On Thursday, June 15, Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy will be performing RiffTrax Live: Summer Shorts Beach Party along with special guests Bridget Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, and Paul F. Tompkins. As their live riffs are broadcast in movie theaters across the country, they’ll be hitting their landmark 300th riffed short! Boy howdy that’s a lot.
Having been around for over a decade, RiffTrax has a gigantic library of movies to check out, from the blockbusters to the public domain to the obscure treasures. If you’re new to RiffTrax and don’t want to invest in an entire movie, they have a whole lot of shorts that cost one or two dollars depending on the length. There’s some straightforward stuff on there, such as the old black and white Batman and Robin serials, educational films from the 50s, and the misadventures of Norman, a Mr. Bean knockoff with the likeable charisma replaced with suicidal dread.
Yet there are a lot of videos that are just plain weird. Some are simply misguided, but others just leave you scratching your head and asking questions. Why were these made? What was the point? What are drugs? Is corn grass?
Here are the 30 most bizarre RiffTrax shorts. For each one, I’ll try my best to explain the basic concept that the producers were going for when making these heaping piles of madness.
The Idea: Two kids visit the library and one of them, reluctant to be there in the first place, realizes that this place is more interesting than he ever could have imagined.
The Output: The thing that stands out in this is the skeptic kid buying into libraries simply because he sees a teenager drive there in a sweet car and then is shocked to discover that said teen works there! WHAAAA?! From there, it becomes a series of the kids looking into books and being so “engulfed” that we see stock footage of what the kids are reading about. Highlights include a terrible 70s rock band and a guy who’s supposed to be Dracula, but looks far more like Paul Bearer in a cape.
The Idea: A whimsical little movie where children are brought to the North Pole to see what Santa’s Village is really like, getting the full tour.
The Output: Scratch that part about it being whimsical. It’s more unsavory than anything else. There’s this real underlying feeling that there’s something dark and horrifying going on underneath the awkward exterior. Santa himself is stilted and creepy, all of his elves are just children with no pants on and the direction spends far too much time transfixed on stuff that isn’t exactly exciting. The two kids given the tour only get a few lines in the beginning of the short, but good luck on deciphering a damn word they say. I’m almost certain it isn’t English. It’s fitting that the RiffTrax guys end the short by going from singing “Jingle Bells” to Torgo’s theme song because A Visit to Santa really does feel like it takes place in the world of Manos: Hands of Fate.
The Idea: Even in the early 40s, people need to learn the truth about syphilis. Three men learn about how they’re infected with the sexually transmitted disease and find out how to get it treated.
The Output: This one isn’t too out there for the most part, but there are a couple stand-out situations that make it memorable. You know, outside of this being a film about STDs in the early 40s. For instance, it doesn’t even tell you what it’s about until about three minutes in and it comes out of nowhere. We get a rather engaging story about an Italian stereotype who’s so excited about his wife giving birth until finding out that the baby was born dead. That’s when we discover he has syphilis and he even attempts suicide in his grief. It’s a rather strong scene that’s hurt by his over-the-top Italian accent and how he reacts to the news that his son is dead by dropping a squeezebox to the floor. That would have worked great for intentional comedic effect, but not when you’re trying to be serious.
One of the other patients in the story is supposed to be a guy in his 20s at most, but he looks at least 20 years older than that. A lot of fun is had with this casting choice.
The Idea: Doc Cranshaw and his grandson travel from town to town, doing magic tricks and selling tonics. Through entertaining the public, going to school, and attempting to win a contest by guessing the amount of candies in a jar, the grandson learns about how to measure volume.
The Output: This period piece is a head-scratcher at times. Despite being a drifter, the protagonist is still enrolled in the local school like it’s no big thing. Said school also spends way too much time explaining metric volume with building blocks to the point that it appears to be the only thing taught over the course of several days. Strangest of all is how the whole plot revolves around the kid’s attempt to win a contest and get this puppy as a prize, but things just end abruptly with Doc Cranshaw telling his grandson that they’re moving on to the next town. No closure or anything and it’s kind of a downer.
