RiffTrax is ten years old, and to celebrate they put together their latest RiffTrax Live event packed to the gills with most of the cast of MST3K, leading to an amazing entry of RiffTrax Live. Not only do we get Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, but they are joined by Mary Jo Pehl, Bridget Jones Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Joel Hodgson, and newcomer Jonah Ray, making this the largest collection of MST3K alums performing at the same time ever! Some of it even helped erase the bad taste that was left in the mouths after the MST3K revival Kickstarter that came as news for practically everyone in the original cast except Joel, but mostly it was just a hilarious time that was one of the best RiffTrax Live events ever!
From the start there were MST3K songs during the preshow slides (usually it’s a mix of funny songs from various artists), and the large volume of slides referenced a lot of RiffTrax episodes over the years including things like Setting Up A Room, Manos, and Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. There were even references to a some of the RiffTrax VODs I haven’t even had time to watch, which shows not only how behind I am on RiffTrax watching but also how familiar I am with bad cinema that I recognized what they were from. That’s a weird thing to be happening, but it is.
To start, each group of riffers got their own short, followed by the megariffing session where everyone came out. Mike, Keven, and Bill started things off with a ridiculous mess of a car safety short – A Talking Car, about a careless child brought before a tribunal of talking cars, one of which seems to want to feel that kids blood ground beneath its tires. Luckily for the kid, the two cooler-headed cars prevailed and we aren’t witnesses to child murder. Not that I would have been sad had this annoying child been destroyed. The kid is accompanied in the dream car tribunal by his loyal dog (it is unclear if the dog is also dreaming this), and the dog will growl and bare its teeth practically every time the old cranky car that wants the kid dead talks. Later the trio also tackled Shake Hands With Danger, a ridiculously gorey safety short that I saw them do live years ago and it was just as hilarious this time out.
Bridget Nelson and Mary Jo Pehl paired up for a short about the kitchen of the future in a modern home, and how you women can conspire to teach your husband to buy you a new kitchen. Which in this case meant buy a new house with a new kitchen inside it! It featured Darren McGavin (best known to modern eyes as the dad from A Christmas Story) as the husband, and of course there were plenty of references to that as well as other good lines. Mary Jo and Bridget have become a regular team at RiffTrax with their own series of shorts that focus more on the types of films they’d make the girls watch in home ec back in the 1950s.
Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu were up with More Dates for Kay, which I think is supposed to be a followup to the MST3Ked short What To Do On a Date. A hapless young lady who mopes around at home complaining that she doesn’t have a boyfriend gets a talking too from her older (married!) sister, who talks about her friend Kay (why this married, older woman is friends with a high schooler is not addressed!) The advice switches from basically go out and have fun and meet people and be friendly to the bizarre like do favors and pretend to be interested in every random boy that comes along in the off chance one asks you out. Also, the sister is totally not approving of Kay’s calling of boys. Frank and Trace straddle the border of working dirty with some of their lines (the short makes it soooooooooooo easy to turn everything sexual it’s crazy!) and Mike, Kevin, and Bill even joke about how Frank is dying to go blue but can’t. Probably the best riff of the night.
Jonah Ray and Joel Hodgson come out for Americans At Work: Barbers, an AFL-CIO joint about how barbers and hairdressers are totally valuable workers, and also women take forever to look good. There was a hilarious running gag with a hairdresser who looked like Frankenstein that just got funnier and funnier. Jonah did well and showed he’ll do a good job as the new MST3K host, despite a line flub that got its own riff by Joel.
Then it was time, the Riff-a-palooza! Everyone came out for a special short with the 1950s Superman selling saving stamps to young children! Shockingly, though we finally got Joel and Mike riffing at the same time (and everyone else!), this wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, because the short itself was pretty darn tepid. Far too talky and not enough cheesy. Luckily, they seemed to pick up on this while putting the show together because we got a second short that was also riffed by everyone, and it was a recurring favorite: At Your Fingertips: Grass! That short is so awesome it alone is worth the price of admission, even with a lot of repeated lines. And now we can finally find out if corn is grass or not!
