We all have our favorite holiday films. For me it’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I never grow tired of Eddie’s white patent shoes and his dickie showing through his too tight sweater…or the shitter being full …or the antics of the adorable buffoon, Clark Griswold, trying to make the most of the often chaotic holiday season.
But sometimes you want something more; something a little bit edgy and maybe even as terrible as the mail order fruit cake old Aunt Martha sends every year that even a starving possum wouldn’t touch. As a connoisseur of cinematic disasters -what I refer to as “reel cheeze”- the following are some of the best/worst Christmas films ever made in my opinion. Best for cheeze. Worst for content.
You’ve been forewarned.
Santa Claus (1959)
This Mexican film directed by Rene Cardona (set to English in 1960) is a plethora of weirdness beyond comprehension, where everything you ever thought was Christmassy is dashed to bits within the first five minutes of the film.
First off, Santa’s home looks like a ancient Moroccan temple where he seems to be housing numerous children “who come from many lands” to act as racially profiled performing pets in his wintry pedo-palace. Here the children are surrounded by hideous puppets and nightmarish dancing apparitions and Santa frequently uses “sleeping powder” on kids to put them to sleep. And as if that’s not bad enough, ol’ Beelzebub himself, Santa’s arch enemy, deploys a red-deviled demon named Pitch to turn all the good little children against Santa Claus, reversing the film from an albeit arcane Christmas tale into a science fiction themed romp that quickly descends into the lands of the downright creepy.
I’ve only seen this movie once…and once was enough. Although the film does have some gratifying moments exhibited in its liberal use of atomic age scene designs and fantastical contraptions, it’s definitely one of those films that you never can unsee and leaves you feeling like you wish you never had.
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964)
What’s a Martian parent to do when his kids are being influenced by Earth television and the whole damned neighborhood is going to the dogs? When Martian kids demand Santa, a plan to abduct Santa is put into play kicking off a battle between an anti-Santa Martian enemy who wants to kill Santa and the Martians who try to protect him.
Once billed as one of the “worst films ever made” I have to disagree. There are a lot worse films out there that don’t deliver even half of the unintended laughs this one does. Although the acting is absolutely atrocious and the plot thoroughly ridiculous, these are the things abundant in the film that make it one of best cheezy Christmas movies ever made in my book. It’s a laugh-riot a minute. I love it.
Black Christmas (1974)
One of the very first feature films to introduce horror into Christmas, Canada’s Black Christmas is one of the lesser known titles of the genre that somehow escaped notice over the years. Starring Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder as sorority sisters receiving blisteringly obscene phone calls from a man they call “the Moaner” who threatens to kill them, the film moves quickly into a truly terrifying scenario of cat and mouse that left me literally on the edge of my seat until the last second crescendo of its unnerving ending…which I refuse to spoil.
Critically acclaimed as originating the unsolved ambiguous identity for the killer in a film and being the influence for such films as Halloween, Black Christmas is worth a watch no matter what time of year…but only if you want to be scared shitless.
*Note: The Moaner’s obscene phone calls are incredibly graphic and x-rated
The Stars Wars Holiday Special (1978)
Sweet Jesus, no…
Star Wars fans beware lest your puritanical visions of Star Warian bliss be forever ruined and the sanctity of that galaxy far, far away be dashed to smithereens, never to assembled in one piece again.
This filmed special is an absolute nightmare on levels too numerous to list and is as bad the second time around as it was in 1978 when I watched its first run on TV, falling asleep halfway in, bored to death and miserably disappointed.
This thing is a god-awful mish-mash of dance scenes plucked from a dying disco era, tripped-out music videos by uncool musical remnants from the 60s acid craze and includes a very unfunny Harvey Korman from The Carol Burnett Show as well as Bea Arthur. And as if things couldn’t get any worse…. did I mention Wookie-children? Yeah…Chewbacca has kids in this, complete with a nagging wife.
All I can I really say about this film is, if you ever wondered what effects profuse use of cocaine has on the creative mind of a director, this is it. The absolute epitome.
Just say “No”.