Brother and sister Frankie (François Gosselin) and Cathy (Catherine Leduc) live in a tiny French-Canadian village and winter has well and truly arrived, with snow two feet deep on the ground, which they are thoroughly enjoying seeing as how they have two weeks off school over Christmas to appreciate it. They run to the grocery store, pushing each other over along the way, until they reach their destination, but once inside and giving the shopkeeper their order, a strange man (Marcel Sabourin) enters and begins to act up. He takes a packet of candy and pours the contents into his mouth, then grabs even more off the shelves and rushes out of the door. The shopkeeper is horrified and calls the police, but the kids are intrigued…
The Christmas Martian was one of those little items of Yuletide ephemera that somehow lodged in the memories of people of a certain age, having caught it on television, or less likely, at a cinema showing. It was the brainchild of documentary filmmaker Bernard Gosselin who broke off from his usual factual material to create something for the children, resembling an effort from the British Children’s Film Foundation – just over an hour long, an emphasis on playing, a little light educational and improving value – only with a peculiarly French-Canadian twist. Which in practice meant lots and lots of snow, almost all of the movie featured the white stuff, if nothing else offering a seasonal tone to the proceedings.
Because the idea of a Christmas alien seems more attuned to a novelty song than it did a whole film: was this where Fountains of Wayne got their idea for their festive tune? Certainly there were plenty who caught this, often in its English-dubbed version, on the small screen where broadcasters would use it as filler between the other programmes, as many were, often cartoons and though this was not animated it did have the texture of something that could easily have been, and indeed might have been better off that way. Much of that was down to the alien himself, TV clown Sabourin who in slightly unsettling form sported netting across almost his whole body that was otherwise wrapped up in warm winter clothes.
Even his face was covered in netting, suggesting a young Martin Degville of Sigue Sigue Sputnik had been watching and was inspired fifteen years later when designing his stage costume. Not that the entity here ever threatens to break out into a chorus of Love Missile F1-11, he has less confrontational business to attend to such as fixing his saucer, which appears to be where the budget went. Mind you, the locals apart from Frankie and Cathy are extremely incensed by his mere presence and set about chasing him in a manner some have found reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extraterrestrial, though the similarities are more superficial and to do with the plot rather than any great imagination on display from Gosselin, nor did this tug at the heartstrings in the same way.
It did, on the other hand, throw up some genuine oddity with regard to what adults think will entertain children in a way that amusements for youngsters, especially from decades past, can bring out. Being from the province it was, an obligatory ice hockey scene appeared, but the alien sets about joining in not with a stick but with his mouth (he scores a couple of goals, too – beat that, Wayne Gretzky), and the film had a preoccupation with keeping its characters on the move, so there was skiing, snowmobiles, and rather alarming scenes of the cast flying with the help of large “matchsticks” (i.e. flares) which saw young Cathy suspended thirty feet in the air above the ground. And then there was the alien’s name: once he starts striking up conversations in a language the kids can understand, he confesses he is actually called Poo Flower, which may have been a thinly veiled reference to the writer’s opinion of what he was forced to script to make a living. Ending inevitably with the Martian (who never says he’s from Mars) dressed as Santa Claus, this was a combination of the innocuous and the unintentionally weird. Check out the ear-splitting song at the end, too.