For years, on Christmas day, a local station would air a most bizarre holiday offering.
The film, simply entitled Santa Claus, was obviously from Mexico – which is odd when you take in accout that Santa Claus wasn’t really a big part of the Mexican Christmas Mythos where The Three Wise Men traditionally brought the toys to all the happy bambinos on January 6. As a result, this litte bit of “exportable” pop culture by Cuban born director René Cardona Jr. presented a slightly warped interpretation of the Santa Claus mythos: for one thing, he wasn’t at the North Pole per se but in a castle, high above it – in space.
From there, the God of Christmas would practice electronic surveillance of children using a variety of instruments which were Cronenbergian crosses between technology and bodily organs: a giant dish antenna with an ear on it (the “earoscope”) relayed what it heard through a speaker that looked like a giant pair of lips.
He supervised the making of his toys which was done, not by elves, but by children of the world gathered to help Santa. Yup, it seems Jolly Old St-Nick operates a child-labor ring.
Then on Christmas Eve, Santa winds up is mechanical reindeer and comes down to Earth to go about is rounds.
Now you’d think this should make for a rather dull, uneventful film but wait: there is a devil afoot, his name is Pitch and he has been appointed by Satan himself to thwart the rotund lover of children on his gift-giving tour and corrupt children.
This seemingly odd inclusion of the Devil isn’t so strange when you take in account that nervous little devils are often seen peeking from the back of Mexican nativity scenes- concerned over the new messianic arrival. In fact, the devil shaped firecracker Santa is seen playing with in the film is very much part of the traditional celebration as it serves to illustrate how the devil is thrown for a loop on Christmas day.
The clownish Mephisto seems to concentrate his efforts on little Lupita, who wants a dolly so bad, she has creepy dreams about them.
As the years went by, the film crept into obscurity and eventually tumbled into the public domain. Once there, though, it began to reemerge slowly courtesy of video labels like Sinister Cinema. The print they used was a mess of scratches and it was a far cry from the annual eye candy I enjoyed as a child. But the goofyness was there- ready to inflict that jolly good combination of Painjoyment™ and nostalgia that would become an annual tradition in The Cinémasochist’s Dungeon where I’d often inflict it on unsuspecting guests.
In the 90s, the film became available packaged for bargain bins. The print used was a slight improvement but there was a major omission: the devil scenes had been excised.
So began my quest for a better copy. For years, I’ve searched for a better print. And with each passing Christmas, that obsession seemed to grow.
One year, a penpal down in Mexico taped it off the air and sent it to me. The film was in its original Spanish (with no subtitles) but the print was colorful and bright as well as free of scratches.
When bargain label Brentwood released and slightly faded (but “unexcorcised”) version on DVD a few years back. I figured that would be pretty much as good as it would get.I could either see the bright colorful print in Spanish with commercials or watch a reddish scratchy print in english.
Oh, but not this year!
This year, VCI has released an absolutely stunning (cropped) widescreen version of the film both on DVD and Blu-ray (!). The transfer is absolutely gorgeous. Details are sharp and colors are brighter even than the mexican broadcast or my recollection of the annual TV airing.
The Blu-Ray also allows you to view the film with the original Spanish audio and subtitles- although I must admit to being a sucker for the extra cheesiness the dubbing provides.
Look for it on amazon.com.
But here, for all of you cheap bastards out there is a free YouTube streaming of the entire flick – in Spanish:
Pain Level: 5/10
Quality of Pain: Like you’ve eaten too much candy .
Painjoyment™ Index: Ooooh Daddy X! Let me sit on you lap!