Before I got I want to also mention there was a ten years of RiffTrax highlight video that was great and hopefully shows up online somewhere (and also reminded me there are a few of the mp3 riffs I haven’t watched yet, either!) Overall, this show ruled, the non-Superman shorts were largely amazing, and it was great seeing the old gang back together, even in a new together form. Hopefully this leads to more collaboration between the groups with more RiffTrax and more guest spots on the new MST3K. If you are someone how is more cautious with what you spend your money on but are a nominal fan of MST3K, it is well worth your dollars to go either see the rebroadcast or get the VOD when it is released.
Disclosure: I donated to the Kickstarter for this RiffTrax.
RiffTrax burst back to theaters to bring us a new take on an old classic, with Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. But, instead of the familiar Thumbelina insert, instead we got Jack and the Beanstalk, which turned out to be not only way more ridiculous and cheap than Thumbelina, but actually more enjoyable! Strange, I know. Along with the film we had three shorts that ratcheted up the Christmas crazy while having increasingly less to do with Christmas as they went along. Like most of the RiffTrax Live shows, it was recorded live on stage and broadcast throughout the country. This is also the first time Todd from Die Danger Die Die Kill and I were both free to watch a RiffTrax Live together in over a year, and it was a fitting return. This was one of the best RiffTrax Life shows, packed with hilarious riffs, hilarious shorts, and a movie that deserved every sling and arrow fired at it.
If you have never suffered through the cinehorror monstrosity that is Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, then you are a lucky mofo! The rest of us have been suckered in through all the “love of bad movies” thing and wound up hitting the wall. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is a wraparound story designed to house a different movie in between to fill time, the wraparound designed to advertise the 1960s amusement part Pirates World, which was located in Dania, Florida, until this place called DisneyLand opened up and destroyed them. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is impossible to describe in proper terms just how awful it is. A scrawny Santa stews in a filthy suit sitting in a sleigh on the beach in the hot Florida sun. Apparently, the sleigh is trapped and the reindeer ran off, so he entices a group of local kids to help him by psychically commanded them by song. The children bring a parade of rented animals to try to yank the sleigh out, including a guy in a gorilla suit. Watching the action for reasons never explained is Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The madness continues only a few minutes longer before Santa breaks into a story, the story being a completely different movie.
The version of Ice Cream Bunny that has seen the widest release features Barry Mahon’s Thumbelina, which is ridiculously long and boring (even the RiffTrax VOD version released years ago had to trim it down!), but this version featured Barry Mahon’s Jack and the Beanstalk. If you are familiar with Barry Mahon’s children movie work (as opposed to his nudie cutie work), then you remember most of them are basically filmed stage plays with budgets in the tens and tens of dollars. Jack and the Beanstalk is no exception, and yet it is somehow way more entertaining than Thumbelina.
As usual, the preshow featured trivia slides and songs (a few songs were snoozers…), and there was a slightly modified opening song that added the Ice Cream Bunny to a key lyric. The show then began, and we launch into the shorts. A 1930s-era short featured Santa telling two children a random story involving a Christmas Pretzel Monkey or something, featuring a lot of stock footage from a zoo and scenes of chimps dressed up in clothes. The second short was children in costumes as a narration of Ogden Nash’s The Tale of Custard the Dragon poem was read. It featured a grown man dressed as a pirate stealing presents after assaulting children, before the child dressed as a dragon devours him. Merry Christmas! The final short was one of K. Gordon Murray’s Santa’s Christmas Village shorts, with features actors dressed up as characters from the various Mexican films he imported, meaning there is a K. Gordon Murray Cinematic Universe. Puss in Boots, Stinky the Skunk, Merlin, The Big Bad Wolf, and enslaved elf children all have an adventure which basically shows Stinky escaping his slave job for a few moments before being forced back to work, at which time his supervisor then steals him leisure time. Santa the overseer just laughs and laughs and laughs. There were three of these shorts in total, all mind-inducingly awful and handled previously by RiffTrax in Santa’s Village of Madness
Then we get to the main cinematic yule log, log being of the kind of logs you flush down the toilet! Bathroom humor, folks! The junk. Jack and the Beanstalk takes place in a storyland that features costumes that are Ren Faire meets Brady Bunch and what appears to be three sets on the same sound stage (complete with painted cloth backgrounds), the film follows the normal Jack and the Beanstalk plot, though claims the golden hen and magic harp Jack steals were previously owned by his father, and the family somehow didn’t notice a giant burgling their house. Of special note here is that the golden hen isn’t an actual hen, but a papier-mâché creation roughly in the shape of a hen with golden paint covering it. This is a slight bit better than the magic harp, which is lumpy papier-mâché with gold paint and uneven strings, which makes it look like how Tim Burton would draw a stove.
