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Episode guide: 521- Santa Claus

Movie: (1959) Pitch the devil attempts to hinder Santa on Christmas Eve.

First shown: 12/24/93
Opening: A caroling attempt ends in disaster
Intro: Inappropriate gifts are exchanged
Host segment 1: On the SOL, the rock band Santa Klaws performs
Host segment 2: The bots arrange a Nelson family reunion
Host segment 3: An all-inclusive politically correct holiday song: “Merry Christmas…If That’s Okay”
End: On the SOL, it’s a snow day! In Deep 13, Pitch and Santa fight it out
Stinger: Laughing mechanical reindeer
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (236 votes, average: 4.79 out of 5)

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• This one, of course, is a perennial favorite, and now that it is on DVD, it can truly be a holiday regular. It’s one of those episodes I’ve seen so many times I can practically recite it, but it’s still entertains me every time. The movie is SO odd (it is a very weird reflection on Mexican culture), the riffing is very strong and the segments are generally pretty good. It doesn’t feel like Christmas until I’ve seen it.
• This one can be found on Shout’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol. XVI.”
• The gift exchange segment may seem a bit dry, even baffling, to our eyes today, but remember that Mike had joined the SOL crew less than ten episodes previous. The point of the segment is that they still barely know each other, so their attempts to give gifts are forced and uncomfortable. But if you didn’t know the context, you could hardly be blamed for not getting the joke.
• The first 15 or so minutes of the movie, when we get a slew of ethnic/national jokes, as Santa’s international cadre of “helpers” are introduced, are great fun. Every four years, when I watch the parade of nations at the Olympic opening ceremonies, I reuse those riffs.
• Does anybody else feel that if Crow had used that “Carmen Miranda rights” joke with Joel, Joel would have ripped at least one arm out?
• Non-spaghetti ball bumpers: pan to beaker; closeup on film canister; pan down to notebook.
• I’ve never been a big fan of the “Whispering Christmas Warrior” segment. It feels a little too restrained. I would have like to see them go more Ozzie Osbourne on the thing. I do like the reaction shots of Frank and Dr. F., though.
• One memorable set of riffs comes when each of them gives notable literary opening line. “I was born in the house my father built” is from Richard Nixon’s then-current autobiography, “The minute Yosarian…” is from “Catch-22.” “Call me Ishmael” is, of course, from “Moby Dick.”
• That’s Pat Brantseg, Mary Jo and Tim Scott as “Mike’s family.”
• One of my favorite moments from this episode is when Santa is preparing to leave his castle to deliver the presents, and as he makes his little benediction, he looks up for no particular reason and M&tB respond by looking confusedly around, as if to see what he might be looking at. It cracks me up every time.
• The Brains seem to think the name “Kringle” is funny. They use it a lot.
• As Santa is putting out presents, Crow has him mumbling: “CableAce award…no, that’s no good…” A little bitterness there.
• On the other hand, the “Merry Christmas…If That’s Okay” song is a holiday classic, right up there with “Patrick Swayze Christmas.” Commenting on PC attitudes about Christmas was not a particularly original comedic idea, but they gave it an original spin.
• Then-current reference: “At home with Carl Rowan.” Rowan was a nationally syndicated columnist and prominent supporter of gun control who became a national punchline in 1988 when he shot a teenage intruder with his unregistered .22. He passed away in 2000. Honorable mention: “A scud!” Scuds are no longer the fearsome terror weapon they were considered back then.
• RiffTrax did an entire re-riff of this movie, with all new jokes and an astonishingly bright and clean print of this movie.
• Memorable host segment line: “More pie, man-goat?” They really did a great job on Paul’s costume/make up. And of course that’s Kevin as Santa, though the credits don’t say so.
• Cast and crew roundup: producer Guillermo Calderon also worked on “The Robot Vs. The Aztec Mummy.” Importer K. Gordon Murray also brought “Robot Vs. the Aztec Mummy” and “Samson Vs. the Vampire Women to American audiences. Score composer Anthony Diaz Conde also worked on “The Robot Vs. The Aztec Mummy.”
• CreditsWatch: Host segments directed by Jim Mallon.
• Fave riff: “Suddenly Santa corkscrews into Ypsilanti, Michigan!” Honorable mention: “Well, that’s not strictly true either…”
——————–
Next week we will return to regular order with episode 616- RACKET GIRLS.