The Idea: Kevin is the new kid in school and while things are awkward as is, things get even stranger when he befriends a mysterious girl named Tracy on the way home from school. It just so happens that the girl died in a bus accident a year later and wants to make sure that Kevin is well-versed in bus safety so he and others don’t suffer the same fate.
The Output: This educational short has something of a cult following and I can see why. It’s almost sort of good in its own way. It tries so hard to be dramatic that you have to appreciate the effort while noting how silly the whole thing is because the ghost story feels at odds with the parts based on learning bus safety. Then the character behavior in the finale, when the bus ends up suspended on a cliff, just goes off into left field. One kid puts any and all the responsibility on Kevin’s shoulders because only he knows the very basic knowledge on how to escape a bus. There’s one girl who gets out of the bus and then tries to get back on – despite the very obvious danger – because her clarinet is still on there. No wonder Tracy picked Kevin. He’s probably the only one smart enough to be literate.
The Idea: A quirky witch lets people know about how you can be frugal at the supermarket and save a boatload of money by not falling for fancy packaging.
The Output: The hoity-toity witch in question looks like Lion-O from the Thundercats. She loiters at a supermarket for no reason other than passing judgment on people for buying sugary cereal and pudding cups. Then she forces all of them to listen to her as she goes on and on about how much money you can save by buying powdered milk instead of regular milk and other gross stuff that nobody wants to hear. For the most part, she shows full disdain for fancy packaging and the convenience of the products people buy. Did you know that you could save money on pudding by making it yourself? I did! But I don’t feel like making my own goddamn pudding, which is why I buy it fully made, thank you very much! That’s why people go to restaurants and stuff! Jeez! Her captive audience blindly listens to everything she has to say, while at no point wondering if she has anything better to do with her free time.
The Idea: Here you have a video that tries to help children get over their fears by explaining the psychological root behind them and how there’s ultimately nothing to fear but fear itself.
The Output: The machine from the title is this strange arts and crafts hunk of painted cardboard and blinking lights with tiny doors in it. There’s a monster hand that appears to move things around. The narrator is trying to sound creepy, but the whole thing comes off as more dull and confusing. At one point, he brings out a jack-in-the-box named Bobo that itself is a horrifying reminder why people are afraid of clowns. He tries to explain that we’d only be afraid of him because of the sudden surprise, but no, we’re afraid because of his painted face and demonic eyes. The moral at the end is that the Creeps Machine is really a metaphor for your imagination. This is depicted with a handful of kids looking around in a dark room as the narrator laughs, which is kind of counterproductively creepy.
The Idea: Chrysler funds a film about how important traffic safety is. Nobody knows this better than beloved child Tommy Tucker.
The Output: This one gradually goes from a little weird to outright screwed up. It starts up with a kid named Tommy Tucker starring in a school play on safety, which only seems to be about a minute long at most. It explains that people who don’t adhere to safety rules are “gnome skulls,” which entails wearing creepy masks like that episode of The Twilight Zone. Shortly after the play, tragedy strikes and Tommy is horribly maimed in a car accident. The entire town is horrified, as he’s a beloved icon of safety. That part seems a bit off in the beginning, but they actually have a reason why even the mayor is horrified over this random kid, so I can let that pass.
While Tommy’s in critical condition, he goes to his own version of Heaven called Safety Island, which is the dorkiest thing. Safety Island’s Saint Peter counterpart recognizes Tommy but says that he isn’t due there for many years. Then he realizes that since Tommy is so awesome at safety, maybe he should stick around. They go talk with his boss and show him all the nice stuff Tommy’s done for the community, which includes a segment of a traffic safety film being shown within this traffic safety film. Tommy’s cool with sticking around until remembering that, oh yeah, his parents are going to be emotional husks over losing their only son. It goes over the deep end when the head honcho of Safety Island is reluctant to send him back because maybe the world would be better off if Tommy stayed dead as a martyr for the word of automobile safety. Dude!
