SANTA CLAUS (1959)
Article #1065 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-13-2004
Posting Date: 7-12-2004
Directed by Rene Cardona
Featuring Jose Elias Morena, Jose Luis Aguirre, Cesareo Quezadas ‘Pulgarcito’
Santa Claus prepares for his yearly delivery of presents, but must deal with the the dastardly machinations of a devil named Pitch sent to foil him.
In the United States, we have a certain vision of Santa Claus that is not necessarily shared by that of other countries. In this Mexican take on the legend, Santa does not live at the North Pole; he lives on a cloud. He does not have elves helping him out; instead, children from all nations help him with making gifts, though they seem to spend an inordinate amount of time singing (very badly) songs from their native countries. The reindeer aren’t real; they’re mechanical, and they turn to dust when the sunlight hits them. It actually takes a bit of work to adjust to these differences, but this being a Mexican movie, there are plenty of other weirdnesses to deal with. In fact, here is a list of striking moments and memories from watching this bizarre kiddie movie.
1) The opening musical number features Santa boogieing out on a cheap-sounding organ while children from all nations sing. It’s like a cross between “It’s a Small World After All” and the most amateur grade school Christmas pageant you’ve ever seen.
2) The most surreal dancing devil sequence this side of HELLZAPOPPIN’.
3) It’s creepy enough seeing the mechanical reindeer jerkily coming to life when Santa winds them up, but when one of them starts laughing, you just might want to grab your smelling salts.
4) Listening to Santa ponder the possibility of replacing his reindeer with sputniks.
5) Watching Santa work out in weight-reducing machine (you know, the kind with the vibrating strap) so that he can fit down chimneys.
6) Watching the little girl Lupita tormented by creepy dancing dolls trying to convince her that she must take up stealing.
7) An actually quite touching sequence where Santa allows a lonely young boy to see him as he really is.
8) Watching Santa at work on the strange machine on the observation deck; it has an ear attached to a fan, an eye at the end of a metal conduit, and a pair of creepy lips that talk.
9) The climax of the movie features Santa in a real predicament. He’s been treed by a dog.
10) That prancing, skinny devil is the stuff of nightmares.
Inspiriational line: “Hurry, Mr. Merlin. This is no time to play horsey. Santa’s in danger!”
My conclusion? I have none. Movies like this are so bizarre they almost defy analysis. There are creepy moments, touching moments, jaw-dropping hilarious moments, and dull stretches, all jumbled together in a way that is unique. And in its own way, it’s pretty irresistible. I can only thank Mexico for making movies like this and K. Gordon Murray for having undertaken to bring them to us. It hardly matters if the movies are good or bad; just the watching of them are experiences to be reckoned with.