7/31/08

Why Not Arson, or Parcheesi?

Yo, vandalism, yo!Welcome, won't you?

The Rifftrax Eat Our Shorts promotion winds to a close with Why Vandalism, an incisive little piece that no doubt delves deeply into the motivations of the average juvenile criminal. Think of it as the American Tsotsi of the fifties, probably without all the murdering and babysitting. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and so on and so forth. Pick it up here.

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7/30/08

Alternate Title: A Girl and Her Cat Wash Themselves Half to Death

After careful consideration, I decided that it is no longer 1949, and therefore I would not get away with posting a screenshot of the topless little girl.Welcome, won't you?

The Rifftrax Video On Demand list was getting kind of long even before I added the obsessive-compulsive hygiene film Kitty Cleans Up (review here), but now it's downright unwieldy. I'll be dividing it out into neat ten-release chunks just like the main Rifftrax section shortly. Maybe. Hopefully. Er, when I get around to it. Tune in tomorrow for the last short of July.

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Rifftrax Video On Demand 021 to 030

RVOD021 If Mirrors Could Speak

RVOD022 One Got Fat

RVOD023 Drugs Are Like That

RVOD024 Down and Out

RVOD025 Patriotism

RVOD026 Skipper Learns a Lesson

RVOD027 Buying Food

RVOD028 Right or Wrong (Making Moral Decisions)

RVOD029 The Trouble with Women

RVOD030 It Must Be The Neighbors

Everything from Down and Out to Why Vandalism was released in July 2008 during a promotion called "Eat Our Shorts". They're okay. Not bad, but seem to suffer slightly for being riffed and pushed out the door all at once. Fortunately, the two shorts previous (One Got Fat and Drugs Are Like That) are two of the strangest, most hilarious shorts they've ever done. One Got Fat in particular is a bicycle safety short where papier-mache monkeys die in the cruelest, most horrific manner possible... Well, it really must be seen to be believed.

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Rifftrax Video On Demand 011 to 020

RVOD011 A Visit to Santa

RVOD012 Plan 9 from Outer Space

RVOD013 Act Your Age

RVOD014 Beginning Responsibility: Lunchroom Manners

RVOD015 The Terrible Truth


RVOD016 Why Doesn't Cathy Eat Breakfast? / Petaluma Chicken

RVOD017 Coffee House Rendezvous

RVOD018 Safety: Harm Hides at Home

RVOD019 Are You Popular?

RVOD020 Troll 2

There's a couple of Video On Demand re-releases in there, but most of this section is public domain educational shorts, lovingly mocked by the full complement of regular riffers Mike, Bill and Kevin. Some are staid, some informative and some truly bizarre (check out Safety: Harm Hides at Home for an acid-drenched rendition of Wonder Woman if she dressed like an extra from CHiPs) but the vast majority are worth the ninety-nine cent purchase price.

Also worthy of note: if Digital Rights Management bothers you, con't worry. All the shorts are DRM-free.

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7/29/08

Kitty and the Chamber of Secrets

Their resemblance to little-boy band sensation Hanson is eerie.Welcome, won't you?

It's the last Tuesday of July, which means it's time for the penultimate release of Eat Our Shorts month. Kitty Cleans Up is a personal hygiene short that sounds like it ought to advise us to tongue-bathe ourselves at least three times a day, but probably doesn't. Grab it here. Just one more July short coming, probably on Thursday.

Bill actually looks better with Rupert Grint hair than Rupert Grint does.But don't worry. August gets off to a running start with the release of a full-length Rifftrax for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, featuring Mike, Kevin and Bill, released on August 5, 2008. The title of the Rifftrax following that one will be announced on the very next day.

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7/28/08

Ovaries Make You Weak and Pathetic...

'Well-adjusted' isn't a word we like to use 'round these parts......yes, that's the message of the latest Rifftrax short, Each Child Is Different. Boys who sip their milk and can't defend themselves from bullies twice their own size aren't much better. Tall, aggressive young boys who are good at sports have things much, much easier. Review here.

Also: Comic-con has come and gone. And, um, I can't think of anything else that rhymes. Apparently there was this panel that included all the writer/performers together again for the first time in years. And it was moderated by Remy of Ratatouille. Talk about surreal. I wasn't there, but the guys from the Satellite News were. Here's their report.

Oh, and a helpful commentor has pointed out that some kind soul has posted Edward the Less over on Youtube. (I can't post a link 'cause this computer is screwy about Youtube.) I'd advise you to rush over and see them before someone at SciFi notices, but considering the level of apathy they displayed when I asked permission to post them, I doubt anyone will bother to have them removed anytime soon. I'll alter the Edward the Less Guide to reflect this new development as soon as I get to it.

Oh, and welcome, won't you?

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7/25/08

...Just Like Everyone Else

Looks like Bill has finally been granted a reprieve from photoshop transgenderment.Welcome, won't you?

Despite the ravages the San Diego Comic Con has wreaked upon the entertainment world, Rifftrax has updated from pestilential pit of geek fandom with a little short called Each Child Is Different. Yes, it's true: human beings are not yet factory produced from a single template. Pick it up here.

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7/24/08

In Praise of the Humble Bureaucrat

Not the ex-footballer bureaucrat in question.Welcome, won't you?

Thanks to It Must Be the Neighbors, we now we know what happens to ex-college football stars when they graduate. No, they don't join the NFL. Or at least, they don't if they're accepted into the ranks of one of the noblest and most prestigious sports organizations in the world, the city sanitation department. Gaze with wonder upon Larry the Low-Level Government Cog as he dispenses homespun vermin abatement advice to rapt audiences of middle-school boys. That's right, I used the plural form of "audience", and I meant it. Review here.

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7/23/08

Feeling Waspish

Science!  Correction: SEXY Science!Welcome, won't you?

Joel dropped by the Cinematic Titanic Email Club this evening to announce a little something. As we suspected, the next release will be Roger Corman's The Wasp Woman. And it'll be released on August 7, 2008.

Also, the CT crew has added another live performance to their schedule, this time in St. Louis (Missouri?) on November 1, 2008. More details to come.

Here's the Wasp Woman trailer, behind the cut.

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RVOD033 Why Vandalism?

(1955, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

These guys vandalize something once every twelve years.

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

Three boys vandalize their school, but it’s not totally their fault.

Summary:

Why not arson?  Or parcheesi?Against the depressing backdrop of an urban wasteland, to the horn-blaring music of a gritty crime drama, three boys aimlessly wander the night, angry at the world and everything in it. The narrator suggests various causes for this generic and unprovoked rage. One boy’s parents don’t love him enough, for instance. Another boy’s parents love him too much, drowning him in unwanted affection. The third boy is poor. These appear to be reasons enough to avoid all the neighborhood activities—free movies, community center sports, church services, etc.—even when said activities are thrust into the boys’ faces every few minutes by concerned neighbors.

They end up at school, where they notice an open window, where they break into a classroom, where they pet the professor’s pet rabbit, where they start ripping up papers and knocking over shelves, where a spontaneous fire kills the rabbit and draws the attention of the night custodian. The next scene takes place in court. A judge notes that the boys are at fault for everything they’ve done, but then, in true 1950’s style, he goes on to shift the blame to their parents.

Thoughts:

Tell us about the rabbits, Jeff.Why Vandalism does its best to engage us, but ultimately fails by trying to stuff two minutes worth of vandalism into sixteen minutes and some-odd seconds worth of educational short. Give the boys a minute a piece for background and another minute for sentencing, and you’ve got six minutes worth of material, tops. It feels as if the writer combined plot elements from Of Mice and Men with the aimless dialog style of Waiting for Godot, but without any of the eloquence of Steinbeck and Beckett. Then he saw that the result practically reached out of the screen to yank your eyelids closed, and tried desperately to spice it up with the incidental music from Dragnet. So it’s strange, but in a boring way.

As for the message, well, as usual fifties psychology takes things too far. Yes, the community should do something to help the boys. Yes, their parents probably should have been nicer/more attentive/richer. But, like most other juvenile crime films from the fifties (that I’ve seen, anyway), they fail to present any plausible reason for the vandalism—just endless opportunities not to vandalize something, after which they do anyway. Most of these boys’ trouble has to do with the fact that all three of them are incredibly, tenaciously and unrelentingly stupid, effectively eliminating any hopes the filmmakers might have of making me sympathize with them.

