I have seen a lot of truly weird movies in my life, some of them in their natural state, some being mocked by Mystery Science Theater 3000, Rifftrax, or Cinematic Titanic, the high priests of movie riffing. Of all those movies though, it is difficult to think of a weirder film being subjected to professional riffing. "Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny" is an entirely surreal children's Christmas movie that is exponentially worse than "Santa Claus" or even "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians," and is really a 96 minute ad for a long-gone Dania, Florida amusement park called "Pirates World." (And, no, I didn't accidentally leave the apostrophe out of "Pirate's;" that's the way they spelled it.)
The film is an exercise in padding and makes next to no sense. Santa (Jay Ripley) gets stuck in his sleigh in the sand at Pirates World, and summons children to help him. A wacky cast of characters enters the picture attempting to free Santa, including a gorilla, a mule (who knew mules were stubborn?,) a horse, a pig, a sheep, and ultimately the Ice Cream Bunny, who arrives on an old fire engine and finally frees his old pal Santa. This entire spectacle is watched by Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, but not before an adolescent raccoon provides some facial injuries while confined to their raft. If this was the entire film it would be about half an hour long, so what did the director decide to do? Insert a pre-existing film, "Thumbelina," into the middle of the Ice Cream Bunny plot under the guise of Santa telling the children a life-affirming story about the importance of never giving up on your dreams. (Is your head spinning yet?)
"Thumbelina" is trippy in a whole different way. It's partially narrated through a tinny speaker in a diorama displayed at Pirates World to a teenage girl who is way more interested than is normal. The story itself contains moles, birds, frogs, and flower people (I was especially pleased by the Spinal Tap riff.) Thumbelina (Shay Garner) is two inches tall and has mind-boggling adventures that are maybe not exactly what Hans Christian Andersen had in mind when he wrote the story. I was on the floor laughing when I saw the frog suits for the kidnapping amphibians presented here, but was even more amused by Mrs. Mole and Mr. Digger who teach Thumbelina lots of excellent life lessons. I think this must be what it's like to eat the magic mushrooms that liberally decorate the set in this tiny enchanted world.
This is a classic of the weird children's Christmas movie genre, and the Rifftrax crew is to be commended for the treatment they provide. (My favorite line involves the Ice Cream Bunny and Robert Shaw as Quint from "Jaws.") To give you a taste of what the Rifftrax guys had to endure to make this pleasurable to fans of (way) outsider cinema, they thoughtfully included a copy of the film without the Rifftrax overdubs, and it's a hardened B-movie veteran indeed who can endure this in its original state. (I did last night and promptly had nightmares after going to bed.) I am not emotionally prepared to even discuss the all-kazoo orchestra soundtrack or any of the myriad musical numbers that are sprinkled throughout the movie like strychnine. It's all just too horrifying. Also included is a wacky short, "Santa's Punch and Judy." I am not a fan of Punch and Judy, and this is a good example illustrating why, though the riffs are spot on.
For fans of bad movies, this is a precious gift. It's one of the best Rifftrax releases and is certainly the strangest. I highly recommend "Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny." That's a sentence I would never have thought I would need to use in my entire life.
I've been a long time fan of MST3k and I've seen the worst movies they've ever screened (Manos, Creeping Terror, Monster-a-Go-Go, etc) and all I can say is that this particular movie, "Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny" is shot for shot, scene for scene, as BAD as any I've been exposed to.
This movie is just god-awful. Not in the so bad its good way, just the bad bad bad way. If someone had told me that the entire budget for this film was $200 and that the money was used to buy a handgun so the director could force the participation of anyone they could find to be on camera, I wouldn't question it at all.
Others have done a fine job describing the "plot" as it might loosely be termed, so I won't bother. All I can say is get ready for a film that includes copious amounts of near-abuse to both children and animals (you'll see one child jump off a ROOF with a PATIO-UMBRELLA!), the most terribly non-musical songs you've ever heard, and the worst/creepiest looking animal costumes I've ever seen.
