Two words: Pia Zadora! Yes Pia Zadora stars in this low budget holiday sci-fi movie, and that should tell you plenty. Granted it’s a young Pia Zadora, not super-star Pia, circa Lucky Lady, but still, any movie that stars Pia Zadora is gonna be high camp goofiness. And Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is no exception.
Martian society is falling apart because their kids–normally treated as adults and fed information through machines and not allowed any playtime, toys or fun at all–are watching television broadcasts from Earth. Once Bomar (Boy Martian) and his sister Girmar (Girl Martian, Pia’s star-making role) see Santa they are struck with sadness. Girmar asks her father
What’s a doll?
Kimar, the King Martian, takes the advice of his wife, Momar (Mom Martian–at this point one wonders what the other Martins name their kids and wimmins), but that thought is quickly pushed aside by the arrival of the other Martian leaders who call on the very ancient Chochem (the name is Yiddish for genius) who points out that all this TV watching has made the kids yearn for Santa, a problem he anticipated centuries before. He declares that Mars needs Santa Claus. (Wait, I thought Mars needed women, but that’s a different movie!)
So all the leaders whiz off to Earth in their rocket to kidnap Santa (weirdly leaving no one in charge of the planet, but hey, it’s a movie!). At first they are confused by all the Salvation Army Santas, but after kidnapping two earth kids who lead them to the real Santa, the Martians and their ridiculous robot (who is turned into a toy by Santa) snag Kris Kringle and whisk him and the kids off to Mars.
Except, one of the Martians, Voldar, believes that Santa and Earth ways will soften Mars and destroy their way of life, and he keeps trying to kill the kids and Santa, to no avail since the jolly old fellow is winning over the rest of the space crew.
Once on Mars (where the atmosphere is no problem for the earthlings!) Santa is put to work building toys, but that humbug Voldar screws up the machines. Droppo, one of Kimar’s lackeys, dresses up as Santa and is kidnapped by Voldar who mistakes him for the real Santa. But the real Santa manages to fix the machines and make toys for Bomar, Girmar and all the little Markids, while Droppo escapes, and Voldar and his henchmen are arrested.
Kimar agrees to return Santa and the Earth kids back home to Earth, and Droppo gets to become the Martian Santa.
Santa does in fact conquer the Martians though his genial good nature, and the film raises important questions: Are the Martians stand-ins for Communists? Can TV act as bridge between cultures and open up closed societies? Could Santa Clause conquer the North Koreans?