Friday, December 21, 2012

Enter Santa's Village of Madness...if you dare

Tired of cheesy Christmas movies that always feature a man and a woman falling in love for the flimsiest of reasons, Mrs. Santa Claus running away to help a family down on its luck, or the 78th knockoff of A Christmas Carol?

Rifftrax has the answer: a new VOD holiday offering called Santa's Village of Madness. It's a trio of demented holiday shorts from K. Gordon Murray, the man who turned a cheesy Mexican kids' movie called Santa Claus into an even cheesier holiday favorite during the 1960's. The YouTube sample is gone, but here's a link to the Rifftrax site to see a piece of this DVD.

If you somehow survived Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny and the Magic Christmas Tree, they still don't prepare you for this offering. According to these three shorts, which have the exact same opening credits except for the titles, Santa lives in a village that includes elves that look like Stanford co-eds, a wolf with a weird nose that also has legs that sound like accordions, a stinky skunk, Puss n Boots as head of security, and Merlin, who helps Santa get around the world on Christmas even through the Fifth Dimension (although I don't understand how Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. are involved in this).
Google those names, then that joke works.

Basically, K. Gordon filmed about eight minutes of footage from Santa's Villages in Illinois and California, then recycled some footage from Santa Claus, to make the three shorts. Elementary school pageants have more production values than these shorts.

The first short, Santa's Enchanted Village, features Ferocious Wolf (the one with accordion legs) looking for Stinky, who's supposed to be making toys and such. Stinky is found at a puppet show, and drives some of the audience away with his smell. Then the wolf shows up and yells at Stinky, which is more interesting than the puppet show. All Santa does is wander around with two reindeer. We get riffs on Torgo, Zapruder, Pink and GWAR, while we get new lyrics to an old favorite ("We are Santa's elves, we are stuck in Hell....")

Part two, Santa and His Helpers, is even cheesier. Half of it is recycled footage from Santa Claus, including some parts that didn't get riffed in the MST3K version. The other half is Ferocious Wolf, Puss n Boots and Stinky getting into some pointless argument. Santa has to break it up thanks to the "Moonflower" that gets him there. It ends with Puss with a sword telling the wolf and the skunk to march.  The Rifftrax crew is shocked to see the Ice Cream Bunny there, driving a train. Also, how come Santa is in his home in the clouds peeking at his village below? When you're a six-year-old watching this in 1965, you just look at the toys and don't ask any questions.

The third short, Santa's Magic Kingdom, at least has something that is almost a plot: Santa's threatened by an ogre we don't really see (although it's described as "Gumby and Pokey mated").
It starts as a tour of a "Santa's Village", although Santa looks a little too waxy. Puss n Boots, whose face is compared to a squid's anus, is told by the Fairy Queen that an ogre is coming. The whole kingdom, including Mrs. Santa, Stinky, the elves and Ferocious Wolf, get involved. Merlin saves the day...somehow..then it ends with a song from the Fairy Queen that would have also killed the ogre. The riffs here are surprisingly up-to-date, especially against Daniel Day Lewis and the new Jack Reacher movie, but also include a callback to one of the last MST3K movies.

In between these shorts, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett share Christmas memories that are...well...a bit disturbing. Still, you see why they bring us holiday movies that even the Hallmark Channel wouldn't show.

At five bucks, this 45 minute feature is a good deal. It's also a great appetizer to Rifftrax's next big target, The Avengers. That's coming December 27th. Learn more about Santa's Village of Madness, and other holiday fare (even one for Labor Day, maybe) at

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