Tag Archives: Christmas

227. CHRISTMAS ON MARS (2008)

“‘Eating your spaceship’ became one of the central themes of what the movie meant.”–Wayne Coyne

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY: Wayne Coyne, Bradley Beesley, George Salisbury

FEATURING: Steven Drozd, Wayne Coyne, Mark DeGraffenreid

PLOT: It’s Christmas Eve on Earth’s first Mars colony, and Major Syrtis has the job of organizing the festivities. But the colonist tapped to play Santa Claus, Ed-15, has gone mad from space sickness and has committed suicide by running outside into the deadly Martian atmosphere without a space suit. Fortunately, a new arrival at the colony, a silent green man with antennae sticking out of his forehead, mutely agrees to don Santa’s suit….

Still from Christmas on Mars (2008)

BACKGROUND:

  • A psychedelic post-punk band, The Flaming Lips were formed in 1983 and released eleven albums before completing Christmas on Mars. Their music frequently contains science fiction references and their stage shows are known for their elaborate theatricality.
  • The idea was sparked by a Flaming Lips Christmas card frontman Wayne Coyne designed featuring a Martian in a Santa suit.
  • The film, written by Coyne, was in development for eight years, as the band worked on it every few months in between other projects. Most of the sets were built in Coyne’s home or backyard. Some of the early production is documented in the Lips documentary The Fearless Freaks (2005).
  • Co-director Brad Beesley also directed many of the Lips’ music videos and the Fearless Freaks documentary. Co-director George Salisbury was also credited as editor and produced the DVD extras.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: I wouldn’t want to spoil the hallucination’s impact, but it involves a marching band and an imperilled baby. (That’s not the strange part, though).

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Anatomically incorrect space(wo)man; marching band of death; Martian Santa

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Although from its lava lamp opening to its twisted happy ending, Christmas on Mars pokes at strangeness time and time again. But what really sets it apart are its many, many vaginas: more vaginas than you would see at a Georgia O’Keefe retrospective organized by the American Gynecological Association. No other movie in existence has so graphically exploited the weird potential of the human (or alien) vagina.


Original trailer for Christmas on Mars

COMMENTS: Christmas on Mars is a movie made by amateurs, which Continue reading 227. CHRISTMAS ON MARS (2008)

A WEIRD 1964 CHRISTMAS DOUBLE FEATURE: SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS AND RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER

I have often bragged that two of the strangest holiday productions were released in 1964, the year I was born. Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass’ “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” was made for television. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was a feature film understandably  given scant theatrical release. I used to imagine that these were a sort of personally apt, unintentional welcoming me into the world. As I saw “Rudolph” first, we will start there.

The television show sprang from the 1939 book, written by Robert May, and the 1949 song written by Johnny Marks (sung by Gene Autry). After seeing the animated TV show, one is forced to conclude that Rankin and Bass had to be two of the most unintentionally bizarre producers who ever breathed. Of course, we didn’t notice that fully during childhood (although, I do distinctly remember raising my eyebrows more than once). Upon a later viewing, one realizes just how eccentric the narrative and characters are. I can’t speak for others, but my own personal favorite character was prospector Yukon Cornelius (my brother favored Herbie). No one actually liked or rooted for the whiny red-nosed reindeer.  Yukon “even among misfits, you’re a misfit” Cornelius was something akin to a prophet, inviting identification with his outsider status. That aside, what the hell is he doing in this tale? Why is Santa Claus first represented as a bitchy, anorexic bigot? Following St. Nick is a certified WTF lineup: an Abominable Snow Monster who prefers pork to deer meet, King Moon Raiser (a winged lion, straight out of the Book of Revelations, who lords over an island of misfit toys), and a redneck reindeer coach in a baseball cap.

Still from "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" (1964)We all know the story, as narrated by talking snowman Burl Ives (apparently related to Frosty). Rudolph gets picked on because he has a  glowing red nose. He runs away from home, finds two fellow misfit wanderers in Herbie (the dentist Elf) and Yukon (the silver and gold prospector), who are prone to argue over pea soup vs. peanut butter. The three misfits hide from the Abominable Snow monster (too many syllables for Yukon, who just refers to the beast as Bumble).  Rudolph, Yukon, and Herbie find the Island of Misfit Toys, occupied by a Charlie-in-the-Box,  a polka dot elephant, a bird that swims, a noseless doll, an ostrich riding cowboy, etc.

