It Came From Rifftrax: You’re the Judge

I would call this one ‘charming;’ vintage 60s high school romance used to promote Crisco shortening (seriously).

The plot has two high school girls trying to tempt the objects of their affections to a party by goading them into a cooking contest. The girls use Crisco and produce a sumptuous meal, while the boys use cooking oil, which, coupled with their general incompetence in the kitchen, results in barely edible mess. (“And he went on to be the head chef at Arby’s”). One girl’s father serves as the judge (despite the title, you the viewer are not the judge) on the grounds that he’s a man and will be prone to side with the boys.

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“Our lives had descended into I Love Lucy-themed madness.”

This is one of those where I enjoy the film itself as much as the riffing. It wouldn’t make for a bad sitcom episode. Not a great one either, but it’s a fun, zany little tale of girls trying to maneuver reluctant boys into romance (“Look, we want to bang you, you thick headed doof!”). The characters even have some personality to them, like when the shorter boy tries to bowl with the pie dough then nervously resumes reading off the direction after he knocks over the flower tin. I also like the brunette’s momentary uncertainty about the correct pronoun in the opening narration (‘personality’ doesn’t necessarily mean I remember their names; this is just an advertising short after all: let’s not go overboard here). At the very least it feels like the actors have all worked together before, which is a point of quality in a film like this.

The riffing mostly complements the story nicely, with comments on both the overcomplicated and seemingly unnecessary nature of the scheme (“See Coronet’s 12-part series ‘Calling Boys at Home'”) and frequent riffs on the Crisco influence, as well as the, shall we say, generous amount of it being used (“Two cups of shortening?! Dear God, they won’t live through the night!”).

They also give some standard ‘sexist 1960s’ jokes, which are admittedly a little annoying, but they don’t pop up too much. It’s somewhat balanced by riffs pointing out how ridiculously incompetent the men are (“Reverting to chimphood before our very eyes”).

Of course, these were the days when there was actually something approaching balance in the comedy; where men and women were about equally likely to be portrayed as ridiculous one way or another, and there seemed to be little to no actual animosity about it (see also The Dick Van Dyke Show and other contemporary sitcoms). We’ve come a long way down since then. But that’s another story.

Overall a very strong short. If you like artifacts from the ‘50s and ‘60s, you’ll probably enjoy the film itself and the riffing just adds an extra layer of fun. Definitely recommended!

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“You realize you have breasts, right? These are teenage boys; it’s not difficult!”

 

It Came From Rifftrax: “Remember Me”

As a lifelong fan of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ and its follow-up ‘Rifftrax’, I figured I’d start writing up a few of my thoughts on their various projects.

“Remember Me” is a short designed to teach customer service practices. It focuses on the Customer: the Least Respected Man in America, as he runs a gauntlet of ridiculously awful service personnel, including a grocery check-out clerk who goes on break while he’s standing in line, a teller who wastes time flirting with the man in front of him and then inexplicably suspects him of check fraud, and a copy repair man who apparently needs at least two weeks to fix the office’s only copier (“How am I going to xerox my suicide note now?”). In such situations, the short implies, you can either take a stand, complain, and demand service, or you can sit there and take it while silently seething that you will have your revenge.

The short recommends the latter course.

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“I just add them to my dark list of pain.”

This, of course, leads to a lot of fun from the Rifftrax crew as they have a field day both with the man’s spinelessness and his creepy assertions that he’ll win in the end. “He has a femur collection, doesn’t he?”

The line of abuse he goes through is funny as well; literally every service this man tries to use takes the opportunity to ignore, snub, or insult him somehow. It’s as though he’s been arbitrarily dropped to the bottom of the social ladder. “Trying to shop here; I should spit on you!”

To be fair, the point the short wants to make is that if the customer meets with bad service, even if he doesn’t complain he’ll just not come back, and he won’t recommend you. Which, like a lot of these shorts, is perfectly true and reasonable, especially as it’s apparently directed at service personnel themselves. But the way it’s presented, with the man suffering abuse after abuse without a word just makes it seem like he’s winding up for a bombing spree or something. “I scope out various bell towers.”

At the end, Bill “Crow” Corbett offers quick advice to both service providers and customers. To customers, he reminds them that tipping is often a big help (“Make it 20% or more and we’ll lick the soles of your shoes clean”). And his advice to service personnel:

“Do your f(bleep)ing job.”

(The USCCB might also find this advice helpful, but that’s a topic for another time).

In summary, this is one of my favorites and a great source of ten-minutes of humor. Highly recommended!