Mike, Bill and Kevin do their best to fill the mostly empty space, and for the most part they succeed. While one boy looks bleakly off into the distance, Kevin says, “Why did I major in vandalism? It opens less doors than a classics degree.” While the narrator continues to decry the practice of vandalism, Bill adds, “The scourge of mankind. Right after jaywalking.” When the narrator asks how to stop vandalism, Mike suggests, “Invent videogames two decades earlier.” It’s long and it’s kind of dull, but the Rifftrax crew makes it interesting enough to pick up and watch at least once.

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7/22/08

Mosquitos and Rats and Cockroaches, Oh My!

Looks like Baby Mike's in the process of making a little filth-pile himself.Welcome, won't you?

You might not picture this lovely suburban neighborhood as a festering playground for disease-ridden vermin of all kinds. And yet there they are, spawning in the water, rolling in the trash, snarling at at each other over the fences. And the mosquitos, rats and stray dogs are bad too!

Thank you! Thank you and goodnight!

Anyway, the newest member of the Eat Our Shorts family, It Must Be the Neighbors, addresses the problem of middle-class suburbia: America's fermenting filth-pile. Grab it here.

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7/21/08

You Vacuous Holstein!

You vacuous Holstein!Welcome, won't you?

You vacuous Jersey? Doesn't have the same ring. Neither does "You vacuous Angus" or "You vacuous steer." There are probably other types of cattle I could plug into that phrase if I felt inclined to look them up, but no matter. I suspect that none would have the simple poetry of Mike's perfect misogynist insult, delivered about halfway through The Trouble with Women. Review here.

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7/18/08

Creative Misogyny 101

Kevin, you hussy.Welcome, won't you?

Rifftrax's Eat Our Shorts promotion continues today with the provocatively titled The Trouble with Women. And I do mean "provocatively" in the literal sense; I suspect that any serious educational film bold enough to call out the entire female gender is actively looking for trouble. Get it here.

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7/17/08

What Would Danny Elfman Do?

Did she leave the iron on or what?Welcome, won't you?

Right or Wrong (Making Moral Decisions) wants to know what you would do if you got caught out late at night with your vandal buddies breaking windows. Claim insanity, and then wear your underpants on your head to prove it? Run from the cops, leading them on a three-county chase that ends when you leap your souped-up sportscar/monster truck over a raging river? Pledge eternal fealty to the mob in exchange for high-priced legal protection? I think Bill has the most sensible answer at the end, to wit, "I would not have vandalized anything." Review here.

Also: the Rifftrax has added a colorized version of the camp favorite Forbidden Zone, featuring Danny Elfman, Herve Villachaize and so on in a hallucinagenic tale that I couldn't summarize for you in one sentence even if I felt inclined to do so. However, since it does not feature riffing of any kind, nor was it written, produced or otherwise created by MST3K alumni, I do not feel obligated to review it for you. You can buy it as a DVD or Video On Demand file here, if you so choose.

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7/16/08

It's Miscellaneous One-Off Day!

Eddie Murphy is full of tinier men.Welcome, won't you?

Yes, there used to be only one review in the One-Off section, but now there are two! Hence my declaration of the above holiday, which probably I alone shall celebrate, and even then only for a minute or two. Joining Max the Hero in that section is Meet Dave, a quiet, contemplative little art film, co-written by Bill Corbett, about a notoriously scatalotical actor/director team who poop all over every reasonably decent idea for a movie they can get their butt cheeks on. Review here.

And speaking of Max the Hero, director Mike Salva will be taking it on the road to this year's DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia (August 29 to September 1, 2008). Stop by and see it, and maybe say hi to him for me. He'll be the one who's not dressed like a hobbit.

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7/15/08

What Do You, The Audience At Home, Think?

After the Meet Dave debacle, Bill's the one who really ought to be in there.Welcome, won't you?

Is it okay to throw rocks through windows and then lie about it? What about refusing to turn in the other participants, even though they've hung you out to dry? How about sleeping on your pastor's couch? Is that okay? In a rare set of circumstations, I've actually already seen today's short Right or Wrong. Grab it here and discuss. I'll see what Mike, Bill and Kevin have to say about it and post a review the day after tomorrow.

Tomorrow's review will probably pertain to the Bill Corbett/Eddie Murphy Science Fiction "Comedy" Meet Dave, which I have now seen. I guess the quotations around the word "comedy" pretty much give away how I feel about it. Bill, man, I'm so sorry. Please accept my deepest, most heartfelt condolences on the murder and mutilation of your script.

