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Written by / 7/12/2014 / No comments / , , , , , , ,

CHOMPING ON THE PHENOM OF SHARKNADO WITH ROBBIE RIST

year: 2013 camp value: ***1/2
“Like an adorable puppy with really huge feet,” actor Robbie Rist describes SHARKNADO, the 2013 SyFy Channel cult thriller about, well, a tornado full of sharks attacking Los Angeles from the sky. “It doesn't know that it is supposed to fade into the background, so it will probably be in your face for the next decade or so.”

Well thanks to the RiffTrax team of Mystery Science Theater 3000 veterans Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, the glorious SHARKNADO is back in the spotlight...

As a deliberate, schlocky venture inviting a bevy of jokes and hilarious insults to be hurled its way, the movie is, like any camp classic worth poking fun at, something of a phenomenon, and actually holds up as a terribly entertaining motion picture in its own wonderful right: With melodramatic one-liners coinciding with a tongue in cheek, or in this case, tooth in flesh underline, SHARKNADO stars BEVERLY HILLS 90210 bad boy Ian Ziering as Fin Hunter, a former surf champion who, when not hitting the waves with his Australian sidekick Baz Hogan (BAYWATCH alumni Jason Simmons), runs a tavern on the pier that peaks out at the bikini-clad beach. And here’s where the madness begins… Well, not exactly…

The pulpy prologue takes place on a fishing boat far out at the storm-drenched sea, where a below-deck conversation between a spooky, lantern jawed sailor and an Asian businessman provides a literal snack before the meal: When the desperate, gun-toting suit grabs the briefcase of cash, and tries escaping on the boat’s thunderous deck (where he plans to go is the real mystery), the first of many sharks appear, leaping from the water and eventually dusting off both rudimentary characters, who made little sense to begin with…

Driving  Under Sharkfluence
It’s when our important and relatively likable heroes Fin, Baz, John Heard’s local drunk, George, and the movie’s Robert Shaw in the form of a young barmaid with her very own Quintesque backstory monolog, Cassandra Scerbo’s Nova Clarke, witness the thunderous hurricane outside... causing one shark to torpedo through the window and land chomping inside the bar... that the story really begins.

The best scenes have the characters battling and/or escaping from the killer fish in various locations throughout Los Angeles. The 90's style CGI Effects actually compliment various insert shots where the budget seems so abysmal, the graphics look straight out of, as one RiffTrax member pointed out, something from a used car advertisement.

In-between the action, as the cast drives Fin’s car from one location to the next, witnessing Los Angeles in flooded ruins while various sharks gobble freeway pedestrians, the conversations drag: An obvious attempt to flesh out characters that are merely flesh to begin with – especially compared to the headlining sharks, either riding the roving tornado or swimming throughout the swamped city streets. 

Ian Ziering rocks
And as happens in the horrendous Matthew Broderick GODZILLA (which is the next RiffTrax Live victim), you’ll be surprised at how soon the characters forget the impending peril around them. Like complaining about a toothache during the Apocalypse, human nature never fully surrenders to its own banal narcissism. 

Yet all the superfluous chum makes the shark battling scenes that much more important, and downright bad ass. Especially after the introduction of Tara Reid as April, Fin’s ex wife, his pouty daughter and eventually their intrepid pilot son, the literally explosive third act plays out at an airport connected to an old folk’s home: an extremely bizarre OK Corral for a monstrous climactic showdown. 

But hey, wait a minute... We’re missing one important scene earlier on: Reminiscent of the kind of suspenseful setup by Irwin Allen in the 1970’s, when the gang happens upon a busload of kids stranded beneath a bridge – sharks circling the vehicle with formidable rancor – it’s a do or die effort on our lead hero’s part to save everyone on board…

That includes not only the children but also their longhaired hippie bus driver, Robbie, played by Robbie Rist, who you’ll recall as Cousin Oliver from the last half of the final season of THE BRADY BUNCH as well as Michelangelo in the original TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURLES flicks, child genius Dr. Zee on GALACTICA 1980, and many other cinematic and television appearances and voice-overs...

A scruffy Robbie Rist
How did your part as the Bus Driver come about in SHARKNADO?

I had worked with the director, Anthony C. Ferrante, doing music for his films for gosh... maybe 20 years, or something like that. 

As we were wrapping music for The Asylum's Hansel and Gretel movie, Anthony told me he was offered the directing gig on SHARKNADO. I knew the film was going into production as I had talked to another huge genre fan friend I have, and we had lost our minds over the title alone when we saw it at AFM (American Film Market).

So, Anthony tells me he is being offered the job and I LEAPT out of my chair, grabbed him by the lapels and said, “Look... Two things. First off, you HAVE to direct this movie. I don't know why. I just... have a feeling about it… And also, if you DO direct this movie, I want to be in it!" He wrote me the part, I mostly improvised my lines and.... how nutty I end up being in yet ANOTHER pop culture smash to go along with my TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES run and THE BRADY BUNCH…

By the way, want to up the odds of your project becoming culturally significant? Put me in it!

Your scene with Ian being lifted up to the bridge – what kind of physicality was involved on your part? 

Some stuntwork
Well, they pulled me up about 20 feet and, being the professional I am, I said, "Thank you. That's high enough!" Then a stunt person took over… I’m terrified of heights!

Your  death scene is great, especially the backstory leading to the inevitable Hollywood Sign demise...

It was my first death onscreen! I think we shot a couple of takes of me trying out different lines. The Hollywood one apparently struck a chord!

And so, after the fate of poor Robbie, and many other unlucky L.A. residents, at the climax of SHARKNADO, as two characters fly a helicopter to drop homemade bombs into the formidable, swirling menace... And down below, as Ian Ziering intrepidly slices approaching sharks with a chainsaw... The theater was so immersed in the action, cheering wildly at the incredibly taut hilarity of the proceedings, the RiffTrax guys were, along with everyone else, simply an audience reveling in a cult phenomenon that will only get better (as in, awesomely worse) with time…

Especially thanks to the actors and actresses delivering campy lines so seriously, the very special effects ultimately seem peripheral to the characters that make SHARKNADO such a wonderfully guilty pleasure.

Rist about to be finished
Do you think the movie meant to be bad from the very conception?

Well, look at the title! I think it came front-loaded with a sense of humor. It knew that it wasn't re-writing THE BARD’S CANON... 

What actually amazes me about it (well there are lots of things, actually, but this is big) is that The Asylum gave Anthony basically nine dollars to make what really could have been a hundred million dollar budgeted movie (I mean, it's got something like 300 visual effects in it... That is madness for the budget they had).

I really hope the industry wises up and sees what an asset Ferrante is to any project he attaches himself to. The guy is a frigging wizard... 

The dude has serious skills and I would love to see what he could do with an actual budget... not to mention the appropriate payday for the guy who does all of his music!

Open Wide
What do you personally think of the growing cult status of SHARKNADO?

When Anthony and I started doing the music (we wrote all of the pop songs that appear in the movie, with Anthony singing and playing guitar and keys and even singing… That's him singing on the theme song), we made a joke about it being like The Little Engine That Could, and started joking that SHARKNADO is the movie that didn't know there were things it wasn't supposed to do.

It looked bigger than most films done at the same budget level. And it turned out he had a great leading man in Ian Ziering, the FX were looking way better than imagined... So yeah, that is my take on SHARKNADO and its cult status.

In three syllables, SHARKNADO tells you everything you need to know and what you are in for… A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL doesn't do that, does it?
And along with sporadic JAWS references, Steven Spielberg's 1941 unhinged ferris wheel evokes bonus homage
GOOGLE RIFFTRAX LIVE AND MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU
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