Friday, December 2, 2016

Choose Your Rifftrax Holiday Double Feature

Rifftrax is wrapping up an very eventful year with its first holiday double feature with Santa Claus Conquers The Martians 3.0 and the 2009 Shorts-Stravaganza from San Diego. However, true fans of MST, Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax can make their own double-headers. Others may mix Rifftrax holiday shows with other holiday DVDs for a truly different experience,

In this case, let's stick to riffed holiday movies.

MST3K:  Santa Claus Conquers The Martians and Santa Claus

This is an obvious choice but for some reason one movie is tougher to get than another, Santa Claus, a holiday movie made in Mexico, is part of Volume XVI (the one with the free Tom Servo). However, Shout Factory has not re-issued SCCTM, which was only in the two DVD set MST3K:  The Essentials (the other episode being Manos). It can be found via Amazon or eBay, but it would make sense this classic episode be available again. At the very least, it should be on streaming video.

Both shows do feature new holiday standards, "A Patrick Swayze Christmas" and "Merry Christmas, If That's OK". Actually, they're quite different. The first one was a typical MST episode compete with holiday Invention Exchanges. The other one, though, is basically a spoof of "The Gift of the Magi" but it ends with a big showdown between Santa and Pitch, the demon who tries to ruin Santa's holiday. At least the crew exchange presents, including Gypsy's famous "Joike" sweater.

Cinematic Titanic:  Santa Claus Conquers The Martians and Rifftrax:  I Believe in Santa Claus

Before Rifftrax riffed SCCTM in a live show two years ago, Joel Hodgson and his Cinematic Titanic crew was the only group that had a post-MST3K riffed version of the movie. It was released in November 2008, and is available at eBay and Amazon. I reviewed the DVD, and noticed they updated the riffs a little. The best part, though, was before the movie, when Trace tried to run away and the mysterious staff who's trapped the crew had to drag him back.

The second feature was issued last year, and is probably one of the strangest holiday movies. A kid in France may spend Christmas alone because his parents have been kidnapped by an African warlord. He writes to Santa, hoping he'd get the parents back. Through a ridiculous series of events, the kid gets to meet Santa and a fairy queen who's a whimsical version of Safety Woman. It's pretty bizarre.

The  other suggestions are all Rifftrax videos.

Nestor The Long-Eared Donkey, Bridget and Mary Jo's Christmas and Magic Christmas Tree

This is a triple-header only because they're all much shorter than usual movies. The first is a Rankin-Bass feature that's a little darker than its most famous creations including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Nestor is clearly a knockoff on Rudolph, since he's mocked because of his really long ears. They do come in handy when he helps Mary and Joseph get to Jerusalem for the birth of Jesus. Instead of Burl Ives narrating, they had Roger Miller as the descendant of Nestor. It's a cute story, if you forget that at one point he and his mom are forced out into the snow, and she sacrifices herself to save her son. At least in Frosty the Snowman, he melts in a greenhouse but a cold wind brings him back.

The second feature was made last year by the Real Housewives of Rifftrax, Bridget Nelson and Mary Jo Pehl. This duo is coming close to out-shining the main Rifftrax crew thanks to several shorts, Catwomen of the Moon, and Gravity. The 30-minute special has a heavily edited version of A Christmas Carol (which doesn't include "Bah, Humbug"), a car ad Mary Jo really likes, footage of Dean Martin, and a short about a sheep that keeps Jesus warm on the night of the Nativity.

The third feature looks like a sitcom. A little boy saves the cat of a spooky old lady, and he gets a magic ring and a special seed that produces a Magic Christmas Tree that talks. It also gives him three wishes, including the power to kidnap Santa. Somehow it leads to him being kidnapped by a big giant. They're at the Rifftrax website.

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (both versions)

It's possible to see both versions in less than two hours. The riffing of Santa Claus being stuck in Florida because his reindeer ran away or something is the same in both versions. Those who prefer the more recent version last year may go that way, but others may look at the original with Thumbelina then see the live show with Jack and the Beanstalk (which has much better songs).

Santa's House of Madness and Santa Claus (2014)

The first feature is actually three shorts with the exact same opening credits that have weird-looking animals and Santa Claus. There's outtakes from Santa Claus, plus footage from two Santa's Villages in California and Indiana. The third short is mainly Santa "threatened" by an ogre, and it ends with a song that would have killed it.

The live riff of Santa Claus is actually the uncut version with Spanish opening titles, and it shows why MST3K decided to cut a lot of it out. When we see a shirtless blacksmith and Merlin taking too much time making sleeping powders and the Flower to Disappear, it's best to move past those scenes. However, the riffs they come up with are incredible, especially one where Santa flies with his wind-up reindeer.

If you can come up with other combinations, feel free, but this will be a start. Just make riffed holiday movies part of your holiday season.

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