1/31/08

RVOD014 Beginning Responsibility: Lunchroom Manners

(1960, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

Boys will repress all their instincts to be boys.

Rating: ***1/2


In a nutshell:


A group of schoolchildren spend their lunch period obsessing about an unruly puppet.

Summary:

'Corbett' appears to be French for 'Bungle'Just before lunchtime, some conscienceless puppeteer subjects Miss Brown’s class to a show about a hideous Punch-esque little clown named Mr. Bungle. Mr. Bungle isn’t a very good lunchroom guest, given his penchant for dirty hands, messy hair, and leaving a bloody trail of devastation in his wake. Indeed, the mere act of handling food appears to elude Mr. Bungle, as he continuously spills not just his own tray, but the trays of any and all fellow lunchroom guests in close proximity.

The show mercifully ends, but a white-haired youngster named Phil takes the lesson to heart, washing his hands, combing his buzz cut, and waiting his turn at the back of the line. He gets his lunch, obsessively comparing his actions to those of Mr. Bungle as he slides his tray along. He sits with his fellow white-haired students, and endlessly compares their actions to Mr. Bungle as well. White-haired Freddy and white-haired Alice compare favorably, but the brunette kids at the next table do not. What a bunch of Mr. Bungles!

The period ends, and all the white-headed kids return to the white-headed classroom, secure in the knowledge that they have behaved better than a shriveled homunculus with inarticulate limbs.

Thoughts:

Mr. Bungle. Mr. Bungle, Mr. Bungle, Mr. Bungle. Mr. Bungle? Mr. Bungle! Mr. Bungle, Mr. Bungle, Mr. Bungle…

MR. BUNGLE!!!!!

…is the reason this short is so entertaining. The way all the kids continuously compare their actions to this grotesque manikin is amusing on its own, made laugh-out-loud funny by Mike and company’s near-constant manic whispers of “Mr. Bungle, Mr. Bungle, Mr. Bungle…” in the background. After this has gone on a while, Mike adds, “Phil tried to whistle a tune to keep Mr. Bungle out of his head,” while Bill adds that the kids’ puppet obsession is making them “[develop] unlikable personality traits.” In a “where are they now” section of comments near the end, Kevin notes, “Phil became an accountant, and was only invited to his coworkers’ parties after he found out about them by accident.” It’s not often that the old educational shorts get this demented on their own, and the Rifftrax crew knows just how to push the insanity even further.

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CT002 Doomsday Machine

(1972, SciFi, color)

Rating: ***1/2

You’re ruining the apocalypse for everyone!

In a nutshell:

A co-ed space exploration mission is stranded after China destroys the Earth.

Summary:

For all the adornment this title got, they should have just called it 'Title'.A Chinese woman sneaks into a top-secret Chinese facility using only a stray cat and her wits. After strangling an unfortunate researcher with her own braid and using a guard’s corpse to prop open an elevator, she meets a co-conspirator. He ushers her into a secret underground room that houses a large gumball machine in a cage. She takes pictures and leaves by way of the air ducts.

Later she shows these pictures to several heavily mustached men in a high school classroom that apparently doubles as the Oval Office. Meanwhile, the seven-man crew of an exploration vessel bound for Venus prepares to launch, but at the last minute, three of them are replaced by shapely female astronauts. The reason for this becomes clear when, a few hours after takeoff, the aforementioned Chinese gumball machine destroys the Earth.

By this time six of the crew members have already paired off as follows: The noble blond couple, including the square-jawed captain and the petite ship’s doctor; the quirky brunette couple, including the wisecracking communications expert and the matronly Russian aeronaut; and the emotionally unstable couple, including the psychotic rapist navigator and his fragile, weepy arm candy. Everyone takes the Earth’s destruction in stride except, obviously, for the emotionally unstable couple.

Zoinks!The crew’s seventh member is someone I’ll call Elderly Expert, even though I have no idea what he’s supposed to be an expert of; everyone just seems to defer to him most of the time. He determines that the background radiation following them from the Earth’s destruction will sterilize everyone on board by the time they make it to Venus, rendering their new mission of repopulation futile. He makes calculations to get them there in two months instead of four, but by that time their fuel will not be sufficient to land everyone safely. They’ll have to jettison all non-essential equipment and personnel, meaning that only three people will land with just a handful of supplies. Elderly Expert begins the calculations to determine who will live and who will die.