The Idea: A “Goofus and Gallant” story told about how to be polite. Everything is depicted via a world where everyone is a stop-motion egg.
The Output: I think “stop-motion eggs showing that you should use your manners” says it all. Adding to it, the Casio keyboard soundtrack is an irritating and repetitive. It’s admittedly cute, but not worth the unenviable amount of time it took for them to make it. There’s a moral somewhere in there about being good to others, but it’s buried under scenes of eggs pledging allegiance to the flag and egg-breakdancing. The obligatory egg puns go downhill immediately after the title. Like, the RiffTrax guys joke about Egghead from the old Batman show being the guy who put this together, but at least his puns made sense. “Eggsquisite,” and all that. This short tries too hard with stuff like Benedict the bad egg being sent to the “eggfirmary” after shattering his shell from making a total…um…egg of himself. Huh. This is actually harder than I thought.
The Idea: Some children act out in negative ways and they don’t realize that it affects the way everyone sees them. Three kids are confronted with this and react.
The Output: Now, I know children are naturally bad actors a lot of the time, but oh my God. This is like a parade of the worst child actors. To prove a point about how different the kids are, they spend the film painted up as clowns. Eventually, they meet a talking mirror that shows them how they’re perceived by the world. They’re perceived as clowns. One boy’s problem is that he’s completely depressed and his advice is nothing more than, “Cheer up, get over it, and conform!” A girl is a complete brat and is constantly stealing from others. She sees the error in her ways. Then there’s this other boy who looks very Drew Carrey-like. He’s a gigantic ass and has no problems continuing to be a gigantic ass despite the mirror’s intervention. As the RiffTrax guys note, he’ll probably grow up to be the richest and most successful of the entire class.
The Idea: A young woman in the 1980s is hoping to succeed as a dancer, but knows that in the end, success all depends on having a wonderful smile.
The Output: The ending to this is normal enough for what you’d expect about an educational short based around dental care, down to the boring and unnatural information dump. It’s the other ten minutes that’s just silly and reeking of the 80s. Our main character spends several minutes doing a jazz spandex dance routine with a bunch of other women as some guy sings about how great teeth are. But even that has nothing on the random inclusion of three breakdancers whose wordless routine is still based around getting people to brush and floss. It’s rather fascinating.
Also, I doubt the smiling had THAT much to do with the lady’ success in the end.
The Idea: A middle-school coach teaches his team how to tell time on a clock, which in turn will also educate the kids watching the video.
The Output: The coach brings out his players, numbered 1 through 12, but it’s apparent that instead of playing sports, they just play the roles of numbers on a giant clock. Explaining how to tell time is a twenty-second process, so in order to fill up time, they stretch it out by going on and on about what kind of stuff happens at each hour of the day. They do this part in rhyme, except when they don’t. By the time you realize that all of their exchanges rhyme, they keep up the same conversational energy while dropping the gimmick altogether. They also spend much of the short laying on a giant clock with a giant minute hand spinning around like a James Bond death trap. Considering the kids keep sitting up as it spins around in order to deliver their lines, I have to believe that at least one child was cut in half during the making of this thing.
The Idea: An old black and white film that explains the dangers of washing your laundry in pure gasoline.
The Output: Let me just repeat myself if you missed that. It’s an old black and white film that explains the dangers of washing your laundry in pure gasoline. This was actually a thing that people did. To combat it, there’s this public service film that tells you to either not do it or at least do it safe like the laundromats used to. While washing your clothes in gas sounds like the absolute worst idea, even the filmmakers go a little too far in sensationalizing it. For instance, there’s a newspaper headline that a woman died in a gasoline fire. Underneath it is a smaller headline about how hundreds are dead due to an earthquake in China. Yeah.
For a while, it seems like this short is more bizarre due to the real-life craziness than the film itself, but that’s put to rest once we hit the final act. A housewife is cleaning her laundry in the aforementioned way that’s more dangerous than dynamite when she starts rubbing the clothes together while doused and static electricity (drawn in by animators) kicks in. Then she runs out of the house with the absolute worst special effects to show that she’s on fire. They literally overlaid cartoon fire on her while portraying it as real and tragic. I seem to remember Adult Swim getting a lot of use out of this bit back in the day.
