The Curator of Schlock #19 by Jeffrey Shuster

What is Stacy Keach doing in a made-for-TV Christmas movie?

In The Santa Trap, Shelly Long plays Molly Emerson, a wife and mother whose family have moved to the southwestern United States. I’m assuming that’s southern California. The movie starts out with scenes of golfers in Santa caps and cacti in Santa caps. The idea is that it’s really hot outside much to Molly’s chagrin. She dreams of the white Christmases back home. They had to move for her husband’s new promotion, which came with a fancy Christmas bonus of a frozen turkey.

The Santa Trap

I’m starting to notice a trend in these movies of fathers either being out of work or stuck crappy jobs around the holidays. Not that I can’t identify since I always ended getting stuck working on Christmas at my last job, the only bright spot of the day getting to listen to the yearly playing of Claude Thornhill’s “Snowfall” as I drove up to the newspaper to get the editions online for all the subscribers.

“Snowfall,” the most underrated Christmas song ever written.

Anyway, The Santa Trap features Stacy Keach playing a biker outlaw who gets thrown in jail by the town sheriff. Kind of an odd actor to have in this movie.

The Santa Trap Stacy Keach

I remember Stacy Keach from American History X and the fact that he terrified me. What’s next? Brian Cox in a Frosty the Snowman special? I remember when Richard Roeper reviewed Disney’s The Country Bears, starring Christopher Walken. He remarked that having Christopher Walken in The Country Bears was like having a stripper show up at your kid’s birthday party. For that matter, what were Alec Baldwin and Peter Fonda doing in Thomas and the Magic Railroad?

Back to The Santa Trap. At the Emerson house, the older brother tells his younger sister that there is no Santa Claus. She refuses to accept this and rigs a fancy trap to trap Santa. It’s not unlike the kind of trap featured in that old board game Mousetrap where everyday items are used in a convoluted manner. I remember that game and the song. Knock the ball in the rub-a-dub tub, which hits the man into the pan…well you get idea. Anyway, her trap works and she catches the real Santa Claus who’s played by none other than Dick Van Patten. Yay!

Santa in the Santa Trap

Anyhoo, Mr. and Mrs. Emerson aren’t true believers so they call the cops and have Santa Claus hauled off to jail. They stick Santa Claus in the same cell as that outlaw biker and for those of you who have been waiting your whole lives for a jailhouse rumble between Dick Van Patten and Stacy Keach…you’ll be sorely disappointed. They end up switching outfits instead. The biker gets released posing as Santa Claus and all sorts of shenanigans ensue.

Did I mention that Adrienne Barbeau stars as a homeless sock maker? Or that the British actress who played the Flash’s girlfriend on that short lived Flash TV series in this? Or that the actor who played that irate customer who got Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold) fired in Fast Times at Ridgemont High plays one of the sheriff’s deputies?

Ten Things I Learned From The Santa Trap 

  1. Santa has a cell phone that has a “Jingle Bells” ring tone. This is in contradiction to the Santa Claus portrayed in The Night They Saved Christmas. In that film, Santa Claus hated “Jingle Bells.”
  2. Cops like to eat donuts and typically get jelly smeared on their faces while eating them.
  3. Elves use silly string and Super Soakers to subdue police officers.
  4. People in the Southwestern United States have Christmas barbecues. (That actually doesn’t sound like a bad idea).
  5. Santa still comes down the chimney and doesn’t use teleportation devices (another lie propagated by The Night They Saved Christmas).
  6. The elves can pull up data on you with computers these days. Apparently, there’s a huge data center up at the North Pole, though I’m sure it’s just for checking on who’s been naughty and nice.
  7. Dick Van Patten can pull off leather chaps.
  8. CG reindeer aren’t all that charming.
  9. Shelly Long is good in anything.
  10. Dick Van Patten is not.


Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida.