Blu-ray Review: The Christmas Martian [Canadian International Pictures] | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, February 29th, 2024  

The Christmas Martian

Studio: Canadian International Pictures

Dec 13, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

A man sees an egg-like object drop from the sky while sneaking a midnight snack. A cabbie watches an old woman take flight. A clerk stares, dumb-founded, as an odd character stumbles into his store and eats an entire bag of jelly beans while emitting a cloud of soap bubbles. Rumors begin to spread that a Martian has landed in this quiet, Quebecois town. No one takes that crazy idea seriously at first—nobody, that is, except grade schooler Francois and his little sister, Katou, who spend the first day of their Christmas break befriending the eccentric extraterrestrial and helping him repair his spacecraft.

The Christmas Martian (1971) is a delectably weird little slice of holiday programming from north of the border. For his lone fiction feature, documentarian Bernard Gosselin stepped about as far outside the realm of reality as one could go with this infectiously silly, low-budget children’s movie. The story is hilariously low-stakes, considering this was mankind’s first contact with aliens: the kids themselves are so casual about the alien, treating him more like an eccentric neighbor than an extraterrestrial invader. The adults do come around to regard him as a menace and try to run him off the planet, but to be honest Francois and Katou may be the bigger threats to the town considering how nonchalantly they steal vehicles and drive a snowmobile through the local church.

The Martian himself (played by Marcel Sabourin) is a clownish fellow, mostly human-looking and dressed in what appears to be a sweat suit wrapped in lime-green fishnet. He’s content to spend his first expedition to a foreign planet just playing with the local children and showing off Mars’ advanced technologies. The whole Martian concept feels like it may have just been an excuse to use a large arsenal of inventive visual tricks: the Martian’s footsteps leave green splatters in the snow, he can fly with the strike of an oversized match, and plays hockey by sliding about the ice on his belly like a penguin. You have to admire the creativity on display.

Ultimately, The Christmas Martian is a lot of fun. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, no, but I enjoyed it, my children enjoyed it, and I can see it working its way into our regular holiday rotation as a double feature with the similarly weird import Santa Claus vs The Devil (1959).

Canadian International Pictures’ restored Blu-ray edition of The Christmas Martian looks very nice. The many bright, white snow scenes are never washed out, and the Martian’s spaceship—with its psychedelic, neon-tubed interior and candy-dispensing hose—looks like a colorful treat. Viewers are given the option to watch the film in its original French language track or a vintage English dub. (We can’t vouch for the accuracy of the translation, but the dubbing was never a distraction and the few instances of badly-matched mouth movements only added to the film’s wacky vibe.)

As we can expect from them by this point, CIP have stuffed their disc with bonus materials that provide some much-needed context for The Christmas Martian—their efforts are especially helpful here, considering how head-scratching this movie would have been without it. The booklet includes a Q&A with Marc St-Pierre, who further illustrates what an anomaly this was within the filmography of Gosselin, a director so closely associated with the seriously-minded NFB, and an essay about Canadian rock collective Vos Voisins, who were involved with the soundtrack. The disc itself includes one of Gosselin’s winter-themed documentaries, an animated short, and a film-length commentary from Canuxploitation experts Paul Corupe and Jason Pichonsky. Martian star Marcel Sabourin provides an audio interview, and while he doesn’t recall many specific details about this (or any other) production, it gives a good look into the career of a busy, Montreal-based film actor circa 1970.

Our favorite bonus feature, however, was a 30+ minute reel of trailers from the Tales For All series, which were a bunch of low budget kids’ movies made in Canada from the mid-‘80s onward. These are very much in the same vein as The Christmas Martian, with a few wild premises. (The Young Magician? Sign me up!) The Dog Who Stopped the War (1984) is already incoming from CIP in the new year, and perhaps we’ll see others from this line from them in the future.



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