12/24/07

Recommended Holiday Viewing

Welcome, won't you?

The next news probably won’t be until mid-January, when they announce the next Rifftrax title, and/or I finally get Cinematic Titanic’s Oozing Skull DVD in the mail. In the meantime, it’s time to sit back and enjoy family and good food and perhaps a few Very Special Holiday Presentations. The following are my favorite Christmas-themed episodes of MST3K/Rifftrax.

1) R050 The “Star Wars” Holiday Special: The funniest holiday special of the riffed Christmas oeuvre is also the most readily available; you can watch within minutes of following the instructions found in this post. You’ll notice that I didn’t call it “the best holiday special of the riffed Christmas oeuvre.” Long stretches of awful strangeness will leave you helpless with laughter, but Itchy’s prehensile jaw and Art Carney’s cleavage will haunt your darkest nightmares for years to come.

2) Episode 813 Jack Frost: This exuberant Russo-Finnish film from the SciFi Channel period is not technically a Christmas movie, but it’s got lots of snow, and jingling sleighs, and the eponymous mythical character with a long white beard and a brightly colored fur-lined suit. So, close enough. The mishmash of Russian folklore can be confusing for the average American viewer, but aside from that, it’s one of the best films ever to appear on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It is unfortunately, only available through tape trading or the Digital Archive Project.

3) R019 Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey: One of Rankin/Bass’s least offensive crimes against holiday cheer tells the story of a mutant donkey and his stoned cherubic friend as they work together to—are you ready for this?—save Christmas. My kids love the untreated version of this for some reason, but it’s hilarious with Mike’s commentary, notable for including the most utterances of the word “ass” within a half-hour period. Nestor can be had as part of The Year Without a Santa Claus DVD, and the commentary can be downloaded from Rifftrax.

4) Episode 321 Santa Claus Conquers the Martians: Weird, awful, and very, very cheap, this Joel-era Christmas episode features some of the best host segments in the run of the show. The film segments aren’t bad either, as Joel and the ‘Bots make fun of Santa’s befuddled incompetence and the rebel Martians’ feeble struggles to resist the overpowering lure of the Christmas spirit. Features Crow’s very special Patrick Swayze Christmas carol. “I got the word the Santa has been stealing from the till / I guess that that right jolly old elf had best make out his will.” Commercially available as part of the “The Essentials” collection.

5) Episode 521 Santa Claus: This odd, pseudo-religious bit of foreign cinema posits that Santa is the Supreme Being, in direct opposition to Satan in the battle for the souls of all the children of Earth. (And by “Earth” they mean “Mexico City”). The host segments aren’t quite as funny for this Mike-era Comedy Central episode, but the excellent film segments more than make up for it. And did you know that Merlin lives right next door to Santa’s castle in the North Pole clouds? Because he does! Again, available only through tape trading, or the Digital Archive Project.

6) RVOD011 A Visit to Santa: This twelve-minute short is the latest thing to pop up on Rifftrax’s new Video On Demand Service, and is also readily available. It’s also kind of boring, unfortunately. You could arm a nine-year-old with a camcorder, tell him to film a Christmas special by tomorrow, and he’d come back the next day with something better. Still, Mike, Bill, and Kevin try their darndest, and the result is at least passably amusing.

Why only six? Well, that’s all there is. Since there’s not much likely to happen over the holidays, I probably won’t be posting much either. Maybe I’ll tweak the site, and maybe I’ll get to the last few Rifftrax On Demand titles. We’ll see.