SANTA VS SATAN (1959) - BLACK BISON FILM LODGE
Date Wednesday 16th December
SANTA CLAUS (1959) A Mexican Santa battles Satan for the minds of children everywhere! A gloriously weird, mescalin-tinged South of the Border kid at heart horrorshow perfect for the Silly Season - and free icy poles on entry!
If you believe the well-tanned Santa in Santa Claus (1959) looks a little like a Third World dictator in a dime store beard, you could be correct, but at least he pulls off “jolly” well. From the well-manured mindfield of Mexican filmmaker Rene Cardona Sr, the exploitation genius who teamed up masked wrestlers with Dracula, an army of wolfmen and Lady Frankenstein, comes a horror flick exclusively for the kid at heart.
Some films lose something in the translation after 40-odd years, particularly if they are redubbed and repackaged for a befuddled American audience by Florida specialist in Mex-weirdness, K. Gordon Murray. Santa Claus has the added dynamic of coming from an intensely Latino Catholic country. Here, Santa is an almost Christ-like figure, an omnipotent being watching the people on Earth with his all-seeing “Cosmic Eye” before descending from his castle in the heavens (the Kingdom of God, anyone?) to do battle with Lucifer’s favourite demon - a red bodysuited figure with a pair of horns that would make a matador blush - in the ultimate Mexican cockfight for the minds of the children.
Satan taunts poor kids about their poverty and makes them throw rocks at Department store Santa stand-ins; distraught, Santa turns to Merlin, his most trusted helper, who hands him a swag of James Bond gadgets and pours some magic potion into his baggy red pants. Santa then saddles up his army of polystyrene reindeer who must be back in heaven before morning (or else, presumably, they turn into beanbag filler). For the entire 90 minutes of this Santa/Satan diogesis, Christ is only ever mentioned once - meanwhile the “Saint” part of St Nicholas is somewhat hammered home with the subtlety of a hygiene training film.
Think Santa vs Satan is a bizarre concept? Wait till you see the hyper-real, almost Salvador Dali-esque sets that use every square inch of dry ice in Mexico City, and the enormous Byzantine vagina entrance to Santa’s workshop that looks like it was created by Frida Kahlo with morning sickness. Imagine if Willy Wonka’s chocolate river was filled instead with cactus juice, or PeeWee Herman’s Playhouse was funded by the Vatican, and you’ll come close to grasping this South of the Border exercise in religious propaganda masquerading as children’s entertainment. So, from the director of Santo vs The Vampire Women and Wrestling Women vs The Aztec Ape, we present the twisted morality play of Santa Claus.