Suddenly they’re about to arrive, so I assume two months must have passed. Elderly Expert determines that he will survive to procreate with the two younger women while everyone else gets to suffocate to death in space. Psychotic Rapist decides he doesn’t like this plan, and voices his displeasure by attempting to rape Fragile Arm Candy in the airlock. And, wouldn’t you know it, all the jostling, screaming and space bodice-ripping hits the switch, sucking them both to their deaths. While this is occurring, Elderly Expert sees how much Square-Jawed Captain loves his doctor sweetheart and rejects all his careful calculations, telling the captain to go in his place.

Square-Jawed Captain sees that Rapist and Arm-Candy have taken themselves out of the equation and declares that since they’re rejecting part of Expert’s calculations, they might as well reject them all and try to land without throwing anyone else overboard. They make the attempt, but one of the rockets won’t fire. Wisecracking Communications Expert and his Russian Aeronaut girlfriend go out in space suits to fix it, but the ship leaves them behind when it sheds that part of the rocket. They see nearby derelict space vessel from an earlier Russian exploration attempt and propel themselves towards it.

This is where the original film ran out of money. The rest of the movie chronicles Wisecracker and Russian Lady’s efforts to jack the Russian craft to Venus. Except now they’re wearing different spacesuits on a different kind of set filmed with a different quality of film stock. Yes, wholly different actors perform their voiceovers. After ten full minutes of fiddling with knobs, the collective consciousness of Venus pipes up to say that they saw what humans did to their own planet and now the Earthlings aren’t welcome. The all-powerful Venusians teleport the film’s last surviving couple to a distant universe. I like to think they were deposited within easy reach of a life-sustaining planet where they can procreate in peace, but film refuses to specify.

Thoughts:

They float in the airlock because gravity is apparently caused by air.So, they’re going closer to the sun than any space mission has ever gone before and their spaceship doesn’t keep out radiation? The fact that the sterilizing radiation in question is supposedly caused by the Earth’s destruction, and will be constant over a four-month period presupposes one of two assumptions on the part of the “filmmakers”: a) that the empty void where the Earth used to be is now generating radioactivity out of nothing in direct opposition to all known laws of physics, or b) that radiation moves so slowly as to keep pace with them instead of just briefly irradiating their ship while rushing past them into space.

Also, I don’t get why they keep making such a big deal about the weight of the ship as it affects fuel consumption. For one thing, they’re in space. They don’t weigh anything. For another, they’re in space. There’s no friction and therefore no reason to keep burning fuel. Just get to the velocity you want and coast.

I know, I know, it’s movie science. It’s not real and isn’t meant to be. I get that. It just bothers me. The “filmmakers” have put the last seven humans in the entire universe cramped together on a single spaceship. I can think of at least a dozen potentially plot-driving conflicts from that description alone, but no, Doomsday Machine needs bogus pseudo-technical babble to keep things rolling. At least until they run out of money and shelve it for five years until someone else gets the bright idea to splice in footage from another film to give it a new non-ending, a technique it apparently co-opted from the distributors of Monster A-Go-Go.

The new humvee has brights so powerful, they can be seen from space.Once again the host segment material happens in silhouette, but they only stop the movie twice—when Trace has something important to say but Joel keeps interrupting him to count down the seconds until the movie starts again, and when Mary Jo wants to know who they would jettison into space if only three of them could survive to the end of the movie. (The first has a great moment when J. Elvis tells Joel that his counting down joke is lame. Joel admits this, but replies “I’m pretty much committed to it at this point”. In the second, Frank revokes Mary Jo’s special survival privileges for refusing to bear children.) Other good sections include the introduction, where black silhouettes discuss the reason they riff films in front of a white screen (not sure what that reason is, but Trace’s refusal to use replacement robots is particularly funny) and the part where J. Elvis wanders off screen, sending in a much smaller replacement in a helmet (no need to stop the film for this one as it’s pretty much just circling the drain at this point). It seems like they included almost as much interstitial material as last time, but they kept it more focused on the film and stopped it less, so it works better overall.

The riffing goes well too. When someone asks Fragile Arm Candy if she knows what makes the ship tick, Mary Jo replies “Ticknology!” As they lay back in their seats for takeoff, J. Elvis says, “I’m not saying they’re there to breed, but their chairs have stirrups.” When Psychotic Rapist tells Arm Candy to “relax and enjoy it” Joel says, “I’ll take ‘Things a Rapist Might Say’ for 500, Alex.” When she rejects him, Trace adds, “There’s no Earth for you to be the last man on anymore.” Finally, when Wisecracker and Russian Aeronaut climb onto the Russian probe, Frank calls it “the Deus Ex Machina.” If we solely judge the film, it’s only slightly better than the one they used in their last outing. Fortunately, tweaks to the format and solid, focused mockery raise this one well above the source material for funny viewing. The last section tests my patience —you know, when the movie wallows interminably in unrelated footage—but by that time I’ve already laughed enough to make my time spent with it worthwhile.

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1/30/08

Someone Shut the Fence Off in the Rain

Welcome, won't you?

The next Rifftrax and guest riffer have both been announced, and they are both doozies*. The film: Jurassic Park. The guest: "Weird Al" Yankovic. The release date: Tuesday, February 5, 2008.

And there was much rejoicing.

In other news, I'd already reviewed Plan 9 from Outer Space the first time Mike mocked it, so my work reviewing the three riffer version was already half done. Now that it's all done, you can read the review of the new version here.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for the Batman and Robin review, coming in the next day or two.

--------------------------------------

*Doozie: Either a small snack cookie in the shape of an animal, or a kind of venomous fairy that infests Sirius Black's house at Grimmauld Place, I'm not sure which.

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1/29/08

Plan 9 Video On Demand Demands Finally Met

Welcome, won't you?

Plan 9 from Outer Space has been added to the the Rifftrax On Demand catalog, and is now available for rental or purchase. Expect a review later this week.

Also: the title of the next film to receive Rifftrax treatment will be announced tomorrow afternoon, along with the name of the special guest riffer who will assist Mike with its mockery.

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Pop Goes the Weasel!

Welcome, won't you?

MST3K.com has updated with two new host segments... er, new to the site, anyway. One of them features "I Say Hello!", one of my favorite songs from the show. The "Legacy Videos" Guide has been updated accordingly.

Also: The most unintentionally homoerotic family film ever made now has a Rifftrax. Purchase and download the fan-written commentary for Batman and Robin today! I'll post a review later this week.

Also, also: The three-riffer version of Plan 9 from Outer Space has still not been released in Video On Demand form. My highly placed sources within Rifftrax... well, okay, that one guy who works there and occasionally posts in the forum says they're still waiting for the people at Divx to encrypt it and upload it to their server. Thus my review will be delayed a little longer.

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1/25/08

The Lovely Ladies of MST3K

Welcome, won't you?

It's fan service week over at MST3K.com, apparently, with two new host segments up in the Videos section dedicated to two of the better-looking women to appear on the show: Kim Cattrall and Bridget Nelson.

The MST3K.com "Legacy Videos" guide has been updated accordingly.

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1/24/08

RVOD013 Act Your Age

(1949, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

Sorry son, but we’re going to have to hang you.

Rating: ***


In a nutshell:


A young vandal turns over a new leaf.

Summary:

Are those... Are those curlers in Kevin's hair?Jim prizes his mechanical pencil, which he won in an essay contest. We don’t discover this until well into the short, but no matter; the pencil’s origin turns out to be of no significance anyway.

This special pencil runs out of lead at a crucial moment during the note-taking process. He takes his frustration out on his innocent desk, using the pencil’s metal point to scratch his initials into the surface. He is, of course, discovered, and the principal takes away his pencil until he can learn to act his age (and refinish the desk). With the help of the bitter and crusty school janitor, he learns that relentless self-criticism is the key to emotional maturity. Apparently satisfied with Jim’s newly established sense of self-loathing, the principal returns the pencil.

