11/19/08

RVOD039 Shake Hands with Danger

(1970-ish, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

I shook hands with mediocrity, and I’m fine with it.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:


Construction machines are merciless, ravening creatures.

Summary:

The modern alternative to 'Bots aren't really that impressive.A road-tearer-upper machine (yes, I’m up on my construction equipment terminology) idles while a hapless technician climbs inside the tearing apparatus. His supervisor sees him and yells for him to get out of there. When the technician climbs out, the supervisor tells the machine operator to turn it on. They both look on while the tearing apparatus does what it does best. The supervisor turns to the technician and says:

Shake hands with danger! Ba-dow ba-da-dow dow!

In the scenes that follow we see technicians, machinists and operators frighten, maim and/or kill themselves through carelessness. Like the guy who accidentally lifts the rear of his boss’ truck with backhoe. (Ba-dow ba-da-dow dow!) And the guy who climbs to the top of a raised steam shovel and falls to his death. And the guy who was too preoccupied to completely disassemble a brake system and accidentally demolishes a house. (Ba-dow ba-da-dow dow!) Or the guy who sledgehammers a cracked metal pin and pierces his own chest with the shrapnel. And the machinist who grinds his own fingers off, and the technician who gets his arm ripped off by a bulldozer.

Shake hands with danger! Ba-dow ba-da-dow dow!

Thoughts:

A hand not long for this world...The Caterpillar Corporation would like their employees and clients to know that their products are designed to flatten, crush and otherwise manipulate insanely large objects. Getting wedged into, between, or just too close to one of these machines while in operation will horribly maim you, if you’re lucky. It’s essentially Red Asphault for construction workers, in that it’s an often graphic safety film designed to teach drivers and operators that their vehicles can effortlessly rip them limb from limb.

Actually, most of it’s pretty common sense stuff. If you have to be told not to climb inside a paving machine while the engine’s running, well, you’re probably that guy who keeps showing up in the emergency room because you’ve stuck your hand in the lawn mower again, trying to clear a blockage without turning it off first. What raises Shake Hands with Danger above Red Asphault and its “scare-you-straight” siblings are the catchy country guitar lick (ba-dow ba-da-dow dow!) and a deep-voiced Johnny Cash sound-a-like narrator. Both will stick in your head for days after viewing, even after the cringe-inducing finger-grinding and arm-ripping scenes have faded from memory.

This short is exclusive to the Best of Rifftrax Shorts, Volume One DVD, and features CGI versions of riffers Mike, Kevin and Bill. Mike gets to be a bobblehead-ish version of himself, while superintelligent toaster Disembaudio accidentally turns Kevin and Bill into a horrific popcorn/human hybrid and parrot puppet/human hybrid, respectively. The animation is a bit rudimentary, and the hybrid avatars look kind of disturbing, but fortunately we only have to look at them during the brief introduction. We only see their backs during the short film itself, and the animation is minimal enough that it doesn’t distract us from the action onscreen. If we have to see the riffers during the viewing, my first choice is still silhouettes, but Joel probably still owns the rights to that. My second choice is not seeing the riffers at all, while cheap CGI comes in a distant third.

The riffing works well. When a doomed technician climbs the slippery neck of a steam shovel for a long, long time, Mike says, “Danger's chattin' with some other people right now, but I'll just tap him on the shoulder and when he's free, I'll introduce you to him and then you can, you know, shake hands with danger.” As another technician accidentally runs a bulldozer through the side of a house and almost over a cliff, Kevin says, “Shake hands with danger? Hell, Harry ain’t even fit to wipe danger’s backside.” As the song repeats its title and guitar lick repeatedly during the recap, Bill suggests that we, “exchange terse emails with perilousness.” It’s a superior safety short with decent riffing, and though the CGI seems a bit wonky, it isn’t distracting either. Buying the whole DVD just for this short probably isn’t worth the entry fee, but if you haven’t bought the rest of the featured shorts yet, or if you just really want your shorts on DVD, this short’s worth a look.