174 comments to Episode guide: 521- Santa Claus

  • 151
    Sitting Duck says:

    The Bechdel Test results for Santa Claus are ambiguous. The conversations between Lupita and her mom center around Santa, briefly turning to Jesus, so wouldn’t pass. The conversation between Lupita and the doll in her dream might count, since the doll had a female appearance. However, it could also be argued that the doll is a mouthpiece for Pitch and is therefore disqualified.

    It’s really weird how I never noticed that the kids from England weren’t actually shown until it was pointed out in the Rifftrax Live Show riffing. That’s what it is. Weird!

    The concept of a prepubescent belly dancer is vaguely creepy.

    Mike reprimanding Tom over some of the ethnic stereotype riffs is kind of Joel-like.

    Of all the possible songs to associate with the U.S.A., why Mary Had a Little Lamb?

    Favorite riffs

    “Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas.”
    No distinguishing marks or scars.

    Saint Barbie the Archangel.

    Action Jesus! Manger sold separately.

    Santa flew twenty-three missions over North Korea.

    Could we move over to a country with some rhythm?

    If seasonal holiday depression has a soundtrack, this is it.

    We’re going to whack Santa. He’s muscling in on the Easter Bunny’s turf.

    “The South American group includes Brazil and Argentina.”
    And a few other countries not worth mentioning right now.

    I suppose Hell got an NEA grant.

    Santa’s laughter mocks the poor.

    The classic battle between Evil and the Narrator.

    Now Pedro, did I tell you to summon demons?

    Increasingly paranoid, Santa obsession with security begins to hinder everyday operations.

    Better get on the horn with God, since Satan’s involved and all.

    I’m telling you Pepe, these Comedy Central contests are a waste of time.

    Dear Santa, I’m an elderly woman who doesn’t enjoy sex.

    “And as my two little brothers have behaved very well… Hmm…”
    From Eric and Lionel Menendez.

    Quiet, it’s the old man. He’s announcing layoffs.

    When Santa laughs, the whole world shakes its head.

    A pentagram and reindeer laughing. You figure it out.

    Santa got drunk and delivered all the gifts to the Moon again.

    Isn’t kidnapping Santa a federal offense?

    He’s really hauling ass.
    And it’s his.

    If I join your ranks, will you stop dancing like that?

    It’s like having Dom DeLuise sneaking up on you.

    “I know all those toys don’t make you happy.”
    So I’m taking them back.

    Why is our waiter stripping, honey?

    “What are you going to do now, Santa?”
    I’m going to Disneyworld!

    Never mind, it’s too late. The dog got him.

    In the name of Santa, Merlyn, and the elves. Amen.

    Next week, Jesus and the Oakridge Boys.

       2 likes

  • 152
    CatraDhtem says:

    I’m going to be extra bold and disagree with the interpretation of the opening gift-giving segment. I’ve always taken it to just be a jab on lame office or family gift exchanges. The whole notion of “they’re still getting to know Mike” only works if all of the gifts were either from or to him, but the ‘bots were giving each other gifts in that scene, too.

       5 likes

  • 153
    Raigely says:

    I’ve always been personally amused by the fact that, at the song sequence in the very beginning, the only children who are remotely good at singing are from the Spanish-speaking countries. Since I’ve never seen the original cut of this movie, I have to wonder if this was from the original language, or if in the English dubbing process they just got a terrible cast of children to dub over every song except the ones in Spanish.

    Aside from that…this movie is weird as hell but I keep finding myself fond of it. In its quest to introduce Mexico to Santa Claus, it goes out of its way to explain every single aspect of the Santa Inc. HQ, even if they probably shouldn’t have (the Pleasure Mouth!).

    Also, Lupita’s too ding-dang cute. I get a cavity watching her, and then get a genuinely warm feeling when she finally gets her dolly.

    Noel!

       2 likes

  • 154
    Sitting Duck says:

    WeatherServoNine:
    Might I suggest a weekend discussion thread sometime about MST3K movies with narrators, and the filmmakers’ motives for using them, and how effective they were at their job, whether that job was telling the story or whether that job was covering up the faults of the film?

