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RiffTrax Live: Reefer Madness and House On Haunted Hill DVD Reviews


“RiffTrax Live: Reefer Madness” is one of the best discs of 2011.

Aside from two funny new shorts, the live “House On Haunted Hill” special is slightly disappointing.

If you’re looking for a comedic show that delivers plenty of laughs, you needn’t look any further than “RiffTrax Live: Reefer Madness.” In my humble opinion, this is the single funniest show I have seen in 2011. The simulcast special (which was shot in San Diego and broadcast in movie theaters across the country) consists of three goofy short films (“More Dangerous Than Dynamite,” “At Your Fingertips: Grasses,” and “Frozen Frolics”), two animated shorts (“The Story Of The Fairy Mermaid” and “The Story Of The Glitter Doll”), and a feature length film (“Reefer Madness”).

To be honest, two of the three shorts here are as good as the best shorts from the MST3K era. ‘Dynamite’ is a safety film of sorts about the dangers of gasoline and fires (and the danger of washing clothes in gasoline). The overly dramatic and cheesy presentation of the short is so absurd that it’s funny even without the gut busting cracks by the RiffTrax gang. The second short (“At Your Fingertips: Grasses”) is even better. The short doesn’t really seem to have a point other than to display the various creative uses of grasses (such as building a scultpure or headdress out of grass). The short also raises the important question “Is corn grass?” and yet never answers it much to the disappointment of Bill Corbett. As for “Frozen Frolics,” it’s by no means a classic, but it still offers up some great jokes (see the Michael Vick and Seal bits). ‘Frolics’ can be best described as a Disney influenced cartoon (supposedly based on “Aesop’s Fables”) about dancing arctic animals. That about sums it up really.

The two cutesy animated shorts (“The Story Of The Fairy Mermaid” and “The Story Of The Glitter Doll”) by Rich Kyanka and his daughter Lauren are by no means bad, they just seem rather pointless and out of place in the show. They felt more like a time filling break for Kevin, Mike, and Bill (which they do deserve).

As with “House On Haunted Hill,” “Reefer Madness” has been previously riffed before, but it doesn’t make a difference here as it’s one of their finest riff jobs to date. However, RiffTrax fans should know this live version of ‘Reefer’ does offer up many new jokes in case you were on the fence about purchasing it again.

“Reefer Madness,” for those that don’t know, is a legendary serious propaganda film turned cult classic about the dangers and consequences of marihuana (as the film states). It’s a ridiculous, over-the-top morality tale complete with lousy acting, goofy narration, and plenty of pointless long, drawn out scenes.

I could go on and on about the great jokes Mike, Bill, and Kevin spout about Kramer, Double Rainbow, the creepy Ralph character, and eating, but I honestly feel that knowing as little as possible about the jokes makes watching this special a more enjoyable experience. You just need to see it for yourself.

Note: This is probably shameless self promotion, but I should mention that you will see my name in the credits as well as a joke of mine featured in this show. Last year, I entered a RiffTrax joke contest and the Michael Bay joke I wrote was chosen to be used in a scene (it’s around the 90 minute mark to be exact). It was a true honor to know that Mike, Bill, and Kevin deemed one of my jokes worthy enough to be used in this show.


The video quality is all over the place here. The picture quality of ‘Dangerous’ is filled with scratches. ‘Frolics’ looks tolerable as does ‘Grasses’ which is probably in the best shape of the bunch. The colorized print of ‘Madness’ has scratches and dirts specs, but it’s in better shape than most DVD releases of the film (of which there have been many).

Sadly, the audio isn’t too noteworthy on this disc. While Mike, Kevin, and Bill always sound fine, the audio on the shorts and “Reefer Madness” are uneven. The dialogue on ‘Dangerous’ is generally poor as is the garbled audio on ‘Madness.’ ‘Grasses’ sounds the best here probably because it’s not as old as the other two.

The only extra here is a new short introduction by Mike, Kevin, and Bill.

“RiffTrrax Live- House On Haunted Hill” was a Halloween simulcast special that was shot in Nashville and broadcast in movie theaters across the country. The movie, which has previously been riffed before by the RiffTrax gang, revolves around a millionaire (played by legendary actor Vincent Price) who offers 5 people a nice chunk of change to stay in a suppsoedly haunted house for one night.

Despite some fantastic jokes by Mike, Bill, and Kevin about everything from Jehovah’s Witnesses and Ben Roethlisberger to the idiotic ‘House’ character Lance and M. Night Shyamalan, the movie itself isn’t the best choice for a special like this (especially since many RiffTrax fans have already seen it before on a previous DVD release). The main problem is that the movie’s pacing is so dreadfully slow. It’s fairly easy for an audience to watch a bad movie that goes by quickly, but it’s hard to endure a bad flick that is so slow that not even great comedy provided by RiffTrax can help it go by faster.

On the bright side, there are two shorts here (“Magical Disappearing Money” and “Paper And I”) that are definitely worth watching. ‘Magical’ is a hilarious short about a grocery store “witch” who lectures consumers about savings. The short is made even funnier due to a stand-out comedic performance by Bill Corbett. I’m not exaggerating when I’m saying Bill is at the top of his game here. Every joke he utters is pure gold. He just seems so energetic here and his enthusiasm and effort really shows.

“Paper And I” is another bizarre short about an animated talking paper bag that teaches a young boy about the importance of paper products. Comedian Paul F. Tompkins joins the RiffTrax gang for this short (he also appears briefly during a sketch on ‘House’), but he sadly doesn’t bring much to the table. These forced comedian integrations always seems so awkward on the screen and shouldn’t be included in the live shows. Tompkins aside, however, the short is so freakishly weird that you can’t help but swept up in it. The jokes about the short’s material only add to the fun.


‘Magical’ is in surprisingly good shape here as is the colorized print for ‘House.’ The only short that looks rather beat-up is “Paper And I” which suffers from faded colors and print scratches. Still, I’ve seen A LOT worse video quality than this before when it comes to the shorts.

For a change, the actual audio on the shorts and the film get a pass! It’s a miracle I know. The riffers, as per usual, sound crystal clear as well.

* One RiffTrax Commercial with Bill Corbett (and a Mike Nelson voice over) and another RiffTrax commercial with Mike, Kevin, and Bill.
* A 3 minute behind the scenes slide show.
* An amusing mock movie trivia slide show that pokes fun at the pre-movie trivia in theaters.

Summary: Unless you are waiting for the Blu-ray release in July, “RiffTrax Live: Reefer Madness” is a must buy disc. I wish I could say the same of “RiffTrax Live: House On Haunted Hill,” but I’d only recommend a rental for that release.

June 18, 2011 - Posted by | DVD review | , , , , , ,

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