Was one of two sold out shows at NYC’s Union Square. I’d say about 30-40% of the crowd in my packed house either hadn’t seen “Manos” or were not intimately familiar with it. The hearty laugh intensity from these ‘noob’ viewers was matched by how weirded many of them were by it. After the show ended, while leaving, there was someone’s girlfriend that talked and looked like she had been hit by a train. We talked a little and she told me that “Manos” was the freakiest movie she’d ever seen (and she wasn’t kidding, her face looked like any of us when they encounter “Manos” for the first time). Almost everyone else I chatted with in the bathroom line and out the theater had positive thoughts, but clearly among the newcomers “Manos” was better received along with the shorts (which killed).
And that’s basically my one and only beef with this Rifftrax presentation of “Manos,” the same I have with the Cinematic Titanic version of “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”: it’s just OK and, when measured against the gold stadard set by the “MST3K” version (whose jokes/riffs were running on a parallel part of my brain as I was registering the new one), very inconsistent. Best example is the early joke when we hear the woman singing during the lenghty shots of “Texas”: ‘Dione Warwick is drunk.’ Cute, but ‘Is that Shirley Bassey hitching?’ from the "MST3K" is so much better, funnier and clever. Not to mention the “MST3K” jokes are cohesive with the whole of the riffing of “Manos,” unlike the up-and-down quality of the new riffs. About 20-25% of the new “Manos” jokes just plain bombed or were just not funny (I can’t even remember any), especially early. And I’m sorry, but pointing out how incompetent the framing or the acting in the movie is too easy a way to score laughs out of this. And all the cheap shot 'Debbie is drunk' jokes? I expect better, much better, from the Rifftrax gang. I got hearty laughs from the re-riff but sporadically, not consistently from start to finish like “MST3K” (where all the AAA jokes were used except for the handful that they came up with for this).
As the movie went on Kevin, Mike and Bill found their voices/angles/rhythm (especially the parts were they didn’t say anything and let the movie’s weirdness work; most of these silent scenes were gut-busters) and I gladly put the old “Manos” on the back of my mind and enjoyed the new “Manos” jokes for the not-as-good-but-still-killer humor it brought to an old favorite. Too many favorite riffs: ‘You didn’t have to get up!, ‘So, do you guys like ‘The Wire’?’, ‘I thought YOU were Debbie!’ (the position of Torgo in that last scene absolutely killed me). The shorts were great and, thankfully, none of that cartoon/guest riffer bulls*** (except for the lame cameo by the “Manos II” guys, but it was short and quick); just straight-up riffing goodness. On my way home from the theater I passed by some trash on the sidewalk and saw wrapped together lots of cylinders. Didn’t feel the need to build my own planitarium or hanging horses from them, but a silly grin did cross my face.
Overall I’d put this below “Jack the Giant Killer” (that had 10-12 gut-buster laughs versus this one’s 5 or 6, including the “Twilight White Trash” skit that I honestly thought was making fun of “True Blood”) but ahead of all previous Rifftrax live shows. It’s more “Manos” to love (the deleted scenes incorporated into the movie really stick out) and, at least in my NYC theater, the print was so pristine I spotted details around the screen (especially de daylight scenes and some indoor shots) I had never noticed before on “MST3K” or Shout! DVD. Fun, fun time!
'You can't make chicken salad out of chicken s***'