"Manuel San Fernando" (prolly K. Gordon Murray)
This 1987 VHS release from United American Video Corp., which probably sold a zillion copies around Christmastime in the late 80s, is the perfect embodiment of what scam art distributors would regularly release to hapless consumers back in the day. I can imagine many unsuspecting parents picking this up for their kids, popping it in when they got home and being irate at making their kids suffer through promotional videos for an incredibly lame looking and outdated theme park. Even worse, instead of getting the heartwarming family fun they'd anticipated, their little ones ended up traumatized for life! Containing two 1960s short subjects (Santa's Enchanted Village and Santa's Magic Kingdom) and with a running time falling well short of the claimed 30 minutes, these two mini-films were nothing more than PR for Santa's Village amusement parks. At one time there were a handful of these parks scattered around the U.S. in places like Santa Cruz and Skyforest, California and East Dundee, Illinois. By 1977, after Santa's Village Corporation filed for bankruptcy, some of these parks closed for good while others remained open, though under new ownership and with new names and new attractions. The location in Skyforest (near Lake Arrowhead) became Skypark at Santa's Village, while the Dundee location currently operates at Santa's Village AZoosment Park.
You may be wondering why something like this would even be covered here. Well, let's hear from a few unsatisfied former child customers via the Youtube comments section...
- "So creepy." - dan Hamakua
- "My brother and I used to have this on a VHS...we were just talking about it. It always creeped us both out." - Life Unpaged
- "When I was 4 my mom rented a VHS tape from some church. It had this damn thing on it instead of the Christmas cartoons we were expecting. I dreamed night after night that the skunk thing was in my basement and had me cornered, speaking in its nasally squeaks. Years of trying to make my parents remember the tape followed. Only my brother shared the same fear so I knew it was real in some way. I stumbled upon this 3 days ago and showed the rest of my family. My mom instantly knew what it was, but said she blocked it from her memory "so she didn't have to think about it anymore." - Santa's Ashes
- "I'm horrified" - ?Mystery Nyan?
- "Glad to know the title of this. Now my therapist will stop thinking I'm insane." - awfulsails
Both of these shorts were directed by one "Manuel San Fernando," who I'm pretty sure is actually one K. Gordon Murray. Murray was best known for cheaply acquiring the rights to Mexican movies like SANTA CLAUS (1959) and LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD AND THE MONSTERS (1962), dubbing and re-editing them and then releasing them as children's matinee features. Murray also handled more adult-oriented sci-fi and horror films from South of the border, but his family movies are most remembered due to the fact they typically horrified the children who viewed them. However, Murray was also involved in a few of this own productions, which is where these shorts came from. As a 13-year-old teen delinquent once said on The Maury Show, "It's all about the fast money, baby!" and Murray apparently made a fortune doing what he did.
Santa's Enchanted Village opens with recycled footage from the 1959 Santa Claus showing us Santa's magical outer space kingdom. Thanks to Merlin the Magician's discovery of the "5th Dimension," Santa is able to be countless places at once (like at every Santa's Village in the U.S., of course!) and also has many different homes (like every Satan's Village across the U.S.!). His village has all of the necessities, like a reindeer barn, a toy workshop filled with slave laborers (the boys are "elves" and the girls are "pixies"), a "chapel of the good shepherd" (?!) and even a (much too small!) North Pole despite not being like, ya know, anywhere near the North Pole.
Mistaking the pole for ice cream, Stinky the Skunk starts licking it and gets his ass chewed out by Puss 'N Boots. He then goes to his toy workshop job and leaves again, which infuriates his boss, The Ferocious Wolf, who then grumbles incomprehensibly and goes after him. That culminates with the wolf beating the skunk with a tree branch (!) in front of a bunch of children at a puppet theater (!) Santa Claus is shown several times, robotically laughing in an incredibly disturbing manner at the various events. The combination of tuneless accordion music, fog-enshrouded buildings shot at Dutch angles, giant mushrooms (!) everywhere and nightmarish-looking characters really does turn this into a creepy experience.
Next up is Santa's Magic Kingdom, which starts with Santa giving us a tour of his village as he takes his sleigh and reindeer hostages into the dark recesses of an ice cave, and then cuts to Merlin the Magician taking over the tour cause he can do it quicker using the - you guessed it! - "5th Dimension." The horrifying sights that follow include a 6-foot-rabbit riding a train that looks about a 10 mph gust of wind away from falling right off the tracks, manic depressive whistles and a slumped-over, dead-eyed jack-in-the-box. We also gets to see the Easter Bunny's home, a post office, a gingerbread house and a toy factory, all accompanied by stolen horror movie music (?) Unlike the previous short, this one attempts something of a plot after awhile.
Puss 'N Boots, chief of the theme park security, has received reports of an ogre who's about to attack the village. As a princess rushes off to warn Santa, Puss encounters the ogre, who looks less like an ogre and more like a plaster dinosaur head. The "ogre" then threatens "Where are you Santa Claus? I am looking for you! And when I find you, I am going to destroy you and your villages!" Merlin then must do battle with the "ogre" which takes place entirely off-screen and then we're treated to the cast singing along to some operatic vocal that never once matches their lip movements. Eegads. It's very rare that I watch something that has no redeeming qualities whatsoever but I'm really struggling here!
The same company also released "Santa's Fairy Tales: Volume Two," which features two more ancient shorts again "presented by" Jeffrey C. Hogue. The first is Murray's Santa Claus and His Helpers, which was yet another Santa's Village promo video featuring the same characters and shot at the same time. It, and the other two, were edited by future hardcore porno director Jack Remy. The other is The Magic Snowman, a re-title of the 1944 German short Der Schneemann (aka Christmas in July), which is at least a proper piece of animation.