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Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

by Corinne Rizzo

As the holiday grows nearer, so does the madness. People tearing retailers apart to get the perfect gift for their loved ones, bumper to bumper traffic anywhere near a shopping center, and lost baggage. The madness can lead to a lack luster attitude and sometimes even depression if you’re caught off your mental guard too quickly. Unfortunately for kids of Mars, depression and motivational issues are rampant even without the impending holiday season.  They won’t eat their meal pills and the young Martians are glued to their television sets watching Earth channels that show them nothing but the cheer and excitement of Christmas and the arrival of Santa Clause.

Well, Kimar, the Martian king, or some sort of master authority figure on the red planet, is tired of the lackadaisical behaviors and consults his cohorts as well as an acient oracle on the planet, deciding that Santa Clause will save the children of Mars.

So, Kimar and his troop of poorly outfitted Martians head to hearth to kidnap Santa.

When Santa is captured, he is quickly turned into a slave for the planet, mass producing toys and working late hours, while sleeping on a compound where he is monitored.

When watching Santa Clause Conquers the Martians, especially after seeing Christmas on Mars, you cannot help but draw similarities. While Santa Clause Conquers is directed toward kids, who might be more forgiving of the terrible costumes and green face paint, Christmas on Mars is directed toward an older audience, where the green paint and kitschy outfits are appreciated for their effort.

Santa Clause Conquers the Martians is a film that was produced solely for entertainment purposes and geared toward kids, though as adult watching it, it offered nothing except a temporary cure for insomnia. Finally finishing the film after three attempts, the best thing that comes out of the film is that it might have just inspired the fantastical freak out film that is Christmas on Mars.

The viewer, watching these films in comparison will see the where Coyne  could have watched the film and stripped down the ideas he liked and disregarded the ones he didn’t.  Both films share the idea that Santa Clause is a symbol of generosity and joy, though in Santa Clause Conquers the Martians, Santa is used purely to produce material items as gifts to promote happiness on the planet where as Christmas on Mars’ Santa brings hope and understanding to the crew through other ways.

Other similarities exist between the two films, though through some research there is no true and previously existing connection to be made between Wayne Coyne and Nicholas Webster (the director of Santa Conquers the Martians).

If nothing else, the film is important because it shows that hope and generosity are ideas that originate within the human condition, regardless of whether the humans have been relocated or kidnapped. Santa Clause doesn’t necessarily conquer the Martians in this film, though he does find a replacement and through that, shows that the hope and pure intentions innate within the human condition are contagious, if we choose for them to be.

Check out both movies and compare them. The viewer will feel as though they are getting into the head of Wayne Coyne, regardless of whether the film was an inspiration to him.

Santa Clause Conquers The Martians is available on Instant Watch, but can also be downloaded for free on IMDb. Christmas on Mars can be downloaded via The Flaming Lips’ website or it can be ordered for a small fee and delivered to your home.

For anyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas in traditional ways, these two films are a great way to start a new tradition.

Grade: D

Top Five Reasons To Watch Santa Clause Conquers The Martians

1)      It cures sleeplessness.

2)      It is unintentionally hilarious.

3)      They never asked any of the actors to shave…they just put green paint in their beards too.

4)      Because you’ve probably never seen anything as hokey.

5)      Santa Clause laughs a lot for no good reason, which to the kids in the movie is good, but for the viewer might insight some sort of  “What the hell?” response.

Christmas on Mars (2008)

by Corinne Rizzo

Wayne Coyne is one of those people that will strike you in one of two ways. Our first variable is the one that says “My god, what have I been doing with my life?” While the other will have you running in the opposite direction saying “Thank god I am doing something with my life!”

Does that make sense? Well, at first glance, neither will Christmas on Mars. But on second and third glance, a viewer will find themselves interpreting the film in ways a student would. In ways a culture seeking, culture loving, hunter of meaning would. This sci-fi essay in hope and perseverance lends to understanding. A viewer can’t help but find the clues and meaning left by Mr. Coyne and even has one asking, “Why haven’t I considered this idea before?”

So, for anyone who’s ever thought “I want to see a fantastical freak out film about Santa Clause and the colonization of Mars,” Christmas On Mars is the film to satiate that curiosity.

Our scene is set in the not so distant future (nowadays) with Steven Drozd (multi-instrumentalist for The Flaming Lips and Coyne’s best friend) as Major Syrtis. The major is undoubtedly the most balanced person on the Mars compound and sees the discrepancies in the colonization though doesn’t know how to interpret them. He seeks the help of his comrades to help him make sense of things, but it seems as though they are all a little panicked. Irrational even.

It is Syrtis’ first Christmas on Mars as he is the latest recruit to the compound. And no Christmas would be complete without a Santa Claus, so somewhere in the time before the film takes place, Syrtis found someone to play Santa for the Christmas celebration on Mars. Then, somewhere between choosing this Santa and about a half hour into the film, the chosen man beelines out of a main hatch and into the frozen red horizon of Mars.

In an attempt to discover why his Santa did this, Syrtis finds that his fellow crewman was suffering from the worst kind of hallucinations. Even worse, Syrtis discovers, than his own. The escape and subsequent death of his Santa was a desperate attempt to stop the hallucination.

Upon discovering the late Santa frozen still in the Martian tundra, a crewmember also meets a quiet and patient, albeit green with antennae, creature played by Wayne Coyne himself. A Martian, Coyne’s disguise is not too close to fooling anyone and after a series of investigations by the captain of the Mars colony and repetitive complaints by Syrtis that he is without a Santa, he is lumped on to Syrtis as the new Santa.

Not something he takes lightly, Syrtis tries to do the best he can to help the Martian understand the importance of Santa to people on earth.

At this point the viewer could be baffled by how Coyne sneaks the idea of the hope and generosity associated with Santa Claus and get real proud and say things like how cheesy things are becoming, but any fan of The Flaming Lips would open themselves up to that lesson. And anyone with no idea who The Flaming Lips are, will see their friends, family or whoever a little bit differently for being a fan.

The film’s Martian compound drama coincides with the birth of the first baby born on the colony since its origin. Christmas on Mars parallels the hallucinations and the desperation of these men and sets them up along the idea that there is this woman, trapped in a bubble and performing rituals and routines that seems scientific in  order to ensure the successful birth of her child.

In a way it is the Martian Nativity. Joy to the red planet.

With a set made entirely out of garbage in Coyne’s backyard, the film was a seven year long labor of love for The Flaming Lips. Finally released in 2008, there was no wide release, though you could catch it in movie houses every here and there. It seemed like anyone with a copy that had the space to accommodate was interested in showing the film. Special features on the DVD will show you the lengths the band went through to complete the film and a subsequent documentary about The Flaming Lips called Fearless Freaks shows the internal struggle of individual band members (the effect of Drozd’s heroin addiction on Coyne).

The film gets really loud and really bright and really graphic, so if you have issues with anxiety or seizures, it may be best to adjust your television sets accordingly (Coyne often gives this announcement at the beginning of a show because The Flaming Lips perform in the same manner). It is boring and interesting and shocking at moments, but worth the watch for anyone who can wrap their brains around something less than conventional.

It is no Miracle on 34th Street, but that might be even more incentive to watch.

Grade: A- (Watch it more than once , though, and not in the same day.)

Top Five Reasons to See Christmas on Mars:

1) There is no Christmas music.

2) Vagina marching bands.

3) The entire set is made of junkyard crap and filmed in Coyne’s backyard in Oklahoma City.

4) It may turn you on to The Flaming Lips (which you will never regret).

5) Adam Goldberg plays a psychologist.