knows Santa is powerless without the Kiddie Roofie Powder and the Flower to Dissapear. At this house he will finally get satisfaction. Pitch looses a vicious Boxer dog, Dante, on Santa. Santa barely escapes by running up a tree.
With Santa’s trapped, Pitch goes through the house waking everyone, warning them there’s an assassin in the yard. He also influences a couple of the sleeping family members to call the police and fire department.
Back in the tree, Santa calls to Merlin for help. Merlin advices Santa to use a cat toy to distract Dante. Dante chases after the cat, allowing Santa to escape, but just barely. The family, the cops, the fire department, the ambulance, and some random people all show up as Santa flies away. Though there’s no flames, the firemen randomly spray a corner of the house which hits Pitch, dispersing him in a puff of steam.
Though Santa has escaped Pitch’s final trap safely it is almost daybreak and Santa has one final stop! Yet, if he does not head home the toy reindeer will turn into dust.
Cut to: Lupita’s One Room Shack
Meanwhile, the Flower to Dissapear falls to the ground at Lupita’s hovel. It does not matter that it has because it’s never mentioned again. For some reason Cardona just wanted to mention the Flower to Disappear one last time. You’d think Santa would stop to pick it up since Lupita’s shack is the final stop, but whatever.
Besides, the Flower to Disappear fell to the ground several scenes back, nowhere near Lupita’s. What’s up with that?
Inside, Poor Father has just made it home. He was out all night but found no work.
Really? Looking for a job, overnight, on Xmas eve/Xmas day. That’s your story? Poor Mother believes him. Moron. This is why you’re family is poor.
Unable to sleep in the presence of such stupidity, Lupita wakes. She tells Poor Mother and Poor Father that Santa left her a gift on the stoop in her dream. She goes out and finds a pretty doll. Somehow Lupita now has a magic connection with Santa which allows her to narrate what he is doing, namely returning home.
Cut to: Space
Once again in fireball mode, Santa rockets towards his crystal and gold space palace.
Moral of the story: Santa Claus was very, very bad.
Watch the trailer for “Santa Claus”