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7/14/08

The World Is Your Three Pints of Oysters

Both will enhance your pastiness.Welcome, won't you?

The message of this short--well, one of many--seems to be "Don't buy it if you don't know what it is." That's actually good rule of thumb to follow when shopping outside the food arena too. In fact, no advice is too obvious and no purchase too ill-advised for the makers of Buying Food. Review here.

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7/11/08

RE: The Purchase of Comestibles

Kevin's going to make some delicious robotic fish eye soup.Welcome, won't you?

Buying Food is a useful skill to cultivate, especially if one is in the habit of eating. (Eating food, that is. Sorry, I should have specified.) Unfortunately, no one seems to teach this vital skill anymore. For guidance, we must turn to the Home Ec educational shorts of the past. And to Mike, Bill and Kevin, of course. Get it here.

Also: The tomatometer for Meet Dave isn't exactly making me want to rush out and see it. I'll try to squeeze in a viewing sometime within the next week or so anyway.

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7/10/08

Meet Skipper After Dark

I know Bill wrote it, but just looking at the poster makes me cringe.Welcome, won't you?

Lots of things to talk about today.

1) Skipper Learns a Lesson is, appropriately enough, about a dog named Skipper who learns a lesson about racism. Apparently, the lesson we should all take to heart is that a good drenching in poster paint will cure even the most hardened of canine hate-mongers of intolerance. Review here.

2) Meet Dave, the upcoming Eddie Murphy comedy co-written by MST3K, Film Crew and Rifftrax scribe Bill Corbett, comes out tomorrow. It's tough to know how it will turn out. Bill Corbett does good work, but Eddie Murphy has been known yank down his pants and take big steaming dumps on decent-sounding projects, especially in recent years. The only review I've been able to find thus far seems pretty positive, but it's from someone I've never heard of. We'll just have to wait and see.

3) Apparently you can now see the first Film Crew release Hollywood After Dark online for free. Once was enough for me as far as this particular film was concerned, but feel free to head down and check it out if you like.

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7/9/08

This Post Is Patriotic

This jpeg is patriotic too.Welcome, won't you?

As you might imagine, the Bob Crane educational short Patriotism is patriotic. So is my left pinky toe, the letter Q, and walnut-free brownies. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to think of something that isn't patriotic. Go on, try to think of something. I dare you.

Review here, by the way.

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7/8/08

Barbie, On the Other Hand, is Incorrigible

Those brown dogs are worried about their property values now that a white-with-black-spots dog has moved into the neighborhood.Welcome, won't you?

Eat Our Shorts marches onward with the re-introduction of a past mascot whose lovable antics will be sure to warm the hearts of children and parents alike. Rifftrax On Demand presents Skipper Learns a Lesson, starring Skipper the Racist Dog. Download it today.

Also, I have seen Cinematic Titanic's take on Doomsday Machine, and I actually enjoyed it a lot. I probably would have enjoyed it more if the makers of the featured subject had bothered to, oh I don't know, finish their damn film instead of tacking on ten minutes of actionless footage from another movie, but I guess we have to work with what we're given. Review here.

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7/7/08

RVOD032 Kitty Cleans Up

(1949, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

Look kid, why don’t you just get a nice can of Lysol for a pet?

Rating: ***1/2

In a nutshell:

A little girl and her cat groom themselves for the pet show.

Summary:

Come on.  We all know Kevin's a lot more hirsute than that.A little girl wakes up one morning to drag her cat into the bathroom with her. The bare-chested girl then sponge-bathes her entire upper body one small piece at a time while the cat follows along using its tongue as a washcloth. They finish up. The girl gets dressed, brushes her teeth and hair, and then they both have breakfast. Mom helps her stuff the cat into a box, which she carries to school. Kitty wins first prize as the school pet show because she’s just so darn clean.

Thoughts:

I could easily make fun of this short for featuring a topless six-year-old girl. But, since it was made in 1949 without even the slightest whiff of an attempt to sexualize her, it isn’t really worthy of comment. Except for, you know, the above comment about how it’s not worthy of one.

After careful consideration, I decided that it is no longer 1949, and therefore I would not get away with posting a screenshot of the topless little girl.What is worthy of comment is the put-upon and frequently terrified cat. Judging by the changing texture of its fur, I’m guessing the filmmakers smeared it with various viscous substances to get it to lick itself in the right places at the right times. I have no idea what they did to get it to bare its teeth at the girl after the tooth-brushing sequence, but judging by its expression, it couldn’t have been pleasant. During the ending sequence, when every five-to-six-year-old at the school descends on it at once, you can just see the poor thing freeze with horror. I’m amazed it didn’t claw anyone. Or maybe it did, but the filmmakers edited that part out. I certainly hope that was the case.

Also worthy of comment: the horrible dubbing. The few lines of non-narrated dialog obviously weren’t even aimed at the characters’ lip movements, making it look worse than even the most poorly localized foreign films. Plus, the little girl’s cutesy voice sounds like someone’s mom trying to imitate Marilyn Monroe. Creepy.

Looking back at the preceding paragraphs, it seems to me that I haven’t made this thing sound funny enough. Much of this short film’s success has to do with the lines Mike, Bill and Kevin give to the cat to make it talk back to its owner. Also amusing are their comments about the OCD-ish qualities of the little girl’s meticulous and lengthy morning routine. While she washes her hands unceasingly, Bill calls her, “Little Tina MacBeth.” When she strips to the waist to wash each body part one at a time, Mike says, “Honey, there’s a tub and shower two steps away.” When we finally leave the bathroom only to watch her begin the hundred-strokes brushing of her pageboy hair, Kevin says, “The hygiene death march continues.” If you ever wanted to see an off-putting little girl with an adult woman’s voice washing herself and her pet half to death, then this is the film for you. The Rifftrax crew tweaks it only a little, but just enough and just in the right direction to make the whole thing hilarious.

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7/5/08

RVOD031 Each Child is Different

(1954, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

Give George some more beans.

Rating: ***1/2

In a nutshell:

Athletic male kids are okay. Everyone else is all screwed up inside.

Summary:

Wait.  Ruth had pink hair?  The things you miss in black and white...Miss Smith sits in front of a class of fifth-graders on the first day of school, her unblinking face frozen into a benevolent gaze, apparently waiting for the narrator to introduce her to them. Eventually, the narrator obliges:

Child number one is an athletic and popular young man named Robert. He does well in playground football games, gets along with his classmates, and goes home every evening to his loving mother and father. Oh, and he has a reading disability. Not that this matters when you weigh it against the popularity and the athleticism. Don’t worry your pretty little head about him, Ms. Smith.

Child number two is a lank-haired young woman named Ruth. She pauses, her arms full of groceries and her baby brother George in the stroller in front of her while she gazes longingly through the chain link fence at the happy children in the playground. Her mother died last year, you see, so now she cooks, cleans and takes care of the baby. Her father presumably works long hours, but during the painfully silent dinner scene the only five words he ever speaks to her are “Give George some more beans.” After the menfolk retire, Ruth secretively admires her mother’s old ring in her one and only daily moment of pleasure. Pity her, Miss Smith. Pity her, I say!

Child number three, a young man named Mark, is an amateur photographer with his own darkroom. He’s also got a gang of entirely obedient hangers-on who follow him on such adventures as “visiting their clubhouse” and “setting things on fire”. Spoiled, aggressive and (if the private darkroom is any indication) probably rich, so no problems there, Ms. Smith. Just let him do whatever he wants.

Child number four. Girl. Elizabeth. Attractive. But her parents fight a lot. And after they fight, father storms out. And after father storms out, mother goes looking for things to break. Things like Elizabeth’s toys. Pity her, Ms. Smith. Look, I don’t care if you used up all your pity on Ruth. Just ask for some of it back. She’s just a girl, for heaven’s sake. It’s not like she deserves
that much pity.

Child number five is a scrawny little girly-boy named John. He can’t even defend himself from a pair of bullies twice his size. He’s also far too timid to guzzle like his more masculine older brother; he prefers to sip his milk instead. Dinner in this household is also a silent affair, as father nods approvingly at his guzzling son while he looks down on the effeminate young sipper with an expression of stern disappointment. I guess you can pity him if you want to, Ms. Smith, but really it’s his own fault, the little pansy. Look, just seat him near the back and pretend he’s not there, okay?

Ms. Smith breaks in at this point to introduce herself briefly to the class, then slips right back into her eyes-wide-open coma, her smile frozen while she waits for the next short in the series. You know, the one where the narrator presumably goes on to let her know what she’s supposed to do with all these screwed-up kids.

Thoughts:

The ring her mother was buried with.You know what Mr. Narrator likes in a child? Testosterone. Lots and lots of it. The importance of height, strength and aggressiveness in a child’s development cannot be stressed enough. Any unfortunate soul whose external genitalia don’t produce enough of this vital substance is doomed. Those born without external genitalia are doubly screwed. Seriously, you might as well euthanize all such children at birth just to save everyone the hassle of dealing with them, the pathetic losers.

Okay, I exaggerate, but really, Each Child Is Different is sexist even by the fifties’ rather lax standards for such things. And speaking of which...

...um, hey, Mr. Narrator? Did you just find a fifth grade girl attractive? Ew. Please allow me to direct your attention to the court order you should shortly be receiving in the mail, forbidding you from coming within a hundred yards of my daughters. Said order also prohibits you from ever narrating a film in which they appear. You know, should they ever decide to appear in one.

Mike, Bill and Kevin spread good comments throughout the short film, but nothing quite matches the doom-laden dinner scene with Ruth, her father, and baby brother George. Apart from containing the father’s sternly worded gem (quoted above), it also contains Mike’s speculation: “George would grow up, change his name to Eugene O’Neil, and write plays far less depressing than this.” When father awkwardly shovels beans at his son, Kevin says, “Just thrust the spoon in the baby’s general direction; the food’ll get where it needs to be.” In a later scene of Mark and his posse planning to start a fire, Bill says, “Ah, the fifties. When supervision meant ‘Bringing Dad his martini and pipe’.” As an educational short, you can’t really call it wrong-headed because it’s not trying to educate you beyond, “look at these screwed up kids.” The absurd melodrama gives plenty of opportunities for mockery, though, and the Rifftrax crew takes full advantage.

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7/3/08

Shorts 2: The Shortening

Whatever you do, DO NOT agree to appear in any of the star's 'other projects'.Welcome, won't you?

Independence Day is upon us. Or will be tomorrow anyway. But I won't be at work tomorrow, and presumably the Rifftrax folks won't either, so we get our second dose of Eat-Our-Shorts madness today. In keeping with our upcoming national holiday, Rifftrax On Demand has released Patriotism, a presumably pro-American little educational number starring former radio celebrity, beloved sitcom star, and notorious amateur pornographer Bob Crane. Doesn't the mere description just fill your heart with national pride?

Pick it up here.

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RVOD030 It Must Be the Neighbors

(1966, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

That’s right, cast that first stone.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

A heroic health inspector inspires the neighborhood kids to clean up after their parents.

Summary:

Quick, drain all the standing water out of Baby Mike's mouth!Average suburban man Bill comes home to find a Health Department notice on his garbage can, just because the bottom rusted all the way through. Rather than comply with the notice and buy a new can, Bill decides to call old college buddy Larry at the department to “fix things up.” Larry invites himself over to point out all Bill’s horrible, filthy, vermin-enticing yard-keeping habits.

Bill’s wife Betty apparently wasn’t paying attention; she asks him to come and admire her backyard flower garden, inviting a similar lecture about all the mosquito larvae hatching in her various vases and the rats attracted by the breadcrumbs she’s put out for the birds. While Larry delivers one more parting speech, Bill and Betty agree that their crimes against sanitation aren’t nearly as bad as the neighbors’. The blame for all the vermin in the area must fall on someone else.

Meanwhile, Bill’s son and the neighbor kid have been inspired by Larry’s speechmaking to gang up and beat a rat to death in a vacant lot. Then, while the grownups continue to point fingers at each other, they recruit all the other kids in the neighborhood to help them pick up the mess left by their elders. Eventually Bill shows up to interrupt middle-school football practice for another lecture from Larry. (I guess he’s the local coach as well). This inspires Bill to help the kids clean up. All the other grownups pitch in as well, except for the childless spinster, and finally Bill’s wife takes care of that with a tea party and a few carefully chosen words. The short ends with Bill and his neighbor sharing a hearty laugh about their former habit of blaming others.

Thoughts:

One of the neighbors of whom it must be.Apparently, in 1966, the government was so well respected that even city sanitation administrators inspired blind, unthinking devotion among ten-to-fourteen-year-old boys. It’s hard to imagine in this more cynical era, but as a public employee, I might have been idolized and revered by middle-schoolers if I’d just been born thirty to forty years earlier. Kids would have stopped me for autographs when I walked down the street. When I spoke to them unendingly about my sphere of responsibility (industrial injuries) they would gasp, wide-eyed with delight. Thereafter, they would form into gangs and follow their parents to work, shaming said parents into following proper safety procedures. That would have been, like, so cool.

Mike starts us off by commenting on the title card proclaiming the short’s origins at the Center for Communicable Diseases, “a.k.a. the Lohan Household.” While our protagonist reads the notice that declares his garbage can unfit for the storage of refuse, Kevin says, “Doesn’t say anything about grouches.” When Larry proudly declares that he’s about to file a report, Bill says, “All three of his degrees are in report-filing.” My personal favorite line comes while Larry is explaining about how mosquitoes breed in water, “Like the Swamp Thing, or those kids in Blue Lagoon.” Except for the strange idolization of government workers, the subject matter is fairly staid. Mike, Bill and Kevin make it worth watching, though.

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7/2/08

RVOD029 The Trouble with Women

(1959, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

You vacuous Holstein!

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

A female employee can be almost as good as a male one, “if you treat her right”.

Summary:

He's sassy, he's brassy, he's a musical hum-dinger...  Okay, I admit I don't know what any of that means.Brad works in an aluminum factory (I think) supervising aluminum inspectors (again, I think). As our curtain rises, he’s already frustrated with trying to explain an oscilloscope to one young lady when another young lady appears with a slip of paper from Human Resources. Brad reads it and discovers that the shapely young slip-bearer is none other than his new bearings inspector.

Brad tells her to take a seat while he steps out for a minute, then charges into the Human Resources department. How dare they send him yet another woman? The HR man replies that they had no qualified male candidates. This one should be okay, “if you treat her right.” Brad indignantly insists that women workers are no good. They’re absent a lot. They clutter their workstations with personal items and then complain when you ask them to move. Why, sometimes they even want to get married, he says. A man would never stoop to such appalling and unprofessional behavior, he implies.

The HR guy doesn’t exactly address any of these concerns; he just smiles indulgently and points out that Brad’s department continues to meet and improve on its production goals despite the many female employees on staff. Brad goes back to his desk to scowl silently at the new girl. “What is Brad’s problem?” the ending title card asks, just before the scene fades to black.

Thoughts:

You vacuous Holstein!And now, The Moral of the Story: Women employees can be almost as good as men, but only if you make allowances for their strange female customs and their brittle feminine temperaments. Yes, it’s horribly sexist, but only when you judge it by the current standards for gender parity. I give this short full marks for being dangerously liberal by the standards of 1959.

Judging it against present-day mores is pretty funny though, and Mike, Bill and Kevin exploit this as much as possible. Also funny are Mike’s comment on the short’s production company, McGraw-Hill, “Where Quick Draw McGraw and his pal Baba Looey were hanged,” Kevin’s complaint about how the workplace has changed, “Now there are tampons in the cigarette machine!” and Bill’s comment on the title, “The trouble with women is that one of them is Kathy Griffin.” At six minutes, this is one of the shortest short films available on its own. It packs a decent amount of punch for the running time, though.

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Okay, Now It's Doomsday

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...Welcome, won't you?

Guess what I finally got in the mail last night? Guess what I finally get to watch tonight? Guess what I ate three minutes ago? The answers to the above questions are Doomsday Machine, Doomsday Machine, and a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. What with all my family in town for the holidays, I may not have my review for Doomsday Machine up until early next week, while my review of the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup will have to wait until I finish work on reesesfanguide.blogspot.com.

In other news, the review for Down and Out has been posted and it, uh, kind of sucks actually. Too bad. They're supposed to release another one sometime this week. Maybe it will be better.

A clarification: As previously reported, Rifftrax will release ten shorts at a rate of two a week over the course of July. I neglected to mention that feature-length releases have been curtailed until the shorts madness ends. So, no more full-length Rifftrax until August.

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7/1/08

RVOD028 Right or Wrong? (Making Moral Decisions)

(1951, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

Goodnight, Harry. Enjoy staring into the abyss.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

A variety of fifties folk face a variety of ethical dilemmas.

Summary:

So, Mike threw a rock through Bill's window?Young Harry Green wanders the night with his friends, looking for windows to break. His friends find a suitable warehouse window and proceed to break it. Harry considers joining in, but ultimately does not.

Unfortunately for him, he’s standing in a pool of light, and is thus the only vandal the night watchman can identify. The watchman stares at the phone in full internal monologue mode for several minutes. He knows Harry’s father. Should he turn the boy in, and put him and his family through an arrest? Or should he say he didn’t really see anything? He decides to turn the boy in.

The cops show up on Harry’s doorstep later that night. His mom answers the door. She pauses interminably for her own internal monologue when a policeman asks after her son. Should she turn him over to them, or tell them he’s not home? She decides to let them take Harry away.

Meanwhile the warehouse owner is down at the police station complaining to the night sergeant. The sergeant suggests that since this is the boy’s first offence, and he wasn’t the one who actually threw the offending rock, they ought to let him just pay for the window and have done with it. The warehouse owner disagrees. Gangs of vandals have been breaking windows all over town for quite some time now. If they let Harry go, they’ll never get the names of the boys who were really responsible. He determines to press charges unless Harry turns in his fellow vandals.

With the warehouse owner gone, the sergeant engages in an internal monologue on the subject of interrogation techniques. Should he threaten Harry, scaring him into turning in his compatriots and possibly making him hate authority for the rest of his life? Or should he just let him know the potential consequences and let nature take its course? He decides to do the latter. Harry’s internal monologue regarding his options settles on “not ratting out my friends,” and he refuses to talk.

Harry’s priest shows up to take him home—to the priest’s home, that is—where he offers to let the boy sleep on the couch. He leaves the room, asking, “Is it right to hide a lawbreaker from justice?” Harry stares morosely into the darkness while the narrator goes over the choices made by each of the characters one more time, and then asks us what we would have done.

Thoughts:

Just wait.  She's only going to hold this pose another twenty minutes.For a short that’s supposedly about ethical dilemmas, I didn’t really see all that many of them. Starting with the watchman, why shouldn’t he do the job he’s paid to do? No one’s going to take Harry out back and shoot him if his crime is discovered. Worst case scenario is a fine and maybe probation. Same with the mom’s internal struggle. Why would hiding him from the law even be an option? Aside from my prior and still entirely valid objection, there would be the following consequences if she tried to hide him: a) she’d be teaching him that lying and vandalism are okay, and b) they’d catch him eventually anyway. The warehouse owner is entirely within his rights to demand that the real gang be brought to justice, especially in light of the revelation that this is not an isolated incident. Who is Harry to refuse to turn them in? Why would it be acceptable to let him think that protecting criminals, even juvenile ones, is okay? I guess I can see the sergeant’s dilemma. Lean on him a little for his own good, or just make sure he knows the consequences? Both approaches have their pros and cons, and I could have supported either decision.

As for Harry, I’d be thinking about his priest’s question if I were him. “Is it right to hide a lawbreaker from justice?” No, it’s not, you stupid little patsy. Your so-called “friends” just hung you out to dry. You’re a fall guy, a stooge. There is no earthly reason to hide their identities from the authorities. Once again, the worst thing that can happen to them is a fine and probation. The worst thing that can happen to Harry is that they won’t be his friends any more. All things considered, that probably wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Mike, Bill and Kevin are on hand to get us through this surprisingly effective and funny little short, making particular mention of the interminable amounts of time the characters spend staring off into the distance. Also amusing are Kevin’s response to the charge of vandalism, “[You mean] those railings we loosened at the nursing home?” and to Harry’s protests that it wasn’t him, “It was the one-armed kid!” Near the end, when the narrator asks us what we would have done, Bill's last response sums up my thoughts on the subject, “I also would not have vandalized anything.”

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Up and In

How will ancient orthodontia protect you in the workplace?Welcome, won't you?

Tired of having too many chinks and cracks in your summer entertainment schedule? Little ten-to-fifteen minute blocks of time in which you just twiddle your thumbs while waiting for your latest internet purchase to download? Well, look no further. The folks at Rifftrax have promised us two shorts a week for all of July, including the partial weeks. That's ten shorts total.

Today's offering is called Down and Out, and since the aging flash player on my current computer isn't capable of displaying the sample, I have no idea what it's about. Apparently, it's a safety short of some kind. Get it here for $0.99. Expect a review within the next couple of days.

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