10 Fun Facts About Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

An abducted St. Nick spreads holiday cheer all over the Red Planet in this weird sci-fi comedy from 1964. Here’s an earthling’s guide to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

1. Santa Claus Conquers the Martianshas an odd connection to Charles Lindbergh.

Everything started out innocently enough. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was the brainchild of producer Paul L. Jacobson. Incidentally, this was the first—and only—movie that he ever produced. In the 1950s, Jacobson had worked as a unit manager on NBC’s iconic puppet show Howdy Doody. This experience gave him an insider’s look at the children’s entertainment industry. Confident that he could make a hit kiddie film, Jacobson started developing what he referred to as an original “Yuletide science fiction fantasy.”

Once he raised $200,000, production on the movie began in earnest. Shooting took place at Michael Myerberg Studios on Long Island—an abandoned aircraft hangar that had been repurposed as a film studio in 1964. Thirty-seven years earlier, Charles Lindbergh stored The Spirit of St. Louis here on the night before his epic, transatlantic flight.

2. Santa Claus Conquers the Martianswas the film debut of Pia Zadora.

Long before making it big as a professional singer, Pia Zadora entered the world of film in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Here, her character is Girmar, a typical red planet girl who likes watching “Earth programs” with her brother on the family television set. This was just the beginning of Zadora’s cult movie career, as she’d also turn up in John Waters's Hairspray (1988) and Naked Gun 33 1/3 (1994). In 1982, she starred in Butterfly, an R-rated incest drama. Though critics trashed the flick, Zadora’s performance did win her a Golden Globe—albeit, an extremely controversial one.

3. The alien stun guns in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians were name brand toys.

Halfway through the movie, a troop of unitard-wearing spacemen break into Santa’s workshop. Once there, the invaders freeze some innocent elves (and poor Mrs. Claus) in their tracks with special guns. Any kid growing up in the 1960s would have easily recognized these weapons as plastic “ray guns” that Marx Toy Co. mass produced throughout the decade.

4. A Tonight Show band leader wrote Santa Claus Conquers the Martians’s catchy theme song.

It’s tough to get the very catchy “Hooray for Santy Claus!” out of your head within four hours of watching this movie. A joyous, jazzy number, it was penned by the late composer Milton Delugg. In 1963, NBC hired him as the music director for their annual telecasts of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Delugg would retain this high-profile gig until he stepped down in 2013. On the same network, Delugg led The Tonight Show orchestra for a year and a half during Johnny Carson’s early tenure. The musician passed away in his Los Angeles home last year at the age of 96.

5. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians’s Santa was plucked from a hit Broadway musical.

During the original 1963 to 1964 run of Oliver!, John Call played the eccentric Dr. Grimwig. Born in 1908, he enjoyed a long career on "The Great White Way," joining such productions as Bloomer Girl (1944-1947) and Pickwick (1965). Immediately after leaving Oliver!, Call took on the role that he’s best remembered for today—namely, Kris Kringle in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

By the way, he isn’t the only Broadway veteran in the cast of this sci-fi comedy. Earth kids Betty and Billy are portrayed by Donna Conforti and Victor Stiles, respectively. Both might’ve looked a little familiar to theatergoers at the time: Stiles had previously acted in Oliver! as a pickpocket, while Conforti was a bit player in 1963’s Here’s Love—a musical adaptation of Miracle on 34th Street (1947).

6. That guy in the polar bear suit later appeared in All The President’s Men.

“We weren’t about to get a real bear!” director Nicholas Webster said in retrospect. En route to warning Santa about the Martians, Billy and Betty encounter a huge polar bear, who briefly corners them. You needn’t be a genius to deduce that the beast is really a man in a cheap costume. Watch this clip closely and you may also notice that the person inside is crawling around on his knees—hardly ursine behavior. Anyway, the Arctic predator was played by stage actor Gene Lindsey. Years later, Lindsey joined the cast of All the President’s Men as Alfred D. Baldwin, a participant in the Watergate Scandal.

7. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was the first motion picture to ever depict Mrs. Claus.

The Mrs. Claus character has been around for a while: James Rees’s 1849 story A Christmas Legend features the earliest known reference to St. Nick’s wife. Mrs. Claus would go on to become a household name after the poem Goody Santa on a Sleigh Ride came along in 1889. But despite this newfound publicity, her husband beat her to the silver screen by more than six decades. Old Kris Kringle has been starring in films and shorts since the late 1890s, whereas the missus wouldn’t make her cinematic debut until Doris Rich played her in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

8. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians shares a bit of footage with Dr. Strangelove.

As the opening credits roll in Stanley Kubrick’s biting cold war comedy, we’re treated to some military stock footage of a plane refueling in midair. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians incorporates this exact same snippet at the 24:40 mark.

9. There’s a spelling error in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians’s opening credits.

Ramsey Mostoller is listed as the picture’s “Custume Designer.” Naturally, this little typo did not go unnoticed when Santa Claus Conquers the Martians got the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment in 1991.

