Call Me Stormy

Finding righteous currents in turbulent times

Santa Claus

Today’s Trillion Dollar, Santa Claus, might be the silliest Christmas movie ever made — yes, even more bizarre than Santa Claus Conquers the Martians or Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. Made in Mexico, this 1959 movie portrays Jolly Saint Nick as you’ve never seen him before. He doesn’t live at the North Pole, but in a floating castle in Outer Space. Instead of calling upon elves to create toys, he employs the services of a sweatshop full of conscripted children he has “adopted” from around the world. The reindeer are robots, whom Santa considers replacing with “Sputniks.”

Santa also has a magical observatory to spy on children the world over. As the narrator describes the premises, “What wonderful instruments! The Ear Scope! The Teletalker, that knows everything! The Cosmic Telescope! The Master Eye! Nothing that happens on Earth is unknown to Santa Claus!”

The film follows Santa as he makes his rounds in Mexico one Christmas Eve, keeping a special watch on a poor little girl named Lupita who wants a doll, and a rich boy who wants nothing more than the love of his neglectful parents. Lucifer, the Devil himself, has laid out several obstacles to block Santa and sent a personal emissary — the impish Pitch — to pull pranks on the fat, bearded dude and to entice bad boys and girls to misbehave. Pitch prances around a lot, but he’s pretty inept, and Santa has his own magical ally — Merlin the Wizard.

This truly strange and subversive feature — yet one that’s a hoot to watch — is the handiwork of writer-director René Cardona, a prolific filmmaker who created nearly 150 titles, many of them cheap Westerns, wrestling movies, horror flicks and Santo superhero adventures. Cardona lets his imagination roam wildly here, and gets a nice assist from José Elías Moreno cast in the title role. You might remember Moreno from the Dec. 6 Trillion Dollar Movie Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters, where he appears as the Red-Headed Ogre.

Much like that film, Santa Claus was imported to the United States by Florida-based producer Keith Gordon Murray, appearing not only in theaters but on television as a holiday special through the 1960s. Enjoy, and do return next Friday for another Trillion $ Movie.

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