By Rob Craig

SANTA CLAUS is also obsessed with evil, as well as, again, the title character. And Santa Claus' perspective on evil is ambiguous: the very first time we see him, he is laughing at a creche depicting the birth of Christ! What are we to make of this? Devotion, or mockery? Soon after, at the prompting of Tom Thumb (Cesareo Quezadas, reprising his role from the 1958 fantasy PULGARCITO, aka TOM THUMB), and Little Red Riding Hood (actually the first appearance of Maria Gracia, a year before her first starring vehicle, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD), Santa picks up a Devil firecracker, and lights it. We blink our eyes, and we are in Hell! A literal terrifying Hell! The Catholic Hell! The most horrible place in the universe! One of the most amazing depictions of Hell, in fact, in all cinema. This scene is surely one of the most absurd, and potentially frightening visages of evil's domain ever to be foisted upon small children.

At this juncture, we can have no doubt that, title aside, the real star of this "All-time Children's Fantasy Classic" is, of course, Lucifer himself! And as depicted here, Lucifer is one of the most bizarre/literal depictions of evil as an actual, tangible presence ever mounted in cinema. One wonders, why weren't there Christian picketers outside this sacrilegious film, instead of LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST?" SANTA CLAUS' Hell is sinister, theatrical, grotesque, much too complex and grim for a child. It is, even in its more comical aspects, truly a Hell for children.

As we soon discover, the Devil not only preys on little girls: he also likes rude little boys! Pitch's subsequent mental torture of three young boys borders at times on pure harassment, and again, we feel that no human child in his right mind could resist such powerful spiritual temptation. SANTA CLAUS may have unwittingly taught little ones more about evil than any film in History; the devil's plan to use the human qualities of pride, greed, fear, ignorance and envy to mess up Santa Claus, that is, destroy civilization.

The ultra-simplistic morality of SANTA CLAUS, emphatic to the point of dogma, seems from another mindset entirely, like something you might even hear in church, conveyed with the force of a sledge-hammer.