Thoughts:

Child psychology of the fifties can apparently be summed up as “Buck up, you pansy,” an all-purpose phrase that has never failed to straighten out and/or perk up a youngster in distress. I’d like to say we’ve come a long way since then, but nowadays we’ve gone with, “Your feelings are valid no matter how destructive they are.” This shakes out as just another way to feel like you’re helping without the actual, you know, help. The short itself is rather over-idealized in that it assumes that kids in general can recognize and solve their emotional maturity issues on their own with only the very slightest of nudges from their supervising adults. It’s also rather disingenuous to imply that this sort of behavior isn’t normal for teenagers.

Mike, Bill, and Kevin chime in often to keep this rather dry short palatable. When the principal intones, “Growing up is a problem,” Mike finishes, “We must stamp it out.” As Jim’s echo-effect inner voice harangues him about his own childish behavior, Bill notes, “He has a very depressed conscience.” When Jim finally outlines his plan, Kevin enthusiastically agrees with it; “Constant criticism; that’s the future!” It’s a watchable short on its own, and with the commentary it recalls some of the better educational films mocked back in the days of Mystery Science Theater.

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Rhino-Be-Gone

Welcome, won't you?

Here's the latest tidbit to come down the pike. Best Brains honcho Jim Mallon has moved MST3K from its long-time publisher Rhino Home Video to Shout! Factory, also known as The Company that Finally Released The Film Crew DVDs. Among the many things promised in the press release, we see the term "digital distribution rights." Does this mean there are commercially released downloadable episodes in our future? We can only hope.

Also, the elusive Trace Beaulieu has posted instructions on how to make your own Time Tube over at Cinematic Titanic. Enjoy!

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1/23/08

Haunted by Vincent Price and a Ghoulish-Looking Leprechaun Man, But Not by Ghosts

Welcome, won't you?

Next time an eccentric millionaire offers you a year's worth of wages to spend the night in a gloomy old mansion, here's a hint: don't go. Chances are, every last one of the survivors will be spending their earnings subsisting for the year they'll be sequestered to testify at the old man's trial.

Yes, I've finally reviewed the last Rifftrax On Demand title, House on Haunted Hill, posted here. This brings me up-to-date with everything currently released... Well, except for the new version of Plan 9, which isn't available on Video On Demand yet.

In other Rifftrax news, the next movie to get the treatment will be Joel Shumacher's ode to all things unholy, Batman and Robin, and will be available on Tuesday January 29, 2008. As you may recall from previous announcements, this is the one that was compiled for Mike and the gang by the minds behind RiffRaff Theater from the suggested quips of viewers like you. The result ought to be interesting at the very least.

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1/22/08

On to Plan Ten!

Welcome, won't you?

The previously announced three-riffer version of Plan Nine from Outer Space is now available in MP3 format. The On Demand version is coming, but won't be available until later this week.

Also available later this week (i.e. tomorrow): The title of the next movie to receive Rifftrax treatment.

Also, also available later this week (i.e. Thursday or so): a review of House on Haunted Hill, finally bringing my Rifftrax On Demand Guide up-to-date.

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1/15/08

Plan Nine Mark Two

Welcome, won't you?

Finally, some Rifftrax news. As was announced a month ago over at the Rifftrax site, Mike will be revisiting Plan Nine from Outer Space, this time in front of a live audience in San Francisco with the assistance of fellow riffers Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy. Though I live a scant seventy miles to the north, prior commitments prevent me from attending. For the sake of people like me, a brand-new Rifftrax featuring all three riffers will be released simultaneously in MP3 and Video On Demand formats on Tuesday, January 22, 2008.

Also: The Cinematic Titanic Guide has been updated, complete with a handy cast list and seating chart.

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1/14/08

I See a Little Silhouetto of a Man

Welcome, won't you?

I have seen the new Cinematic Titanic release, The Oozing Skull, and it is... well, competent, at least.

That's not entirely fair. Joel and friends riff expertly and their idea for engaging in host-segment style shenanigans without leaving the theater is inspired; I just wish they'd picked a film that wasn't such a downer for their debut. It makes me look forward their future exploits with non-downer films, though, and by that measure it can be considered a success. Read the review here.