Jack and the Beanstalk is a musical, and the characters will randomly burst into song. This is most jarring with the giant, who spends his time chewing the scenery as a tough giant who yells at his wife for dinner and yells his declarations of taking a nap, but will then suddenly breaking into perfectly operatic renditions of “Fee Fi Fo Fum”.
Eventually the giant dies after the beanstalk is chopped down (in the most hilarious special effect of the film!!) and everyone in town comes to Jack’s house to sing, and we return to Santa stuck in the sand. Until the Ice Cream Bunny arrives in an old school firetruck packed with all the children from earlier. The Ice Cream Bunny is a terrifying suit, and the dog one of the kids owns runs along in front of the truck, looking like it is seconds away from getting ran over (thankfully, it doesn’t, but this is the kind of movie that you think could kill a dog!)
The Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny segments are directed by R. Winer – which is totally not an acronym for someone who wanted to keep his name far away from this thing! It’s the only thing credited to him, and the name is too generic to do a good records search. A mystery for the ages, because almost no one cares.
The Riffs were ON POINT, this is the most I’ve laughed at a RiffTrax Live event that I can remember. Favorite riffs include the quip about the “man hand scooping” and the “HUURRRRRRR HUUURRRRRR HURRRRRRRR” sounds as Ice Cream Bunny goes full crazy. Seriously, by that point the film does most of the work, the riffs being icing on the cake. My only complaint is it is missing one of my favorite jokes from the VOD version, when the gorilla appears, Mikes reminds us that this was Plan A. But that is an extremely minor quibble, and this RiffTrax Live is definitely a new Christmas Classic for one and all!
1982. The decade of the action hero was underway. Within years, catchphrase-mumbling sentient biceps like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Guttenburg would come to dominate the cinemas. Audiences hungered for mayhem, bloodshed, and for a very brief period of time, Billy Zabka. What they got instead was Megaforce.
Named “Movie of the Year” by critics from a diverse array of publications including “Upsetting Jumpsuit Enthusiast,” “Dweeby Dirtbike Review,” and “Our Memories are Severely Clouded by Nostalgia Monthly,” Megaforce made film history by giving lead character Barry Bostwick both a funny headband and a funny hairstyle. They would prove to be the film’s most enduring legacy. Some viewers may criticize its paper-thin plot, tedious action sequences of no consequence, and overall cheap feel despite having a shockingly high budget for the era. To this we respond: funny headband and funny hairstyle.
Leaders of the Free World have issued denials of the existence of Megaforce, but then again, seven year old Johnny Roddy saw it on Beta it at a friend’s sleepover in 1984 and said it was “Almost as badical as Condorman!” Who are you going to choose to believe? (We would point out that there is a rumor circulating over by the curly slide that Johnny Roddy eats his boogers.) Join Mike, Kevin, and Bill (who do not) for the oft-requested RiffTrax of Megaforce!
However, if you are one of the few brave souls who have built up a resistance to eye-explodingly bad movies and mechanical bigfeet and bigmeat palling around, then you should watch the new RiffTrax VOD To Catch a Yeti, but only with the powers of Mike, Kevin, and Bill backing you up. The rest of you, run like a bat out of hell, and also something something do anything for love, but I won’t do that something something.
