I love this stuff. Love it. People my age loved Pee-Wee's Playhouse when it originally aired, of course, but I don't think many of us really understood that it was Paul Reubens' send-up of his memories of the kiddie TV shows of his childhood. Our parents got it, but by the time Pee-Wee made the jump from late-night HBO to Saturday morning fare, they were no longer his target demographic and the show had gained a more modern sensibility. The Christmas Special, however, goes back to the show's roots. It's a variety show comprised of an endless parade of celebrity cameos, from the Del Rubio Triplets to Whoopi Goldberg, with Frankie and Annette in the background, working in Pee-Wee's Christmas card sweatshop. Sure, it's a mockery of TV Christmas specials, but there's a good deal of nostalgic sincerity, too. Check it out--it's probably the best 47 minutes you'll spend today.
Finding myself with a couple more hours to kill, I decided to watch 1959's infamous Santa Claus, which I absolutely cannot recommend. I've heard of this one for years, and when people describe its awfulness, they can barely contain themselves. "It's Santa Claus--and he lives in outer space--against the Devil! And Merlin the magician shows up! Plus it's Mexican, so it's badly translated, and--"
Those components sound as if they'd add up to something special, but they don't. The most insidious movies aren't just bad--they're also dull, and Santa Claus is a long, unrewarding slog. It is tempting to use the superlatives when describing the incompetence of Santa Claus, but I'm afraid that will drive other people to watch it. Do not fool yourself into thinking you might enjoy it. Someone with more patience than me might be able to improve it significantly by whittling an hour off the film's 90-minute running time. Anyway, should you find yourself curious enough to watch it (you won't), you can do so on YouTube:
...however, I'd much rather recommend Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, which stumbles obliviously in and out of so-bad-it's-good territory. This one has its problems too, but its better executed; the story is better and moves along at a pretty good clip. It's been a few years, but as best I can remember, the children of Mars are becoming depressed and despondent because TV broadcasts from Earth have alerted them to the existence of Christmas--which they don't celebrate. An expedition is sent to Earth to procure (read: kidnap) Santa Claus, and hilarity attempts to ensue.
Actually, I think Santa Claus Conquers the Martians could use a remake. Hell, you could cram the Devil from Santa Claus into the story, too. And Merlin. And Sandman, Venom, a couple of kitchen sinks, a couple of kitchen sinks and a small aviary... Somebody get Will Ferrell on the line--I think I've got an idea.