Santa Conquers the Martians at Tivoli December 16

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians as part of Santa’s Cool Holiday Film Festival Friday, December 16 at the Tivoli. According to Holland Releasing, some holiday movies are just plain fun.  Happily, a bunch of the very rarest (and sometimes weird) Christmas filmic moments have been gathered together in Santa’s Cool Holiday Film Festival for what has to be the funkiest, silliest and least emotional movie experience you’ll have this holiday season.  Well, unless you count hysterical laughter as an emotion.

This cinematic Christmas stocking is loaded with retro-cool presents of all kinds.  There are two cartoons from the brilliant Fleischer Brothers, Max and Dave – Christmas Comes But Once a Year (1936), in which that whimsical inventor Grampy creates a whole Santa’s workshop worth of toys for some poor orphans; and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1948), the first animated version of this classic tale about the outcast little deer who saves Christmas.  The Fleischers were known for their sly, slightly deranged sense of humor as seen in the Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons of the early Thirties.  The two featured cartoons are beautifully animated and full of vintage Technicolor fun.  I couldn’t believe how gorgeous they looked on the big screen.

But there’s more!  The rest of the films producer Thomas W. Holland has dug up are time warps from the 1950s and 1960s.  They range from a Christmas adventure starring that sensation of Fifties TV Howdy Doody to a couple of visits with Ozzie and Harriet to a holiday salute from ventriloquist Shari Lewis and her hand puppet Lambchop.  These – as well as a bunch of “Greetings From The Theater Management” trailers made for movie theaters (they are actually dated by year and its fun to see color ones introduced in the Sixties) – will inspire a kind of unsettling nostalgia among Baby Boomers who’ll surely remember this when they were kids. For their kids and grandkids these mind-boggling artifacts will seem either surreal or cheesy – or both.  But that’s the real fun of this show.

The biggest, most brightly-wrapped gift under this gaudy and colorful Christmas tree is the unforgettable (even if you try) 1964 feature film, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.  Kids will love it.  Of course, connoisseurs of bad B-movies consider this one of the worst, which means it’s one of the funniest.   Best known as the screen debut of actress/singer Pia Zadora, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is a baffling mixture of sci-fi, Christmas cheer and childish slapstick, all filmed in garish (or as the poster says, “Space-Blazing”) color.  And you’ll see how important that color is when you find out that Pia plays the entire role with a bright green face.

KC Studio

KC Studio covers the performing, visual, cinematic and literary arts, and the artists, organizations and patrons that make Kansas City a vibrant center for arts and culture.

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