All of it amounts to a film that, like the infamous "Manos, the Hands of Fate," has to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately, and also like "Manos," this is one case where the movie is just so awful it leaves the riffers in a lurch. Mike and co. do an admirable job, but there are still plenty of dead spots, and moments the just illicit noises of pain instead of comments.
Don't get me wrong, I did laugh, absolutely I did, but there are funnier Rifftrax DVDs out there. I enjoyed my time with this, but I probably won't be watching it over and over again like some others.
EDIT 4-17-13: Okay, I've reached the conclusion that this is officially WORSE than Manos. I recently watched the Manos episode of MST with my wife (who despite being a fan had never seen it) and she enjoyed it, though was aghast at the movie. Two days later we attempted this DVD, and she made it about 50 minutes in before asking me to turn it off. I happily pressed the eject button, as I was also having trouble enduring. This may be the worst movie ever made ("The DVD from Hell" to quote my wife), and not even the Rifftrax crew could save it for us this time. If you're looking for the worst movie ever, you may have found it. If you're looking for some kind entertainment, you might not like what you get here.
on September 28, 2011
This full length film, apparently produced as advertising for a hideously substandard ultra low budget Disneyworld knockoff non-amusement park in Florida called Pirate World, plumbs a new low in film quality for RiffTrax. This film has the dubious distinction of competing quite successfully with Manos the Hands of Fate as the worst film riffed by MST3K or these alumni of MST3K. The video quality is equally terrible to Manos, the whole production looks like it was shot with a Brownie Super 8 camera by someone's mom, with the cast provided by the local neighbors and the plot and dialogue developed by her teenage son as a junior high project. The son obviously had a bright future as a butcher or car salesman. Constantly turgid, tedious, boring, disjointed, incomprehensible or disgusting, the film is so badly made that it hardly needs the riffing. It was at some points so awful I broke down in uncontrollable fits of laughter just realizing we were watching something so awfully made. The most astonishing thing is the producers were not ashamed to have authored this abomination (perhaps they were). There is a long inserted film within a film by the same producers showing a pitiful and laughable theatrical production of Thumbalina that Pirate World patrons were apparently subjected to, quite successful as anti-advertising for the park. The film builds to a climatic peak at the end when the sweaty Santa with his badly stained seat of the pants is finally forced to put his clothes back on as the Ice Cream Bunny arrives to the sound of screaming air raid sirens. Thank God I never visited Pirate World. The DVD also comes with an absolutely great Santa-related short containing a wonderfully violent Punch and Judy show screened for a group of stunned 1950s seven year old kids. Contains the main film both with and without riffing, it can be enjoyed either way, provide your own riffs!
on April 12, 2012
Do not confuse this review with a dare to watch it. I derive a lot of joy watching the pain suffered by someone watching this for the first time. For this, and this alone, is its only redeeming quality.
on June 18, 2013
I gave this 'product' five stars just because it is such potent, weapons-grade nightmare fuel. I may have to actually bore a hole in my forehead in order to remove the image of Santa's soiled Santa pants. Was it a Depends failure? Was it the actor's general opinion of the film? I'm not sure I want to know. The crew did a fine job of keeping my head from exploding, but just.
on April 26, 2011
This is EXACTLY the kind of movie where, if you saw it straight (although I don't know where or how) you'd say, "Man those MST3K/Rifftrax guys should get ahold of this one!" Jaw-dropping no-budget 1960s regional kids' movie augmented with the usual hilarious commentary. Makes up for the last few RiffTrax shorts collections which were laff-lite, to put it politely.
on December 11, 2012
I discovered Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny after reading a recap of it on a website a few years ago. The recap was hilarious and I knew I had to find this movie. It took me about 45 seconds to find it online because, naturally, other people know this movie must be shared. Misery just ain't fun if you're alone.
So I watched the movie and it lived up to the hype (well, the recap anyway). In a word, this movie is just bizarre. I can deal with low production values, bad acting and even terrible cinematography but there is nothing that makes sense in this movie. Nothing. I hadn't planned on watching it again because the first time was just painful, but I had to buy this disc because the Rifftrax guys always make bad things good and I just had to own this weird....movie.