The Idea: You got me. I guess it’s just something to entertain kids when the teacher doesn’t feel like actually teaching and just puts on videos.
The Output: An Encyclopedia Britannica video, this one tells the tale of a really dirty young boy who opens up some psychedelic boxes and discovers a pair of shoes that move by themselves. He puts them on and does all sorts of wacky camera tricks with them, like using them to skate down the train tracks. Then things get extra wacky once a villain shows up because why not? Perfectly described by Bill as “David Spade in clown makeup,” a guy in blue facepaint and a cape tries to steal the boy’s magic shoes and chases him around. Unfortunately for him, the boy’s now given abilities like super speed, teleportation, super jumping, and super kick strength. The villain is eventually defeated when he hides out in a giant jack-in-the-box and gets kicked down a hill.
The Idea: An instructional video for how to make various arts and crafts using grass, as well as an introduction to what grass itself is.
The Output: The At Your Fingertips series also includes Boxes and Cylinders and someone even suggested I include all three on this list. In the end, I don’t see much wrong with Boxes and Cylinders. They depict children making some crazy-ass stuff with cardboard boxes and cylinders and while the direction is dull, I know that if I was a kid watching it, I would totally try to make some of that stuff before getting bored and frustrated within two minutes and going back to watching TV. At Your Fingertips: Grass is a different beast entirely. The stuff these kids make out of grass is so boring that it’s kind of depressing. Then they start making headdresses and tribal masks and I don’t even know anymore.
Also, the short begins with an attempt to explain what grass is. The narrator at one point asks whether or not corn is grass and chooses not to follow-up with any kind of answer. It drives Bill to madness.
The Idea: Children need to learn about the hazards lying around the house and what better way to get them to pay attention than use a real life superhero? Kids love superheroes, don’t they?
The Output: I’m having trouble coming up with a more boring superhero and I’ve read Dan Didio’s Outsiders. A freelance architect who acts as a crossing guard on the side is bestowed powers by aliens with helium voices to become Guardiana the Safety Woman. Wearing a headband, giant sunglasses, a ridiculous tinfoil jumpsuit and carrying a dopey shield and turkey baster-looking scepter, Guardiana invades children’s homes to save their lives and then explain how everything in their house can kill them. Even the scene of Guardiana meeting the aliens is so dull, yet entirely strange. Mainly because the main alien is just a guy speaking unintelligibly with helium and rather than show him, they’d rather just show pictures of space and linger the camera on Guardiana as they overlay ugly color filters.
The Idea: Little Tommy doesn’t really understand the concepts of measurement, but luckily there’s a superhero out there who can teach him a thing or two. Measuring Man to the rescue!
The Output: I know people give Superman guff for his glasses disguise, but imagine a doofus in glasses whose superhero costume is dressing like Superman, but with glasses. And yet Tommy doesn’t pick up that his milkman is Measuring Man. Then again, Tommy literally doesn’t understand such concepts as “bigger” and “smaller.” Measuring Man helps Tommy by teaching him how to measure things with baseball bats and other nonsense, all while saying some lines that the RiffTrax guys find disturbing to hear from an adult who kidnapped a child.
Fun note: RiffTrax released a t-shirt for Kickstarter backers at one point featuring loads of RiffTrax and MST3K characters waiting on a long line. There was definitely some Measuring Man/Safety Woman shipping going on in there and for some reason I’m into it.
The Idea: I honestly don’t know.
The Output: This one trades back and forth between two kinds of scenes. One shows a group of children running around with their hands together, singing about joining hands and then yelling, “LET GO!” while doing so. Then it would cut to this comedic actor performing some kind of wordless sight gag. For instance, it would show him as a traffic cop waving people around until zooming out to reveal that he’s in a kid’s bedroom, keeping the peace over a toy car set. Or in one scene he’s a pirate who digs a hole to bury his treasure, but has already buried the treasure chest with the sand he had shoveled away.
