9/30/09

The D-War to End All D-Wars

Dragon Wars is friend to all children.Welcome, won't you?

Looks like Mike, Kevin and Bill are making good on their Comic-Con promise to riff Dragon Wars: D-War, a nonsensical Korean fantasy that seamlessly combines CGI dragons with non sequitur crap. Not coincidentally, the DVD is cheaper to buy than rent, though you'll have to live with its continued presence on your shelf forever after if you go that route. Netflix customers can stream a copy of the film for no extra cost. It's due out next Monday, October 5, 2009.

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9/29/09

Mister Anderson

The Matrix films are social commentaries on a grand scale touching on many important modern philosophical, um, touchstones regarding the nature of belief, rationalization, free will, predestination, cookies, graphic sex and aimless violence.Welcome, won't you?

The Rifftrax for The Matrix Revolutions has been released. Pick it up now. Lacking the requisite thirty-eight consecutive hours to watch this all in one sitting... Well, okay, it's only two hours long, but I have a severely limited appetite for tedious metaphysics and aimless digital kung fu. In an effort to minimize my exasperation with the film (and, conversely, maximize my enjoyment of the riffers), I'll probably be seeing it in bite-sized chunks over the next two or three nights. Review to come in a few days.

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RVOD084 American Thrift, Part 1

(1962, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy and Veronica Belmont

I think I can get another day out of this corn dog.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

Women are penny-pinching killjoys.

Summary:

The Fast and The Furious: American ThdriftWe begin with a statue of Abraham Lincoln solemnly regarding a crowd of tourists. The tourists solemnly regard him back. No attempt is made by anyone to connect this scene with the subsequent short.

Now the narrator announces a “Tribute to the American Woman”, going on to state that the woman of the house is the one who wields final and absolute authority over domestic finances. To this end, she divides money into envelopes, buys the cheapest food she can find, and generally refuses all requests for frivolous expenditures. You know, for such non-essentials as recreational activities, domesticated animals, canned octopus and pants.

Thoughts:

Pantlessness ensues.She also refuses to speak, though she moves her lips a great deal. This is true of all family members, including Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Other Brother, Other Other Brother, Other Other Other Brother, Other Other Other Other Brother and Other (x5) Brother, otherwise known as the Pantless Little Ball of Rage. It can’t properly be called pantomime because the characters don’t do much besides mouth a script we can’t hear. Did they lose the original soundtrack? Was it horrible to listen to, and thus removed as an act of mercy? Did someone knock it into a lake, a la the soundtrack of its spiritual predecessor The Creeping Terror? Or is it merely a stylistic choice? A strange and inexplicable stylistic choice.

Of course, this is a perfect opportunity for the riffers to provide the dialog themselves. Bill gives the small girl an obsession with root vegetables, while Mike thinks she’s actually excited about an explosive badger. Guest riffer Veronica Belmont thinks she got a job to support the family, and gives the mother a dead-on mid-century accent while the riffers toy with this idea. Other good riffs include Kevin’s Jimi Hendrix impression, “American Thrift / Stay away from me!” Veronica responds to the narrator’s opening statements with, “As the American Woman, I welcome your tribute.” When the family leaves the pet shop to go to the pound, Mike says, “Evil-Looking Guy with Long Net, Proprietor.” When we first meet the goofy-looking smallest brother, Bill puts words in his mouth—“I cut my hair with a stapler.” Rifftrax don’t get female riffers very often, so it’s always a little jarring to hear a higher-pitched voice on the commentary, but Veronica acquits herself well among the guys. It’s a solidly funny little short.

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9/28/09

Tightly Regulated Sexy Pillowfights Not Depicted

The Devil had to go home out of embarrassment after showing up in the same outfit.Welcome, won't you?

I know there was other stuff in there but I can't over the part during Women in Blue when the narrator advised his female charges to get their government-issued marching shoes a size too big, to allow for swelling. In Mike's words, "The heels might have something to do with that." Depicts a simpler time, when the navy was desperate enough to actively recruit women, and when the women were patriotic enough to join the navy and be patronized. Review here.

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9/27/09

RVOD083 A Circus Wakes Up

(1950, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Babar loves his morning gin.

Rating: **

In a Nutshell:

Circus performers while they’re not performing.

Summary:

That zebra's a man, baby!Circus performers wake up, stretch, eat breakfast, feed the animals, do their laundry and watch each other practice their acts. Clowns put their make up on while two men climb into a zebra costume just before the big performance. Crowds pack the big top while the camera backs out, apparently afraid that the excitement of an actual show might give us all the vapors.

Thoughts:

Once again: circus performers while they’re not performing. It’s even less interesting than it sounds.

Mike, Bill and Kevin have a go at it anyway. We begin with the camera poking around backstage while the narrator declares, “we don’t need a ticket.” “Just a tetanus shot,” Kevin replies. When a shot scurries away from a performer at about knee height, Bill speculates, “The monkey got a hold of the camera here.” Mike takes a cheap but very funny shot at the clowns-putting-on-makeup scene with, “It’s not easy transforming into the world’s most terrifying vision of unspeakable evil.” The riffers do all right for their part, but the short isn’t entertaining enough to hold up its end, and the riffers don’t go far enough to hold up its end for it.

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9/25/09

Somewhere, There Are Blue-Clad Women

The Devil had to go home out of embarrassment after showing up in the same outfit.Welcome, won't you?

According to the latest email blast, there's a new Rifftrax short called Women in Blue. I haven't been able to pull up their site all day, but I'll take their word for it. Get it here, eventually.

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Only You Can Prevent Tommy Tucker's Death

The adventures of cartoon sheep boy.Welcome, won't you?

Tommy Tucker's back, and this time he's, uh, barking like a cartoon sheep? Strange but true. More talking and less of the weirdness that made the first half so entertaining, but it's still worth seeing. Here's my review for The Case of Tommy Tucker, Part 2.

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9/24/09

A Summary of the Cinematic Titanic Situation

Hey, Joel's standing in this one.Welcome, won't you?

Cinematic Titanic news is a bit rare these days, and informative Cinematic Titanic news even rarer, but the latest Email Club missive drops a couple more titles, and more titles are always worthy of note.

Coming up, er, whenever they get around to it, we ought to be seeing Samson and the Seven Miracles from that reliable font of really cheap fantasy, Italy. Also, from an even more prolific font of only slightly less cheap fantasy (Japan), War of the Insects. (Assuming, of course, that I have pinpointed the correct Imdb.com pages for those two films.) Still no word on when they'll be heading into the recording studio for these and the three films they've already been touring, but one of Mary Jo's most recent blog posts promises that this will be soon.

They'll be performing the two films mentioned above, along with Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks, on New Years Eve in Glenside, Pennsylvania. War of the Insects will also be performed in St. Louis November 21st, while Legacy of Blood, Alien Factor, East Meets Watts, Danger on Tiki Island and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians will be performed one at a time in Los Angeles over the course of October 25th to the 29th. Check out their tour page for details.

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9/23/09

Be Afraid; I Know I Am

The Matrix films are social commentaries on a grand scale touching on many important modern philosophical, um, touchstones regarding the nature of belief, rationalization, free will, predestination, cookies, graphic sex and aimless violence.Welcome, won't you?

Rifftrax will finish another trilogy next Tuesday when they jack back into the wordy, violent and utterly boring world of the Matrix. After the hour-long rave/orgy of the last entry, I vowed never to watch another Matrix film, but when they did Rifftrax for the first two, I knew it was a vow I'd eventually have to break. The Matrix Revolutions commentary drops on Tuesday, September 29, 2009.

Also, check out the Rifftrax blog for their treatment of a deleted scene. It's probably funny. I'll know for sure when I get to a place where the internet provider doesn't block streaming video.

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9/22/09

Sadly, Gnome Skulls Are Not Head Bones

Gnome skulls, here we come!Welcome, won't you?

Rifftrax has released Part 2 of The Case of Tommy Tucker, and I'm positively giddy at the prospect of even more ravening gnome skulls. Or, okay, I guess the gnome skulls in the first half never made it past "forlornly hanging around gnome skulls" stage, but I have a good feeling that the gnome skulls in this half might really work up a good ravening. Pick it up here.

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9/21/09

What It Means to Be a Body of Water

Yes, this is what it means to be an American.  Whatever this is.Welcome, won't you?

And now, my review for Part 2 of What it Means to Be an American, in which we learn... Well, I suppose I ought to let you find out yourselves. And please, let me know if you figure it out.

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9/18/09

What It Means to Be an American, The Next Generation

The Emerald City has lost some of its sheen.Welcome, won't you?

Out now, the thrilling conclusion to What It Means to Be an American. Dare we hope for more pointless narration of playground fights? Dare we?

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9/16/09

Delighted by His Own Death

Little Tommy Tucker / sang for his supper / what did we give him / nothing, he was terrible / I threw a scotch bottle at his head.Welcome, won't you?

And now, a modernized version of Little Tommy Tucker, updated to bring it in line with his depiction in The Case Of Tommy Tucker, Part 1. Yes, I'm aware it doesn't rhyme. If you like, you can imagine bongos playing in the background.

Little Tommy Tucker
Took over the town,
Made it an auto safety police state, but
Got killed by careless driving anyway.

What did we give him?
An afterlife filled with rent-a-cops
And papier mache demons.
Review here.

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9/15/09

RVOD082 Women in Blue

(1940s-ish, Newsreel/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Rosie the Riveter’s sister Doris the Deck-Swabber.

Rating: **1/2

In a Nutshell:


Women join the navy during World War II.

Summary:

The Devil had to go home out of embarrassment after showing up in the same outfit.The Great Man Shortage of World War II meant that women could join the navy in greater numbers. We see them sign up, tidy their barracks and do some sort of jazz dance ballet calisthenics before they get right down to the business of sitting around in class. They march in formation. Near the end, we actually get to see them work—code-breaking and machining mainly, though they also ratchet away on navy planes.

Thoughts:

Not much to say about this one, except that war is, indeed, an equalizer. It was a unique time in our nation’s history, when the navy needed able-bodied men enough to overlook the fact that some of them were women. We may snigger at it in retrospect, but women today probably wouldn’t have the opportunities they have now if their mothers and grandmothers hadn’t joined the armed forces to clean and type and march for miles in high heels.

A few of my favorite comments: When the narrator says, “Now they’re in the navy!” Kevin adds, “Well, technically.” When the narrator goes over all the minute rules for comportment and hygiene while the navy ladies clean and change in their barracks, Bill speculates, “Even sexy pillow fights are tightly regulated.” As the ladies stomp across the yard in their heels, Mike sings, “I don’t know, but I’ve been told / Quiet dear, the men are talking.” It’s a decent, solid short. Not special but not boring either.

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Part One, Volume Two

Actually, the product page says it's about a child who goes to hell, which is even worse.Welcome, won't you?

Rather than finish the riff for What It Means to Be an American, Rifftrax has pressed on to test new, equally unfinished waters. Here's the riff for The Case of Tommy Tucker, Part 1. I think Tommy Tucker is what all the kids used to drink back, uh, whenever this was made, so we're probably in for the (first half of a) sordid story about a sentient crate of specialty liquor. Pick it up here.

Also, I'm sure you've already heard about the passing of beloved film icon Patrick Swayze. I admit that I am not one of Mr. Swayze's biggest fans, but I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge his knack for turning ill-conceived movie ideas into hugely popular blocks of cinematic cheese. Seriously, Stallone wishes he had even one tenth of Swayze's ability to turn one-note trash into quirky, loveable gold.

More importantly (and the reason I bring it up on this site) Mike Nelson is a fan, having laced Swayzemania throughout his writings, including several Rifftrax and a certain episode of MST3K. If you're feeling Patrick's loss and need some rifftual healin', these are the episodes to watch:

MST3K 321 Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
R003 Road House
R011 Point Break
R087 Red Dawn
RP010 Dirty Dancing (Rifftrax Presents with Cole Stratton and Janet Varney)
RP013 Ghost (Ditto)

Rest in peace, Mr. Swayze.

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9/14/09

Rifftrax Video On Demand 071 to 080

RVOD071 Shake Hands With Danger (VOD Version)

RVOD072 Wing, Claw and Fang

RVOD073 The Tale of Moose Baby

RVOD074 Flying Stewardesses

RVOD075 Constance Bennett's Daily Beauty Rituals

RVOD076 Teenagers on Trial

RVOD077 Cork--Crashing and Curiosities

RVOD078 What It Means To Be An American, Part 1

RVOD079 The Case of Tommy Tucker, Part 1

RVOD080 What It Means to Be an American, Part 2

This section is notable for containing their first two-part films, basically overlong shorts that they cut in half so that they can charge us twice for them. I'm not against the practice, mind you. Ancient educational shorts aren't exactly compelling towers of narrative, so each half makes just as much sense as any complete short in the catalog. Of the two, the Case of Tommy Tucker is the more hilariously weird, but What It Means to Be an American has a rambling, non sequitur vibe that builds into hilarity towards the end. Of the others, my favorite is Cork--Crashes and Curiosities, because it marries a nonsensical, fast-paced narration of automobile racing to a lilting Irish brogue.

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American Kids Are the Scrappiest in the World

It means my country's kids can beat up your country's kids.Welcome, won't you?

What It Means to Be an American, Part 1 says a lot of things, but what it means to be an American isn't one of them. Maybe they'll get to that in part 2. Review here.

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9/11/09

Just In Time For the Week After Labor Day

Starring Bill Cosby!  (Not really).Welcome, won't you?

Yes, it's patriotism day down at Rifftrax, with a brand new short titled What It Means To Be An American, Part 1, the first in a series of unknown length. I think that in part six, America changes his name to Leonard. Pick it up here.

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9/10/09

Things With Wheels, Won't You?

Just look at all those corks.  Corks flyin' every which way.Welcome, won't you?

And here's the review for Cork—Crashes and Curiosities, a Rifftrax short that I can only describe as "delightful". If you haven't already, pick it up now.

Also, two more DVDs of Rifftrax shorts have been released. They contain nothing that hasn't already been released as a VOD, but you get a free button if you order both, a five dollar gift certificate if you order three DVDs, and a ten dollar gift certificate if you order five DVDs. If you haven't been getting these all along, or you just really want your shorts on DVD, then it's a great deal.

Also, also, in case you missed it the first time, August 20th's Rifftrax Live performance will rebroadcast to theaters everywhere on October 8, 2009.

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9/9/09

RVOD081 The Case of Tommy Tucker, Part 2

(1951, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

It’s the death cult I’ve always dreamed of.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

Tommy can’t return to earth until we all promise to drive more safely.

Summary:

Little Tommy Tucker / Had a shot at eternity and pussed out...We pick up where Part 1 left off, with the Safety Island gatekeeper eulogizing Tommy’s safety education efforts down on earth. Schoolchildren recite rules, auto dealers inspect cars and adult drivers attend safety films in droves. Tommy’s feeling pretty good about himself and is looking forward to a position of some influence among the Safety Island staff. Or he was, until he sneaked a peek through the earth telescope at his sobbing parents. He quickly changes his mind.

Gatekeeper and Rent-a-Cop God both turn on him. He can’t go back now! Why, otherwise good people sometimes turn into rubber-headed freaks of nature (i.e. Careless Gnome Skulls), but Tommy’s death has changed all that. His safety-based fame and grisly death have provided a gruesome object lesson that will frighten his friends and neighbors into driving safely for generations to come. If Tommy gets better, everyone will forget to be safe and, well, you might as well just throw the whole town into the wood chipper right now if that happens. Tommy barks out an impassioned speech promising to dedicate the rest of his life to automobile safety education, and his otherworldly captors relent.

Thoughts:


Apparently the prestigious afterlife job the Powers That Be want Tommy to perform involves haunting the American roadways. His spectral, disembodied head would grin down at the potentially unsafe, scaring them into proper automobile safety practices. Only you can prevent this hideous fate from befalling our departed hero, dear viewers! Drive! Drive as safely as you can. Drive to your safety utmost, because if you don’t, poor Tommy will never know peace.

Oh, and Tinkerbell will totally die if you stop clapping.

Mike, Bill and Kevin forgo a true synopsis of the previous entry in favor of a hilarious little skit about Tommy Tucker’s impending execution and a very angry severed head. Once the short gets off and running, the comments start flying. Kevin notes the footage of adults watching more footage with, “We interrupt this mind-numbingly dull safety film to bring you a mind-numbingly dull safety film.” When Rent-a-Cop God notes that the town is safer since Tommy’s accident, Mike goes on, “And if you had to be mangled horribly beyond recognition to achieve that, it’s a price we’re glad to pay.” As Tommy launches into his halting, pleading speech, Bill speculates, “Kid actually died choking on the scenery he’d been chewing.” This half is mostly speeches and exposition, so it’s not as funny as the supremely bizarre first entry, but it’s still reasonably funny and delightfully strange.

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So's Your Old Man!

Alternative title: Jailed Jailbait.Welcome, won't you?

Here's my review for the Rifftrax of Teenagers on Trial, the true crime short that seems to be squeamish about depicting crime. It's kind of dull, unfortunately.

Cork--Crashes and Curiosities, on the other hand, is delightfully bizarre and expertly riffed. I won't have a review up until tomorrow or the next day, but I highly recommend you pick it up in the meantime.

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9/8/09

Hot Bottle-Stopper Action!

Just look at all those corks.  Corks flyin' every which way.Welcome, won't you?

The dash in the title of Cork--Crashing and Curiosities is a bit too long to refer to something cool, like maybe wine bottle racing. I'm not giving up hope, though. It could be referring to wine bottle racing in the famous Irish county of Cork. Let's watch and find out, shall we?

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9/7/09

RVOD080 What It Means to Be an American, Part 2

(1952, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

The rest of the world eats dirt.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:


It means, um... What was the question?

Summary:

Being an American means that factories like this can argue with, um, tables on its head?  Or is it like a river?What It Means to Be an American, Part 2 picks up right where What It Means to Be an American, Part 1 left off—with fruit farming.

Yes, being an American still means that you are a surly fruit farmer, arguing with your field hands in front of your tender-aged children. Moving on, the representative sample of Americanhood also includes an African American construction foreman, a civic-minded gathering of gangly teenage boys, and several elongated bodies of water. Oh, and industry. Not a specific industry, just industry in general, which foreign nations are purported not to have.

America, won’t you?

Thoughts:

Being an American means something like this.  Whatever this is.If you thought Part 1 was stream-of-consciousness, then boy howdy, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Part 2 pauses briefly to finish its fruit farming thought (its stupid, irrelevant fruit-farming thought), then slips its moorings to drift gently and aimlessly down the river of incoherence. We’re just so darn lucky to be American! That foreman sure is black, isn’t he!! Look at that well-built roof!!! That kid can balance tables on his head!!!! Other countries don’t know what cars are!!!!! Hey look, water!!!!!!

Disembaudio starts us off on the commentary with, “Previously, on What It Means to Be an American,” after which Kevin does his best impression of Part 1 by taking a few seconds to run down a nonsensical list of places you might live if you are, in fact, American. With that out of the way, the short begins. When the narrator mentions an American’s right to attend any church he pleases, Bill adds, “Except the secret ones.” When he goes on about how people in some countries fear the police, Mike clarifies, “Countries like China and Louisiana.” When, after many, many false endings, the short finally winds down, Kevin summarizes, “Rivers, churches, badminton—this is what it means to be an American.” Part 2 is a bit shorter than part one, but it’s also weirder and faster paced. The riffers keep up with it nicely, making the latter half the funnier half.

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9/6/09

It's Our Fault That Teenagers Are Inherently Evil...

Forget it, Jake.  It's Teenertown.Welcome, won't you?

...at least, that's the message I get from the latest short, Teenagers on Trial. (Released Friday, while I was traveling to an impromptu Wedding about halfway across the country.) There doesn't seem to be much more to it than that--just raw, uncut alarmism. Enjoy! Review to come sometime after I get home, probably Tuesday.

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9/2/09

Mission Chimpossible

Uh... Spoiler warning?Welcome, won't you?

Okay, I've seen the Matthew Elliott riff for Planet of the Apes and, hey, it's pretty good. The movie's okay too, if by "okay" I mean "the most hilariously overwrought science fiction melodrama I've ever seen". (And to clarify, I do.) Review here.

Edit: Link fixed. Sorry.

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9/1/09

A Planet Where Riffs Evolved from Men?

Planet of the Apes will repopulate the earth, with Matthew Elliott's hot and eager help.Welcome, won't you?

Matthew Elliott riffs again with a Rifftrax Presents for one of the most quotable bad movies of all time, Planet of the Apes. It's a maaaaadhhhhoooouuusse! (Etc. and so on.) Available here. Review to come.

In case you were wondering, the riff goes with the 1968 Charleton Heston version.

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RVOD079 The Case of Tommy Tucker, Part 1

(1951, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

You do know this is hell, right?

Rating: ****

In a Nutshell:

Child safety guru Tommy Tucker might die. Hooray!

Summary:

Little Tommy Tucker / sang for his supper / what did we give him / nothing, he was terrible / I threw a scotch bottle at his head.Tommy Tucker’s parents attend his school play, a towering work of gripping drama that lasts approximately fifteen seconds. (If only my kids’ school plays were that short.) Shortly thereafter, they also attend the attempted surgical reconstruction of his chest cavity and major organs after a careless driver turns him into a lumpy human pancake.

Tommy either dies or hallucinates after they administer the general anesthesia. Either way, the afterlife he arrives in closely resembles his school play, in which a demonic army of papier mache-headed beast men (called “gnome skulls”—and that’s their hilarious misspelling, not mine) attempt to invade a haven of prudence and caution known as Safety Island.

The gatekeeper of Safety Island knows all about Tommy. This is because Tommy is something of a safety celebrity, having staged a bloodless coup in the mayor’s office and instituted a draconian police state of automobile safety regulations. The gatekeeper takes Tommy inside and explains this at length to the Power That Is (some sort of elderly, desk-driving security guard) while asking that Tommy be admitted to Safety Island early. You see, Tommy is still clinging to life down there on the operating table, but if Rent-a-Cop God will just sign here, Tommy’s pesky little lifespan will be over and he can help reorganize Safety Island into someplace really, you know, safe.

Fade to black. “Will Tommy continue to roast in safety hell?” says Disembaudio. “Tune in next time for part two of The Case of Tommy Tucker!”

Thoughts:

Everyone in town is devastated, but Tommy’s actually pretty cool with the situation. “Screw those losers down on earth,” he might be thinking. “These safety guys are totally worshiping me. If they let me in early, I could become a Safety God!” Or actually, no. I don’t think he’s thinking that. Judging by his nonchalant manner and the blank expression he usually wears, he’s probably not thinking much of anything at all. “Live or die, no big deal,” he more likely thinks. “Whatever you guys decide is okay.”

Not that we find out, as this is another lengthy short with only half a riffin’. The bit of Tommy Tucker shown here ends before we discover his ultimate fate, but what we do get is both incongruently lighthearted and outhouse rat insane, so I find it hard to care. It’s not like their complete shorts have cohesive, satisfying narratives either.

Mike, Bill and Kevin generally work pretty well with “insane”, but they outdo themselves here. When the animal-headed gnome skulls appear during the school play, Mike calls it, “Wicker Man, the musical”, while Kevin sings, “Not the bees! N-n-n-not the bees!” When the doctors administer the anesthesia, Mike says, “Oh, hello Mr. Octopus-Ballerina”, while Tommy’s broad smile upon entering the Safety Kingdom on High leads to Bill’s comment, “He’s utterly delighted by his death.” The appearance of the real gnome skulls after Tommy’s pseudo-death inspires the comments, “Join us in hell!” “Your soul is ours, Tommy!” and “There’s no light in the void!” (Mike, Kevin and Bill, respectively). Yes, I went way over my usual quote quota while reviewing this short. It’s that good.

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