Saturday, 28 December 2013

Santa Claus (1959)

Thanks to those who recommended this one to me, and please let me know of any mistakes that I may have made in this review. This is one tricky film to keep track of.

Currently sitting amongst many other stinkers in the IMDb Bottom 100, Santa Claus really isn't THAT bad for a bizarre bit of Christmas entertainment for the family. Oh, it's bad, but the ineptitude is often outweighed by the enjoyable imagination on display and the commitment from everyone involved to provide audiences with a new seasonal tale, full of memorable characters and valuable lessons.

The devil doesn't like Santa (Jose Elias Moreno), what with him spreading good cheer and positivity. And that's why he gives Pitch (Jose Luis Aguirre) the job of turning kids against him and ruining Christmas. If Pitch succeeds then the devil will be pleased, but if he fails then the punishment will be to eat lots of ice cream (which is painful to those who enjoy the heat of Hades). As Santa goes about his duties on Christmas, he tries to stay one step ahead of Pitch, who is busy setting traps and whispering in the ears of children he thinks he can use against Santa. This includes young Lupita (Lupita Quezadas), who yearns to receive a beautiful dolly on Christmas morning.

Directed by Rene Cardona, who also created the story with Adolfo Torres Portillo, this is sometimes cringeworthy stuff. In the first 5-10 minutes we see that Santa has a selection of children from all countries helping to make his toys, and those children are shown in the most racially stereotypical way possible. It does not bode well. But, thankfully, the film gets beyond that, as clumsy as it is, and manages to become mildly entertaining, if still very simplistic and thoughtlessly put together (Santa has Merlin on hand to help him out, for example, and let's not mention his creepy reindeer).

Moreno is perfectly fine in the role of Santa, he fills out the suit and says "ho ho ho" a lot, and everyone else does what is asked of them, with Aguirre jumping around in frustration or rubbing his hands in glee, depending on how his scheming is going. The child actors aren't particularly great, but Quezadas is sweet enough as the little girl wanting a dolly that her parents can't afford to get her.

It's easy to point and laugh at this movie, and it's certainly more of a curio piece than something that you would seek out to watch for any cinematic value, but it's also no worse than hundreds of other confections that use the magic that infuses Christmas as a main plot point.


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