For its fifth episode, the Cinematic Titanic Crew boldly went where they had gone before: re-riffing the Mystery Science Theater 3000 classic “Santa Claus Conquers The Martians.” In recent years Rifftrax has redone MST3K-riffed films like “Santa Claus,” “Time Chasers,” “Final Justice” and even their own take on “SCCTM,” but back in 2008 this was uncharted territory.
Of the three times MST3K groups have riffed this film, I think Cinematic Titanic’s is solidly in last place. It lacks the charm or the MST3K version or the bite of Rifftrax’s take. Instead, it’s kind of a Derek Smalls-esque lukewarm water of riffing. The film was riffed after Josh left and before Mary Jo started writing for the show, but for Joel, Frank and Trace it was a rewarmed idea when Cinematic Titanic was still finding its legs. Of all the Cinematic Titanic episodes, this is the one I’ve replayed least.
Release date: Nov. 20, 2008
We lead into the riffing with the Titans being lead into the theater by one of the scientists who brings up the fact that none of them have RSVPed for the office party. They’re informed that it’s mandatory, with the scientist explaining away the RSVP process by saying “They like to keep the illusion of personal freedom alive whenever possible.” Sinister. Also, “They?” So there’s a higher level of control going on here beyond the scientist hosts. How high? We’ll revisit that idea in upcoming posts.
MST3K references: I’ll move this to the top, since when the group is informed of the film, Trace panics and bolts for the door. Joel: “Some of us have seen this before.” Josh: “Not me (Ha ha!),” while Trace is dragged back in screaming.
Then timely references: During the opening song, Josh says “I’m just glad Isaac Hayes got to cover this before he died.” Hayes died in August of 2008. Josh also lets a “Don’t taze me, bro!” fly (the tazing happened in Sept., 2007).
We’ve got movie break: There’s only one in this film, at about the halfway point. Joel stops the film to hand out gifts, including Paul McCartney’s Hoffner bass for Josh, a Tesla Roadster for Mary Jo and the Moviola Robert Wise used to edit “Citizen Kane.” Josh starts to suspect Joel is just showing off two-dimensional cut-outs of the gifts, which is disguised by the Shadowrama effect (what is the reality of how the Titans see things in the theater? It’s just a show, I should really just relax). Joel seems offended and calls off the gift-giving, forcing Trace to beg for his gift, a time machine with a laser on it that looks sort of like a Tardis.
Obscure reference: In the opening credits, Joel says “Music by Mr. Whopee and the 3D BB.” I had to look it up, it seems to be a reference to the 1963 animated series “Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales.”
Favorite lines: Frank had two killer deliveries in this episode. After the rest of the team rattled off a litany of references during some military stock footage, Frank says “That reminds me of a penis,” with Josh following up with “Frank, we’re going to need you to try a little harder.” I also loved Frank berating Santa (who was trapped in a soon-to-jettison airlock with two children) with “You stupid fat bastard! You’re killing us with your Pollyanna routine.”
Behind the Scenes: The episode was filmed at Laurel Canyon Studios. Todd Carlin is credited as Todd, and production designer Arne Knudsen and set decorator Sean Spillane play the security guys.
Bonus feature: This episode’s autographed photo is Joel, who also wrote “Merry Christmas” on the pic. What a swell guy. Joel also says “Merry Christmas” as he inserts the nanotated disc into the Time Tube.
Other riffing connections
Executive producer Joseph E Levine also produced “Hercules” and “Hercules Unchained” and is listed as a “presenter” on “Village of the Giants.”
Makeup artist George Fiala also did makeup on “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.”
Jeez, not many connections in this film. I’ll add that actress Doris Rich, who played Mrs. Claus, was married to John Carradine, the star of the previous Cinematic Titanic experiment, “Legacy of Blood.”