This past week the Rifftrax crew held their tenth live event
which was broadcast to theaters across the country by Fathom Events.
This time they poked fun at that perennial holiday classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
The film had been riffed on Mystery Science Theater back in the day,
but this version was totally different with all new jokes and gags.
While the film is wonderfully goofy by itself, watching it with the
Riffers made it even more enjoyable, even though this wasn't one of
their strongest performances.
For those not in the know, the Rifftrax crew is a trio of Mystery Science Theater 3000
alumni: Michael J. Nelson (head writer and host), Kevin Murphy (Tom
Servo) and Bill Corbett (Crow T. Robot). They joined together to create
a great series of downloadable audio tracks that could be played along
with a film on DVD and featured the crew's signature barbed jokes and
obscure pop references. Every one that I've heard is very funny and
harkens back to the best days of MST3K. Occasionally they will
broadcast a live show to theaters across the country, billed as
Rifftrax: Live. This is my favorite way to experience a film that they
skewer. Watching at home is fine, but there's no comparison to seeing
them on the big screen with an appreciative audience full of fans.
The jokes start right as soon as patrons walk into the theater. Instead
of the usual elevator music and slide show or ads, Rifftrax makes their
own pre-show entertainment. I've always enjoyed the pre-show
entertainment and make a point of getting to the theater early so I
don't miss it, but this time the slides and songs weren't as funny as
usual, and the audience I was with seemed to agree as there were very
few laughs to be heard. The songs were so-so at best, and some of them
weren't even funny. One of the musical offerings was just a single line
sung over and over again: "Christmas time is wonderful, wonderful with
you... Christmas time." I was waiting for the punch line, but it never
The slides were surprisingly drab too. There were a series of images
revealing "Rejected Stocking Stuffers" such as "Blitzen scat" and
"Zuzu's fingernail clippings: and fake movie quotes, but none of them
were more than slightly amusing.
That is admittedly a minor complaint. Once the show started things
really picked up. Before the feature they presented a wonderfully wacky
short, Santa and the Fairy Snow Queen.
This low-budget American-made film seemed to make up Santa lore as it
went. It was presented by Snoopy, no, not Charlie Brown's dog, but one
of Santa's helpers... not an elf, but a Brownie. While Santa was
sleeping one Christmas Eve, the Fairy Snow Queen enters his workshop
and brings all of the toys to life. They march around and act as
obnoxious as they can, but when Santa wakes up the fairy can't turn
them back into inanimate objects.
This was a great short to start things off with and the riffing made it
hilarious. Snoopy was peppy, androgynous and seemed to be channeling
Mr. B Natural and they had a lot of fun cracking jokes at her expense.
The Fairy Snow Queen was accurately described as "a 3rd string
ballerina on pain killers" as she tried to dance around the set. The
guys had a lot of fun pointing out how silly the whole thing was and
the short really set the tone for the feature.
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far more stoned." Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
is a wacky, silly film, and it perfectly lends itself to the Rifftrax
style of humor. The plot is simple; a group of Martians kidnap Santa
Claus along with two young children and bring them back to their home
planet. There, Santa shows the dour Martians how to have fun. The jokes
are generally solid, though there were a few more duds than usual.
Still, the standout lines were well worth waiting for. When the
children are served their Martian dinner, small tablets, Mike chimes
"pills for dinner? Courtney Love would just love that!" I also laughed
at their description of retrorockets; "[they] talk about how everything
sounded better on vinyl." And my favorite gag of the evening was when
the children attached some renegade Martians: "Have a holly, jolly ass
The previous live event was at the end of October, and maybe that made
the schedule a bit tighter than usual, but this film's riffing wasn't
quite up to the previous ones. The jokes weren't quite as funny, and
they didn't seem to come quiet as frequently as normal. Even so, it was
a great showing and well worth the price of admission. Face it, even an
okay Rifftrax film is better than a lot of the comedy films being
released nowadays. This comes recommended
and fans of Mystery Science
Theater 3000 and Rifftrax should
make a point of going to the next live show.