Rifftrax Live: Summer Shorts Beach Party (B). Last night Fathom Events delivered another live show by the Rifftrax usuals (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett) and a slew of guest stars (Mary Jo Pehl, Bridget Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, and a fellow who was new to me named Paul F. Tompkins). I assume that by now you know what these shows are–comedians who specialize in riffing on bad movies and other video material. This time around they aren’t riffing a full-length movie, but rather a bunch of “educational” shorts from I don’t know when–roughly the 50s through the 70s. Although this wasn’t one of the riffers’ greatest performances ever, I did think it was a solid outing with plenty of decent laughs. I would say the funniest shorts were (i) an old black-and-white number about a woman who graduates from secretarial school and works her way up in some bland office job, (ii) another black-and-white film about a surly high-school boy whose conscience is trying to get him to stop griping about everything, and (iii) a p.e. film featuring a bunch of dejected elementary-school kids being forced to roll and bounce big rubber balls around for no apparent reason. I know they sound terrible, but they’re pretty funny when the riffers make wisecracks about them throughout! The show will be rebroadcast on June 20, so head on over to fathomevents.com if you want more information.
The Slime People (D). This first-season offering just isn’t very good. The movie is horrendous, about a handful of humans trying to survive an attack on Los Angeles by subterranean slime people. Tedious in the extreme, and the riffing isn’t all that great either. The highlight of the disc is actually a short interview with a woman who was in the movie, reminiscing about the experience and how horrified she was when she first saw the finished product because it was so bad.
Rocket Attack U.S.A. (C). This second-season effort is not great but at least it’s better than The Slime People. The 1961 film is a Cold War relic mainly about a spy sent to Moscow to figure out if the Soviets are planning to launch a nuclear attack. Answer: Yes. The first half of the movie features some pretty funny riffing by Joel and the robots, but they seem to lose steam towards the end.
Village of the Giants (C). This okay episode features an old movie starring a young Beau Bridges (The Fabulous Baker Boys), a very young Ron Howard (TV’s Happy Days), and a timeless Toni Basil (the 1982 hit song “Mickey”). Howard is a brainiac kid in the little town of Hainesville. He accidentally invents a substance that, when eaten, makes the consumer grow to enormous size. Unfortunately, Beau and his gang of unpleasant punk teenagers get a hold of the growth formula and proceed to terrorize the town. Expect lots of unconvincing special effects and lots of whining from Beau’s gang about how adults are always pushing young people around with their rules and such.
The Deadly Mantis (B). My grade may be slightly inflated because of the weakness of the other movies in this collection. This is a 1957 creature feature about a giant praying mantis that was frozen in arctic ice millions of years ago. Somehow it gets defrosted and runs amok killing people. There is very little plot beyond finding and killing the mantis, which seems to take an unduly long time. The riffing is pretty good. The two extras are an introduction by Mary Jo Pehl and a short documentary about Mantis producer William Alland, neither of which is of any special interest.