10. Mystery Science Theater 3000 wasn’t the first TB show to lampoon Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians will always be associated with MST3K thanks to a 1991 Christmas special in which Joel Hodgson and his puppet pals used it as heckling fodder. But before Mystery Science Theater 3000, there was The Canned Film Festival. A one-season wonder, it takes place at a run-down cinema that tries to draw in new customers by screening some of the strangest films ever made. Our leading lady is Laraine, an usherette played by SNL alumnus Laraine Newman. Along with a handful of regular patrons, she watches and pokes fun at such masterpieces as Robot Monster (1953) and They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1968). The show ran on CBS for just 13 episodes in the summer of 1986 before it was ultimately replaced with M*A*S*H reruns. Still, at least it managed to feature/make fun of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians before going under.

11 Gifts for the Sci-Fi Fanatic in Your Life

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Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Science fiction has found its way into countless books, movies, TV shows, and video games over the years, making it tough to figure out which products are actually worth your time when shopping for a fan of the genre. We’re taking the thought out of it with these 11 recommendations for the sci-fi fan in your life.

1. Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series; $22

Abrams/Amazon

Topps trading cards were the essential collectible during the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s—so it was only right that Star Trek would have its own set for fans to obsess over (though it actually debuted seven years after the original series was canceled). In this chunky coffee-table book from Abrams, high-quality scans of the fronts and backs of all 88 standard cards are featured alongside insights and essays from Trek experts Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Star Trek Socks; $25

Bio World/Amazon

Though you might not want your loved one to walk around the house in a Starfleet uniform, you should definitely get them these Next Generation socks to make their feet feel a bit more official. And whether they relate to the command, engineering, or science division of the Enterprise, there’s a pair here for them.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Frank Herbert’s Dune Saga; $28

Ace/Amazon

With a new take on the Dune movie franchise hitting theaters soon, there’s no better time to make sure the sci-fi buff in your life has the first three installments—Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune—in author Frank Herbert’s landmark book series.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Sci-Fi Book Cover Postcards; $21

Penguin Books/Amazon

One of the most striking aspects of the sci-fi genre is the imaginative, if not downright weird, book covers that come along with it. This collection of postcards features reproductions of 100 covers from publisher Penguin’s past, featuring work from H. G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, J. G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ray Bradbury. This set is ideal for any avid collector, especially ones that want to turn the postcards into unique crafts and decorations for the home.

Buy it: Amazon

5. and 6. The Making of Alien and The Making of Aliens; $31-$42

Titan Books/Amazon

If you ever want a comprehensive behind-the-scenes book about your favorite movie, look for the name J.W. Rinzler. He’s best known for his in-depth accounts of the original Star Wars trilogy, but he’s also dabbled in other franchises, like the first two movies in the Alien series. Packed with rare photos, unused concepts, original script drafts details, and more, these books contain all the anecdotes and details a fanatic could ever want.

Buy it: Alien (Amazon), Aliens (Amazon)

7. The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women; $20

The Library of America/Amazon

Some of sci-fi’s best women writers get the spotlight in this expansive anthology collection from the Library of America. The stories themselves range from the campier pulps of the '20 and '30s through the more thoughtful and serious evolution of the genre in the ‘60s. This is a crash course in sci-fi history, told through the lens of an often-unappreciated group of authors, including James Tiptree, Jr. (real name Alice Bradley Sheldon) and Leigh Brackett, who was responsible for the first draft of 1980's Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Classic Sci-Fi Magazine 1000-Piece Puzzle; $22

Brook & Wyman/Amazon

Though sci-fi is usually exclusive to novels and blockbuster movies today, it really got its start thanks to the plethora of genre magazines on stands during the ‘30s and ‘40s. And now, you can put together those striking—and impeccably surreal—covers to Fantastic Adventures, Amazing Stories, and more in this 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Cyberpunk 2077; $60

CD Projekt Red

Cyberpunk 2077 has arguably been the most anticipated piece of sci-fi media over the last five years. CD Projekt Red already created one of this generation’s best games with The Witcher 3, and now the studio is throwing players into a Blade Runner-esque cyberpunk world, where every choice you make will shape the world around you in different ways. Plus, you’ve got an arsenal of weapons and augmentations at your disposal. This one hits shelves on December 10.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films; $113

Criterion/Amazon

Godzilla’s unique charms resides in the way the franchise seamlessly alternates between thought-provoking and schlocky. And in this handsome, 15-movie Blu-ray set from Criterion, fans can revisit the series’s most influential installments, from 1954's groundbreaking original all the way through the campier later days of Megalon and Mechagodzilla. The set also contains both the U.S. and Japanese versions of 1963’s cringe classic King Kong vs. Godzilla. In typical Criterion fashion, the whole package is accompanied by hours of extras and a gorgeous hardcover book filled with original artwork.

Buy it: Amazon

11. Moebius Library: The World of Edena; $34

Dark Horse Comics/Amazon

One of sci-fi comics’ most important artists, Moebius helped define a visual style that would influence George Lucas, Ridley Scott, and pretty much every other major force in the genre for decades to come. In this collection, Moebius’s The World of Edna stories are reprinted in beautiful hardcover format, complete with lush colors that perfectly complement the strange worlds to which he transports readers.

