Santa Claus Conquers the Martians premiered in Chicago on November 14, 1964. Santa Clause Conquers the Martians movie trivia and fun facts encompass John Call, Vincent Beck, Bill McCutcheon, Leonard Hicks, Pia Zadora, Hooray for Santa Claus, Howdy Doody, Dr. Stangelove and Jingle Bells.
Embassy Pictures' Santa Claus Conquers the Martians has been called both a holiday classic and a Hollywood abomination. It's the story of a band of desperate Martians who kidnap Santa and bring him back to the Red Planet in order to make their young folk happy. Here are 21 Santa Claus Conquers the Martians movie trivia items and fun facts...
1. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was produced by Paul L. Jacobson, who had once toiled as a unit manager on the popular children's TV show Howdy Doody (1947-60), hosted by the iconic Buffalo Bob Smith.
Vincent Beck, left, and John Call in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) - Embassy Pictures
2. Jalor Productions made Santa Claus Conquers the Martians for a mere $200,000. The movie was filmed in four days at Michael Myerberg Studios in Long Island, New York. The production facility was a converted airport hangar, once serving Roosevelt Field in Garden City.
3. Nicholas Webster directed the movie. His big screen credits include Dead to the World (1961), Gone Are the Days! (1963) and Mission Mars (1968). Webster also directed TV episodes of Get Smart, The Big Valley, Mannix, The Immortal and The Waltons.
4. Both the Louis Marx Co. and Vogue Dolls, Inc. provided props for the film. The "Martian ray guns" employed in the movie were really painted toy Air Blasters made by Wham-O, the famous California-based toy company.
5. John Call plays a jovial and somewhat resourceful Santa Claus. Call had previously appeared in Indian Uprising! (1951), Boots Malone (1952), The Kid from Left Field (1953) and the Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz comedy The Long, Long Trailer (1954), among other films.
6. Leonard Hicks, who plays Kimar, looks and sounds a lot like Charlton Heston, inviting wild speculation that Heston had appeared under an alias in the movie. Not so, movie conspiracy theorists.
7. Donna Conforti had been selected to play Betty Foster following her role in the Broadway musical Here's Love.
8. The movie's catchy theme song "Hooray for Santa Claus" was penned by Milton Delugg and Roy Alfred. It's performed at both the beginning and end by a chorus of off-camera youngsters.
9. Look closely, and one can see stock footage from Stanley Kubrick's 1964 Cold War comedy classic Dr. Strangelove or; How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The footage used shows U.S. Air Force jets taking to the unfriendly skies to intercept the Martian UFO.
10. Bill McCutcheon plays Dropo, "the laziest man on Mars." He later won a Best Actor Tony Award in 1988 for his role as gangster Moonface Martin in the 1988 Broadway revival of Anything Goes.
11. Carl Don appears in the dual role of Werner Von Green/Chochem. Chochem, the Ancient One, is 800-years-old and sits at Chochem's Chair in Mars' Thunder Forest. "We need a Santa Claus," Chochem tells council members, as Martian children never had the chance to learn how to play and have fun.
12. Martian children view an Earth broadcast of KID TV, which shows Santa Claus and his elves preparing for Christmas.
13. The Martian spaceship sent to snatch Santa Claus lands near Lake Welch. "Are you a television set?" little Betty Foster asks, as the antennae-headed Martians emerge from their craft.
14. Josip Elic plays the dual role of Shim/Torg. Torg is the Martians' "feared" robot who nabs Santa Claus.
15. The Daily Tribune's blaring headline: "SANTA CLAUS KIDNAPPED BY MARTIANS!"
16. While on the return trip to Mars with Santa on board, two Martians launch into an impromptu rendition of "Jingle Bells." Written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, "Jingle Bells" made its debut in The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) starring Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell.
17. Pia Zadora makes her motion picture debut as the Martian girl Girmar.
18. Vincent Beck as Voldar, the Martian heavy, cops one of the best lines in the movie, the Scrooge-like "All this trouble over a fat man in a red suit."
19. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians premiered in Chicago on November 14, 1964. Reported Howard Thompson of The New York Times (12/17/64): "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is aimed straight at the very small fry, who probably will eat it up. Well, why not? Using a small cast of unfamiliar faces, good color, a workable handful of sets (rather deftly integrated with documentary background footage), Paul Jacobson, the producer, has put together a Christmassy little movie, with science-fiction trimmings for fledgling astronauts..."
20. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians a.k.a. Santa Claus Defeats the Aliens (same movie) heads the list of Fandango.com/WENN.com's worst Christmas Movie Poll (December 2011). The "winners" are: 1) Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, 2) Silent Night, Deadly Night, 3) Jingle All the Way, 4) Jack Frost, 5) Santa with Muscles, 6) Ernest Saves Christmas, 7) Home Alone 3, 8) Deck the Halls, 9) Surviving Christmas, 10) Christmas with the Kranks. Quite an honor!
21. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians proved to be a huge moneymaker for its thrifty producers, raking in the box-office cash in a myriad of re-releases through the years. Deceased cast members include John Call (1908-1973), Leonard Hicks (1918-1971), Vincent Beck (1924-1984) and Bill McCutcheon (1924-2002).
Okay, everyone now – Hooray for Santa Claus!
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Copyright © 2011 William J. Felchner