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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

Santa Claus is coming to your living room

Need another dose of the jolly old elf after Paul Giamatti’s in Fred Claus? The thing is, for all the many many many many many movies about Christmas, there aren’t all that many that are actually about the man himself. But there are a few:
The Santa Clause and The Santa Clause 2: Tim Allen is surprisingly sweet and genuine as a modern man shanghaied into being Santa, and No. 2 also has some satisfying darkness to counter all the sugarplums and candy canes. (I haven’t seen The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, which lands on DVD on November 20, so I can’t say whether the how-did-these-turn-out-so-good trend continued.) [my review of No. 1 and No. 2] [buy No. 1 and No. 2 at Amazon]

Miracle on 34th Street: The original 1947 version, please, not the tepid 90s remake. And not the colorized ’47 one, either. [my review] [buy at Amazon]

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town: Just say “Burgermeister Meisterburger” to anyone over 30, and watch ’em giggle. This 1970 Rankin & Bass animated TV special is a generational touchstone, and is still one of my favorite holiday traditions. [my review] [buy at Amazon]

Bad Santa: He’s not the real Santa, but Billy Bob Thornton throws all caution to the wind as a bitter, drunken, misanthropic, sex-addicted department-store Santa/thief in this deliciously wicked and defiantly politically incorrect Yuletide satire. [my review] [buy at Amazon]

The Nightmare Before Christmas: Jack Skellington isn’t the real Santa either, but he at least tries to make all the little children happy, even if it goes horribly wrong. [my review] [buy at Amazon]

Stalking Santa: I haven’t actually seen this one yet — it’s an under-the-radar indie just out on DVD this week — but it sounds like a hoot. A “Santologist” and his intern launch a scientific investigation into the existence of Santa Claus. This mockumentary spoof on conspiracy theorists is narrated by William Shatner, which should tell you just about everything you need to know. [Stay tuned for a review this holiday season.] [buy at Amazon]

And once you’re sick of the sugarplums and candy canes, check these out:

Santa Claus, The Movie: It stars Dudley Moore and Burgess Meredith as elves, John Lithgow as an evil toymaker, and it makes Santa a kind of Stockholm syndrome-suffering undead monster. This one actually perverts the spirit of the holiday into something creepy, itchy, and miserable. [my review] [buy at Amazon]

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians: Of course he does. If only he could conquer his costar, the eight-year-old Pia Zadora, whose “talents” never really advanced beyond those on display here. Gives Plan 9 From Outer Space some serious competition for the championship title of Worst Movie Ever Made. [buy at Amazon]

Santa With Muscles: It’s available only as a used VHS, but it’s worth seeking out if only to see Hulk Hogan play Santa Claus. What? You say you though Hulk Hogan couldn’t act? Well, you were right. [my review] [buy at Amazon]

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