This 1959 movie from Mexico dispels every common conception about jolly old Saint Nicholas.
From what the film tells us, Santa Claus does not live at the North Pole. He does not have a work force of elves to build his toys. His reindeer are not real. He's not even fat. The narrator in this movie tells us that Santa Claus lives in a castle in the sky (or maybe on another planet) with a bunch of Mexican children dressed up to look like they came from around the world to build his toys and load his sleigh and whatever.
He watches, or rather spies on the children of the world through a telescope with an eyeball attachment (that looks like it was stolen from the set of "War of the Worlds") and a high-tech satellite tracking system in his castle observatory. Another bizarre machine enables Santa to see what children are dreaming about.
And then we have Pitch, an emissary of the devil, who is sent to sabotage Santa's operation and generally cause trouble. We see him encouraging three Mexican boys to throw rocks at a department store window and coaxing a poor little Mexican girl named Lupita to steal a doll from a street merchant. He somehow knows that the one thing Lupita wants for Christmas is a doll.
Pitch fails at this, so he instead follows Lupita back to her house (or, more accurately, shack) and blows in her face, which causes her to have a nightmare. Her dream, as seen through Santa's dream vision machine, is the strangest scene in the whole movie: Lupita is standing in front of ten large boxes made to look like Christmas presents, rocking a doll in her arms and singing to herself. The boxes open, and giant ugly ragdolls start dancing around her in a strange manner and saying, "Why didn't you steal the doll? You should have stolen it. Don't you want the doll?" and Lupita keeps saying, "No, stealing is bad, and I want to be good."
Lupita appears throughout the rest of the movie, waking up in the middle of the night and saying things like "Santa isn't coming" and "Santa doesn't come to poor people's houses," and her mother has to comfort her. These scenes, plus one part where Santa reunites a lonely rich boy with his neglectful parents through a magic drink, are the only signs of heartwarming sentiment in the entire film.
Back to St. Nick. A crazy old wizard named (what else?) Merlin gives Santa a pouch of magic dust to keep children asleep and dreaming dreams of joy and good will. Some blacksmith gives Santa a magic golden key that can open any lock. (Unnecessary, considering he normally goes down the CHIMNEY.) Santa also has a magic flower that can make him disappear when he sniffs it.
Now Santa is getting ready to deliver the presents. An ethnically diverse group of kids help him load his sleigh while singing a really stupid song that goes something like, "Merry Christmas everybody, everybody, everybody," and then Santa starts singing, "Hurry up, my children, finish with your packing," VERY BADLY. Santa then winds up his FOUR MECHANICAL REINDEER, has a good laugh with one of them (he laughs, the reindeer cackles), and then boards his sleigh and takes off.
After some scenes of Pitch's meddling and Santa's gift-giving, the narrator calls the action play-by-play as Pitch approaches Santa's sleigh with a pair of scissors and cuts a hole in his pouch of sleeping powder. He runs away as Santa boards his sleigh and takes off to the next house, as his magic flower falls out of the sleigh. "Oh no! I hope it doesn't fall into the wrong hands," says the narrator. Santa is unaware of these things until he tiptoes through the yard to get to the next house (apparently, he's not allowed to land his sleigh on people's rooftops anymore), and Pitch has the family pet, a vicious guard dog, chase him up a tree. Pitch then makes the family think a prowler's outside and calls the police and the fire department against him. Santa yells at Pitch, "You'll pay for this!" and then calls for Merlin or somebody back at his castle. His cries for help go through a machine that looks like a pinball machine with large eyes and polystyrene lips at his observatory. Merlin sends some sort of mechanical cat down to Santa to get rid of the dog. It does, and St. Nick quickly hurries off to Lupita's house as soon as the family gets outside and the police and fire department arrive. Pitch tries to run away but ends up getting hosed down by one of the firemen, to which the narrator comments, "Serves him right, the old troublemaker! He'll probably catch pneumonia."
Some other little-known facts about Santa:
- Santa floats down chimneys with the help of a "magic parasol."
- Santa cannot eat earthly food of "animals and alcohol" and needs to eat "pastries and ice cream made of clouds" or something to survive.
- Santa and Pitch have had a rivalry going on for years now, what with Pitch being evil and mischievous and Santa promoting good behavior.
- Santa watches his weight so he can go down extra-wide chimneys easily.
This film is obviously out to scare little kids with the fear of getting coal from Santa. If you can, find the MST3K version of this film and watch Mike and the bots have it out with it.
Rating: two turkeys.
Scene to watch for: Lupita's dream sequence, and Santa jabbing Pitch in the butt with a toy missile launcher.
Things that make you go "Huh?": Pitch, Merlin, and Santa's CIA operati...uh, observatory.