Ampersand Enhanced

Starring Mike Unleaded, Bill Propane and Kevin Gas/Oil MixtureWelcome, won't you?

What kind of filmmaker comes back eight years later and makes a fourth film that's the first film with the articles stripped out? I don't think I want to know. On August 6, 2009, I'm going to find out anyway, when Mike, Kevin and Bill dip their toes back into the dubious waters of Vin Diesel with a Rifftrax Commentary for Fast & Furious*.


*Not to be confused with the 2001 film of the (almost) same title.

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Batman For Far Too Long

Somewhere between the eccentricity of Michael Keaton and the head-bobbing smarm of George Clooney, you will find the blandness of Val Kilmer.Welcome, won't you?

The Rifftrax Presents commentary for Batman Forever is scheduled for release sometime today. You'll have to keep checking the Rifftrax site to see when it comes out, 'cause I'm spending half the day in mandatory training and the other half at the fair. Which means That Guy with the Glasses has to wait until next week at least before I find time to add him to the Rifftrax Dramatis Personae.

Also, here's my review for the amusing but kind of pointless Wing, Claw and Fang, the short film that dares to ask, "Can we film a raven doing something every member of its species does by instinct and claim that we trained it to do that?" The answer, in case you're wondering, is "yes".

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Shouting "Fire" in a Crowded Theater

Fire!  Fire!Welcome, won't you?

I creep just a little further up on my backlog with this review for The Bill of Rights in Action, an educational film that uses the First Amendment to defend some of the most toxic hate speech of the twentieth century. It's thought-provoking, but not all that funny.

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RVOD073 The Tale of Moose Baby

(1960s-ish?, Educational-Short, color)


Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett

Moose Baby, again, was hideously ugly. We think you’ll agree.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

Moose Baby watches nature and, um, not much else.


Wasn't he part of Dillinger's gang?Moose Baby was apparently born during the initial moments of this short film. You know, when screen stayed dark and silent for the first ten seconds or so. Then a green-filtered wilderness pops up with the narrator in mid-sentence while Moose Baby wobbles around “like a wet rat on stilts” (Mike’s words). Our eponymous woodland friend observes his fellow nature-dwellers while learning to forage.

Winter comes. Moose Baby grows while the few fellow nature-dwellers remaining either fall through thin ice to perish horribly, or grow into hungry predators that thirst for Moose Baby’s blood. Everybody’s antlers fall off and grow back in the spring. Repeat a couple more years, and now Moose Baby should probably change his name to Moose Adult.


Between the lack of title and credits, the intermittent sound and the odd, Zen-like pointlessness, it’s tough to tell if The Tale of Moose Baby is unfinished or the work of shy incompetents. (Granted, there’s no reason it can’t be both, but I’m trying to be generous.) I sense a park service behind it, somehow. The barely coherent nature factoids repeatedly circling the seasons give it a dreamy, recursive feeling—interesting enough to make you want to leave the ranger station it’s playing in to go out and look at actual nature, but not interesting enough to make you want to stay and see how it ends. Either that or it’s for stoners by stoners, because that baby moose is, like, so totally deep and true to life, man.

A sampling of the commentary: As the narrator goes over the other animals Baby Moose meets on his first day out of the womb, he skips over a few with alarming quickness while Kevin notes, “He saw a bird for about two tenths of a second.” When the narrator rather strangely emphasizes that beavers build ponds “for their own use” Bill clarifies, “Beavers are anti-Semitic.” As the short film pieces together episodes of Moose Baby’s life beyond the year mark, Mike speculates, “Two crew members committed suicide rather than continue filming the damn moose.” If ever there was a short designed to alter the viewer’s consciousness, this is the one. Mike, Bill and Kevin chime just enough to keep it interesting.

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Wing, Claw and Fang Forever

What do you do when a lion tries to hump your leg?Welcome, won't you?

Two more items for the day.

1) In keeping with their current policy of "Making sure Skenderberg remains at least two reviews behind at all times", Rifftrax has released another short. Trained animals of the forties debase themselves for our entertainment in Wing, Claw and Fang. Going by the year of its production, I would hazard a guess that it includes enough animal cruelty to give even legitimate animal rights groups collective apoplexy. Grab it here.

2) The winner of the Rifftrax Presents Contest That Guy With The Glasses has finally delivered the goods. On July 30, 2009 we delve back into the depths of Joel Schumaker's unholy vision with a commentary for Batman Forever.

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That I-35 Is Soooo Dreamy...

Warning: contains demons and sports metaphors.(Welcome, won't you?

Highway Mania is a curious affiction that makes you wrap your head in bandages and dribble while cackling maniacally. And driving, of course. Driving badly, I shouldn't need to add. How badly? Well, at least six accidents per minute ought to do it, though twenty is preferable. Make sure you switch narrators every five minutes or so, too.

Review here.

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Dispatches From the Front

The great eye sees all!Welcome, won't you?

Limited time and funds prevent me from attending every event where the Rifftrax/Cinematic Titanic folk make an appearance. Thankfully, this is not true for everyone. Mr. E.P. Haury, for instance, was on hand for the Rifftrax Panel at Comic Con this year, and wrote in to tell me about it. With his permission, I have posted the text of his email in the Event Reports section.

Long story short: A riff for Dragon Wars is coming soon. That's right, Mike, Bill and Kevin have promised to take on a Korean film that consists of CGI dragons nested in raw, unfiltered nonsense. Good luck, men.

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Ba-dow, Ba-da-dow, Dow! (Reprise)

It's sort of a safety film/Gallagher routine, where they smash people instead of watermelons.Welcome, won't you?

The most recent short is one you've already seen if you purchased The Best of Rifftrax Shorts Volume One, and one you've already read about if you haven't. It's fun, memorable, and kind of grisly. If you think you can handle that (and haven't already purchased it in DVD form) then head on down and Shake Hands With Danger.

P.S.: Please note that the VOD version does not include the CGI of the DVD version. Trust me, this is a good thing.

P.P.S: Ba-dow, ba-da-dow, dow!

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El Hombre Corriendo

Grim determination--Ahnuld's only facial expression.Welcome, won't you?

I'm finally catching up. With the feature-length films, anyway. (Hey it's not my fault I was already behind when they decided to bury us in shorts again. Oh, wait. I guess it is.) Please enjoy Blame Society's Rifftrax Presents commentary for The Running Man, in which Arnold Schwarzenneger gains phenomenal superpowers after he's bitten by a radioactive runner. Review here.

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Plaid Kittens and Other Fashion Travesties

If the girls have to wear plaid, do the boys have to wear anti-plaid?Welcome, won't you?

It's time to go back to school in the fifties, which, for women at least, means picking out the heavy wool garment you like best. Failure to choose plaid will be punished severely. Check out my review of Back to School with Joan Miller.

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Back in Action with the Bill of Rights!

Hey, that guy doesn't look like Stallone!Welcome, won't you?

Having delved into the internet to discover the exact combination of keys required to tell my ISP's server cache that it is a moron (Ctrl+F5, in case you're interested), I am now able to post images and links again. Check out the newly refurbished Red Dawn review, and maybe the just-updated Rifftrax cast page as well.

Also, Rifftrax continues its efforts to make sure I remain hopelessly behind on my reviews by releasing another short. This time it's The Bill of Rights in Action. I'm hoping for Sylvester Stallone as the Bill of Rights, ruthlessly gunning down all who dare to speak out against him. Pick it up here.

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Just So You Don't Think I'm Ignoring You...

Welcome, won't you?

My review of the Red Dawn Rifftrax has been posted. If my browser ever gets on speaking terms with Blogger again, I'll post links and images to go with it.

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RP015 Batman Forever

(1995, Action-Superhero, color)


Doug Walker, Brian Heinz and Rob Walker

When did Tommy Lee Jones decide to out-overact Jim Carrey?

Rating: **1/2

In a Nutshell:

Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey ham it up; sometimes Batman appears too.


Starring Val Kilmer as no one particularly interesting.Bifurcated villain Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones) holds Gotham City hostage because... um... Well, there’s this flying bank safe suspended above the crowd with Batman (Val Kilmer) inside, which causes Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) some concern, while making criminal psychologist Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) really, really horny.

Several confusing and irrelevant scenes later, Two Face takes a circus hostage because... uh... Well, he’s got this bomb, but a family of acrobats dies to get rid of it. Batman alter ego Bruce Wayne feels guilty that they sacrificed themselves to do his dirty work, so he adopts the only surviving acrobat (Chris O’Donnell as Dick Grayson) even though they’re roughly the same age.

Mixed in we get scenes of disgruntled ex-Bruce Wayne employee Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey) and his gradual descent into madness... Okay, I can’t type that with a straight face. It’s more like a precipitous drop into somewhat increased madness, as he murders his supervisor to pursue independent development of his invention: a mind-reading blender that projects 3D fish. Raising capital for development of “The Box” (as he calls his cone-shaped contraption) involves calling himself The Riddler, donning a green costume and teaming up with Two Face to rob banks and jewelry stores.

Starring Jim Carrey as himself.Eventually “The Box” somehow helps Riddler and Two Face discover Batman’s true identity. They break into Wayne Manor and kidnap Chase, who’s been hanging around all this time getting increasingly horny. They don’t kidnap or kill Bruce/Batman though, because... er... Well, this is when Dick becomes a masked crime-fighter called Robin, and joins Batman to infiltrate a moving blender-shaped island filled with deep, pointy shafts and question mark spotlights. Two Face falls to his death. Riddler goes completely over the edge—which I thought he had already done to get to this point, but I guess the filmmakers were holding another edge in reserve just so that he could go over it. Anyway, he’s committed to Arkham Asylum, where he forgets that he ever knew about the Batman/Bruce Wayne thing. Robin becomes Batman’s official partner, while, as far as I can tell, poor horny Chase’s wild longings continue to go unfulfilled.


Does that summary make any sense at all? If so, then I have failed you. Batman Forever is a nonsensical barrage of color and ham that I could only accurately summarize by entering a poorly lit room to throw rainbow-colored paint on Jim Carrey. Looking back at this film, we can reflect on how all of us, every last member of the movie-watching public, must bear some of the blame for its apocalyptically bad sequel. Most of what makes Batman and Robin legendary—the awful camp, the preschool-level screenplay laced with near-explicit innuendo, the Blade Runner set reimagined as a homoerotic fantasyland—had already been inflicted on us by Batman Forever. Yes, Batman Forever is only one pun-spouting Austrian demi-human and a handful of rubber-coated genitals away from thorough and absolute Batman-themed degradation. We should have seen it coming. We should have said “no”.

Starring Tommy Lee Jones as Jim Carrey.While the lack of Schwarzenegger and batsuit nipples automatically makes this movie better by omission, Batman Forever does manage to do something right* in the casting of its villains. ‘Cause if your goal is to make a Batman movie that’s over-the-top camp, you can’t do better than Jim Carrey. Of the rest of the cast, the only person who matches his energy is Tommy Lee Jones, who apparently realized that the only way to make this material work was to impersonate Jim Carrey. (Mr. Jones is a highly talented actor, so it’s a frighteningly accurate impersonation.) If you’re a fan of Mr. Carrey’s usual shtick, you’re in luck—this is a Jim Carrey movie; you’ll probably enjoy it. But if you’re like me and Jim Carrey’s usual shtick makes you want to die, well, Batman Forever features Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey doing Mr. Carrey’s usual shtick simultaneously, so Batman Forever will probably make you want to die twice.

That Guy With The Glasses (a.k.a. Doug Walker) takes on this movie with his riffing companions Brian Heinz and Rob Walker. Here’s a sample of the commentary, once again with the caveat that I am not familiar with their voices and thus cannot accurately tell you who says what: Regarding Gotham City’s new, ahem, “design”, “Vegas, only not as tasteful.” Regarding Two Face’s manic demeanor, “Put on a happy face! Or two!” Regarding Robin’s costume, “He looks like a gay ladybug.” There are plenty of quotable lines doing their darnedest to poke fun at a horrible, mockable film, but somehow the whole thing doesn’t quite gel into a cohesive experience. I think it might have to do with the zany tone Mr. Walker adopts throughout. Most riffers thrive on sardonic detachment with occasional lapses into madness. Still, I give the team at That Guy full marks for trying something new. “Zany” might even have worked on a grimmer film—say, Batman Begins—but Batman Forever is already reaching for “zany”, and it’s reaching much, much harder than they are. You just can’t beat Carrey at his own game, unless you’re Tommy Lee Jones.


*To clarify: by “right”, I mean “internally consistent”.

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RVOD072 Wing, Claw and Fang

(1946, Educational-ish?/Short, b&w)


Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett

Hi folks! Hope you’re enjoying my misery and humiliation.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

Trained animals can be funny to watch.


Wing-Claw and Fang!  They're cops!A cat drinks directly from a cow’s udder. A dog chases her away and begs the dairyman to squirt milk into his bowl. Then he herds the cow into her pasture and latches the gate behind her. A raven steals hen’s eggs and then writes a rough approximation of his name with a typewriter. A penguin descends a staircase to beg for sardines. A lion carries baskets and pretends to maul his trainer. Um... good for them? I guess?


Not really much of a point to this one. Just funny animals doing funny things, because... because... because they can, I guess. I suppose it’s as good a reason as any. Of note: The raven’s name is Jimmy, which, as far as I can tell, is not at all racist. Nope. Not one bit.

Cough up the fish or I'll take a nip at the 'little butcher', if you know what I mean.Just because a short doesn’t have any kind of point doesn’t mean Mike, Bill and Kevin can’t make fun of it. When the narrator calls Jimmy the Raven’s nest-raiding ways “mischievous”, Mike replies, “Devouring the unborn. How mischievous.” When the narrator declares that Jimmy wants to do everything that his trainer does, Bill wants to know, “Jimmy wants to eat TV dinners in his underwear?” At the end, Kevin takes a guess at the short’s theme with, “God filled the earth with animals so that he could humiliate them.” By itself, the short’s a bemusing little head-scratcher, but the riffers keep it reasonably funny, mainly by reminding us of the participants’ wounded dignity.

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Swayze Mania

I guess thoroughfares of the past were mentally disturbed.Welcome, won't you?

Two things today:

1) Looks like the Rifftrax boys are back into their "Two Shorts per Week" mode, 'cause we've got a new release called Highway Mania. This one looks pretty weird, by which I mean "promising". Grab it here.

2) The first of the make-up reviews have been posted. Here's my review of Ghost, the dumb but reasonably competent 1990 romance starring Mr. Dirty Dancer, Miss Cradle Robber and Miss Center Square. More reviews to come next week.

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Rifftrax Semi-Live!

Onward, to do-over number three!Welcome, won't you?

Rifftrax continues to spread its tentacles across the globe with another attempt at an online live show. Rather than risk melting their servers again, they've decided on a new method: i.e. perform at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, Tennessee with a host of special guest stars in front of a live audience while Fathom Entertainment simultaneously broadcasts that performance to more than four hundred other theaters across the United States.

The movie will be Plan 9 From Outer Space (performed with a reworked riffing script, I'm told). A previously unriffed short is on the menu as well. The date is Thursday, August 20, 2009, with the time varying depending on your location. For more details, or to purchase tickets, click here. I'll watching the slightly tape-delayed west coast version from the San Raphael Regency 6.

In other news, I've seen both Ghost and Red Dawn now, and I'm about halfway through a review of the former. Hopefully I'll be able to have it up tomorrow. I'll be seeing the Running Man and Back to School with Joan Miller riffs over the weekend.

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But... But It's Summer Vacation

With who?Welcome, won't you?

Summer or no, though, it's time to return to educational drudgery with Rifftrax's newest short, Back to School with Joan Miller. Which is kind of relief, actually. At at first glance, I thought it said Back to School with Joan Rivers, conjuring mental images of pop quiz/wedgie/red carpet horror, narrated in gravel-voiced falsetto. Grab it here.

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RVOD071 Shake Hands With Danger (VOD Version)

A Video On Demand re-release of a short that was originally exclusive to the first Best of Rifftrax Shorts DVD, reviewed here.

Note: The VOD version does not contain the disturbing CGI avatars of the DVD version.

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Comic-Con Rifftrax Panel, July 25, 2009 (by guest correspondent E.P. Haury)

The great eye sees all!As much as I might wish things were otherwise, I don't have the funds or free time available to attend events further away than San Francisco. Thankfully, reader E.P. Haury managed to to attend the Rifftrax Panel at Comic-Con 2009, and reported the following:

I’m in San Diego for the big convention, and earlier today I attended the Rifftrax panel. Instead of Q&A, they did a live riff (Shake Hands with Danger, again) and then had a competition to suggest what they would riff sorta next. (Not inherently the next riff, but pretty soon.)

Each person who went up to the microphone was given 30 seconds to make their case.

I suggested “Speed Racer,” and for my efforts was told to “Go to Hell” by Mike (having taken some time to consider the advice, I have chosen not to follow it) and was given as a gift Mike’s allegedly precious copy of the German film “Liane Jungle Goddess.” I was awarded this for my enthusiasm in making my case. The crazy tracks, the names, the live monkey, John Goodman (who they made fun of in films he wasn’t even in), I didn’t have time to mention the guy from Lost or the editing style. Basically, I thought there were so many things to make riffs about. Kevin interpreted my argument as code for saying “Christina Ricci is hot,” which I would argue isn’t true. (The idea that that was what I was saying; I make no comment here as to the accuracy of Kevin’s statement.)

Several others were given other prizes for notable arguments. One fellow suggested they riff “Troll 2,” and they demanded a reward from him for already having done it. He’d not known that. Anyway, after about 20-30 suggestions, the boys narrowed it down to a few for the audience to choose from. The final selection was “Dragon Wars,” a low-budget Korean film set in Los Angeles.

Some links:
About Dragon Wars: http://www.dvdcult.com/BR_DWars.htm
Another review: http://www.deadregime.com/2009/03/awesomely-bad-dragon-wars.html
Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D-War
Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Wars-D-War-Amanda-Brooks/dp/B000YDOOEQ

Anyway, “Dragon Wars” is coming up. And don’t expect them to do “Speed Racer,” even though I still think they should. Just thought you might like to know.

Skenderberg again: When I asked Mr. Haury for permission to post the text of his email, he agreed and provided additional details as follows:

—While I was part of the long line for the Rifftrax panel -- actually for the panel before the Rifftrax panel; that the way to ensure one makes it into the panels one wants to at this convention -- suddenly Mike and Bridget walked past us. It sort of stunned us, as we weren’t expecting it. A few seconds later, Kevin and Bill followed them and gave out willing high fives. I called out after them asking if that was the entire panel. I got no response, but thankfully the answer was no.

—The panel was hosted by a woman named Veronica Belmont (host of Tekzilla on Revision3 and Qore on the PlayStation Network), and she confessed before the guys appeared to having a “fangirl moment” about this panel. She gave enthusiastic support for their riffing Dragon Wars, when it was first suggested, saying that she’d seen it and that their riff of it would sell more copies than it did on it own. (Apparently, it was a blockbuster in Korea, but we’ll assume she was speaking of the North American Market) She may have been a major factor in getting “Dragon Wars” to the finals.

—At the end, the choice was between “Dragon Wars” and “Highlander 2.” Whenever someone said “Highlander 2,” he added “The Quickening.” After Mike determined that “Dragon Wars” had won, Bill said “Dragon Wars: The Quickening.”

—Before the boys showed up, the convention showed a collection of clips from several different Rifftrax, including Twilight (carrying her up the hill), The Phantom Menace (Sand People shooting at pod racers), Planet of Dinosaurs (“Everybody splay”), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Philosopher’s Stone (owls in Diagon Alley), and the Star Wars Holiday Special (Lumpy opening his present).

—The long list of suggestions is a bit of a blur for me now. But I can remember:

*The Shawshank Redemption (first suggestion)
*Commando (with Schwarzenegger)
*The Duchess (a Keira Knightley historical drama)
*MST3K—The Movie (led to pointed questions about why this was worthy of being riffed and concerns about excessive meta-commentary. Would this riff riffed later be riffed?)
*Manos—The Hands of Fate (similar questions about meta-commentary. But if Joel can re-riff Santa Claus vs. the Martians...)
*Footloose (led to the boys getting people to clap to the song)
*Alone in the Dark (Mike didn’t think there were enough copies in existence.)
*Starcrash (an Italian 70s Star Wars rip-off with an appearance by David Hasselhoff)

There was also at least one Stallone movie, a film with Raymond Burr, and a few other Asian films, including one Samurai movie.

Skenderberg again: Dragon Wars, huh? I dunno about that one. The best riffing generally needs some sort of fertile soil to take root in. You know, something to make fun of. By most accounts, Dragon Wars makes no sense whatsowhoever, and the guys have struggled in the past while attempting to riff films that amount to unstructured nonsense.

That said, I vastly prefer it to the ugly mess that is Highlander 2, so given the choices, this is probably the best-case scenario. Bring on the D-Wars!

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We Now Return to Your Regularly Scheduled Program

Not yet coming to a game store shelf near you. Welcome, won't you?

I gots three movie/commentaries to watch/review this week, in addition to all the regular work that piled up while I was gone. Time to buckle down. Barring accident or injury, I'll be watching Janet Varney and Cole Stratton's take on Ghost tonight.

I the meantime I've discovered a couple of uninformative (and strangely backdated) new news posts at the Darkstar site. The only real bit of information in there has to be inferred from their CEO's off-hand statement that the companies they met with at E3 have already "spent their 2009 money." Translation: No Darkstar this year either.

Reviews of my Rifftrax backlog to come.

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The Runninator

I vill teah yuah puny state into tiny pieces und jump up und down on dem!Welcome, won't you?

Almost done with vacation. Got from Montana to Colorado. Now I've just got to get from Colorado to California by Sunday. Next week, I'll have three Rifftrax to catch up with, including the one released yesterday, Running Man. Grab it here.

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The Baker of Butchersfield... or Something

I vill teah yuah puny state into tiny pieces und jump up und down on dem!Welcome, won't you?

More novelty governors than you can shake a stick at in next week's Rifftrax Presents release. On July 9, 2009, we'll get Blame Society's take on another Schwarzenegger classic, Running Man.

Okay, back to vacation again.

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Rifftrax Video On Demand 061 to 070

RVOD061 Cooking Terms and What They Mean

RVOD062 What About Juvenile Delinquency?

RVOD063 Snap Out Of It!

RVOD064 Toward Emotional Maturity

RVOD065 Planet of Dinosaurs

RVOD066 Alcohol Trigger Films

RVOD067 Voodoo Man

RVOD068 Back to School With Joan Miller

RVOD069 Highway Mania

RVOD070 The Bill of Rights in Action

Just a couple full-length films in this stretch, including the tedious yet flavorful (and hairy and polyester-clad) Planet of Dinosaurs, a film notable for containing almost no dinosaurs whatsoever. Also, Voodoo Man, a veritable smorgasbord of wretched B-picture stars. The rest is shorts, my favorite being the hilariously remedial Cooking Terms and What They Mean.

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RVOD070 The Bill of Rights in Action

(1968, Educational/Short, color)


Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett

Isn’t there a middle ground where we get to pound his ‘nads?

Rating: **

In a Nutshell:

Are Neo-Nazis allowed to make hate speeches in front of synagogues?


So, the Bill of Rights encourages white supremacists?A man walks up to a synagogue, puts on a swastika armband, and starts calling out to passers by in praise of Adolf Hitler, while advocating the extermination of the old, the infirm, the mentally disabled, and (of course) the Jews. The crowd is havin’ none of it, and soon the hate-filled interlocutor is overcome by a mob of angry old ladies. Casualties are assessed, charges filed, and a sentence handed down.

Nazi Man appeals. The first amendment, he maintains, affords him the right to stand in whatever public place he chooses and shout as much hate as he damn well pleases. His lawyer stands up in court to state that, while he personally finds his client’s opinions repugnant, Nazi Man ought to be allowed the opportunity to express them. An attorney for the prosecution rebuts with the argument that we do not allow perverts to stand outside schoolyards and shout obscenities at children, so why does this guy get to stand outside a synagogue and preach hate about Jews?

The narrator takes us out of the film with a version of the classic, “What do you, the audience at home, think?”


When the groovy bongos started up at the beginning, I was all set to dismiss this short as ludicrous sixties cheese. Then Nazi Man started preaching, and I started wondering what kind of educational film would give such a free and unrestrained forum to racism in one of its most toxic and persuasive forms. Then there was the mini-riot, the sentencing and the subsequent appeal where it actually got... thought-provoking. And I thought, “This is an educational film? Why isn’t the point maddeningly obscure or stupefyingly obvious?” I guess there’s no pleasing some people. And by “people” I mean “me”.

For the record, I think Nazi Man’s sentence ought to stand. I admit that the defense has a valid point. I agree that Nazi Man has the right to possess reprehensible world views, write pamphlets and books detailing his crackpot theories about the superiority of his race, and hold organized meetings with like-minded psychos in private, or even in public so long as he respects the local ordinances pertaining to such meetings. Nazi Man wasn’t arrested for doing any of those things. He was arrested because he stood in front of a synagogue and preached that everyone who worships there deserves to die. That’s as close to a direct threat as you can get without waving a gun and screaming, “I want to shoot the rabbi!” If a guy ever stands in front of my driveway and starts shouting, “This house deserves to be robbed!” I want the cops to arrest him before he talks someone into it.

Sadly, “thought-provoking” doesn’t translate into “funny” very well, and neither does “hate”. Mike, Bill and Kevin have a go at it anyway, though. As the narrator goes on about the individual’s right to free speech, Bill wants to know, “How do we get Man-Cow to shut up?” When Nazi Man wanders past, Kevin observes, “This guy exudes ‘Lone Gunman’”. As a child hides his face in his mother’s blouse during the speech of hate, Mike cries, “Mommy, his analogies are weak and stilted!” It’s a simple, effective short that, unfortunately, doesn’t much lend itself to mockery.

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RVOD069 Highway Mania

(1946-ish, Educational/Short, b&w)


Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett

Never cross [the street] without a month’s supply of food and water and at least three guns.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:

People were horrible drivers in the forties.


Warning: contains demons and sports metaphors.A band leader named “Kaiser” wants to cross the road, but there’s too much traffic, and he refuses to walk ten feet to the crosswalk. A narrator goes on about this at length, then shows us footage of people getting hit by cars, people getting narrowly missed by cars, kids getting rushed to the hospital via ambulance after getting hit by cars, cars crashing into telephone poles while trying to avoid pedestrians...

But accidents aren’t always the pedestrians’ fault. Motorists have a tendency to double-park across the roadway, pass on the shoulder, swerve into oncoming traffic, ignore lights, etc. Another narrator goes on about how we don’t tolerate cheaters in sports, so why is it acceptable in the roadway? Still a third narrator (or maybe the first one again) shows us a bandaged maniac behind the wheel of a car, giggling madly as he runs down pedestrians, smashes other cars and gets demolished by trains. (I’m not sure, but I think he’s meant to be the Patron Demon of Bad Driving, ascended to earth to wreak havoc on motorists everywhere.) Cycle through variations on this montage a couple of times. Now finish with Mr. Kaiser, who still can’t cross the street.


Yes, it’s a jumbled mess of a short, but it’s fun. It’s rapid fire, that’s for sure, and to judge by the multiple narrators, it’s probably stitched together from the bones of several prior shorts. It’s got a strident, condescending tone to it that adds to the weirdness factor as well. Basically, viewers who practice bad driving are unpatriotic, unwholesome and just plain stupid. So buckle up and slow down, ya empty-headed morons!

The unrelenting chaos on screen keeps it moving, but Mike, Bill and Kevin deserve credit for keeping it interesting. When the title card announces “Highway Mania”, Mike fondly remembers, “When girls would scream themselves hoarse over the I-35 out of Wichita, Kansas.” When the muffled narration has problems getting off the ground, Bill speculates, “The narrator’s buried in a refrigerator box under six feet of fill dirt.” When an injured boy’s dog comes to visit him in the hospital after an accident, Kevin says, “I was going to warn you like Lassie, but I found a rotting gopher carcass.” They manage to push the whole thing right to the edge between “hilarious” and “truly insane”, and keep it balanced there all the way through.

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Red Dawn is Out

What you lookin' at, bub?Welcome, won't you?

Pick it up here. Now back to my vacation.

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