I’ve written before about Rifftrax, the on-line enterprise from Michael J. Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy (formerly of Mystery Science Theatre 3000). Rifftrax continues the familiar MST3K model of making fun of terrible movies, via downloadable podcasts that you can play along with DVDs of the films being riffed. It’s a clever concept, and I’ve found the hit-miss ratio of the tracks to be very high.
Last year the Rifftrax gang broadcast a live riff of the sci-fi classic-in-its-awfulness Plan 9 From Outer Space to theatres nationwide, and I was lucky enough to catch the showing at a theatre here in Boston. It was a hoot, and I guess successful enough that the Rifftrax team is continuing to occasionally broadcast live shows. I missed the show in the spring, but I was able to attend Thursday night’s screening of a riff on Reefer Madness, the 1936 anti-marijuana (or marihuana, as it’s spelled in the film) screed.
As always, Nelson, Corbett, and Murphy did not disappoint — the event was hilarious.
The evening began with the screening of two old shorts. As they always do, Nelson, Corbett and Murphy made jokes over the broadcast. (Usually we’d see the film shown in the main part of the screen, with the heads of the 3 Rifftrax members in little boxes on the right-hand side.) The first short dealt with the epidemic that was apparently sweeping the nation back in the ’30s of housewives washing their laundry in gasoline (you read that right) and then blowing themselves up. According to this film, that’s a bad thing. The second short was from the ’70s, and dealt with all the sorts of fun art projects one could make from grass (the stuff that grows in your lawn, not marihuana). This second short was the highlight of the event for me — the short was absurd all on its own, and the riffs were priceless. I was practically crying from laughter.
After two quick animated shorts by Rich “Lowtax” Kyanka of Something Awful, we were treated to our third short of the evening — an acid-trip of a black-and-white animated cartoon from the ’30s. Despite being titled as an Aesop’s Fable, the cartoon depicted a menagerie of bizarre animals living in the North Pole skating through the snow, getting haircuts, and bouncing happily… then fighting with one another and eating one another. So weird.
Then we got to the main event: Reefer Madness. Made back in 1936, the film is an absolutely loony look at how marijuana would destroy teenagers, turning them into manic, wild-eyed murders. The whole thing seems to have been made by a bunch of adults who had never met an actual teenager in their life. I know that films made in the 1930’s aren’t going to look or sound like Superbad, but still. The kids in the film seem to be played by thirty year-olds, and the depiction of the den of iniquity where the kids hang out, smoke pot, and apparently dance really fast, has to be seen to be believed.
The film is laughable enough on its own, but the Rifftrax crew bump the enjoyment up by a factor of ten. They’re pretty merciless at eviscerating the silliness of the film, while also being unafraid to go off on their own loony tangents whenever they felt like it. In short, it was a riot.
The show was terrific, and definitely the most fun I’ve had in a movie theatre in months. It was a little leaner than the Plan 9 From Outer Space Show — I was glad they chose to add in extra Rifftrax shorts to fill out the program’s run-time, rather than the not-that-funny guests they had in the first show. The event is being re-broadcast to theatres nationwide on Tuesday August 24, so if it’s playing in your area I strongly encourage you to check it out!