Rifftrax spreads holiday jeer with Santa Claus

Last year, “RiffTrax Live” gave the gift of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. This year, the dynamic trio of Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Corbett and Bill Corbett have set their sights on another yuletide perennial: Santa Claus, a 1959 Mexican-made children’s fantasy that pits the beloved Kris Kringle (Jose Elias Moreno) against the minions of Lucifer himself, bent on turning the world’s children against Santa Claus by sabotaging Christmas.

Santa Claus was directed by René Cardona, later to thrill the world with Night of the Bloody Apes (1969) and the Andes plane-crash exploitation melodrama Survive! (1976). American producer K. Gordon Murray snapped up the rights of Santa Claus, re-edited it and dubbed it into English, and promptly foisted it on unsuspecting audiences in the United States.

For years, Santa Claus played kiddie matinees in theaters around the holidays, doubtless infuriating audiences both young and old. If ever a holiday “classic” deserved cat-calls and hooting, Santa Claus is that movie. (Besides, Riff- Trax already did Santa Claus Conquers the Martians last year.)

On Dec. 4, NCM Fathom Events once again teams up with RiffTrax and IGN to present RiffTrax Live: Santa Claus, the 14 th (to date) of the ongoing screening series, which will be shown locally in Greensboro at the Brassfield Cinema 10 (2101 New Garden Rd.) and Greensboro Grande Stadium 16 (3205 Northline Ave.), and in Winston-Salem at The Grand 18 Winston- Salem IMAX (5601 University Parkway). The show begins at 8 pm.

Nelson, Murphy and Corbett have reunited to provide outrageous, ongoing commentary on this holiday monstrosity. K. Gordon Murray, once described as “King of the Kiddie Matinee,” imported many a Mexican movie for domestic distribution, including such other fairy-tale “adaptations” as Rumplestiltskin (1955), Little Red Riding Hood (1960), Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters (1962) and Santa’s Enchanted Village (1964). But Santa Claus, which he also narrated under the pseudonym Ken Smith, is his best-known film.

“Just is time for Christmas, all your favorite characters are here: Santa, his reindeer, Merlin, the Devil himself and all his fellow devils, and of course a giant shirtless blacksmith. Merry Christmas?!” RiffTrax creator Nelson said in an official statement.

For 11 years, Nelson, Murphy and Corbett were part of the core team of the cult series “Mystery Science Theatre 3000,” in which the crew of the Satellite of Love – stranded in outer space – was forced to watch transmissions of the worst movies ever made on Earth, which they commented upon with ribald wit and addle-brained insight. In fact, Santa Claus got the “MST3K” treatment during the series’ fifth season.

Not only did “MST3K” amass a sizable worldwide following, but it also drew attention to scores of movies best forgotten and in some cases revived interest in them as potential cult classics. During its lengthy run, the series earned two Emmy nominations (both times for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing for a Variety or Music Program), and in 1993 received the prestigious Peabody Award.

With the cancellation of “MST3K” in 1999, after 197 episodes and even a feature film released in 1995, the series continues to live on in syndication and on home-video – as well as in the hearts and minds of its fervent fans worldwide.

But in 2006, Nelson reunited with Murphy and Corbett to continue the tradition with “RiffTrax,” a series of downloads presented in the same style as the earlier series, with running commentary. These were followed by a series of live events that proved so popular that the “RiffTrax” screenings were born. Previous offerings have included Ed Wood’s infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), the indescribable Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966), George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), the Syfy cult smash Sharknado


(2013) and, more recently, the giant-snake saga Anaconda. (1997).

“It’s the season for giving,” noted Shelly Maxwell, executive vice-president of Fathom Events, in an official statement, “and RiffTrax will be gifting loads of laughter this holiday season with their take on Santa Claus. We can’t wait to see what Mike, Kevin and Bill have in store for this, their 14 th title with Fathom!” !

Showtime is 8 pm Thursday, Dec. 4. Tickets at Greensboro Grande Stadium 16 are $12.50. Tickets at Brassfield Cinema 10 are $11.50 (general admission), $10.50 (senior citizens) and $9.50 (children under 12). Tickets at The Grand 18 Winston-Salem IMAX are $12.50. For advance tickets or more information, check out The official RiffTrax website is