"Christmas II!!!" - was to have been March 25, as envisioned by the evil B.Z. in this Alexander and Ilya Salkind film, directed by "Supergirl" director Jeannot Szwarc.  A date which inspired the posting of this page on March 25, 2003.

The Salkinds took on this project upon winding down their involvement with the theatrical adventures of the Superman mythos.  "Santa Claus" was a virtual cousin of the Superman features, following roughly the same narrative formula.  (As well as establishing both characters with homes at the North Pole, but I digress...)

As such, "Santa Claus" suffers from giving the appearance of being two movies in one, just as "Superman - The Movie" did.  In that film, the origin story from Krypton through Clark leaving Smallville had one distinctive tone.  Immediately after the first flight from the Fortress of Solitude, and the Metropolis scenes began, the movie had an entirely different feel.
 

Here too, the schizophrenia manifests itself, no doubt due to the influence of writer David Newman, who largely penned both films.  "Santa Claus" begins with a scene set in a Northern European village, introducing woodcarver Claus (David Huddleston) and his wife Anya (Judy Cornwall).  Childless themselves, Claus takes great joy in making toys for local children every Christmas.

 
On this particular night, a blizzard of Rudolphian proportions overtakes the couple on their journey.  Unfortunately, neither of their reindeer have particularly shiny noses, and soon they succumb to the elements.  (Which brings us the first of several moments that make one go "Huh?"...but we'll discuss those later.)


 


The story continues as elves find the couple and lead them to their new home at the North Pole.  We see the creation of Santa's suit, the elves at work, as well as explanations for "Seasons Greetings" and the "naughty and nice" list, among others.  In a scene reminiscent of Brando's Jor-El defining young Clark's powers, Burgess Meredith comes in to bestow the title of "Santa" to Claus.  ("Huh" alert here...)

 
The movie moves along in a rather charming fashion, until focus shifts to the "present day".  Then it turns into "Superman III", complete with scenery-chewing villain, dim-witted henchman, annoying audio effects, and just enough product placements to let down anyone who thought movie-making is an artistic process, not a commercial endeavor. 

 
Also included were a couple of cute kids, silly conflict, and a requisite chase-and-rescue scene.

Terribly odd change of pacing.  The second-half storyline simulataneously revolved around Dudley Moore's character, Patch, botching a year's worth of Christmas toys, banishing himself from his Arctic home, and trying to gain some sort of redemption in the "real world".  In the process, aligning himself with B.Z. (John Lithgow in a pre-"3rd Rock" manic role), a toymaker for whom shoddy workmanship would be three steps up.

Meanwhile, Santa befriends a homeless boy, Joe (Christian FitzPatrick), who gets caught up in B.Z.'s machinations inadvertently through his budding friendship with lonely rich girl Cornelia (Carrie Kei Heim).  Naturally, by the film's end, Santa saves the day...yay...

To my mind, the imagery in the first half of the movie was enough for me to add this to my collection.  Still, the "Huh?" moments somewhat distract from time to time.  For example, one gets the distinct impression that the blizzard that strands Claus and Anya kills them from effects of exposure.  An odd premise to base a children's movie on.  (We won't even go into how the North Pole seemingly is only a few hoofbeats away from Claus' village...)

Burgess Meredith's character of "The Ancient Elf"...who is this guy?  How is he so much older than his fellow immortal elves?   How much of a gift is immortality if it doesn't spare one from eventual infirmity?

One question that really jumps out is why does Santa do nothing for young Joe, other than carving him a toy?  As I recall, even in 1985, photos of missing children appeared on milk cartons all over the country.  Certainly Joe wasn't missing, per se, but he was definitely fending for himself on the street.  One would think in the enlightened times of the 1980's, someone as concerned about the happiness of children would take a moment to help a youngster find shelter.

My take on this is that Santa essentially has his own version of "Star Trek's" Prime Directive.  Over the centuries, he's seen thousands, if not millions, of impoverished children.  Doesn't mean he doesn't care, but by his nature, "Santa" stands outside the natural order of things.

His mission is to do what he does best, which is to give children something to look forward to, if only once a year.

The toys aren't so much about being prizes for good little children, but instead offering them evidence that hope truly does exist, can be rewarded, and that there just might be a bit more to the world than what one can see with one's eyes.

Granted, hope isn't everything, but sometimes - especially when you think you've got nothing - it can be just enough...

Overall, this movie ranks as one that's well worth a look if you've got an hour to kill during the holiday season.  But when you see an elf (to be precise, The One Called Dooley) hand Santa a snow globe, you may just want to hit the "Stop" button...

(Don't click off the page now; I'll be mentioning a few linkages - for lack of a better term - that I've found to be an interesting tangent to this cast and crew a few rows down...)

For more on "Santa Claus - The Movie", you may wish to check out kringlequest.tripod.com
 
All images used on this page are property of the appropriate copyright holder(s), used for purposes of commentary only, without challenge to those copyrights.

This page created "Christmas II", 2003

You are Elf Number # to visit this little corner of the North Pole.
 

Ok, here's some linkages/oddities/whatever...

With this film, Jeannot Szwarc had directed all three featured actors in the Salkinds' flying people pics.  David Huddleston, of course.  Helen Slater as Supergirl.  In a non-Salkind film, he directed Christopher Reeve in "Somewhere In Time".

David Huddleston and Helen Slater worked together in Slater's first project, an ABC AfterSchool
Special called "Amy and the Angel".  Huddleston played Slater's grandfather, with Slater playing Amy in a riff on the holiday classic "It's A Wonderful Life".  (Though I'm still trying to figure out how they got James Earl Jones to show for that one...but I digress...)  Also with early-career roles in "Amy" were a couple of actors you might've heard of...Michael Modine and Meg Ryan.

Szwarc also directed both halves of the legendary, but by then defunct, British comedy team of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.  Cook appeared as a villain wannabe/Linda Lee's math teacher in "Supergirl", while Moore, obviously, played Patch in "Santa Claus".  Unfortunately, the only time I ever saw that team in action was when they reprised one of their most famous skits, "One-Legged Tarzan" on "Saturday Night Live" in the mid-Seventies.

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