Rifftrax equivalent of Manos?

For a lot of folks Manos is the archetypal MST3K film - an unbelievably bad yet undiscovered gem given new life by the show. What film do you think occupies an equivalent spot in the Rifftrax canon?

  • Birdemic
  • The Room
  • Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny
  • The Apple
  • other film (please specify)

0 voters


I couldn’t vote for it, but thanks for adding The Apple to the general RiffTrax conversation. I wish they’d riff Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band so I could have a “Brought to you by cocaine!” double feature.


Tough choices, I’d lean towards Birdemic, the laughable FX add another layer of incompetence.

But they are finding a lot of low quality, amateur productions… I think with the tech today just about anyone can make a movie, invite your pals, film it in your backyard, add cheap FX and there you go. (Fungicide has that feel to it). Birdemic, like Manos, at least comes off like someone was trying, though failing, to make a competent movie.

Oh, and Maniac… gawd that was so painful even the riffing couldn’t save it for me.


That one is so old it almost gets a pass because the cinematic lexicon was so nascent then. I had the feeling all the filmmakers had been exposed to were silent shorts and German Expressionism. You’re right that it’s a tough movie all the same. It’s the Rifftrax entry that most feels like a snuff film.


Some of the following already had a small cult following, but still:

  • Miami Connection
  • Samurai Cop
  • Radical Jack
  • Birdemic

If the silent shorts were Keaton’s and the expressionism was Lang, then they have no excuse. :wink:

I’m big on the silent era, and enjoy watching the development of cinematic language… and how each built upon the other year after year, and Maniac appears to be a deliberate step back. A Letterboxd pal of mine noted this about the filmmaker…

In the documentary, AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE… I learned that Director Dwain Esper found a formula to prosper against the recently installed Production Code. He would make very low budget movies with sensationalistic storylines, filled with violence, gore and sex. These shows would run in small independent theaters and would fly under the local censorship laws by containing “educational” components.

His full write-up… ‎‘Maniac’ review by Jim Dooley • Letterboxd

So how I’m reading it, Esper did this on purpose rather than bungling into it? (edit - course, they all do it on purpose, but I meant with this one, it was more self aware)


Interesting insight, thanks. And it makes sense that even back then people would be gaming the system if it meant they could release a lurid moneymaker. That goes back to the days of Fleet Street and probably earlier still.

Very true! :grin:


Gotta be Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny.


I discovered Miami Connection through Rifftrax and my life has been better for it ever since


I’d say Rollergator or Fun In Balloonland. But Santa Claus & the Ice Cream Bunny also works.


Birdemic is in a class by itself. And the popularity Rifftrax brought it was (sadly) enough to earn it a sequel.

I think The Room already had a following pre-Rifftrax? They just made it better (in every sense).

But I do have to give honorable mention (even though it’s not a movie) to Demon Bat. It’s hard to think of a more deserving target, and it’s just satisfying to watch them rip it to shreds.


This is a tough one, and I’ve given it altogether too much thought. I think Manos occupies its special place in MST history because, in part, when it first aired the mainstream audience (myself included) had never seen anything like it. It was a seismic shock to the senses. We thought we’d seen “bad” until this came along.

But it was also an earnest effort; as far as I know, Hal Warren was trying his best to make a legitimately good movie, but wound up in way over his head. Movie-making gear was expensive then, not accessible to just anyone, so I think all the videotaped stuff, like Feeders and Roller Gator, doesn’t really “count” as contenders by this measure.

Of the choices you gave, I’d have to go with Birdemic – I believe James Nguyen was genuinely trying to tell a compelling story but lacked the skills and resources to get from A to B. The Room is surely the more expensive boondoggle, but the story is tired – man loves woman, woman doesn’t love man. Ice Cream Bunny is close, but it’s ostensibly a promotion for an amusement park and so doesn’t quite fit the mold. The Apple is a riffing feast, but doesn’t pack the requisite gut punch of awfulness for me. It’s bad, but not slack-jawed-gaping-in-horror bad.

