Monday, December 30, 2013

The Last Voyage of the Cinematic Titanic


At this theater in Glenside, PA, near Philadelphia, a handful of people will see the final voyage of the Cinematic Titanic. It'\ll be the last time where the original cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000, plus TV's Frank Conniff and former Mad Scientist mom Mary Jo Pehl will pummel bad cinema to the delight of others. They'll end their six-year run with a double feature: The Wasp Woman (pure, uncut Corman) and The Doll Squad (so cheesy a cable channel aired it...on purpose). By the way, I want to thank Tony Goggin for letting me use this photo.

It's hard to believe that six years ago we saw the first movie, The Oozing Skull, and we wondered if the MST3K alumni still had that way of mocking bad acting, writing, special effects and even editing. When it was first available, it had a modest DVD disc:

After about five minutes, we all thought, "Cool. Nailed It, We're back". Still, when Joel re-used an old riff about "The Mod Squad", and said he was old, we understood. The important thing was, the spirit of MST3K was revived through Cinematic Titanic. It was like the old days: a bunch of people trapped by nearly-evil forces, required to mock bad movies for some vague reason, then put away the results in a time tube. It's not exactly like being trapped in space, but it was the next best thing. It's too bad that when they switched to making DVDs of live shows, they didn't include an escape attempt in one of the DVDs.

The choice of the Keswick was also interesting, but I would have thought the last show could have been in the Uptown in Minneapolis, where a convention included a live riffing of "This Island Earth". Still, the CT tour has toured in an arena, classic theaters, and even New York City.

The fun of mocking movies continues through Rifftrax, which got into full gear a year earlier than CT, and Incognito Cinema Warriors XP, which started in 2008 and continues to do "host segments" more complex than MST ever did. Not bad, since it started as "something to sell on MySpace".
Heck, if you get the blu-ray version of The Heat, you get a commentary track of Joel, Trace and Josh, er, J. Elvis mocking Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy from start to finish. Sure, Trace and J. Elvis used to work for the director, but... (Note, I reviewed this, and it somehow became popular).

I actually met Joel, Trace, J. Elvis and Frank at a convention in San Jose in 2008 shortly after the first CT episode:


I thought this was a great moment, because I finally got J. Elvis' autograph, and got to meet my cable TV heroes. After all, when would I ever meet them again?

Well, it would be a lot sooner than I thought:



This was their first live visit to San Francisco, when they riffed on East Meets Watts (although back then they called it The Dynamite Brothers), and created the "Spit Take Heard Round the World" that's on the live version. I still have the ticket stub

Now, some of us get in the habit of riffing, even on good movies. I do that while I watch something like Frozen, American Hustle or even a movie that everyone but me has seen, like any Harry Potter movie.

Also, I try to "improve" on the riffing of others. My Rifftrax copy of that over-discoed-in-a-new-wave-world musical, The Apple, has great commentary, but I try to add to it. In the "Show Business" number, I wondered why Mike Nelson never noticed the whole routine was similiar to how Baz Luhrmann would have staged a Super Bowl halftime show. Also, in "Cry for Me," when Alfie does his big song outside his apartment window, I find myself singing, "I'm mad at Hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore".
If I watch it again, maybe I could come up with a riff for Catherine Mary Stewart, who was the female lead who went on to Night of the Comet. That's not quite as surprising as the cast including a soap opera star (Finola Hughes) and a guy who helped create two reality shows (Nigel Lythgoe).
Yes, that's how I sometimes see movies, unless it's Gravity. That movie is riff-proof.

At least I was there for the final San Francisco show at the Castro. It's too bad the sound was terrible for the first half, The Doll Squad. After seeing it on TCM a few weeks ago, it's just as well, but I just couldn't come up with any good riffs.
That's why I am hoping that we'll get one last CT DVD of Doll Squad, Astral Factor or even Samson and the Seven Miracles. Just one more for the road, guys.

So, the final Cinematic Titanic show may lead to tears, laughs, and maybe a two-hour chant by the crowd, begging "Please Don't Go". Yet, it has to end, since the cast have new lives all over the country. Besides, Rifftrax and ICWXP will pick up the slack in their own way.
As long as there's an actor taking a role he doesn't have a clue to do convincingly (hello Johnny Depp), they'll be there. As long as there's cheesy, high-priced sci-fi and bad book adaptations, they'll be there. As long as Adam Sandler, Michael Bay, Kristen Stewart  and Keanu Reeves are employed, they'll be there.

Besides, if the Eagles, Frank Sinatra, Cher and Brett Favre unretired, maybe the Cinematic Titanic will sail again in the seas of Video On Demand, Netflix and DVDs. We can only hope.

For now, Godspeed, Cinematic Titanic!

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