Friday, December 5, 2014

Rifftrax Takes On That North Pole Guy And His Friend Merlin

Sometimes, it's better the second time around.

That was true of last night's Rifftrax Live presentation  of the 1959 holiday Mexican movie, Santa Claus. It was first riffed on MST3K 21 years ago, but Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett updated nearly all of the jokes, and kept one from the first version that worked well.

Bill came out wearing what some may call a elf costume, expecting Mike and Kevin to also wear holiday costumes, but there seemed to be a failure to communicate. Actually, he said it's a "North Pole Guy" costume from Party City, and was very proud of his pointy shoes.

The plot of the movie, of course, involves Santa hoping to get toys delivered to all the good children on Earth while battling a pesky devil with big horns named Pitch. A poor girl named Lupita, a rich kid, and three bad brothers get involved, along with Santa's assistant Pedro, and Merlin the Magician after he decided to quit helping King Arthur.
This was also the uncut version, very different from the MST version, and an excellent print, too. The credits were in Spanish, and included the claim that the movie was filmed in "Mexiscope", leading to the riff that it's also the name for jalepeno-flavored mouthwash. Also, we got long scenes of Merlin making the sleeping powders, and a beefy shirtless blacksmith making a key that opens any door, There was also a dream sequence/dance number of evil Raggedy Anitas trying to convince Lupita to be evil. While the MST guys were wise to remove those scenes from the 1993 episode, it was still interesting to see them now.

The best part is taking certain scenes, and seeing how the two riffs compare. Let's start with Santa's helpers who are kids from around the world. In the MST version, Mike, Crow and Servo made fun of their nationalities. It wasn't the same case here, although Bill said at one point "Don't worry, Angelina Jolie is on her way to adopt them all." Here's how the singing Mexican kids were riffed:

MST:  They found a demon puppy. They found Chucky
RT:  The kid on the right is a marionette, right?

Santa gets mail

MST:  There's a dollar in every one. My chain mail scam worked.
RT:  Bring on the hate mail. It only makes Santa stronger.

Santa winds up his reindeer

MST:  Santa, you miracle worker
RT:  This is how GM plans to compete with Tesla

Pitch tries to get Santa to burn his hands with a red hot doorknob

MST:  What is this, Home Alone 2, The Quickening?
RT: And if that doesn't stop Santa, it'll stop Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci

Lupita gets her doll, as her mom thinks she saw a miracle

MST: In the name of Santa, Merlin and the Elves, Amen
RT:  Thank you, Craig

Why "Craig"? In the original riff, Mike and the bots think the mom said "Craig" instead of Christ when she tells Lupita the story of Christmas. In last night's show, they used the same riff, but expanded on it to claim Lupita and mom were praying to Craig.

Also, remember the riff contest, when fans were asked to riff on the dancing devils, led by Pitch?
In the original, Mike said "Oh, I suppose Hell got an NEA grant."  The winning riff should have been "Andrew Lloyd Webber's Paradise Lost" or "Choreographed by Beelzebusby Berkeley." Actually, the winning riff was based on "I Hope I Get It" from A Chorus Line. It still fit with the other two riffs.

There also a couple of good ones, like when the kids saw the odd puppets who kissed either other's hands and heads, Mike said, "Those two have finally snapped after heckling the Muppets." Another was when Santa used his sleeping powders on the rich little boy who missed his parents on Christmas Eve, Bill said, "So Santa is Timothy Leary for kids." There was also one warning Santa told his helpers as he left:  "Keep Merlin away from those lips" (aka the Tele-Talker).
Thanks to Satellite News, we should also mention the riff when Santa starts his journey, "Ride to Ruin and the World's Ending. DEATH!" That's from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Oh, and there was the comment that Santa's HQ was more like "a torture chamber designed by Dr. Seuss".
There were also riffs on Star Wars, The Polar Express, Tim Allen, Atari, Futurama, Reservior Dogs, Gilligan's Island and Ticketmaster,

Before that, there was another "At Your Fingertips" short called "Sugar and Spice". It taught kids how to make holiday ornaments and fake Easter chicks by molding slightly moistened sugar and letting it dry, The short explained kids can make art they can eat, leading to the riff  "just grab a slice of instant diabetes."

I was surprised about one thing:  towards the end, Mike riffed as Santa, "Oh, I forgot France. Oh well..." I was so sure he'd use that riff again, only this time Santa forgot Fort Worth. Oh, well, ho-ho-ho-ho...

After Rifftrax's success with that holiday film and Fun in Balloonland, they'll take on Nat Geo Wild later this month with the second Total Riff Off on December 16th. It'll include strange animal behavior and Man V. Monster, which is basically some British guy making a mountain out of a molehill.
As for 2015, maybe it'll take on Sharknado 2. Fans would pay to see that.

UPDATE:  Saw the movie on Retro TV's Off Beat Cinema. It has several parts missing like the opening credits, the kids of the world singing, most of the Dancing Dolls routine, and the blacksmith making the golden key.
UPDATE 2:  Turner Classic Movies did show the movie on December 20th, and it was complete. This channel has shown other movies and shorts that have been MST3K targets

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