Buy it: Amazon

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10 Fascinating Facts About Samuel L. Jackson

SUHAIMI ABDULLAH/GETTY IMAGES
SUHAIMI ABDULLAH/GETTY IMAGES

If you watch enough movies, you’re bound to spot Samuel L. Jackson. The 71-year-old star (he'll turn 72 on December 21, 2020) is one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood, appearing in Oscar-winning films like Pulp Fiction (1994) as well as blockbuster franchises like Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From his background as an activist to the origin of his R-rated catchphrase, here are some things you should know about the Oscar-nominated actor.

1. Swearing helped Samuel L. Jackson manage his stutter.

Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images

Before he was one of Hollywood's most accomplished actors, Samuel L. Jackson had trouble speaking in front of others. He was bullied for his stutter as a child, and he avoided talking in school for nearly a year because of it. He eventually took the initiative to treat the issue on his own by researching breathing techniques at the library. He also came up with a unique anchor word: motherf***er. The expletive that helped him manage his speech impediment would also become his professional calling card later in life.

2. Samuel L. Jackson was an usher at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral.

The assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968 thrust a young Jackson into the Civil Rights Movement. Jackson, who was a sophomore at Morehouse College at the time, flew from Atlanta to Memphis a few days later to march in support of a garbage workers' strike. Back in Atlanta, he agreed to be an usher at MLK’s funeral when he heard they needed volunteers. In 2018, he wrote about the experience for The Hollywood Reporter, saying, “I remember seeing people like Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. People that I thought I'd never see, let alone have a relationship with later on in life. The funeral was pretty much a blur.” He later staged a lock-in at his college that got him suspended.

3. Samuel L. Jackson almost became a marine biologist.

Jackson attended college in the 1960s with the intention of becoming a marine biologist. After he held the lock-in at Morehouse, he saw a performance by the Negro Ensemble Company that inspired him to pursue acting. When his suspension ended, he switched his major to drama and joined the theater group that inspired him.

4. Samuel L. Jackson was a stand-in on The Cosby Show.

Before he made it big in Hollywood, Jackson worked as a stand-in for Bill Cosby during tapings of the sitcom. "I was the right height, and I was the right skin tone," Jackson told Vulture in 2012 about the gig. "We did the blocking, while they did the camera choreography because it was a three-camera show. For two to three years, they would put his crazy sweaters on me."

5. Samuel L. Jackson's famous Jurassic Park line was inspired by another film.

Not long before he found a permanent place on Hollywood's A-list, Jackson played a small part in Jurassic Park (1993). John “Ray” Arnold wasn’t the star of the film, but he did say one of its more memorable lines: “Hold onto your butts.” Jurassic Park screenwriter David Koepp recently revealed that he borrowed the line from director Robert Zemeckis, who uttered it before watching reshoots of his film Death Becomes Her (1992).

6. Samuel L. Jackson asked for a purple lightsaber in the Star Wars prequels.

Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Jackson is such a big Star Wars fan that he immediately accepted the role of Jedi Mace Windu when George Lucas offered it to him. He did, however, make one request regarding the part: He wanted a purple lightsaber. Traditionally, lightsabers come in green for Jedi and red for Sith, but Lucas reluctantly agreed to make an exception for Mace Windu in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002). Jackson recounted the origins of his unique weapon on The Graham Norton Show: “We had this big arena, this fight scene with all these Jedi and they’re fighting or whatever. And I was like, well s***, I want to be able to find myself in this big ol’ scene. So I said to George, ‘You think maybe I can get a purple lightsaber?’”

7. Samuel L. Jackson is the highest grossing actor of all time.

Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in more than 150 movies, including blockbuster franchises like Star Wars and several of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including The Avengers series. So it’s not surprising that the actor has earned the distinction of being Hollywood’s highest-grossing actor. The combined box office earnings of all his films—which includes Avengers: Endgame, the biggest money-maker of all time—add up to more than $13 billion worldwide.

8. Samuel L. Jackson has his own wig consultant.

Jackson is bald in real life, but he has sported many iconic hairstyles over the course of his movie career. His ‘dos have become such a big part of his on-screen personas that he employs his own personal hair stylist and wig consultant. Robert L. Stevenson has used Jackson’s head as a canvas on dozens of films.

9. Samuel L. Jackson appears in Kill Bill Vol. 2.

After first collaborating with director Quentin Tarantino on Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown (1997), Jackson made a brief cameo in his Kill Bill series. The next time you watch Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004), pay close attention to Rufus the wedding piano player—he’s played by a familiar face.

10. You can hear Samuel L. Jackson on Amazon’s Alexa.

Jackson is known for his distinctive voice and colorful vocabulary. In 2019, the actor lent his vocal talents to Amazon’s Alexa. The Samuel L. Jackson Alexa option has many of the same capabilities as regular Alexa, including playing music, setting your alarm clock, and singing “Happy Birthday.” You can even let the feature use swear words for a more authentic experience.