Are these linked? Is the children’s game somehow altering reality and screwing these many versions of the same man over? Why did Encyclopedia Britannica make this?
The Idea: An easy guide to teach children how to understand the calendar and how it works.
The Output: This really shouldn’t have to take nearly fifteen minutes, but it does. A little girl realizes that she sucks with remembering dates, so upon sulking in her room, the two whitest people of the 1970s pop in wearing outfits that are way too tight. The lady’s pants would get at least a TV-13 rating these days the way they hug the crotch. As they go so simple on how the calendar works that you want to stab yourself, they show that even they aren’t the most punchable people in the world. No, that’s the third guy, a Steve Perry lookalike who pops in a couple times to play terrible rock songs about days of the year.
The true highlight of this episode is when they explain how clever the calendar is by pointing out that all Sundays lie underneath where it says Sunday. This information proceeds to make Mike Nelson’s head literally explode. Damn you, calendars! Damn you for being so clever!
The Idea: A rude little boy barges past his schoolmates in order to see a cartoon before the rest of them. The cartoon turns out to be a video on good manners, which makes the boy realize the error of his ways.
The Output: We’re given a series of oddball situations that lead to people using various polite phrases. Mix that with some questionable animation and you have some crazy stuff going on. For instance, the first segment shows a kid in a hot air balloon, who gets knocked out of the sky by a bird, lands in a palm tree and slides down a nearby giraffe’s neck. He thanks the giraffe and the giraffe says, “You’re welcome!” Then a jingle plays about how courtesy counts a lot. Other situations include a clown accidentally walking into a giant’s leg while animals run in terror and a thing where two girls are in the audience for an all-cat jazz concert. Then it just keeps going and never seems to stop, driven home by how many times we have to hear the damn theme song.
The Idea: A talking paper bag teaches a child, Willie, about how paper is made and how important it is to the world.
The Output: The short begins and ends with the narrator saying that this either takes place in the boy’s mind or it really happened. It’s up to us to decide. That about sums this film up because it’s filled with ambiguity. There’s a feeling that it’s in some level self-aware, but to what point? When Willie gives a speech about how important paper is at school and a kid gets up in the background and starts excitedly jumping around like an idiot, is it because he’s pumped by this speech or because he’s outright making fun of Willie for doing a report on paper? There’s a scene where Willie is at the breakfast table with his parents and he stares at the paper bag as it tells him some random, forgettable facts about the paper industry. His parents look at him in fearful silence and it’s great.
That said, it’s still a wacked-out fifteen minutes. On the tail end of Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s run, they showed a short called A Case of Spring Fever, which fans have hailed as one of the stranger things they’ve watched on that show. Paper and I is like someone saw it and decided they could go further off the deep end. It has a similar plot about a random object that can not only talk, but has cosmic powers. When it isn’t being all educational, the object proceeds to remove all forms of itself from the world. In other words, the talking paper bag removes all paper from the world for the sake of teaching someone a lesson. The paper bag also has a really creepy streak here, as it takes Willie against his will and flies him through stormy skies across the country for little actual reason. While the paper’s face is a little on the eerie side to begin with, they actually redraw him across the film to look older and older until Willie finally puts him out of his misery.
The Idea: If you’re a new kindergarten teacher, you might want a primer on how to set up all your work and play areas once September comes.
The Output: The RiffTrax guys really sold this one well with their teaser video where Mike and writers Conor and Sean are truly enamored with this 27-minute video that feels like days. Two kindergarten teachers meet up and discuss how they’re going to make their room work for the school year. In excruciating detail. As you’re sucked in by the true boredom of watching two women slowly move tables and chairs around a room for nearly a half hour, all you can do is wonder, “Why?!?” Why does this exist? Why is this so long? Do we really need to see these two go over an entire floor plan to figure out where they’re going to put the clay in relation to the bathroom? Couldn’t they have edited it out or done another take when the cameraman is heard sneezing in the background? It’s too strange to exist and that lets you endure nearly static shots of a She’s All That-style cute teacher putting away blocks for a minute at a time.
