We are now just 12 days from Christmas so I figured what better time to update my Bad Movie page with a review of the atrocious attempt at entertainment called Santa And The Ice Cream Bunny, a live-action clunker from the famous Barry Mahon. For more Bad Movies:

Santa and the Ice Cream BunnySANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY – (1972) – Category: Bad enough and with a classically weird premise but not fun-bad enough for my highest rating       This thoroughly bizarre little holiday-themed movie will redefine the term “low-budget” for you. Normally I cut some slack to films that are clearly targeted at children but this bomb doesn’t seem targeted at children as much as it seems targeted at morons.

The opening scene of this odd movie is set in a very cramped set that is supposed to be Santa’s North Pole workshop. Some very tall children are dressed as elves and are awkwardly pretending to be working on toys that are quite obviously already completed, lending the scene a joyously inept “grade-school Christmas play” kind of feel.

The opening credits inform us that these children/elves are players from “Ruth Foreman’s Pied Piper Playhouse” as they sing a song that has been so poorly-recorded we can only make out an occassional few words. The gist of the song seems to be that the elves are wondering where Santa is since it’s only a few days until Christmas.

A female narrator unnecessarily goes on to tell us what we can clearly see as the film switches scenes – Santa and his sleigh are stuck in the sand on a beach in Florida. In this instance “stuck in the sand” is just an expression because though the narrator and characters in this movie all act as if Santa’s sleigh is hopelessly embedded in the sand following some sort of crash landing we viewers can clearly see the sleigh (which is still in an upright position) is just sitting there with its runners covered with barely an inch or two of sand.

The reindeer are said to have been sent flying back to the North Pole for their own safety after they proved incapable of pulling the sleigh free. Anyway, Santa is stranded in balmy Florida, where this and many other films by our director Barry Mahon were made (more on this later).

It’s really hot for our poor actor playing Santa (Jay Clark) in that fur-trimmed outfit, the padding and the fake beard. He starts singing an even dumber song than the elves were singing and as he gesticulates while pitching his tune he looks ridiculous with  sopping-wet sweat stains under his arms, on his chest, down his back and even all over his rear end causing his red pants to cling so tightly that his butt-crack and buttocks are clearly delineated. God only knows what the children seeing this film in theaters thought during this scene.

Santa concludes his inane song speculating on who will help him and then telepathically (Or something. The film never makes it clear) summons a bunch of children (the same Pied Piper Playhouse kids who were playing the elves earlier) to help him.

The children all run off individually to get an animal of their own to try to pull the sleigh free, despite the obvious fact that even if the sleigh was really stuck all of the children pulling together would represent more horsepower than the animals they bring in one by one to make solo efforts at pulling the sleigh out of the sand. It would help if Santa got out of the sleigh, too, but he just sits there in the sleigh when most of the animals try to pull him free. 

The first child brings a guy in an ape suit to try to unmire the sled, but when he fails the child leads him off. This pattern is repeated over and over again as the subsequent children all bring in animals provided by the petting zoo attraction at Pirates World, a fun little footnote in Florida amusement park history and which turns out to be a running theme in the film in ways that I’ll tackle as we go along.

Some of the animals make sense, like a horse and a goat, while others would never be considered for pulling any object, stuck or not, like a pig (?), a cow and a dog. Since the horse could have very easily carried the sleigh out of the inch or two of sand as well as drag it across the beach at a full gallop the actors don’t even connect it to the sleigh. They apparently hope the viewers won’t notice this fact and just stand there with the horse, pretending to be trying to move Santa’s sleigh and then just give up.

The children eventually suggest that Santa just catch a plane back to the North Pole but he insists he can’t abandon his sleigh or he won’t be able to deliver toys on Christmas Eve. Just to amp up the weirdness factor we see Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn row a raft to shore near where Santa sits, surrounded by the children, and  after their pet racoon very obviously nearly bites Tom (Or Huck. It’s hard to tell) in the face (I’m serious) they hunker down in the bushes to watch what happens. (?)

