Like many of the films distributed by Florida-based Z-movie impresario K. Gordon Murray, this Yuletide oddity was produced in Mexico, where it was originally released in 1959. Murray acquired U.S. distribution rights, dubbed the dialogue into English and raked in the money. While many people rank SANTA CLAUS among the worst films of all time, it was an enduring favorite on the "kiddie matinee" circuit throughout the 1960s, and one of Murray's biggest hits. It's also become something of a cult classic among viewers who crave something a bit more psychotronic than the usual holiday fare. Unlike most tellings of the Santa Claus tale, Toyland isn't found at the North Pole, but on a distant cloud somewhere in the heavens, where Santa (Jose Elias Moreno) and his child-labor force work year round making toys for the good little boys and girls of the Earth. After an exhausting "It's a Small World"-style introduction to Santa's multi-national crew the African children wear bones in their hair and dance to drums; the Mexican kids cheerfully chirp "La Cucaracha" we're given a quick tour of Santa's observatory, where surreal surveillance equipment like the "Master Eye" and the "Tele-Talker" are used to peer into children's bedrooms and determine who's been naughty and nice. Meanwhile, in Hell, Lucifer, who really hates Santa Claus, dispatches prancing devil Pitch (Jose Luis Aguirre) to corrupt the children of Earth and foil Santa's plans. Pitch lands in Mexico City, where he immediately spots three mischievous brothers who are already up to no good, and poor, sweet-faced little Lupita (Lupita Quezadas), whose soul still hangs in the balance. Lupita wants nothing more than a doll for Christmas, and Pitch suspects that with the right amount of prodding she could be persuaded to steal one. As Santa prepares for his journey to Earth he first consults with Merlin the Magician (Armando Arriola), who equips him with magic sleeping dust and the flower of invisibility, then his master blacksmith (Angel D'Estefani), who hands him a magic key that will open any lock the three bad boys conspire to ambush Santa on a rooftop, steal all his toys and make jolly St. Nick their slave. Pitch, meanwhile, sets about corrupting darling Lupita by whispering tempting thoughts into her ear and poisoning her dreams with strange visions. The film was directed by Rene Cardona, the man behind such classic schlock as WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1965), DOCTOR OF DOOM (1962) and its 1968 remake, NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES, and while not exactly a musical, it does feature one sloppy dance sequence featuring little Lupita and a menagerie of supremely creepy, oversized rag-dolls, and several song fragments. Cardona originally included a sequence of a long line of lost, wailing souls winding their way through the gates of Hell, but Murray evidently felt the spectacle to be a bit much for a children's holiday film and had it cut. In 1964, Murray reused much of the remaining footage from SANTA CLAUS for a "new" 38-minute featurette entitled SANTA CLAUS AND HIS HELPERS.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Like many of the films distributed by Florida-based Z-movie impresario K. Gordon Murray, this Yuletide oddity was produced in Mexico, where it was originally released in 1959. Murray acquired U.S. distribution rights, dubbed the dialogue into English and r… (more)