Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Claus Film a Work of 'Art'

So long, Tim Allen. There's a new (old) St. Nick in town.

And he's packing Christmas cheer, ready to kick some serious martian derriere.

I'm referring of course to one of Hollywood's most under-appreciated holiday gems: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964).

The movie title basically speaks for itself. What more can a girl say about a film so terrible — so kitchy — that you simply cannot look away? By this hopelessly flawed design, Conquers is the sort of film that derives its "greatness" from the simple fact that it appears to be intentionally awful.

Or else the writer and director hoped to make a political statement by aligning the Martians with the Soviet Union (certainly there are faint parallels), and were otherwise terrible filmmakers. Either way, the final product was so awful, it's funny.

The word "sprezzatura" comes to mind, but then dissipates almost as quickly as it appears. That is to say, Conquers isn't so much an art house film replete with "careless grace" as it is a B Movie scattered with careless comedy.

So much so, in fact, that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend parents forego the newest addition to the Santa Clause epic and instead rent this one. I mean, this film is about the kidnapping of Santa Claus by a Martian commander who wants to bring "Christmas" to his own, hapless planet. What's not to love about that?

(Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, for the record, has one of the lowest ratings in IMDB history.)

I'm reminded of a trip I once took to the Museum of Bad Art. I had hoped that the artwork there would be so wretchedly awful, it'd be funny. But, ultimately, many of the pieces there were simply mediocre paintings that weren't so much "bad" as they were reminiscent of a community center art class. In other words, the art wasn't bad, per se... but I was certainly disappointed. I walked away realizing there's a difference between a Museum of Bad Art (this museum's name), and a Bad Museum of Art (what it actually was).

But if a true Museum of Bad Art existed — and they were looking for a video installation — I'd recommend Santa Claus Conquers the Martians without hesitation.

It's just that the film is so bad... it's good.

Addendum: After perusing the MOBA's new website, I've come to realize they've substantially upgraded (downgraded?) their collection. Might actually be worth a visit now, if you're ever in the area.


Anonymous said...

I'll have to add it to the list. Why am I reminded of B.S. Johnson from Discworld? He was an artist and inventor who was so bad that if you wanted a warehouse, you asked for a salt and pepper shaker set. There is a fine line between mediocre and bad. Mediocrity is easy. Truly bad takes effort.

Anonymous said...

hey - did you catch Tom Waits on the daily show last night? if you missed it check the rerun today. great stuff.