A Complete History of RiffTrax Live

Availability: Just the Jokes

Another Kickstarter gave us a theater-only RiffTrax Live of the Matthew Broderick Godzilla movie. The one with the Puff Daddy song. I had only seen the movie in theaters, so it felt right to go back and see it a second time. This American reimagining of the classic Japanese monster lacks the magic of the originals and means having to put up with the annoying human characters for far too long. Forget cool kaiju fights. This one’s all about bad CGI and whining about Siskel and Ebert.

read more: A Guide to the Giant Monster Movie Episodes of MST3K

This one doesn’t come with any shorts because the movie itself is over two hours. Good God, did this piece of shit really need to be that long? Maybe it’s for the better that they couldn’t get VOD distribution rights because I don’t know if I could take another go at this one.

13. ANACONDA

October 30, 2014

Availability: Just the Jokes

Since that Godzilla Kickstarter made so much money, Anaconda was included as a stretch goal. Anaconda is a WAAAAY better watch due to the right balance of bad movie, bad decisions, and a shockingly all-star cast. In it, a documentary crew come across a very obviously evil Jon Voight, who joins them and ultimately steers them into the direction of the world’s biggest snake for the sake of hunting it down for big money.

Even though the movie is mostly competent, there’s still a hilarious effect where they try to show a boat moving in reverse by reversing the footage, even though THERE’S A WATERFALL IN THE SHOT! I’ll never get over it.

If they ever rerelease this one in theaters, give it a look. As Owen Wilson would say, “It just makes sense!”

14. SANTA CLAUS

December 4, 2014

Availability: VOD/DVD

Here we go with the other old school MST3K Christmas classic. This one is about Santa Claus as if explained through a game of Telephone that makes it all the way to Mexico. Santa Claus’ mythology is depicted where instead of elves, he has a bunch of international children. His reindeer are freaky robots. His best friend is Merlin the Magician. He has a giant pair of robot lips in his workshop for some reason. Most importantly, his antagonist is Pitch, an agent of Satan himself.

What’s nice about this one is that without the time restraints, we get to see the entire film. Did you know that Santa has a beefy blacksmith on the payroll? Then again, about 95% of the extra footage is dedicated to Merlin’s annoying walking song.

read more: The Strangest and Most Disturbing Santa Claus Movie of Them All

As crazy as the movie is, it does run out of gas towards the end, so Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is easily the superior one.

The short included is At Your Fingertips: Sugar and Spice. While most of these blur together, this one stands out for its ending, where the narrator suggests we eat handfuls of pure sugar.

15. THE ROOM

May 6, 2015

Availability: Just the Jokes

On the website, RiffTrax took care of The Room years before and it was definitely a match made in heaven. To bring it to the big screen, they held another big Kickstarter entitled “The Crappening.” Four lousy movies over one year. The Room was the first stop on this 2015 journey and even though it doesn’t really need Mike and the guys talking over it, it still works. It just sucks that unlike its spiritual sibling Birdemic, The Room isn’t available as a VOD.

They released a second commentary track on the website with the jokes used for RiffTrax Live and it’s definitely better than the earlier take. Not only are the “Disembaudio walks in during the sex scenes” gags gone, but so are all the meaner jokes about the actress who played Lisa.

The short for the show was At Your Fingertips: Floats. I have nothing to add to that.

16. SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE

July 9, 2015

Availability: VOD/DVD, Amazon Prime

If one RiffTrax Live show had to be considered the weakest, it might have to be Sharknado 2. Like I said earlier, once the first movie caught on like wildfire, the guys behind it doubled down on the in-your-face stupidity and made intentionally bad sequels. “Intentionally bad” is the worst kind of bad movie outside of “boring as hell.”

In this first sequel, the main characters and the titular tornado of sharks make their way to New York City. We get lots of cameos from B-and-C-list actors and most of which are there to get devoured by bad CGI sharks. Since it’s now in on the joke, there’s little to actually make fun of. There’s a reason riffers tend to stay away from comedies.

Probably the funniest part of this whole thing is how one of the pointless cameos went to Jared Fogle, who made the news in a very bad way days before the broadcast, turning his appearance from forgettable to incredibly awkward.

At least the short is good. Parents—Who Needs Them? shows a child becoming invisible so he can see all the wonderful things his parents do for him. It’s delightfully weird.

17. MIAMI CONNECTION

October 1, 2015

Availability: VOD/DVD, Amazon Prime

Once upon a time, tae kwon do master YK Kim was convinced to make an action movie to promote tae kwon do to the public. With zero experience, he went and did just that while casting his students instead of, you know, actors. What followed was movie magic.

Miami Connection is a very special movie because even though it’s as dumb as a pile of rocks, it’s also so optimistic and lovable. There’s a scene in there where the riffers are mostly laughing with what’s going on because it’s just so fun in how silly it is. You essentially get exploitation to the seven-year-old crowd in a movie about rock star orphans training in tae kwon do so they can fight drug dealers and ninjas.

Also in this entry, the short Measuring Man. Imagine if instead of saving Metropolis from criminals and monsters, Superman was a dork who tried to help kids understand measuring. Then you have Measuring Man, who lays low as a mild-mannered milkman when he isn’t donning the tights. He and Miami Connection join forces to make one of the all-time best RiffTrax Live shows.

18. SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY

December 3, 2015

Availability: VOD/DVD

Not only has Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny become a beloved staple in the world of RiffTrax, but the Ice Cream Bunny himself has reached unofficial mascot levels. He’s treated as a mysterious and frightening figure who is part Lovecraftian nightmare and part psychotic drifter. Kind of like an even scarier Nick Nolte.

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny has to do with Santa being stranded in Florida, right next to forgotten theme park Pirates World. He summons some children to help him get his sleigh out of the sand, even through the help of a guy in a gorilla suit, but it’s hopeless. He tells them a story to help their spirits and the movie ends with the Ice Cream Bunny showing up to…I don’t know, really. The movie’s a mess.

Now, when Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny debuted on RiffTrax years ago, Santa’s story was a 50-minute telling of Thumbelina that was obviously a completely different production being used as a flashback. It was also very boring. The version of the movie used for RiffTrax Live has Santa tell the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, featuring a livelier and very 1970s cast of characters.

If you’re going to watch any version of Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, go with this one.

There are three shorts here and they are all goddamn bonkers. Santa Claus’ Story has Santa tell a couple kids about monkeys and chimps celebrating Christmas. The Tale of Custard the Dragon is a bizarre poem for children brought to life, where it really doesn’t belong. Then Santa’s Enchanted Village, which is very, very high on the list of the most batshit things RiffTrax has ever looked at. Puss in Boots is there, there’s a talking skunk watching a puppet show, a wolf keeps screaming about his ulcer while making accordion noises and…words can’t do it justice.

19. TIME CHASERS

May 5, 2016

Availability: VOD/DVD

Time Chasers is another classic MST3K flick, but it’s one that is almost good. You can sit through the movie and easily think to yourself, “This would actually be a good movie if they had more of a budget than thirty bucks and a coupon for Arby’s.”

As it goes, a nerdy pilot guy figures out time travel and sells it to a big corporation. Said corporation uses it irresponsibly and turns the future into a dystopia. The nerdy pilot and his reporter love interest have to then fix the time-stream and take down the big corporation. And if you haven’t seen this movie before and any of this sounds interesting to you, keep in mind that the villainous businessman’s “office” looks like a dressed-up section of a library that they got permission to film in.

If anything, watch it for Kevin Murphy’s Paul Bearer impression.

Because Santa Claus’ Story wasn’t enough, this time we have the short Chimp the Fireman, which is about a chimp who is also a fireman. Good times.

20. MST3K REUNION SHOW

June 28, 2016

Availability: VOD/DVD

By this point, the Kickstarter to bring back Mystery Science Theater 3000 had become a huge success and the show was on its way back. Season 11 hadn’t started, but we knew that Jonah Ray was the new host and we weren’t sure if the new blood was a good choice yet. Luckily, we got a taste of his talents in this big reunion show filled with various MST3K cast members taking on various shorts.

Obviously, we have the main team of Mike, Bill, and Kevin doing their thing. Then Mary Jo Pehl and Bridget Nelson team up. The Mads, made up of Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff show their stuff. Then there’s the old and the new with Joel Hodgson working alongside Jonah. Finally, all nine riffers get together and make fun of an old Superman adventure about stamps and revisit At Your Fingertips: Grasses.

There are eight shorts in total and they go in many different directions, but thankfully only one features a cantankerous, old, talking car who won’t stop yelling, “But he forgets!”

Oh, and Jonah did great. He’s a good egg.

21. MOTHRA

August 18, 2016

Availability: Just the Jokes

Mothra is the opposite of most Toho movies. As a monster, Mothra is extremely limited in personality and the ability to even gesture, making her rampages very boring. On the other hand, the human-driven stuff surrounding her existence is strong enough to keep you paying attention. There’s an island of natives worshipping a giant egg, a pair of six-inch tall women, and an ass-kicking reporter nicknamed Bulldog. Lots of stuff to keep the riffers on their game.

read more: A History of Mothra

That is, until Mothra starts destroying buildings. From there, it’s rather monotonous.

For this one, the short is Soapy the Germ Fighter. After so many magical, talking characters based on simple objects, we get the laziest with Soapy, a giant bar of soap with arms and legs sticking out.

22. CARNIVAL OF SOULS

October 27, 2016

Availability: VOD/DVD

Once again, a classic horror movie that’s just too dull for me to recommend. Even on its own, it’s a movie that loses its luster from colorizing it, turning it from a moody thriller to a campy disaster. The story follows Mary, a woman who survives a car accident and decides to move away. Her new life is met with both isolation and the fear that she’s being haunted by pale-faced ghouls. Congratulations, you probably guessed the ending by now.

The movie dawdles too much and isn’t weird enough to be fun. A shame.

But if you loved At Your Fingertips: Grasses, you’ll love Masks of Grass! Otherwise, the real highlight of the show is The Dirt-Witch Cleans Up, wherein a little girl fixes the hygiene of a filthy witch. As one does.

23. SAMURAI COP

April 13, 2017

Availability: VOD/DVD

This movie is the best kind of trash. A cop nicknamed Samurai helps a police department deal with a gang run by an angry Japanese guy and his big-chinned associate. When he isn’t killing every single bad guy in a three-mile radius, our hero proceeds to tell random women about his wang size, inspire his partner to make ridiculous faces, and piss off his captain.

There’s a lot to love about this one, but the captain is one of my favorite characters to show up in a RiffTrax movie. He’s what happens when your cliché angry captain is both pissed off AND on the side of the protagonist.

Manners in School is a grade-A short, featuring a talking chalk drawing telling a kid to stop being a little asshole.

24. SUMMER SHORTS BEACH PARTY

June 15, 2017

Availability: VOD/DVD, Amazon Prime

Once again, we get a show that’s entirely shorts with guest appearances. These guests include Mary Jo Pehl, Bridget Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, and Paul F. Tompkins. They tackle seven total shorts and there are some doozies in there. Rhythmic Ball Skills is a short that my mind simply refuses to let me remember. I think it was a handful of kids playing with kickballs in various ways that went on forever?

The grand finale is The Baggs and all I can say is holy shit. There’s some kind of hipster Hillbilly Jim who’s trying to chase down two living, sentient sacks, depicted as just two guys in tied sacks jumping around and… Man, I don’t even know. You have to see this one to believe it.

25. DOCTOR WHO: THE FIVE DOCTORS

August 17, 2017

Availability: Nothing yet

I’m not a guy who knows too much about Doctor Who. There’s only so much time in the day and I can only follow so much nerd stuff. I still know enough about Doctor Who to understand why this movie is the perfect fodder for RiffTrax. At the time of its release, there were five incarnations of the Doctor and the idea of having them team up against a common foe was too awesome to pass up. It’s just that the first Doctor’s actor was already dead and the fourth Doctor’s actor wanted nothing to do with it. Hence, a replacement actor for the former and the latter being shown via unused footage before being written out lazily.

It’s Avengers: Infinity War with early Doctor Who, only with a very limited budget that gets embarrassing at points. Even as someone who only knows about the franchise through geek osmosis and having seen that one episode with the angel statues, I was able to follow enough of it and enjoy the RiffTrax crew roasting it.

On the subject of roasting, the entry comes with Play Safe, a safety film featuring some talking cartoon birds. This one gets pretty damn grisly.

26. SPACE MUTINY

June 19, 2018

Availability: VOD/DVD

One of the most beloved MST3K movies gets another thrashing and even with all the stuff cut out of the MST3K version, we still have little idea what’s going on. In the distant future, a big space ship is on a very long trip to another planet and the villain Kalgan insists on a space mutiny because spending your entire lifespan in space is for the birds. He’s opposed by a muscular slab of generic action hero, his old-looking girlfriend, and her God-looking father. Then some sexy psychic ladies show up, people fall over railings a lot, and they throw in some Battlestar Galactica footage.

It’s good to see some extra life stuffed into this classic, but I will admit how jarring it is when the MST3K take got some jokes so perfect that seeing them go with a different joke takes you out of the movie.

Cute thing about the show is that certain Kickstarter backers with a lot of cash to donate got to toss in new joke names for Dave Ryder, following up on one of the best MST3K running gags.

The short for this show is The Magic Shop, a lesser-known HG Wells story. There’s good reason for that.

27. KRULL

August 23, 2018

Availability: Just the Jokes

Krull is an 80s classic in that it’s a flawed piece of cheese with a lot of cool designs and concepts. It also features a very young Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane in supporting roles. Really, if they cut down on the lengthy shots that go on forever, it would be way better. This thing really didn’t need to be two hours.

Krull is about Colwyn, a prince who is supposed to be married to a princess for the sake of bringing peace between two kingdoms. On the night of the wedding, alien invaders slaughter nearly everyone and capture the princess. Colwyn puts together a group to rescue the princess and save the planet Krull. This team includes a half-competent wizard, a child, a group of bandits, and a bigass cyclops.

Lots of laughs are to be had, including one unforgettable bit about the princess escaping being crushed by giant, closing ass cheeks. It’s too bad that this one can’t be released in full. It’s one of my all-time favorite riff-things.

28. OCTAMAN

April 18, 2019

Availability: VOD/DVD

Never mind what I said about Sharknado 2. This one might be the hardest RiffTrax Live to sit through. It’s one of the most lifeless targets they’ve ever had and the latter part of the movie feels comparable to the “DEEP HURTING” sandstorm segment in Hercules Against the Moon Men. It’s the antithesis of fun schlock.

Octaman is about a mutated octopus stalking through a swamp, looking for victims. Unlike most guy-in-a-costume creatures from decades ago, they don’t spend much of the film building up to his appearance. Instead, he shows up in full view, in broad daylight, within the opening minutes. With that tension gone, we just have our protagonists farting around to kill time as Octaman wanders here and there.

Then they all end up in a cave and everything sucks forever. If there’s any reason to watch this one, it’s for McGruff’s Drug Alert, a PSA short featuring another guy in a half-man/half-animal hybrid costume.

29. STAR RAIDERS: THE ADVENTURES OF SABER RAINE

June 6, 2019 (taped on April 17, 2019)

Availability: VOD/DVD

This one is best summed up with a joke where one riffer points out that the special effects aren’t that bad for 1992, only to be told that the movie is from 18 months ago. Yes, Star Raiders is from 2017. Casper Van Dien is a Han Solo type in an inexplicable space adventure where the quality is in-between “cheap fan-film” and “episode of Hercules.”

It’s a movie so overflowing with cliche and aimlessness that I really can’t even tell you what it’s about. All I really remember is that the main villain has some kind of giant, gross pimple for a head and a princess turns evil for reasons. There’s a bug creature that’s supposed to be part of a race of cannon fodder, but they only show one at a time because they only had enough budget for one costume.

Cynthia Rothrock gets major billing and she doesn’t even show up until the very end as a hologram for a couple minutes. By then, the movie ends and you wonder what on Earth you even sat through.

Give it a look!

Read and download the Den of Geek SDCC 2019 Special Edition Magazine right here!

Gavin Jasper writes for Den of Geek and is still waiting for them to cover FoodFight. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @Gavin4L!

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