Turkeys and chestnuts aren't the only things being roasted this holiday season. Bad movies are, too, as three alumni of television's "Mystery Science Theater 3000" invade the multiplex to provide scathing commentary on short films for "RiffTrax Live: Christmas Shorts-Stravaganza!"
"Shorts-Stravaganza!" marks the second such big-screen event for the RiffTrax gang, following August's successful skewering of Ed Wood's notorious "Plan 9 from Outer Space." RiffTrax creator Mike Nelson said tonight's agenda will include riffing on a bizarre Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cartoon, but not the one audiences catch in annual TV repeats.
"We trolled far and wide to find some oddities for this, and we did," Nelson said. "We have a short singing the praises of pork that has to be seen to be believed. I've looked around for that at other places, but I believe we're the world premiere of this pork short, which I'm excited about."
For a decade, Nelson made a mockery out of misbegotten movies as head writer and later host of cable's cult hit "Mystery Science Theater 3000." Following its 1999 cancellation, he and compatriots Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett kept at it on DVD for a brief period as The Film Club, before Nelson realized the Internet made for a more viable distribution platform, launching RiffTrax in 2006. Murphy and Corbett soon joined him.
"We're such an odd little company. We don't make a very big impression on the world, but we have a nice little club," Nelson said.
That said, when they decided to do the nationwide live show via NCM Fathom Events this summer, he wasn't certain anyone would pony up $12 for a ticket.
"We have a nice little business on the Internet doing this obviously extremely niche thing, and I'm aware that's sort of our core. And anytime we do something outside of it, it's a little bit of a risk, so having it be a success was obviously a great relief," he said.
That initial "Plan 9" show was such a sensation, demand called for an encore, shown two months later. This time, the encore follows in 24 hours.
"It'll be a pretty full evening. Hopefully, it's zip right along," Nelson said. "The shorts are kinda one of the most popular things that we do. We make as many as we can. It's getting harder to find them and get good sources for them. We're starting to get into that and really dig. That's been fun."
He said they entertained the idea of ridiculing a holiday feature film, but found the pool disappointingly small, because "Christmas movies tend to be comedies or lighthearted stuff. We sort of need a seriousness in our material for it to work."
Before the all-shorts lineup was cemented, RiffTrax fans online speculated the target would be the 1972 no-budget aberration "Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny." With its ineptitude abound, one might surmise it'd be perfect RiffTrax fodder.
"As it happens, we have been delighting ourselves around the office with that lately, but I think we would traumatize enough people that it might not be something we want to do live," Nelson said. "Although I think we'll definitely get around to riffing that at some point."
But don't hold your breath for an "MST3K" reunion. Nelson said the RiffTrax crew extended an offer to the rest of the old show's cast " now operating as Cinematic Titanic " but "they seemed like they didn't want to do it."
Oh, well. At least fans can attend RiffTrax's live shows. He said as long as people keep showing up, they'll keep putting them on a few times a year.
"It is very infectious," Nelson said. "I don't want to do too many that we take away from our other stuff. Because we've got 'Twilight's to riff, you know." —Rod Lott