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!
Santa battles Satan in the spaces between a hailstorm of Riffs! Yes, that fantacular Mexican Santa Claus movie, Santa Claus, once again faces getting constantly mocked at the holidays. With good reason, because it is insanity. INSANITY! I also like it, because it’s so crazy. Santa Claus has all the holiday tropes: Santa having special powers, shirtless keymakers, racist depictions of confused children, wizards, and devils going all Home Alone. They even have a nice clean widescreen print, the original René Cardona Mexican version with the K. Gordon Murray dubbing.
The strange mythology of Santa Claus deserves deeper exploration. Santa lives in purgatory with a collection of children from across the globe. The children are dressed in “cultural” attire of their homelands, which leads to the kids from Africa wearing leopard print undies and bones in their hair. For some reason all the white kids have their faces painted a ghoulish light grey. The children live in a giant room where they are forced to sing for Santa at his whim, in between slaving away producing presents for the children of the world. Some of the kids have the freedom to be Santa’s personal assistants, meaning they follow him around and help him battle Satan’s demons, who spend their time on Earth convincing children to reject Santa Claus and be evil. This strange twist on Christianity is further stranged by the presence of nativity scenes, meaning that Jesus does exist in this universe, but seems to play no role in the affairs of Earth. Only Santa cares about the corruption of youth, but as he can only come to Earth once per year, he is forces to sit back and complain and spy on children with his giant freakish telescope (complete with giant eye) and a radar dish with a huge human ear in it. A machine with creepy giant lips announces what is happening on Earth.
Santa not only lives with the enslaved children, but with Merlin the wizard (who is getting up their in years) and with a shirtless blacksmith who makes him magic keys each year (in between building thousand of doors!) Santa has only four white robotic reindeer, the creepy animatronics used will fuel your nightmares for decades. And yet when Santa does get to Earth, almost all his time is spent having a prank duel with a demon named Pitch, before a barking (yet friendly-looking) dog traps Santa in a tree for a few minutes. The main moral dilemma of the film is if good girl Lupita will ever get a doll for Christmas, or if she’ll go bad and steal a doll. Spoiler alert in that she does get a doll.
As you can imagine, this means Santa Claus is a target rich environment as far as Riffing is concerned. Already a MST3K episode, we got new jokes from Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett. Corbett himself came dressed up as a “North Pole Guy” (what the website he ordered the costume from called the elf costume) and the audience immediately sided with him on the curly shoe debate. Spoiler alert, curly shoes rule, and straight-shoer Mike Nelson received a chorus of boos.
Before the Christmas cheer, we got a new short, another of the At Your Fingertips series, the most ponderous children’s shorts ever made. This time, At Your Fingertips: Sugar and Spice taught everyone how to mold sugar into bizarre shapes that it later suggested eating, giving a glimpse to an alternate world where childhood diabetes isn’t a major epidemic. And let’s not even talk about how hyper those kids will be after all that sugar, they’ll be running on the ceiling for weeks!
Overall, the show was hilarious, the riffs were on point, Craig blessed the world and Santa celebrated his birth by giving away a doll and having some rich kid get to see his absentee parents. Might have been nice to give Lupita’s dad a job, but what are you gonna do? Santa has always given rich kids more stuff, because Santa is a lousy fink. That’s right, Santa, you suck! On the other hand, RiffTrax rules!
RiffTrax Live will be back in theaters for another special event, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians! This will be the third MST3K version of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, as it appeared on the original show, and has a Cinematic Titanic version as well. There is just soooo much ground to cover on that awful, awful film. Droppo, the awful robot, the terrible polar bear costume, Droppo, Droppo, Pia Zadora, and Droppo. The problem will be trying to breath while all the crazy and all the riffing happens. Luckily, Christmas is the time of miracles, so you might not die while watching Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. If that is a blessing, or a curse, depends on your point of view. While I had no interest in Night of the Living Dead, I’ll be at this RiffTrax Live event, guarenteed!
Just in time for the holidays, RiffTrax Live is back in select movie theaters nationwide for a hilarious never-before-seen take on a true family “classic” – Santa Claus Conquers the Martians!
On Thursday, December 5, join Mike, Kevin and Bill for an uproarious riff on one of the most popular titles from the MST3K catalog, broadcast LIVE at 8:00pm ET / 7:00pm CT and tape-delayed to 7:00pm MT / 8:00pm PT.
This one-night event will be your only chance to see the guys target this holiday masterpiece with their trademark commentary on the big screen, so get your tickets TODAY before your location sells out!
Star Wars Holiday Special
Not a movie, but easily the most bootlegged video in the galaxy, and also easily makes Episode I look like Citizen Kane. Heck, it makes Turkish Star Wars look like Citizen Kane! No small feat, to say the least. This relic from the seventies is ripe with long, trippy musical sequences that would bore any child into submission. The regulars from Star Wars act as though they were carved from floorboards minutes before the cameras started rolling, a few of who are also full of more drugs than East Hollywood. Guest stars litter the special, some annoying (Art Carney) and some terrifying (Harvey Korman) and Bea Arthur, who should have known better. The holiday we are celebrating is “Life Day” and is a Wookiee holiday, the plot of the special involves getting Chewbacca home in time to see his family. Would our only exposure to Star Wars be this project, we would all be cheering for the Emperor to execute all the rebels and display their heads on the hood of his private shuttle. This is bad. Real bad. Mean bad. Watching this is a war. Not a Star War, a Nuclear War, and the Fallout and Waste is what is left of your brain at the end.