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Blu-Ray : Worth a Look
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Release Date: December 26th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1971

The Christmas Martian

Overview -

The Christmas Martian is a 1971 Canadian film for kids that tells a simple story of two kids visited by an outer-space traveler. It's a bit weird and low-budget but a few steps above Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, a notorious holiday cheapie from the same era. This Blu-Ray from Canadian International Pictures is a pristine presentation, but the one caveat is that this is from a 1991 reissue print which has updated music and English dubbing. The original version, with music that far better suits the movie and the era it's from, is not included here. Worth a Look overall.

"Easily the most insane example of Canadian children's cinema ever conceived." - Canuxploitation.com

While out looking for a Christmas tree one winter day, siblings François (François Gosselin) and Katou (Catherine Leduc) encounter a bizarrely dressed entity (Dirty Money’s Marcel Sabourin) who emanates bubbles and shoplifts from a convenience store. With Katou convinced this “man” is really a Martian, the children follow his green trail all the way to a flying saucer. After confirming his alien identity, they form an instant bond and pool their efforts to fix the Martian’s damaged spaceship, so he can return to his home planet. Meanwhile, the police join forces with a vigilante mob to track down this mysterious visitor and put his antics to an end.

A viable contender for weirdest Canadian movie of all time, The Christmas Martian takes family-friendly holiday entertainment to imaginatively inspired new places. With a uniquely carefree and child-like approach, director Bernard Gosselin (making his one and only fiction feature) paved the way for producer Rock Demers’ celebrated Tales for All series and arguably even E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Available here in its original French version and the more outlandish English dub, The Christmas Martian Is a misunderstood (and underseen) holiday gift that keeps on giving.

directed by: Bernard Gosselin
starring: Catherine Leduc, François Gosselin, Marcel Sabourin, Guy L'Ecuyer, Roland Chenail, Paul Hébert
1971 / 61 min / 1.66:1 / French DTS-HD MA 1.0

Additional info:

  • Region A Blu-ray
  • Scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm original camera negative by Éléphant - mémoire du cinéma québécois
  • Complete English and French versions of the film
  • Audio commentary featuring Paul Corupe of Canuxploitation.com and film historian Jason Pichonsky
  • Trailers for All (1971-1994, 32 min.) – Theatrical trailers for The Christmas Martian and the first 15 films in the Tales for All series
  • Trailers for All commentary featuring Corupe and Pichonsky
  • New audio interview with actor Marcel Sabourin (2023, 13 min.)
  • The Joy of Winter (1962, 15 min.) – Documentary short directed by Gosselin and Martian producer Jean Dansereau
  • The Beach (1978, 4 min.) – Animated short based on a story by Martian screenwriter Roch Carrier
  • French theatrical trailer for The Christmas Martian
  • Booklet featuring a new interview with NFB curator Marc St-Pierre and an essay on composer Jacques Perron by Fantasia programmer Marc Lamothe
  • Reversible cover artwork
  • English SDH subtitles

OVERALL:
Worth a Look
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm original camera negative by Éléphant - mémoire du cinéma québécois
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Length:
65
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.66:1
Audio Formats:
French DTS-HD MA 1.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Release Date:
December 26th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

A brother and sister are out in a small Quebec town searching for a Christmas tree. Mysterious green footprints lead them to a flying saucer landed in the snow, and finding their way inside, they meet the title character (played by Marcel Sabourin.) He says that he can take the form of anything, but has decided to appear on Earth as an odd man wearing a weird fishnet outfit that covers all of him including his face. There's a funny bit where he drinks a potion in order to be able to speak the kids' native language. It turns out that his ship needs a minor repair so the kids help him with that while also giving him a tour of their town. The Martian is particularly fascinated with a group of neighborhood kids playing ice hockey. The town's grown-ups aren't so welcoming though. They assume he's up to no good and the police are soon out looking to arrest him. 

Running just 65 minutes, this space visitor doesn't overstay his welcome here. Originally shot in 1971, there are some amusingly weird moments such as the inside of the ship overflowing with candy when the kids arrive (and the uneaten bits then quickly cleaned up). This is obviously a low-budget affair, but its heart seems to be in the right place.

Watching this I couldn't help but feel some elements, particularly the music score, were a bit out of place for 1971. The ending credits confirmed this by revealing that this is actually a reissued version put out 20 years later in 1991. While the original dialogue was in French, it was also dubbed in English and I was able to find a low-quality copy of that original version on YouTube. I much preferred that version and wish that had been included on this disc at least as an extra. The "new" version presented here isn't as bad a revision as Star Wars but still changes it too much. The biggest difference is the music score, which originally was campy early-70s style but is replaced with one a bit more modern but still appropriately goofy, aside from overly sentimental opening and closing themes. The English voices are new as well, and there is also opening and closing narration from the boy character at a later age looking back on the events.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-Ray
The Christmas Martian lands on Blu-Ray beamed to Earth from Canadian International Pictures and OCN Distribution. The Region A locked dual-layer disc is housed in a clear case with reversible artwork and a decent-sized booklet. The main menu includes options to view either the French or English version of the film.

