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Have Yourself a Merry Little (Rifftrax) Christmas

Original MST staffers Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy, along with Sci-Fi seasons Crow Bill Corbett, have come together this holiday season to supply the desperate and deprived with more classic Christmas cut-ups - and boy do we ever need it.

So...what do you do?

You've played your well worn copies of Mystery Science Theater 3000 holiday faves Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Santa Claus until the aluminum discs (or if you are a true fan, the VHS magnetic tape) has worn through. You've sprung for the Cinematic Titanic update of the former and are at a loss for more material to fuel for your funny Yule. Well, look no further than the guys over at Rifftrax. Original MST staffers Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy, along with Sci-Fi seasons Crow Bill Corbett, have come together this holiday season to supply the desperate and deprived with more classic Christmas cut-ups - and boy do we ever need it.

As part of a wonderful live experience (now available on DVD), the trio took on a horrifying collection of hapless holiday cheer. Then, to add another fishy figgy pudding to the mix, they delivered the demented delights of a terrible holiday treat - Santa Claus Meets the Ice Cream Bunny as a downloadable diversion. All are available on the company's website and guaranteed to help you cast out the neon Grinch, bah your huge humbug, and celebrate a prickly Patrick Swayze saturnalia, beginning with the overtly sentimental slop of:

A Christmas Rhapsody

A tiny evergreen buried deep in the Scandinavian forest considers itself of little value and "no account". As the massive trees around it are cut down and covered with winter snow, it laments its lack of import and prays for imminent death (or sooty blotch, whatever comes first). Then a wholesome family comes along and decides to put the pine out of its misery. Before you know it, our lamenting log is the clan's X-mas decoration - and it's HAPPY about it. How manipulative and mentally unstable. It's the perfect free association for Mike, Kevin, and Bill - especially the constant reference to being "no account."

Christmas Toyshop

Daddy and Mommy want to rush Junior and Missy off to bed so they can go about the business of commercializing the holiday season. As the children slumber, a demonic sandman sprinkles insulation in their eyes and makes they envision a visit from Santa - a tired and rather unhappy Santa. One wheezy powwow later and a weird nursery rhyme based cartoon breaks out, Miss Muffet's strange looking spider-dog upsetting a toy shop when it steps in to kidnap his companion in poetry. In the end, the wee ones learn the reality of Christmas - and don't seem to really care. Thanks to the animation sequence, the Rifftrax trio elevates this otherwise ordinary abomination to all new levels of ludicrousness.

A Christmas Dream

A young girl, having received a whole new collection of useless junk to forget about from Santa, throws her old, apparently angry ragdoll into the corner. During the night, St. Nick forces the child to envision what life is like for a sad, sadistic, abandoned toy. Hateful stop motion hinjinx ensue. As the kid watches, her former friend dances around, climbs onto a table, turns on a fan, and goes Marcel Marceau mad! All the while, a cacophonous noise passing for music makes things even more unhinged. For Mike, Kevin and Bill, the combination of endearing and evil is too much. Try as they might, they can't overcome Santa's love of tormenting the tots.

The Night Before Christmas

In a surreal combination of lame black and white live action and equally monochrome cartooning, the classic Noel rhyme is reimagined as a dull, derivative children's night terror. The three kids snoozing away while stuffed mice fail to stir are so annoyingly cute and greeting card cloying that you hope they have sugar warts, not sugar plums, dancing in their heads. Meanwhile, a far too thin Santa struts around, smokes his pipe and confuses the family patriarch who does, indeed, wear a sleeping 'cap' to match ma's kerchief. With its old fashioned sentiment and pitiful production values, The Rifftrax take on this clunky chestnut is priceless.

A Visit to Santa

Two unwashed urchins wish to call on their favorite seasonal gift giver in his North Pole digs. They wind up kidnapped by a Claus clone who lives in a '60s style ranch house in sunny California. Part product placement, part trip to a tacky mall display, Santa shows his unwelcomed guests the robotic angels (?) who act as elves in his world, making all manner of useless plastic thingamabobs. Then he forces them to experience Santa's HO model train set-up. Ouch! With its dime store sentiments and lack of imagination, Mike, Kevin, and Bill have a fetid field day with this failed festive field trip.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Jules Fleischer does an eerie, almost blasphemous job of anthropomorphizing the animals in this holiday carol classic, turning the title buck into something akin to Bambi's Botoxed cousin. And let's not even mention the bosoms on Rudolph's mom. Stepping outside the story to make the fabled "foggy Christmas Eve" a combination crash site and Santa conspiracy cover-up, our plucky little deer is pulled from his bed and made leader of the Big Man's team - much to the chagrin of his pissed off peers. From the weird look of the animals to the oddball touches within the tale, the Rifftrax gang just can't get enough of this "beet nosed" freak.

Santa Claus' Punch and Judy

Everyone's favorite spouse abusing puppet duo is present for a surreal yuletide celebration, complete with reptile attacks, black face, and a Morey Amsterdam impersonator in a St. Nick suit. After his Kringleness gives out his mediocre presents to a bunch of zombified brats, it's insult show time as a theater magically appears, allowing the original slapstick hate crime to warp the tiny minds of all around. Add in the minstrel material and you've got more than enough to keep Mike and his buddies in suicidal stitches.

Three Magic Words

Actually, it's all about one magic word - PORK! A sheltered newlywed runs to her local butcher shop (occupied by a lame jazz trio in white coats and business suits) and demands a dish to satisfy her hubby's soon-to-be-arriving business/drinking pals. The answer - stuffed pig with all the trimmings (including braunschweiger-smeared celery and toasted pound cake topped with cherries???). As the earworm jingled used to sell us the SUUU-EEEEY! continues on incessantly, The Riff-traxers try their dammedest to avoid this swine sire song - and fail miserably.

Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny

As a rule, exploitation experts should never make children's matinee movies. Need proof? Check out the efforts of Herschell Gordon Lewis (Jimmy the Boy Wonder) and especially the off balance audacity of skin flicker Barry Mahon (The Wonderful Land of Oz, Jack and the Beanstalk). Perhaps the most mesmerizingly awful effort ever to come out of the now defunct Pirate World amusement park in Dania, Florida, this seasonal story of the world's laziest Kris Kringle, his inability to free his sleigh from a Sunshine State beachhead, and the equally odd version of Thumbelina he recounts to pass the time are the very embodiment of a nasty Noel. After using telepathy to call the local kids (all of whom look like refugees from an ABC Afterschool Special), he explains his peculiar plight (his red ride is trapped in the sand, reindeer have fled because it's too damn hot) and before you know it, the children are rounding up pigs, sheep, donkeys, dogs, and a guy in a gorilla suit to give Santa's ride a tow. When all attempts fail, the sweaty Saint says it's story time.

Loaded with atonal songs and stilted production design, Thumbelina is more or less faithful to the Hans Christian Andersen fable, if not wholly in tune with the needs of modern cinematic entertainment. Told by a narrator who turns out to play an important part later on, the combination of inert acting (especially on the part of our supposedly lovely lead) and the children's theater level of crappy costume design combines to turn everything into a pile of brightly colored mush. Within the mess, Mike, Kevin, and Bill bounce all manner of misery-reducing quips at the plotting, including the constant reference to Kris Kringle's role in the stunted storytelling. In the end, the by now brain dead end kids come up with a great idea to help Santa. They get the Ice Cream Bunny (you remember that classic character of underage folklore, right???) to bring his fire truck and transport the jolly old - if now sun stroked - elf back to the frozen salt mines. Gotta get those toys to all the undeserving little girls and boys, right?

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