    Or is that a tad too esoteric?

    Already done.

       0 likes

  • 155
    Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    I always share “Merry Christmas, If That’s Okay” around this time

       1 likes

  • 156
    Gobi says:

    I read the summary as Pitch attempts to “hind-er” (not “hin-der”) Satan. That’s just so wrong.

       3 likes

  • 157
    Gobi says:

    Gobi:
    I read the summary as Pitch attempts to “hind-er” (not “hin-der”) Satan. That’s just so wrong.

    That should be Santa, not Satan. Though it’s bad either way.

       4 likes

  • 158
    Lisa H. says:

    “Children from the USA…” …are too spoiled and lazy to help Santa! There, that makes it better.

    “You see? There’s no fooling Santa Claus.” Yeah? So who talked him into that suit?

    Does the devil lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight…

       4 likes

  • 159
    EricJ says:

    (Santa blows ash up chimney)
    (Pitch gets faceful, wah-wahh takes to camera)

    (cartoony voice) “‘It’s a living…'”

    Crow’s timing on that one cracks me silly every time. Smile

    That, and
    “Why, these boxes contain every child loves best–“
    “A maitre-d’!”

    (Santa puts presents under tree while rich kid sleeps, tiptoes back)
    “‘MERRRRY–oh, shh, sorry!'”

    DarkGrandmaofDeath:
    “Ah, Mr. Claus, you have a nasty habit of surviving!”

    Er, am I wrong for remembering that riff from Santa/Martians?

       2 likes

  • 160
    touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    “The South American group includes Brazil and Argentina.”

    Theoretically marginally interesting fact: Brazil is the only South American country whose “national language” is not Spanish but Portugese (because it’s the one part of South America that was raped and pillaged by the Portugese instead of by the Spaniards). So it kind of automatically stands out from the rest just for that.

       1 likes

  • 161
    Ericb says:

    touches no one’s life, then leaves:
    “The South American group includes Brazil and Argentina.”

    Theoretically marginally interesting fact: Brazil is the only South American country whose “national language” is not Spanish but Portugese (because it’s the one part of South America that was raped and pillaged by the Portugese instead of by the Spaniards). So it kind of automatically stands out from the rest just for that.

    Well, there is Guiana (official language English with population speaking an English derived creole language), Suriname (official language Dutch with the population speaking a Dutch derived creole language) and French Guiana … well you get the idea.

       0 likes

  • 162
    DarkGrandmaofDeath says:

    Oops! You are absolutely correct, EricJ. I recalled the riff being made by Crow, but off a character in red makeup rather than green. At least I had a nice, Christmasey color in my conflated memory.

       1 likes

  • 163
    Ian L. says:

    After Pitch pushes the chimney and spreads his legs apart: “Don’t ever do that again.”

       1 likes

  • 164
    EricJ says:

    (Pitch tries to wake woman in bed)
    “There’s a man outside–“

    “‘His name is Jim…He asks if I could marry him.'”

    Ah, the S5-6 Frank-era days when they COULD still make Mike Douglas jokes. Smile

       0 likes

  • 165
    DirtyTerry says:

    His advice can only get them into trouble… “Invest in junk bonds…”

       1 likes

  • 166
    Ray Dunakin says:

    This is my favorite of the MST3K Christmas episodes (although I prefer the host segments in “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.”) The movie is just so goofy and weird, and the plot isn’t as threadbare as in SCCTM. Plus the budget and production quality are relatively high. So it’s fairly watchable on it’s own and provides continuous opportunities for high-quality riffs from beginning to end.

    Having seen the uncut version on RiffTrax, I have to say the cuts actually make the movie better. Mainly because all the stuff with “Merlin” was just so annoying and bogged the movie down.

       1 likes

  • 167
    touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    EricJ:
    (Pitch tries to wake woman in bed)
    “There’s a man outside–“

    “‘His name is Jim…He asks if I could marry him.’”

    Hey, a subversive ahead-of-its-time reference to gay marriage. Cool. Wink

    That’s that the same song that Frank got “Daddy, there’s a boy outside…” from in Cave Dwellers, isn’t it? Except IIRC Frank said “Tom.”