Santa bitches constantly and never eats,  despite his wife’s reminder that “no one wants a skinny Santa.” Our childhood saint waxes all-consuming hatred for elves and misfits until … “Rudolph with Continue reading A WEIRD 1964 CHRISTMAS DOUBLE FEATURE: SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS AND RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER

183. SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY (1972)

“…one of the strangest and most baffling pieces of outsider art that Mike, Kevin and Bill have ever riffed.”–Rifftrax ad copy for Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny

Beware

DIRECTED BY: R. Winer,  (Thumbelina)

FEATURING: Jay Ripley, Shay Garner

PLOT: Santa’s sleigh is stuck in the Florida sand. After a series of animals fail to dislodge it, St. Nick tells the assembled children the story of “Thumbelina,” visualized as a movie-inside-the-movie, which also has its own wraparound sequence about a girl visiting the “Pirates World” theme park to view a series of fairy tale dioramas. Eventually,  a creature known as “the Ice Cream Bunny” rides out of Pirates World in a firetruck and rescues Santa.
Still from Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972)
BACKGROUND:

  • Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny was selected to go on the List of the 366 Weirdest Movies in the 5th Readers Choice Poll.
  • Thumbelina, the movie-within-a-movie that is actually longer than the Santa Claus story itself, is directed by , the nudie-cutie specialist responsible for such erotic atrocities as Cuban Rebel Girls, Fanny Hill Meets Lady Chatterly, and The Diary of Knockers McCalla.
  • Director “R. Winer” never worked again (or if he did, he used a different pseudonym).
  • Pirates World (the park’s official name has no possessive apostrophe) was a pre-Diney World theme park in Dania, Florida that closed sometime between 1937-1975. The Thumbelina insert footage was produced by Pirates World, and the Ice Cream Bunny also drives through the park on his way to rescue Santa.
  • There are reports that some prints of the film contained a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk rather than Thumbelina as the movie-within-a-movie.
  • The uncut VHS version of the movie runs 96 minutes, while the Legend/Rifftrax DVD version has a run time of 83 minutes due to the omission of a few Thumbelina musical numbers. According to some reviewers, on an alternate VHS release Thumbelina is presented after the Santa Claus plotline has resolved, as a bonus feature.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The first question is, which movie should the indelible image come from: the Santa Claus wraparound, or the Thumbelina story that actually takes up most of the runtime? As much as we like (by which I mean, shudder at) the image of the furry black monstrosities (flies?) in white bibs and striped swim trunks who hop around the yellow toadstools hunting Thumbelina, we have to go with the title creature (not Santa, the other one). The Bunny is a nightmarish apparition, half mothballed-Easter mascot from a defunct department store, half Frank from Donnie Darko. Your blood will run cold as you watch him dance a happy jig and pat a shivering blonde tyke on the top of her pony-tailed head.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: It’s got a sweaty Santa stranded in Florida, a guy in a gorilla suit, an Ice Cream Bunny (whatever that is), Thumbelina, and scenic footage of Pirates World. Not weird enough for you?  Well, how about the fact that Tom Sawyer (in a Hawaiian shirt) and Huck Finn (with a raccoon) also show up? They may be intended as symbolic stand-ins for the audience, because they seem totally nonplussed by the proceedings. When I initially reviewed Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, on a sudden whim as a way to fill a column on December 25, 2011, I wrote: “Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is weird enough to make the List, but the fact that it can only be endured by injecting Novocaine directly into the part of the brain responsible for processing continuity would make Certifying this movie a public health risk.” Rejecting our nanny-site policies, readers overwhelmingly spoke out in favor of honoring Ice Cream Bunny as one of the weirdest films of all time. Your wish is our command, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.


Clip from Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny

COMMENTS: When someone like me, who’s watched They Saved Hitler’s Brain multiple times—voluntarily, not as part of a CIA Continue reading 183. SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY (1972)

2012 ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS MOVIE LIST

It’s that time of year again to present something a tad different for the stocking. I am going to start off with four titles recommended by . Then, beginning at number five, a list of silent-era Christmas films. These may not have been weird in their day, but are rendered so now because of their archaic texture (and that is the beauty of cinema in it infancy stage—these films now seem something from another world altogether).

1. Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972): I am with Todd on this one: this is naive surrealism on suicide watch. And yes, it’s that much of  a hoot!  St. Nick (Jay Ripley) must have swallowed some of Winter Warlock’s reindeer corn himself. Only thing is, it has the opposite effect on immortal toymakers. His sleigh gets stuck in a mound of Florida sand. The toy-licking, blue clad “Kids” belt out a song that makes Leonard Nimoy’s golden throat sound like Jose Carrera’s. The Kids do what anyone would do in such a circumstance, and get the help of a gorilla! The oversized Curious George is of no help, so the Kids then try out a bunch of other animals. Santa gets peeved, tells then the story of Thumbelina (a previous film by the same producers) before the Ice Cream Bunny (!) comes to save the day. Well, sort of. Actually, there’s something lascivious going on between the Creepy Clause and our cool-toned hare. I half expected a Bugs Bunny drag scene, but alas, no.

2. Rich Little’s A Christmas Carol (1978): Nearly (not quite) the Christmas equivalent of Paul Lynde’s Halloween Special (alas, it doesn’t have Kiss, Mrs. Brady, or Pinky Tuscadero). Rich plays all the characters, doing his trademark impressions including Paul Lynde as Bob Cratchet, W.C. Fields as Scrooge, Johnny Carson as Nephew Fred, Jean Stapleton’s Edith Bunker as Mrs. Hatchet, Truman Capote as Tiny Tim (sheer genius), Richard Nixon as Jacob Marley and, in supporting roles, George Burns, , John Wayne, Jack Benny, James Mason and Dean Martin. It’s highly inventive in Rich’s inimitable way, even for an oft-told tale.

Still from Cosmic Christmas (1977)3. A Cosmic Christmas (1977): A bizarre product of  its time, this animated Canadian short came right on heels of the initial Star Wars (1977) hysteria. Imagine George Lucas’ iconic cantina scene mixed with the Peanuts’ Linus’ explanation of the holiday’s true meaning, thrown in with the ViewMaster version of St. Luke’s yuletide tale, all in outer space with a kid named Peter standing in for the Little Drummer Boy. Oh, and there is a goose named Lucy too. Yep, that sums it up.

4. Christmas Evil (1980):Todd, I am sure Ally and Zoom know (with this suggestion) that you have moved out of the 1970s, into 1980! Shocking! I promise that I will do my utmost to block this information from Santa’s crystal ball, so as not to send the old boy into a panic. Alas, 366 Weird Movies has again beat us to the punch in covering this title. So, we will just have to refer back to that link.

5. A Christmas Carol (1901): Scrooge or Marley’s Ghost was the original title for this first cinematic (British) version of Charles Dickens’ story Continue reading 2012 ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS MOVIE LIST

CAPSULE: SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY (1972)

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny was promoted onto the List of the 366 Weirdest Movies of all Time. Please make all comments on the official Certified Weird entry.

Beware

DIRECTED BY: R. Winer, Barry Mahon (Thumbelina)

FEATURING: Jay Ripley, Shay Garner

PLOT: Santa’s sleigh is stuck in the Florida sand, so he shows the assembled kids a movie until help arrives in the form of a giant rabbit-man in a fire truck.

Still from Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LISTSanta and the Ice Cream Bunny is weird enough to make the List, but the fact that it can only be endured by injecting Novocaine directly into the part of the brain responsible for processing continuity would make Certifying this movie a public health risk.

COMMENTS: When someone like me, who’s watched They Saved Hitler’s Brain multiple times—voluntarily, not as part of a CIA experiment in breaking interrogee’s wills—tells you that Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is quite possibly the worst movie they’ve ever seen, you should take notice.  First off, there’s the paradoxical fact that Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is hardly Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny at all.  It’s actually much more Thumbelina.  Or, maybe it’s primarily an advertisement for a sad-sack, pre-Disneyland southern Florida bemusement park called Pirates [sic] World.  If you’re confused, and not concerned with the prospect of having Ice Cream Bunny‘s plot spoiled, then read on.

The movie begins with what looks like home-movie footage of Santa’s sleigh stuck in the sand on a Florida beach.  The tone-deaf Kris Kringle sings a plaintive (dubbed) tune of lament, then falls asleep, then psychically summons the neighborhood children to help him.  (This sequence of events suggests that the entire movie may be St. Nick’s heat-stroke influenced nightmare).  At any rate, the children flock to his aid, bringing livestock (?) and a man in a gorilla suit (??) to attempt to dislodge the sleigh out of the half-inch of sand it’s buried in (why did the kids think a pig would succeed where eight magical reindeer had failed?)  When this brain-dead plan predictably bears no fruit, Santa decides to tell everyone a story—a story of eternal hope, a story about a magical place called Pirates World.

Actually, the story is the fairy tale “Thumbelina.”  But we can’t simply jump into it.  That would Continue reading CAPSULE: SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY (1972)