Now take a breath while I try to explain what happens next in as few words as possible. Santa wants to prove to the children that he is not defeated by his plight and gathers the kids around him while he perspires profusely and claims he’s going to tell them a story that shows the importance of perseverance. It now becomes apparent to the viewer that this whole Santa and his sleigh stuck in the sand business is just a lame wrap-around for a roughly 70 minute film-within the film (complete with a new set of credits!) which was either Thumbelina or Jack And The Beanstalk, depending on which soul-scarring version of Santa And The Ice Cream Bunny your children were unfortunate enough to see.

Both of those films within the film were produced by the aforementioned Pirates World to complete their seeming attempt to imitate the Disney theme park and theatrical film empire. Those two live-action films are loaded with blatant plugs for Pirates World and feature lots of footage of the cheap and almost sad-looking amusement park, complete with rides that make the “Raton” rollercoaster in The Girl And The Geek look like a Six Flags amusement.

You know how Disney parks have cool rides like “It’s A Small World” and “Pirates Of The Caribbean”? Pirates World apparently sported little tours of dioramas of public domain children’s stories. You know how Disney would do feature-length live-action films that were full of state-of-the -art special effects and catchy songs? Pirates World did these sub-seventy- minute featurettes full of laughably cheap special effects and songs that sound like they were written and composed on a single trip to the rest room.

Between the two Pirates World films that were set in the middle of Santa And The Ice Cream Bunny try to find a copy with Jack And The Beanstalk becauseThumbelina is more boring-bad than fun-bad. Anyway, when either JATB or Thcome to a close – complete with a full set of closing credits and a logo saying “Another fine film from Pirates World”, the film cuts back to Santa making non-commital sum-up remarks to the kids since he had no way of knowing which featurette the audience had just seen.

Inspired (or something) by whichever tale they had supposedly just heard Santa relate (And I know all the childhood stories my parents told me always ended with a plug for Pirates World) the children run off again … well, actually this film is sooooo cheap they just show us stock-freaking- footage of the kids running off from earlier in the flick.

This time they return with the Ice Cream Bunny himself, who was obviously intended to be Pirates World’s answer to Mickey Mouse. He’s played by an unseen actor in a big costume, just like the people dressed as Mickey, Goofy, Donald Duck, etc at Disney parks. This poor schlep was probably sweating even more than Santa was during shooting.

The Ice Cream Bunny drives an old-fashioned fire engine as part of his schtick and we see him and his passengers – all the kids who ran off to fetch him to help Santa – riding to what the video box calls “a daring rescue” for several looooong minutes to pad out this horrible film and to show off even more of the rather pathetic attractions at Pirates World. The kids seem to be singing a reprise of Santa’s “Who will help me?” number from earlier in the movie but you can’t really make out many of the lyrics.

Next we have the monumental meeting between Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. The bunny resolves Santa’s plight by giving him a ride back to the North Pole in his antique fire engine, even though earlier in the film Santa told the kids he couldn’t just catch a flight out of Florida because he dared not abandon his sleigh. (Let’s just ignore the obvious fact that you can’t drive to the North Pole) Added fun to the Stanley and Livingstone meeting of these two heavyweights (?)  is supplied by the way the bunny’s winking right eye jams shut at one point necessitating an awkward jump cut. There’s also a frantically uncontrollable dog named Rebel or Ripple or Nipple or something and that dog is nearly run over by the Ice Cream Bunny’s fire engine.

If you’re wondering what happened to Tom and Huck, they now exchange a goofy look from their hiding place in the bushes and are never seen again in this film. Anyway, as if Santa just riding off with the Ice Cream Bunny isn’t enough of a slap to the face of the poor suckers who sat through this stinker Santa’s sleigh now de-materializes and the narrator tells us it was waiting for Santa when he arrived back at the North Pole. Aaaaaargh! (I always forget – are there 5 a’s or 6 a’s in “Aaaaargh!”)

And thus ends another bizarre venture from Renaissance Man Barry Mahon whose filmic efforts ranged from nudie cuties to soft-core porn to cheap monster flicks and even the animated story Santa And The Three Bears. (No doubt about it- Mahon really had it in for St Nick) He’s also known to bad movie geeks like me for his Pirates World featurettes and for the Cold War potboiler Rocket Attack USA, with its memorable twist ending in which a Soviet nuke wipes out New York City.                                                             

And when you think Christmas, you think Vietnamese mythology (?) so I updated that page with an entry on their sea god Long Vuong. Here is the link:


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