Christmas is a time that brings families together around movies… just not these ones

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964).

THE lights are strung across the front of the house, the elf is back on the shelf and a synthetic pine tree has been placed in the living room and covered with tinsel and baubles.

It can only mean one thing: tis the season… for Christmas movies!

Like many families, mine enjoys the annual tradition of working our way through our set list of Christmas films once December has arrived – in our house Christmas begins once we’re watching A Muppet Christmas Carol.

As an act of community service, we at News Of The Area would like to offer some small guidance for families who may be looking to embrace new titles in their Christmas cinema.

We start this week by saving you all some pain by pointing out a few Christmas movies on which you should definitely not waste your precious family time.

The Christmas Tree (1991) – directed by Flamerion Ferreir.

There exists a beautiful tradition of animated Christmas specials that have engaged families for generations.

Frosty the Snowman was a 1969 feature that continues to introduce children to the magic of Christmas by the titular winter character and his remarkable top hat.

Rankin-Bass, the studio behind that special, was responsible for a wealth of holiday treasures, notably their stop-motion specials such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and they even won over conservative Christian households with The Little Drummer Boy.

The makers of this particular animated feature want you to expect that it will be just like those classics.

A cynical person might suggest The Christmas Tree is a poorly produced attempt to capitalise on the nostalgia people feel for Christmas-themed animation.

Featuring the voices of nobody you have ever heard of, the 43 minute feature was produced and directed by a background artist who had worked in television for over a decade before attempting to chart his own course.

The story concerns a group of children living at an orphanage run by a heartless and irresponsible director who continually gambles away money raised for their care.

When the Kindle family arrives in town they become involved with the orphans efforts to protect what they believe is a magical pine tree.

Capers ensue; Santa Claus shows up; at one point the elderly orphanage director attacks the tree with a chainsaw.

The characters are uniformly expressionless throughout the entire feature which matches the vocal performances and script.

The Christmas Tree has re-emerged on various media and streaming in recent years following the trend of “so-bad-its-good” movie viewing, and could appeal to parents or grandparents looking for inoffensive entertainment for their young children, but it would be a mistake to think of it either way.

It’s not the enjoyable kind of bad, but it’s the kind that makes kids complain loudly… and isn’t that the one thing we’re all trying to avoid during Christmas?

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) – directed by Nicolas Webster; starring… again, a bunch of people you have never heard of.

The title of this one alone is enough to inspire only one of two reactions: a roll of the eyes and contemptuous sigh so extreme that no one would ever mention it again, or an obsessive fascination that anyone would ever think to put such fantastic concepts into one film.

Another entry in the “so-bad-its-good” genre of movies, some families might think, upon hearing of this, that it must be good for a laugh at least once.

The central conceit is that children on Mars are no longer able to cope with the extreme pressures placed upon them by society and the logical solution is for Martians to kidnap Santa Claus and force him to teach them how to have fun.

That sentence makes it sound like the film is a comedy full of wacky hijinks, but reading it is the closest you will ever get to a laugh from the movie.

Another production made to fill a perceived “gap in the market” (for “yuletide science-fiction fantasy”!) Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was made in two weeks by a video producer who figured he could use his gear for making corporate training and education videos to film something costing the loose change in his pockets that he could almost guarantee children in the mid 1960’s would pay to see at the cinema.

Playing this for children in the modern era will cause them to lose trust that parents and caregivers could have any notion of what could be fun and entertaining.

Watching it as a family may bring a conclusive end to movie-watching as a Christmas tradition, which would be a real tragedy.

If that were to happen you’d never have the opportunity to watch the true gems of mid 20th Century Christmas films, such as the Spanish Santa Claus of 1959 in which Santa lives in space and fights Satan.

Now that is a premise worth at least one viewing.

By Lindsay HALL

Leave a Reply