       0 likes

  • 168
    EricJ says:

    touches no one’s life, then leaves: That’s that the same song that Frank got “Daddy, there’s a boy outside…” from in Cave Dwellers, isn’t it? Except IIRC Frank said “Tom.”

    Err, yeah. If it’s a reference to Mike Douglas singing “The Man in My Little Girl’s Life” on his old 70’s talk show, it’s probably a Frank joke.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUvyhiLDByY
    Ah, the Cave Dwellers joke…Seems like only yesterday.

    (And It’s “Tim”, but he’s misquoting, since that’s later in the song.)

       1 likes

  • 169
    Brad Filippone says:

    Okay, after reading comments on these threads for a long time now, I’m finally contributing for the first time.

    This is certainly one of the oddest films I’ve seen on the show. I would almost be tempted to ask what kind of drug the producers were on to come up with something like this.

    My favorite riffs:

    Well, apparently they ARE committed to jingling all the way.

    There’s a dollar in every one. My chain letter scam worked!

    Did he say, “blessed are the cheesemakers?”

    Santa’s a lifetime member of the NRA.

    Uh…why is our waiter stripping, honey?

       1 likes

  • 170
    touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    As did H.G. “Monster A-Go-Go” Lewis, K. Gordon Murray had a filmmaking career that went beyond what we hear of him on MST3K. This film was but one example of Murray’s Santa Claus oeuvre, which also included:

    Santa’s Enchanted Village (1964)
    Santa Claus and His Helpers (1964)
    Santa’s Magic Kingdom (1966)
    Santa’s Giant Film Festival of the Brothers Grimm (1969)
    Santa’s Fantasy Fair (1969)

    Other Murray genres include fairy tale adaptations (often featuring Stinky the Skunk, good friend of Red Riding Hood), vampire films, westerns-with-monsters-in-them, and general sleaze, among others.

       2 likes

  • 171
    John Paradox says:

    Hsave to admit, saw this running more this year than last. Was on local accss TV several times when I checked, was on local “superchannel” [e.g. 14.2 spanish channels, also carried on cable], and has been on TCM. Plus Santa Conquers… which is also apparently done as a theatrical presentation in S. Cal [sorry, don’t recall theater or town]

       0 likes

  • 172
    BBA says:

    The riffs on the opening credits include a callback to Robot vs Aztec Mummy immediately followed by a call-forward to El Santo. Probably Frank’s handiwork.

       1 likes

  • 173
    Bat Masterson says:

    I love this episode. The Brains always brought their A game when riffing Christmas movies and I love everything about this episode. The sketches were strong the riffing was top-notch and the film itself was just so crazy, that all the components added up to a classic episode. As for the film itself Lupita is adorable and I did like the fact that the other featured “good” kid was wealthy. Just nice to see that the rich kid wasn’t automatically made to be a brat.

    Fave riffs:
    “Next up in the junior vocalist category… Thailand!”
    “Quiet, it’s the old man, he’s announcing layoffs.”
    ” Can we move on to a country with some rhythm??”
    “Pick it up kids I’m feelin’ frisky.”
    “Hey, children on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”
    ” Ah,excuse me you’re rhythm guitar, I’m lead.”
    “Get it on in the monin’ now!”
    -Dear Santa Claus, Please send me a younger brother. “Oh, ho, ho. Can do! Can do!”
    ” We’re positively evil!”
    “Hey pal, could you lose the horns I’m trying to see.”
    -You see? There’s no fooling Santa Claus! ” Oh yeah, so who talked him into that suit.”
    “Oy gevalt.”
    “Oh, that’s filthy.”
    “What? Let’s open a Chinese restaurant? ”
    “It’s a Rue McClanahan doll.”
    “Next week: Jesus and The Oak Ridge Boys ”
    “Happy Holidays from American Family Insurance.”

       1 likes

  • 174
    Bat Masterson says:

    One reason why the songs in languages other than Spanish might’ve been lackluster is that Spanish (particularly Latin American Spanish) is spoken at a quicker cadence than English, combining that with the cheap-o dubbing job of K Gordon Murray, and you might have the reason why this dubbing was so awful.

       0 likes