Coming soon: A Cinematic Titanic cast page.

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1/12/08

Mail Call

Welcome, won't you?

It's here. Review to come.

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1/11/08

Spit and Polish

Welcome, won't you?

Their first release still hasn't arrived in the mail, but at least there's a new Cinematic Titanic website to peruse while we wait. I'll get to that just as soon as I stop having fever-induced hallucinations of werewolves.

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1/9/08

Drag-Racing Organists and the Soggy Zombies Who Love Them

Welcome, won't you?

Now that my brother-in-law has returned to the far-off wilds of Utah (and I'm not watching movies with him every night) I can turn my attention back to the remaining Rifftrax On Demand titles. On his way home, he will probably drive past the formerly abandoned amusement park featured in today's selection, the 1962 cult classic Carnival of Souls. Read the review here.

Also, close of business is fast approaching, and I still have not received notice of shipping for The Oozing Skull. Forum denizens are reporting deductions from their credit cards, though. Are we finally going to get our first glimpse of Cinematic Titanic?

Update: I just got my emailed shipping confirmation from DVD Wagon, so yes we are.

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1/8/08

Technology's Greatest Achievement

Welcome, won't you?

MST3K.com has posted two new host segments; if you ever wanted to know what Mike looks like as a Den Mother, this is your chance. The MST3K.com Video Guide has been updated accordingly.

Also, I've been tweaking the site a little more. New ads have been placed. Old ones have been removed. My contact information has been made a little more accessible. First person to find it wins a deep and abiding sense of self-satisfaction.

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1/7/08

Avast!

Welcome, won't you?

Note to Pirates:

Yes, my recent posts on the subject of Cinematic Titanic have been slightly snippy, but don’t mistake my tone. I love these guys. If I’m frustrated by the way they’ve (mis)handled their first release, it’s only because I really, really want them to succeed, and can’t help but wince every time they shoot themselves in the foot with missed release dates/high price points/botched rights issues/massive shipping delays.

This in no way suggests that I want you to rip them off. I participate in and even encourage internet filesharing where the material being shared is not commercially available, but this is not the case here. Let’s not kill the Golden Goose to get our hands on the very first egg. The sales figures for The Oozing Skull will determine whether or not we see more of this kind of thing from Joel and company in the future. I paid for my (as yet unshipped) copy, and if you want to see more of their work, I urge you to do the same.

So stop trying to brag (or worse, post instructions) about how you’re going to pirate this puppy when it finally arrives. Comments are moderated, and I won’t tolerate that kind of thing.

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1/4/08

Fresh From My Inbox

Welcome, won't you?








Shipping Date for The Oozing Skull DVD
This email was sent on January 4th, 2008
Dear Paul,

The purpose of this message is to let you know that your order for "The Oozing Skull" by Cinematic Titanic (the former Mystery Science Theater 3000 folks), is scheduled to ship on or before Wednesday, January 9th, 2008. You will receive an email confirmation shortly before the DVD ships.

If you haven't already, you should sign up for Cinematic Titanic's email club here. That way you'll know instantly when they have new releases.

Thanks for your patience!



Best Regards,


Customer Support
EZTakes

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1/3/08

Mancini-esque

Welcome, won't you?

The Cinematic Titanic site has updated again. Joel's up first with more friendly non-information, and then J. Elvis "Josh" Weinstein with the scintillating tale of his soul-wrenching wrestle with fate and the muses to turn out a twenty-five second bit of theme music. Oh, and they really want you to buy their first release.

I'd encourage you as well--the talent involved is top-notch, and it looks like they put a lot of effort into it--but various delays and the high price point aren't working in their favor. Also, I haven't seen it yet. I ordered mine about two weeks ago and it still hasn't shipped!

Not that I'm bitter.

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1/1/08

He Crimefighting Covers Up a Basic Insecurity

Welcome, won't you?

Still no new cartoons, but two new host segments (er, old host segments new to the site) have been posted at MST3K.com. One of them ranks among my favorite Joel segments but requires a viewing of the episode it concludes to appreciate fully. The Videos section of the MST3K.com Guide has been updated accordingly.

Jet Jaguar? Jet Jaguar!

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