To Catch a Yeti. To live a dream. To Meat a Loaf. Some things just seem too good to be true. Meat Loaf, in a movie about a bigfoot? But Meat Loaf isn’t playing the bigfoot? Might seem disappointing, until you find out Meat is instead playing the world’s greatest hunter, Big Jake Grizzly, and his prey is a yeti that’s 2 feet tall and makes the puppetry in Mac & Me look like high art. Even calling the yeti a puppet is really an exaggeration, since basically all it can do is sit still and whimper and blink. But that doesn’t stop it from doing some rad skateboard moves1, because hey, it’s the 90s!!! (1radical skateboard moves = someone dropped this stuffed animal disaster on a board and kicked it down a hill)
Against all notions of reason and good taste, a little girl is charmed by the creature and makes him her friend. But there’s also an evil little rich boy (who somehow manages to be even more detestable than the yeti and ‘Loaf COMBINED) who wants the hideous goggle-eyed creature for himself. It all leads to a thrilling hijinks-filled showdown in New York City…or at least, the best fake approximation of New York City to be found in a production so Canadian your screen will ooze maple syrup.
Maple syrup, Meat Loaf, a horrific puppet, and more things you’ll never want to eat again after To Catch a Yeti!
“We should rip off Road House and Billy Ray Cyrus should play Dalton!”
There are two types of people in this world: those who read the above sentence and immediately lapsed into fits of hysterical, table-pounding, pants-wetting laughter. And then the other .00001% of people, who thought “Sounds good to me! Is Michelle Pfeiffer’s sister available to play the love interest?”
We have that .00001% to thank for Radical Jack. Eight long years after “Achy Breaky Heart” came out, and approximately 7 years, 364 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 34 seconds after the first jukebox playing “Achy Breaky Heart” was smashed with a pool cue, American cinemas got the movie they needed. Except, minor detail, it was actually released direct to video in Russia.
Which makes a lot of sense once you see Radical Jack. Fans of Road House will recognize the key points: a loner with a mysterious past comes to town and finds employment at a local dive bar. A local arms dealer has grown rich running the town, despite the fact that its population appears to hover around 35 people. Occasionally Billy Ray takes breaks from doing construction to pour water all over himself in slow motion while seductive music plays1. The only thing missing is the Monster Truck. Once you see the budget on this thing, you’ll understand why they had to leave it out.
And Radical Jack doesn’t just rip off one of our all time favorite RiffTrax titles! Shot in Rutland, VT, it features the very time machine from Time Chasers itself!! (AKA, a crappy, weathered small airplane.) Join Mike, Kevin, and Bill for Radical Jack. Just don’t tell their lips, their fingertips, or various other body parts.
1 This never actually happened in the version of Road House that was shown in theaters, but it does in the one that airs on a loop in our hearts.
Bruce Dern has it all: A beautiful wife. An expensive house with a pool. A two headed monkey. Casey Kasem for a neighbor. And yet, he’s feeling unfulfilled, perhaps because—
What’s that? Oh, you’re right, we did kind of just gloss right over the unusual part of that sentence. Yes, Top 40 DJ Casey Kasem is Bruce’s neighbor. He’s always stopping by to deliver a long distance dedication or prattle on about some dead dog while Bruce is trying to do important stuff, like attach heads to a monkey or an idiot manchild.
For you see, Bruce’s entirely normal pastime is figuring out how graft additional heads onto things. Why? Why did Michelangelo paint? Why did Mozart compose? Man is compelled to create, and sometimes what he creates is as stupid as a serial killer’s head sewn onto a local hillbilly’s shoulder.
Needless to say, this does not go well. (Both being neighbors with Casey Kasem and the whole ‘manufacturing godless abominations in the guest room you converted into a lab’ thing.) Come for the mutant in overalls, stay for the wife in a cage, it’s all here in The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant!