American Thrift: The Next Generation

Stay away from meee-heee!Welcome, won't you?

Greetings all,

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am now taking an unplanned one-week break from reviewing. For those few dying of suspense, I can tell you that I have seen The Alien Factor, and fully half of it is people walking precariously across fields of snow. Thankfully, the other half is hilariously bad acting and deliciously cheesy monsters. So, while it's not the funniest Cinematic Titanic thus far, it's still an enjoyable experience. (I hope) I'll have a full review up next week sometime.

In the meantime, Rifftrax returns to the shorts game with the back end of American Thrift. Here's the review for Part 1, in case anyone's forgotten what it was about. My prior experience with these two-part riffs leads me to predict that American Thrift, Part 2 will make even less sense. Grab it here.

Of note: Part 1 featured guest riffer Veronica Belmont. Part 2 is just the guys.

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Stars Leemoid, Huggy Bear and Curly Joe

I think I'm standing in something.  (sniff)  Yeah, Baltimore.Welcome, won't you?

I'm a little slow at the trigger here, seeing as how this went live at EZTakes at nine p.m. last night, but the federal government has spent most of the day training me on how to follow their rules or retroactively pay the price if they ever decide what those are. Less confusingly: state agencies should follow the rules we think they might make at some point in the future, if we know what's good for us. In layman's terms: my brain is a pot of gray porridge right now. So, cut me a little slack is what I'm sayin'.

What am I sayin'? I'm sayin' that Cinematic Titanic's take on The Alien Factor is now available for download. Or, if you prefer your DVDs professionally pressed, the CT folks have got you covered there too. My download ought to be complete by the time I get home. Review to come.

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It's Harvey the Rabbit gone rogue!Welcome, won't you?

Here's my review of the Rifftrax for Paranormal Activity, the chilling tale of an imaginary friend gone bad. Also: sleeping. There's lots of it. Surprisingly, it's funnier than it sounds.

Confidential aside to Cinematic Titanic, RE: The Alien Factor trailer: You're pretty good at riffing credits, but next time you post a sample, you might want to skip ahead to the actual movie. It seemed to work pretty well for East Meets Watts. Just a thought.

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RVOD095 Call It Free, Part 2

(1950s-ish, Educational-Short, color)


Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

You have a well-packed shaft, sir.

Rating: **1/2

In a Nutshell:

Something about a cartoon demon in your radiator.


He's explaining how to do an automotive exorcism.Last time, as you remember, Ditzy Dame and Abusive Husband were on their way back to the service station to yell at the Avuncular Manager (also the narrator) for performing unwanted repairs. In the beginning of Part 2 Abusive Husband arrives at the station and starts to rant. Avuncular Manager talks him down with a lot of mechanical jargon, summoning a red-bosomed cartoon radiator demon named Captain Jinx. Ditzy Dame pipes up with some nonsense about buttons, after which the situation is somehow resolved.

In the recap, Avuncular Manager addresses the audience, reiterating his determination to “Call it free.”


Call what free, exactly? From the way he talks, it’s pretty clear that Avuncular Manager thinks we already know, but I’ve seen this thing all the way through a couple of times, and I’m still not sure. That present he’s waving around? The unsolicited mechanical advice? The true name of his obese carmine familiar? Hard to tell, really.

It’s kind of sad, because Part 1 looked like it was building up to be a useful little customer service short. If you look back at that that review, I speculated that it was working up to a “Be nice to your customers, even when they’re idiots” philosophy. Now that I’ve seen the ending, I realize that I should have been solving my customer service disputes with infernal evocation.

A few favorite comments: When the narrator introduces us to Captain Jinx, Kevin says, "He's always obese, mean and nude." After we've been staring at the multi-platformed radiator diagram for a while, Mike says, "Sometimes Donkey Kong likes to roll barrels through here." Near the end, Bill sums up what we've been able to glean from this short's nonsensical half with, "Service isn't free. In fact, it's very expensive." There's nothing specifically wrong with this half of Call It Free, but oddly enough, it was more entertaining back when it made sense.

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Factor the One, Divide by Pi and Put Your Left Foot In...

If Godzilla had a baby with Chumley the Walrus.Welcome, won't you?

Only two months after the last release, Cinematic Titanic has announced a new Live DVD, this time of tour staple The Alien Factor. I suspect it reveals the secret origins of my son's confusing new math curriculum. Coming one week from today on February 23, 2010. See the trailer here.

Coming tomorrow: a review of the surprisingly funny snore-fest Paranormal Activity.

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Paranormal Inactivity

SLEEEEEEEP!Welcome, won't you?

I've heard that the protagonists of Paranormal Activity spend most of their screen time prone and unconscious, so now I'm looking forward to the thrill ride of the century. The Rifftrax, featuring Mike, Kevin and Bill, has been released.

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I Am Done Professionally

Terminators really like to bob for things.Welcome, won't you?

Terminator Salvation. Ugly? Yes. Stupid? Entirely. Painful? Yeah, but I've seen worse. Mike, Bill and Kevin got me through it, but it was an uphill climb. Review here.

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RVOD094 Molly Grows Up

(1953, Educational-Short, b&w)


Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

It’s what the moon goddess demands.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:

Nothing makes a father quite so proud as his daughter’s first menses.


She looks forward to cramps, stickiness and mood swings.Thirteen-year-old Molly wishes she were more like her older sister, a thirty-something teenager who wears straw hats, make up and elephant-sized tampons. Most of Molly’s friends have already started their monthly discharges. Why hasn’t she?

Finally the big day arrives, inspiring lectures from her mother and school nurse about her bloody vagina’s natural beauty, as well as a list of things she should and shouldn’t do while on her period. Swimming’s okay, but only if she waits two or three days after the start. Also, she can dance, but not square dance? They don’t specify, but I’m guessing that breakdancing, the Lambada and Cirque de Soleil are out as well.

Her father walks in on the final mother-daughter lecture and creepily admires his newly be-womaned daughter.


Your period makes E.T. weep tears of blood.I’m glad I’m not a woman. There. I said it, and I’d say it again if I had to.

With that out of the way, we can move on.

For a short from the fifties, Molly Grows Up is surprisingly direct about its subject matter. I believe this is the first time I’ve seen a film this age address sexual physiology without hemming, hawing or flinching. I don’t think anyone ever says “vagina”, but it does have anatomic diagrams, frank discussions about blood and mucus, and frequent repetition of the word “menstruation” (pronounced men-stru-ay-shun). There are a few oddities (e.g. the dancing thing mentioned above), but most of it is reasonably informative. I don’t mean to sound shocked, but educational shorts that actually educate are rare, and ones that educate about things, you know, down there are even rarer.

That’s not what makes the short funny, though. The weirdness factor comes into play with the bizarre way the school nurse, her mother and eventually her father react to her passage to womanhood. It's a combination of admiration and fascination that, to modern viewers, looks utterly creepy. There’s no mention of sex—it’s still a short from the fifties, and no educator/parent of that period would ever admit that such a thing had even occurred to them. To contemporary viewers, however, it looks someone’s working himself up to say, “Fire up the barbeque and get the neighbors over. Our little Miss Molly is now capable of intercourse and conception, and we just have to celebrate!”

Much of the commentary’s best humor has to do with this inappropriate fascination. When the nurse interrupts a school visit to ask Molly to return the gloves Molly’s mother left at her house, Bill says, “Dear diary, my plan to creepily involve myself in Molly’s life is going great.” When we see the giant brand-named tampon box in Big Sister’s drawer, Mike says, “Modess: now big enough for sasquatches.” Kevin interprets heavily during a physiology lecture with, “All that silly growing is putting your organs out of alignment.” The short strains towards “unintentionally creepy” anyway, and the riffers manage to highlight this without making it uncomfortable to watch.

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It's Time to Put On Makeup, It's Time to Dress Up Right...

It could all have been avoided if there had only been a public option...Welcome, won't you?

Did I mention that I saw Cinematic Titanic in San Francisco last Tuesday? I did? Well, did I post the Event Report yet? I did just now? Okay.

A Terminator Salvation review is coming tomorrow or the next day.

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Homebrewed Haunts

In a shocking twist, it ends when a hairy witch knocks the head off the Statue of Liberty.Welcome, won't you?

Looks like the 2010 Rifftrax Season is in full swing now, 'cause one day after the newest Rifftrax, the next one is already announced. Paranormal Activity takes the bold, innovative approach of being a whole movie filmed by one of the cast. Or, it would be innovative, had Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield not already done that. The riff will feature Mike, Bill and Kevin and be released on Thursday, February 11, 2010.

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RVOD093 American Thrift, Part 2

(1962, Educational?-Short, color)


Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

We challenge you to identify what the hell I’m talking about.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

Americans are so darn thrifty. Good job, guys! Pat yourselves on the back.


Brazenly flirting with the frozen foods.Americans are thrifty. This is because we manufacture a lot of pennies and don’t drive very far between the refinery and the factory. Also, Campbell’s soup is made of wood. There’s a bunch of other stuff in there too, but I’m not sure what any of it means or what it has to do with anything.

Short film? Is there something you’d like to share with the rest of the class? No? Uh, okay.


Another one for the Nonsense Pile. Aside from the narrator’s occasional lapses into odd syntax, there’s nothing really head-twistingly bizarre about it. It’s just a lot of staid sixties platitudes and staid sixties factoids strung together in no particular order, and with no apparent rhyme or reason.

Pennies.  Sorry, lost my place in the copy there.  Pennies.Part 1 was originally riffed by Mike, Bill and Kevin along with special guest riffer Veronica Belmont. In the introduction to this half, Veronica telegraphs ahead that she’s not coming and that they should go on without her. When the narrator comes right out of the gate with backwards gibberish, Bill wants to know, “Did Yoda write this copy?” At one point, the narrator enthuses about our “ultra modern schools.” “Run by robots!” Mike adds. As the short ends with patriotic images over a strange little speech filled with synonyms for size, Kevin adds his own ending onto the Pledge of Allegiance, “With bigness and largeness for all.” It’s not an especially engaging short, but it’s not boring either, and the riffers go with the flow, keeping up nicely.

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Buy This Rifftrax if You Want to Live

They'll be back.Welcome, won't you?

The Rifftrax for Terminator Salvation has been released. I'm expecting just under 115 minutes of loud, growly pain, and dearly hope that the Mike, Bill and Kevin can mitigate some of that for me. We'll see. Grab it here.

Note: as stated on the product page, this riff should be viewed with the movie's theatrical cut.

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Show Attended; Sleep Debt Incurred

True to the promise of the previous post's poster, dismemberment was plentiful.Welcome, won't you?

I saw Cinematic Titanic last night. This left very little time for sleep before I had to get up for work today, so bear with me if this post seems a bit less than coherent.

Pre-show-wise, we saw Gruber do a very funny Highlights Magazine routine, Frank's reprise of Convoluted Man (my favorite routine from their last show), and more jokes than I expected there to be about century-old politics.

Danger On Tiki Island was no Blood of the Vampires, or even East Meets Watts, but was fun to watch. It had dismemberment, mild nudity, and a monster that Joel described as "the Michelin man after a fire." We also saw a mutant moth kick a grown man's ass. Keep in mind that this was no Mothra; the mutant moth in question was a normally sized and proportioned moth prop on a string.

A full event report will be posted either tomorrow or early next week, depending on how much opportunity I get to catch up on my sleep debt tonight.

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The Countdown Approaches Zero

There's dismemberment on the poster; if there isn't any in the film I'll be extremely disappointed.Welcome, won't you?

Cinematic Titanic, here I come... er... in about seven hours or so. I'll get a lot more excited about it once I've finished all the work that has to happen first, and found a parking place nearby. I guess I'd better get on that...

I don't know if there are tickets left, but if you're in San Francisco and want to check it out, click here and scroll to the bottom.

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CT009 The Alien Factor

(1978, SciFi/Horror, color)

Dude, your urine is haunted!

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

The inmates of an alien zoo ship get loose near Baltimore.


Perhaps the only film in which standing still and squealing is the appropriate response to a monster attack.Elaborately crafted credits lead us past the moon to Planet Earth, eventually landing in a field near Baltimore. An alien monster attacks drunken make-out teens, dragging the boy from the car for a slow, messy death while the girl stumbles away screaming.

Later, the Sheriff and his deputy (the only two law enforcement officers in town) cart the remains back to the coroner and her son (the only two medical professionals in town), who examine the body and declaim their laughably written version of This Was No Boating Accident™. The sheriff wants to warn the populace and bring in outside help, but the mayor has concerns that bad press might scare away potential investors away from a planned amusement park. He warns the sheriff to Keep the Beaches Open™.

But you can’t keep a lid on this kind of thing for long. A trio of teens and their shrill girlfriend get liquored up and stumble into the woods with guns. Unfortunately, Their Weapons Are Useless Against It™. Only the shrill girlfriend survives. The sheriff carts the bodies back to the coroner, and we go through the No Boating Accident™/Keep the Beaches Open™ loop again.

A hairy, lumpy and mysterious stranger rolls into town. Ben Zachary—astronomer, adventurer, monster hunter, bon vivant—has heard about their problems and offers to help. Eager to keep things quiet, the mayor escorts him out into the woods where they’ve been having most of their monster problems. They find a crashed alien spacecraft and a dying alien pilot, who beams his alien knowledge directly into Zachary’s brain via crayon sparkles. They run away just before the spacecraft explodes.

In a sheriff’s office meeting of all the important characters, Zachary explains the plot to this point. Three monsters are wandering the countryside. They are alien zoo animals escaped from a transport ship that crashed en route to another planet. Zachary can hunt them down, but he must do so alone. The mayor agrees over the sheriff’s objections.

Get 'im, stilt-wookiee!Intrepid Girl Reporter was at the meeting for some reason, and she decides to follow Mr. Zachary on the sly. Mostly, this involves hiking precariously through the snow for hours on end. Eventually she’s joined by the Coroner’s Son—also suspicious; also spying on Zachary. They’re attacked by a chitinous venom monster, which falls over and dies when Zachary appears with an amp playing loud, high-pitched noises. He berates them for almost spoiling his monster trap and warns them to stay away in the future.

Meanwhile the Mayor is attacked and killed in his own back yard by a wookiee-esque creature on stilts. A young girl (Make-Out Girl from the opening scene) happens to be walking by and runs away screaming. The sheriff rescues her, but his car gets stuck in the snow. They retreat to the mayor’s house until the rest of the cast arrives. Once again, Their Weapons Are Useless™, but Zachary arrives last with a dart gun full of alien venom extracted from his first kill. The second monster goes down.

One monster remains, and Intrepid Girl Reporter wanders out into the snow to witness its demise. The life-sucking, stop motion ghost iguana puts up a fight, but eventually a wounded Zachary brings it down with a large stick. Realizing that he has an audience, he steps into the shadows and warns Girl Reporter to stay away. You see, he’s not really an astronomer/adventurer/etc. He’s actually an alien peacekeeper, and the fight with the ghost iguana has ruined his disguise. Girl Reporter sees his hideous true form and shrieks in terror.

Meanwhile, the sheriff has made calls to the local observatory, disproving Zachary’s astronomer claims. He comes out into the woods after him, hears Girl Reporter’s screams and shoots Alien Zachary dead.


Alien bon vivant, extraordinaire.Snow is really hard to walk on, even if you’re used to it. Between the inherent slipperiness and the way it shifts under your feet, you don’t generally go on to the next step until you’re really sure about the one you just took. This makes walking any distance over it a slow and tedious process. In The Alien Factor, it’s a slow and tedious process filmed repeatedly for excruciating lengths of time. By the end, you will no longer have to surmise, but have actual, certain knowledge that The Mayor, Mr. Zachary, Coroner’s Son, and especially Girl Reporter all know how to walk on snow. Hopefully this knowledge will enrich your life in some way. I’m still waiting for it to enrich mine.

That’s the main strike against the film, and it’s a pretty significant strike. In the plus column, it has a halfway decent premise pushed into a reasonably engaging story. In a column of an even more positive nature, the monsters look pretty good, especially for a no-budget seventies horror. My favorite thing about the movie, however, is that the acting, writing and sets/cinematography are all awful. And by “awful” I mean, “transcendently, gloriously, hilariously awful.” Walking scenes or no, The Alien Factor is one of those wonderful, cosmic accidents that happen only occasionally when an amateur filmmaker’s enthusiasm pushes him to reach far, far beyond his grasp. Even real professionals attempting bona fide badness cannot match this level of entertainment value. This movie’s so much fun it’s actually Ed Wood-esque.

The endless walking scenes are boring and remain so, but the riffers (mainly Joel) fill these silences with a variety of patter-based routines, taking most of the bite out of the tedium. When the plot swings back into action, though, the movie’s pretty much made for riffing. Upon seeing the obviously fake sheriff vehicle, Trace wants to know, “Has there ever been a two-door cop car?” The oddly slow, vaguely musical siren prompts Frank to call it, “The most depressing ice cream truck ever.” Odd sound effects accompany our first introduction to the Girl Reporter, and Joel asks, “Is she typing on the head of a snare drum?” The town in general is so drab, J. Elvis says, “It’s like telling a clinically depressed person to draw how they feel.” Strange Casio noises follow the movie every step of the way, leading Mary Jo to ask, “What is the difference between music and sound effects in this movie?” With the riffing, The Alien Factor is often amusing, often hilarious, and only rarely dull.

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RE: Future Parking Woes

...of Tiki IslandWelcome, won't you?

Cinematic Titanic is coming to the Castro Theater in San Francisco tomorrow. Are there tickets left? I have no idea. I've already got mine. Where will I park? I don't know that either, and it worries me. I'm looking forward to their treatment of Danger on Tiki Island (née Brides of Blood), though.

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