The Idea: A family spends some time camping in the woods and teach us about how to prevent forest fires. The spokesman of forest fire safety, Smokey the Bear, shows up.
The Output: This one happens to be the oddest with the least amount of effort. Even though it features a guy in a Smokey the Bear costume, it still becomes headscratching based on being a directionless load. It’s fairly short and if given at least three more minutes, it could have been something coherent. Instead, I’m not sure what this is. A family hangs out in the woods, barely touches on fire safety, one of the kids swears that Smokey the Bear is real, the dad talks about how great the forest is and then starts singing “Ghost Riders in the Sky” in its entirety. Now, I enjoy that song as much as the next guy, but what in the Hell does that have to do with anything? The youngest kid (I honestly can’t keep track if it’s a boy or a girl) runs off and Smokey the Bear walks out of a sign and steps forward, thanking the kid for understanding fire safety. The kid then runs off, mainly so he/she can tell everyone that Smokey really is real. There’s so much happening, yet at the same time, nothing is happening. It’s a trip to watch.
The Idea: Remember that scene at the end of the first Toy Story where the toys come alive to taunt Spike and teach him a lesson about manhandling them? This is like that, only with clothes involved too. Plus it’s live-action.
The Output: Reggie, a child described as Millhouse mixed with Ralph Wiggum, has the messiest room and when he has a friend over, the visitor leaves within minutes because there’s nothing of worth that’s readily available. Reggie’s parents clean up after him most of the time, giving him no reason to clean up his own act. That’s when his toys and clothes spring to life and convince his bed to throw him to the floor. The bed is depicted via a pillow with creepy lips and me doing my really bad Ringo Starr impression. Everything else just has an annoying, badly-acted voice. Reggie looks dumbfounded by everything. Not in the sense that he’s shocked that everything can talk, but more that existence itself confuses him. His father steals the show in the end by completely overselling how amazing it is that Reggie’s learned to clean his room. You have to see it for yourself.
The Idea: Kids need to know the importance of cleanliness. Not only must they realize the danger of germs, but they need to know how to correctly wash themselves.
The Output: This film is from 1990, tying it as the most recent RiffTrax short with Tooth Truth with Harv and Marv. To its credit, the video about hygene is incredibly well-made. You can even call it Beginning Responsibility: Taking Care of Your Things with a budget. Similar concept, only with various kids being stalked and yelled at by their belongings for being so filthy and careless. Everything looks a lot better and the voice actors are less irritable. Even the children are marginally better actors than Reggie and his parents. Though the voice acting does give us some awkwardness when soap and brushes are given sexualized female voices.
The reason this ranks higher than Taking Care of Your Things is because of the germs. Shown via some really impressive stop-motion animation, the framing device is a nightmare fuel creature meant to be a germ (with a voice like Wolfman Jack), who tells tales of cleanliness to his Jewish-sounding germ friends. All of his stories about children cleaning up after themselves and washing behind their ears are treated like ghost stories, but it’s okay because the girl they’re living on never washes herself ever. As you can guess, the movie ends with the girl understanding clean living and joining the Clean Club, but the ending is seriously messed up. The last thing we see before the credits roll is the germ trio being smothered to death by soap bubbles and dying horribly, screaming all the while. Egads.
The Idea: Two children, with the help of a narrator, explain how dangerous drugs can be by comparing them to everyday situations.
The Output: First off, the two kids make you want nothing more than to find them and punch them as half of their lines are asking questions to reiterate, like a really dull Brian Michael Bendis parody. Like for instance, if one of them just spent a moment talking about how much they hate the carpet, the other would say something like, “Well, I think it’s nice,” followed by, “You think what is nice?” followed by, “The carpet.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mike get as mad as he does when he just snaps after the twentieth time they have an exchange like this.
