2.4/10
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1 user 2 critic

Santa's Christmas Circus (1966)

Whizzo the clown takes a bunch of kids on a magic carpet ride to the North Pole to see Santa Claus, but not before the kids (members of the Johnny Miller Dance Studio) perform as circus animals in "Whizzoland."

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Cast

Credited cast:
John Bilyeu ...
Frank Wiziarde ...
Whizzo the Clown
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Whizzo the clown takes a bunch of kids on a magic carpet ride to the North Pole to see Santa Claus, but not before the kids (members of the Johnny Miller Dance Studio) perform as circus animals in "Whizzoland."

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Family | Fantasy

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24 September 1966 (USA)  »

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Connections

Edited into Retro Christmas Classics (2007) See more »

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A Lost Film Found, But is it Worth It?
4 January 2017 | by (Des Moines, IA) – See all my reviews

Until recently, all that seemed to survive of the Kansas City-lensed Christmas matinée film "Santa's Christmas Circus" was the 1 1/2- minute trailer. Then a copy of the entire (1-hour) film happened to be unearthed not too long ago. As with a lot of lost films, the question is whether it was worth finding.

As with any film intended for the relatively extinct kiddie matinée circuit, cost was a big factor. The bookings for these films were limited to weekend matinees, and for holiday themed films, that window of opportunity closed even quicker. So films like SCC were made on the lowest budgets possible, because at 50 cents a ticket, the box office receipts weren't going to be too high.

That being said, it's still quite amazing at how cheap this film looks. The trailer did give some indications of this being an ultra low budget film, but in seeing the actual movie, its catchpenny nature is astounding. It would rival Roger Corman's quickie shooting schedules. It must have been shot in one day; two at the most. A group of about 12 to 15 children join Whizzo the Clown (a popular KC TV host) at his house (?) and pretend to be performers in a quickie "circus". Whizzo, meanwhile, stumbles and mumbles along incoherently, showing them footage of Christmas-themed dioramas, before taking them for a visit to Santa's workshop for a visit shorter than the average child has with a mall Santa.

It can be hard to make criticisms towards a film geared towards small children, but it would be hard to imagine that even a small child in 1966 would have found this film entertaining. Whizzo speaks so quickly and rather softly, so the viewer has a tough time understanding anything he says. His humor is on par with the kind of clown who makes a special appearance at the opening of a supermarket (and generally ends up annoying the shoppers). The children aren't really required to act, except for one girl who's supposed to have the holiday blues (she looks more disinterested than sad), and a pair of tiny tots who are apparently Santa's elves. One little girl has the croupiest cough throughout the entire film, making one wonder how many of the others she infected. What few special effects exist are pretty much on the same level of any episode of "Bewitched". But the biggest disappointment for the kids would probably be that Santa, though top billed, doesn't show up until 3/4 of the way through the movie, and then only for less than 10 of the remaining 15 minutes of running time. Outside of its "lost and found" status, it would be hard to imagine anyone outside of the KC/Topeka area (where Whizzo's TV shows were broadcast, and people still have fond memories of him) having much interest in the happenings on display here.

So you don't get much Santa, and you don't get much of a circus either. I guess I'd rank this one a bit above "The Magic Christmas Tree" in quality, but in the end, I think it'll be a long time before this once lost "classic" is inducted in the National Film Registry.


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