Movie: (1959) Pitch the devil attempts to hinder Santa on Christmas Eve.
First shown: 12/24/93
Opening: A caroling attempt ends in disaster
Intro: Inappropriate gifts are exchanged
Host segment 1: On the SOL, the rock band Santa Klaws performs
Host segment 2: The bots arrange a Nelson family reunion
Host segment 3: An all-inclusive politically correct holiday song: “Merry Christmas…If That’s Okay”
End: On the SOL, it’s a snow day! In Deep 13, Pitch and Santa fight it out
Stinger: Laughing mechanical reindeer
• This one, of course, is a perennial favorite, and now that it is on DVD, it can truly be a holiday regular. It’s one of those episodes I’ve seen so many times I can practically recite it, but it’s still entertains me every time. The movie is SO odd (it is a very weird reflection on Mexican culture), the riffing is very strong and the segments are generally pretty good. It doesn’t feel like Christmas until I’ve seen it.
• This one can be found on Shout’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol. XVI.”
• The gift exchange segment may seem a bit dry, even baffling, to our eyes today, but remember that Mike had joined the SOL crew less than ten episodes previous. The point of the segment is that they still barely know each other, so their attempts to give gifts are forced and uncomfortable. But if you didn’t know the context, you could hardly be blamed for not getting the joke.
• The first 15 or so minutes of the movie, when we get a slew of ethnic/national jokes, as Santa’s international cadre of “helpers” are introduced, are great fun. Every four years, when I watch the parade of nations at the Olympic opening ceremonies, I reuse those riffs.
• Does anybody else feel that if Crow had used that “Carmen Miranda rights” joke with Joel, Joel would have ripped at least one arm out?
• Non-spaghetti ball bumpers: pan to beaker; closeup on film canister; pan down to notebook.
• I’ve never been a big fan of the “Whispering Christmas Warrior” segment. It feels a little too restrained. I would have like to see them go more Ozzie Osbourne on the thing. I do like the reaction shots of Frank and Dr. F., though.
• One memorable set of riffs comes when each of them gives notable literary opening line. “I was born in the house my father built” is from Richard Nixon’s then-current autobiography, “The minute Yosarian…” is from “Catch-22.” “Call me Ishmael” is, of course, from “Moby Dick.”
• That’s Pat Brantseg, Mary Jo and Tim Scott as “Mike’s family.”
• One of my favorite moments from this episode is when Santa is preparing to leave his castle to deliver the presents, and as he makes his little benediction, he looks up for no particular reason and M&tB respond by looking confusedly around, as if to see what he might be looking at. It cracks me up every time.
• The Brains seem to think the name “Kringle” is funny. They use it a lot.
• As Santa is putting out presents, Crow has him mumbling: “CableAce award…no, that’s no good…” A little bitterness there.
• On the other hand, the “Merry Christmas…If That’s Okay” song is a holiday classic, right up there with “Patrick Swayze Christmas.” Commenting on PC attitudes about Christmas was not a particularly original comedic idea, but they gave it an original spin.
• Then-current reference: “At home with Carl Rowan.” Rowan was a nationally syndicated columnist and prominent supporter of gun control who became a national punchline in 1988 when he shot a teenage intruder with his unregistered .22. He passed away in 2000. Honorable mention: “A scud!” Scuds are no longer the fearsome terror weapon they were considered back then.
• RiffTrax did an entire re-riff of this movie, with all new jokes and an astonishingly bright and clean print of this movie.
• Memorable host segment line: “More pie, man-goat?” They really did a great job on Paul’s costume/make up. And of course that’s Kevin as Santa, though the credits don’t say so.
• Cast and crew roundup: producer Guillermo Calderon also worked on “The Robot Vs. The Aztec Mummy.” Importer K. Gordon Murray also brought “Robot Vs. the Aztec Mummy” and “Samson Vs. the Vampire Women to American audiences. Score composer Anthony Diaz Conde also worked on “The Robot Vs. The Aztec Mummy.”
• CreditsWatch: Host segments directed by Jim Mallon.
• Fave riff: “Suddenly Santa corkscrews into Ypsilanti, Michigan!” Honorable mention: “Well, that’s not strictly true either…”
Next week we will return to regular order with episode 616- RACKET GIRLS.