As they play with Legos, the whole thing tries turning random situations into metaphors for drugs without ever actually showing drug use, which I could only imagine would have driven the point home better. Torturing a baby? Drugs are like that. A fat guy in a suit skipping down the sidewalk? Drugs are like that. Swimming across a river? Drugs are like that. A kid walking down an alley as a metaphor for growing up? Drugs are like that. Any point that the narrator or kids try to make is drowned by reaching too hard over and over again.
The Idea: You’d think that it’s about obesity, but you’d be wrong. This is a film about bicycle safety, showing the dos and don’ts of riding your bike and the repercussions of not following the rules.
The Output: A group of children ride their bikes across town to the park so they can eat their lunches. The title comes from how only one kid made it all the way there and therefore got to chow down on everyone’s food. Why didn’t the others make it? Because most of them DIED! A couple of them got hit with cars, one fell down a manhole, and one was even crushed by a steamroller. All while these children are wearing THE MOST HORRIFYING monkey masks, looking like papier-mâché creations put together by Hades himself. Seeing children getting picked off one-by-one is usually pretty hard to watch, but the RiffTrax guys have no problems seeing these unholy creatures snuffed out.
The Idea: Explaining the absence of things and all of its forms to children.
The Output: If you’re a teacher and you played this for your class, you’re kind of a crappy educator. The movie is just two boys talking about what “nothing” is. They do it in the most depressed, muted, smoked-themselves-into-oblivion stupor. Their quest leads them to actually visiting the library so they can pull out a dictionary and read the definition of “nothing” while never actually reading it out loud. Their philosophical meandering leads to them playing with a caterpillar, which doesn’t have anything to do with nothing. Later they explain that any number minus itself is nothing. Crazy. The direction of the short is truly the icing on the cake and really makes you believe that these two 7-year-olds are just super baked.
The Idea: Get kids more active by having them do dances and exercises that resemble familiar machines and how they work!
The Output: Man, I… I don’t know. I almost get what they’re going for, but it’s just inane and confusing. First off, the moves that the children are doing are like drugged-up interpretive dances that don’t really resemble anything. They especially don’t resemble what the narrator insists, which include – and I quote – “toaster movements.” Other movements are based on various forms of sprinklers, egg-beaters, and a bunch of machines that look to be already out of date back when this came out in the 1970s. This is literally a film that asks kids to move around like a flour sifter and it somehow got funding.
The Idea: Since both shorts are way too brief on their own, RiffTrax released them together. The former appears to be a vehicle for the Dairy Council to find a way to showcase milk as an accessory to a variety of delicious foods. The latter is similar in its mission statement, only it’s about showcasing the eggs that Petaluma, California is apparently so famous for.
The Output: The Cathy short is a bit longer and it’s strange on its own. The narrator barges into Cathy’s room as she wakes up and talks about how he hears she doesn’t eat breakfast before school. At first he brings up all sorts of food that she might find appetizing (all accompanied by delicious milk) until she says to stop. Then he comes up with possibilities involving her family life, but she shoots down those rumors too. Then she just…leaves. Why doesn’t Cathy eat breakfast? Nobody knows! We never find out and the movie just abruptly ends.
That’s only the herald to the Eater of Worlds that is Petaluma Chicken. Oh my God. It’s this early black and white film where an army of women deliver a whole lot of eggs to this chef guy who appears to be like some kind of sinister royalty. Happy over this offering, he says that they’ll use these eggs to create the biggest omelet in the world. What drives it home is the creepy direction, making it seem like a more primitive version of the Ring video, only with more cholesterol. At one point, the women all start doing aerobics in the middle of the giant pan and Mike wonders aloud if they’re using David Lynch’s recipe.
Petaluma Chicken is like a snuff film where instead of someone dying, they just make a giant omelet. It’s absolutely chilling.
Any RiffTrax shorts you think I cheated by omitting them from the list? Sound off in the comments section and tell me what makes it so damn weird.
Gavin Jasper gives honorable mention to that short about the crotchety, old, talking car that kept yelling, “BUT HE FORGETS!” Follow Gavin on Twitter!