The story follows Santa Claus whose sleigh is stuck in three inches of sand on a Florida beach. He can't get out because his trusty reindeer have hightailed it back to Stockfootageland to graze in a field because it's too hot in Florida. Without his reindeer, Santa is completely and utterly powerless. His first awesome idea to get himself out of his sand jam consists of singing a song while conducting an invisible orchestra. Since invisible orchestras rarely help one out of jams of any kind, Santa just plunks right back into his seat and proceeds to sweat profusely. At some point, he comes up with the idea to get random neighborhood children to help him. I was not aware of this but apparently Santa has telepathic powers that all children are susceptible to. It must have been limited to kids in the 1970s because I was never called by Santa's powerful brain when I was growing up - perhaps he gave up that nonsense in 1980. Santa's powers of telepathy are so strong that he freezes time. He freezes a few kids doing some rather questionable things - one child is jumping off a building while holding a patio umbrella in what I assume is suppose to aid him in a soft, gentle landing (it doesn't). Meanwhile, two others boys are wrestling in a semi-homoerotic fashion. I wasn't alive in 1972, but I guess this is what kids did before the advent of Atari or cable television. The kids hightail it to the beach and for some reason, we see footage of two children on a raft who are suppose to be Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. How Tom and Huck fit into all this, I will never know. What I do know is that Tom and Huck's presence warrants a rendition of "Old Man River" played with kazoos.
Cutting back to the random kids, we see them sitting at Santa's feet (yup, he's still sitting in the sleigh doing nada) listening to him moan and complain. Someone come up with the brilliant idea of attaching various animals (including a man in a gorilla suit) to his sleigh. This works about as well as one would expect. Santa literally does nothing but mutter halfhearted words of encouragement to the kids. He never tries to get out to push the sleigh or even come up with another idea. Santa is lazy. In the middle of all this action, Santa decides to tell the helpful children a boring, hour long(!) story about Thumbelina. The "story" is actually a film that was shown at some equally boring (and slightly unsafe) looking amusement park called Pirates World. How this unrelated story about Thumbelina fits into the context of Santa and his predicament is, again, beyond me. Is Thumbelina even a Christmas story? The hilarious part is that filmmakers didn't even try to make it look like the Thumbelina film was somehow related to the tomfoolery we've been watching for the past twenty minutes. We see footage of the girl who plays Thumbelina frolicking in Pirates World and being super groovy. We even see the speaker which is blasting the narrator's voice and the Thumbelina film credits. There was no attempt to even make the film look like it's a story that Santa is telling the idiotic, I mean, helpful children. After the very long and very boring story about Thumbelina that advocates mole on young woman love, an incredibly frightening looking Bunny Man (this dude is presumably the Ice Cream Bunny of the title) comes roaring up the beach road in an antique firetruck with the siren b-l-a-s-t-i-n-g. Seriously, it's loud! The helpful neighborhood kids are hanging off the truck and a neighborhood dog is even chasing it and comes perilously close to being run over. I don't think there was such a thing as film editing in 1972. Shockingly, Santa actually gets up and greets ICB. Santa and ICB need no introduction because it's a given that Santa knows this mythical creature. During the course of their greeting and conversation, one of ICB's eyes gets stuck in the down position. Of course this wasn't edited out. Why would the removal of weird stuff start now? ICB saves Santa and the children go off for years of what I assume was intense therapy.
That's the movie in a nutshell. It's just that bizarre and just that "wtf?" inducing. The first time I saw it, I thought I was on a bad acid trip. Considering I've never dropped acid in my life, this kind of scared me so I convinced myself that the filmmakers were likely on drugs because no sober person could dream up such a story. Illicit chemicals have to be involved somehow. I know that children's entertainment wasn't all that sophisticated in the 1970s but there's really no excuse for this. How the children of 1972 watched this and remained sane is amazing. If I saw this at age 10, I would have been scarred for life. Hats off to you 70s generation! You're a lot stronger than I am.