Video Review

Ranking:

It's amazing what's possible with modern film restoration techniques, as this small film looks better than it was ever likely intended to on this Blu-Ray disc. Presented at a 1.66 aspect ratio, the film elements appear pristine with no signs of age or wear (much of this may be from the 1991 remastering- it appears that some extensive tweaking was done then including hiding wires that appeared in scenes where the characters fly.) The disc encoding is also immaculate with no compression artifacts or banding visible.

Audio Review

Ranking:

The audio isn't great but is certainly passable. This disc includes both Canadian French and English tracks, and even uses the Angle function to include the opening and closing credits in both French and English as well. As mentioned, the music and sound effects are more modern efforts done in 1991, the English dubbing is different from the old version I found online also. The commentary track even mentions that the audio was re-mixed in stereo but both tracks are in mono here. Both tracks on the Blu-Ray are encoded in DTS-HD MA 2.0, staying centered in Pro-Logic mode. Quality is about what you'd expect from a mono sound mix, the dialogue is clear with the music and sound effects balanced so as not to drown out anything. While the overall atmosphere is fun and playful, I found the opening and closing themes to be a bit too sentimental and much preferred the dated and campy sound of the older mix not included here.

Special Features

Ranking:

The 1991 version of The Christmas Martian was released as part of producer Rock Demers' "Tales for All" series of family films, and trailers for a whopping 15 of these are included along with accompanying commentary giving us more info on that series. Unfortuanately most of these are not actual theatrical trailers but video-based ones, many with cheap-looking electronic titles. When beginning the feature, an option is given to have three of these trailers (The Dog who Stopped the War, The Peanut Butter Solution and The Great Land of Small ) play beforehand.

The audio commentary with the film and collection of trailers is from Paul Corupe of Canuxploitation.com and Jason Pichonsky. Much of the time during the film is spent talking about the "Tales for All" series that came later and producer Rock Demers. They emphasize that although this movie is quite low-budget, it was produced with geniune intentions. "Exploitation" filmmakers of that era would make children's films as little more than something for parents to drop their kids off at while they went shopping. Bits about some of the actors are mentioned also. Aside from a few words about the audio being remastered in 1991 they don't acknowlege that we're watching a somewhat revised version of the movie.

An interview with the Martian himself, Marcel Sabourin, is included, recorded as a phone conversation (while we view a still from the movie of him holding a hockey puck in his mouth) where he gives his memories of the film.

Two short films from Canada are also included- "The Joy of Winter" is a black and white documentary-style short from 1962 directed by Bernard Gosselin which shows kids and adults having fun in the snow with a jazzy music score. "The Beach" is an odd animated short from 1978 based on a story from Roch Carrier who also wrote the feature film's tale.

The back cover lists the Special Features as follows:

  • Scanned and restored in 2k from the 35mm original camera negative by Elephant- memoire du cinema quebecois
  • Complete English and French versions of the film
  • Audio commentary feature Paul Coroupe of Canuxploitation.com and film historian Jason Pichonsky
  • Trailers for All (1971-1994, 32 min.)- Theatrical trailers for The Christmas Martian and the first 15 films in the Tales for All series
  • Trailers for All commentary featuring Corupe and Pichonsky
  • New audio interview with actor Marcel Sabourin (2023, 13 min.)
  • The Joy of Winter (1962, 15 min.)- Documentary short directed by Gosselin and Martian producer Jean Dansereau
  • The Beach (1978, 4 min.)- Animated short based on a story by Martian screenwriter Roch Carrier
  • French theatrical trailer for The Christmas Martian 
  • Bookley featureing a new interview with NFB curator Marc St-Pierre and an essay by Fantasia programmer Marc Lamothe
  • Reversible cover artwork
  • English SDH subtitles

Final Thoughts

The Christmas Martian has been one of those lesser-known, offbeat holiday favorites for several decades. This Blu-Ray release gives it a presentation in far greater quality than it has likely ever been seen, but I do have reservations about the use of a 1991 print that gives the film a more modernized feel, particularly with a new music score, than the original 1971 version. It would have been nice for that original version to have been included also despite any faults. Worth A Look 

Order your copy of The Christmas Martian on Blu-ray