That said, I think Roller Gator would be my pick for Manos equivalent. I thought I knew “bad” until I saw that. The incessant guitar noodling alone should be tried at the Hague.


12 posts in and still no mention of A Talking Cat?!?

It may not have the stock options or slrpnls of Birdemic, but it definitely has some great riffs, and there is a really terrible film underneath too. I was so taken by it that I named my cat Erica Roberta so I can never forget the - imho stellar - performance from Eric Roberts. “Meanwhile, Julia Roberts decides which oscar to polish…”


I find “Setting Up a Room” to border on outsider performance art. I think Duchamp would have joyfully accepted it as a readymade.


The rifftrax moment most fried into my brain is the “My Own Robot” scene from “Swamp of the Ravens.” This, THIS, is why I have always loved bizarre cinema. How boring would life be without moments like these? I bring you the original because really, it needs nothing added.


I have to go with Birdemic as well, but that’s because I have my own personal requirement for riffed movies. The movie itself has to be genuinely attempting to tell a story, no matter how badly it turns out. I don’t know that Rollergator which I recently watched counts. It’s soooooo bad that I can’t enjoy it, not even riffed. I watch these riffs to have fun and be entertained. If the movie is (to use Joel’s words) sitting on my head and crushing it, I’m not having fun.

And Birdemic was joyous simply because James Nguyen’s sincerity was obvious all through. He was just really bad at it. Manos may have been about winning a bet, but Hal Warren was trying to make a real movie. That’s why I’ve enjoyed many of the Edgewood movies. I get the feeling that the guy who owns Edgewood just really likes making movies. They’re not wonderful but, except for Arachnia which I hated passionately, they’re actually not that bad and they make a good foundation for the riffing.


I love Demon Bat. Actually, I enjoy the Richard Terry eps they’ve done. Once I tracked down Richard Terry’s FB page and someone had asked him about these. He took it in stride and even said he’d be happy to join them in riffing his show. :slight_smile:


Birdemic has my vote for the same reasons as many of you have stated - it’s a sincere attempt at a movie that was stymied at every turn by a complete lack of the practical nous of film-making. One character is killed while unadvisedly popping a squat in the middle of the apocalypse and the director genuinely seems to believe our reaction will be shock, terror, or anything other than amusement. What Orson Welles was to Ed Wood, so Alfred Hitchcock is to James Nguyen, and the result is just as earnest and inept as Plan 9.


McCloud makes some good points.

Can longtime MSTies be surprised anymore? With Rifftrax I’ve almost become jaded, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re telling us you just found ANOTHER movie worse than The Room”. I’ve grown inured to the Feeders and Fungicides and whatnots.

There was also this sense of discovery back in the days before I had all this info at my fingertips. I think that’s part of why Carnival Magic delighted me. I even thought of it as Jonah’s Manos (Joel), or Coleman Francis trilogy (for Mike). And while I don’t feel it’s as bad as Manos or Coleman’s trio, when I saw it I did sit slack-jawed, thinking, “what is this, where did this glorious movie come from?”

Sure, I’d seen Al Adamson’s name in credits (CT covered 2 of his movies), but that was it, a name. But after C.M. that sense of discovery kicked in, that desire to know more. Eventually, I heard the tragic stories of his death, and I heard bits and pieces about how the movie came to be. And I was disappointed that there was no DVD extra for the episode, I would have loved a Ballyhoo type documentary on the picture and its creator.

The point is, it took me back, to when I wasn’t a jaded riffing fan, and a movie could still surprise me and make me want to know more about it.

(saying that, “My Own Robot”, wow, just… wow.)


I’ve gotta go with Guy From Harlem.


Agreed, those are brilliant episodes. I’m glad the host had a good sense of humor about them being riffed.

I very nearly put that on the list as well.