The Rifftrax for this film is pretty solid. The guys had a lot of bad material to work with and they make great use of it. They make constant fun of the actor who portrayed Santa and you know, he kind of deserves it. My favorite is when they mock him for having poopy pants. The riffing does sort of peter out during the Thumbelina scenes but it ends on a fairly strong note. This release also has the film without the riffing. Since I sat through it once without any riffs, I don't think I'm going to subject myself to that again but thanks Rifftrax guys, I'll pass. As another reviewer said, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is to Rifftrax what Manos is to MST3K. Like Manos, this film is painful to watch sans riffing. It's not even in the "so bad it's good" category. It's just bad. Bizarre and bad.
on August 31, 2013
This starts off with Santa's sleigh stuck in the Florida sand, and the kids are unable to free him. He tells a story of Thumbelina, which turns into a separate movie with its own credits. Therefore, it's a movie within a movie.
Thumbalina takes up most of film time. The connection between the 2 films is Pirate World where the diorama of Thumbelina exists (1 person looks in & imagines the film) and this theme park is where the Ice Cream Bunny travels through to rescue Santa.
All-in-all, that film is rather convoluted, yet hilariously bizarre. There is a random gorilla in the film. In the 2nd, you have 2 odd looking, clothed talking moles. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny are a little terrifying.
On its own, the film is quite funny, but with the aid of the Riffers, it becomes hilarious!
Overall, a jolly experience.
on January 12, 2013
Rifftrax movies are supposed to be bad. That's why they've never riffed on 'Citizen Kane' or 'Rear Window' I suppose.
But this movie plays out like a fever dream. I guess it's sort of interesting just on that level, like watching 'Eraserhead' but less lucid. But never fear, the Rifftrax crew is at the peak of their powers, and they give this "film" the treatment it so richly deserves.
If you like MST3K and Rifftrax movie riffing, you'll like this one. If you don't like movie riffing, this probably isn't going to change your mind. But whatever you do, do not watch this movie without the riffing! I can't emphasize that strongly enough.
I've always been a die-hard fan of the Joel Hodgson/Trace Beaulieu lineup, but I'm gaining a strong appreciation for Bill Corbett's sense of humor. And, after all these years, Mike Nelson is growing on me as well. Considering how prolific their riffing is, it's impressive that they continue to be as funny as they are. And 'Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny' is no exception.
After watching SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY, and after your eyes and ears attempt to psychically vomit the experience out of your memory, you'll just be left with one overwhelming question...WHAT THE HELL WAS ALL THAT ABOUT? My experience with MST3K, has always been "The worst the movie, the better the riffing." And with movies that scrape the bottom of the barrel, like MANOS, or ROBOT HOLOCAUST, you still feel as tho you're refering to a FILM. Manos is a terrible film, but it has a beginning, middle and end, and it has heros and villians. There are various locales. Same with ROBOT HOLAUCOST. Even a movie with as much stock footage, and as little continuity as FU MANCHU, you have the essencials of a movie. SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY, however is just a mess. The script seems to have been either improvised, or written the night before. Then, there's the THUMBALINA film, stuck inside the SANTA film. It might have a little more coherence, and production value, but it has NO connection to the SANTA film. These guys arent riffing on a BAD FILM. They're riffing on a home movie, with a bad amateur film inside it. So it flies in the face of what MST3K, and RIFFTRAX is about, ie, riffing on cinema, with the occasional soap opera or short documentaries thrown in. At this point, RIFFTRAX might just as well make jokes about America's Funniest Home Videos. Did I laugh at all? Sure. Mike, Bill, Kevin, and a couple of side writers can deliver jokes. BUT...its not enough. The film itself has NO redemning qualities...NONE. ITs a drag to watch, and I wont watch it again. Its not funny bad, its not even ironic bad-good, its just bad. ICE CREAM BUNNY has nothing, and the riffing doesnt cover the fact that there's no film here. There has got to be better material out there, that can be had for little or no royalty fees. Can't they find a Christmas movie made in Romania during the 1970s, that could be used by RIFFTRAX? I'm disappointed overall by this DVD.