A couple of weeks ago, I actually got Shaun out of the house to see a performance of Cinematic Titanic in Seattle. Cinematic Titanic is essentially Mystery Science Theater 3000 redux. The creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Joel Hodgson, and four other of the original writers and performers (J. Elvis Weinstein, Mary Jo Pehl, Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff) are back together making fun of ridiculous old movies. They are silhouettes, this time on the side of the screen instead of at the bottom, and also sans puppets. I was very excited about the opportunity to see this kind of show live. It’s a very innovative idea. The movie we saw the night we went was called Dynamite Brothers and the cast had me laughing harder than I had in months. It was the can’t-stop-giggling-for-five-minutes kind of laughing that I know will come back to haunt me some day when I’m in a meeting or trying to be serious and for some reason I think of the line “Oh yeah, he flooded it.”
Cinematic Titanic also sells DVDs and downloads of movies, and after the show Shaun and I bought a couple from the website. They were decent, with a few extra-funny lines, but nothing so great as the live performance. I suspect that with any other live show, the audience and the atmosphere can enliven – or sometimes de-liven – the actual material. It was a great audience, though I have to say that was the nerdiest bunch of people I have ever seen gathered together at once, and my husband works at Microsoft. I am still waiting for the Dynamite Brothers to go on sale to see if it feels the same from my living room as it did in the theater.
Another thing about Titanic that catches me off guard is the fact that it is the original cast of MST3K. I came late to the show, and thus am most familiar with and have the most affection for the Mike Nelson group (Mike, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett.) They also still work together, riffing on old movies as the (now defunct?) Film Crew, and in a stroke of pure genius, riffing on new movies as Riff Trax. Riff Trax is the ONLY acceptable way to watch movies such as The Matrix or Star Wars. I call it a stroke of genius because of course it would be way too expensive to buy the rights to these famous new movies, so they simply sell the track as an audio file, with software or instructions on how to sync it to your copy of the movie. (Shaun has several of these movies I’d never watch (and no taste), which is quite handy, but otherwise you can rent or borrow them.) While I appreciate the true horribleness of the older, unknown films, I take particular delight in the sarcasm directed towards what I consider these inexplicably popular movies. (Although some of their riffing choices, such as Memento seem strange to me… Perhaps they just didn’t like the film. This reminds me of another post I want to write, stay tuned.)
Finally, I want to call particular attention to Kevin Murphy – Mr. Tom Servo himself – just because I like him. I like his voice, I like his humor, and I definitely liked his book. Sometime after MST3K, he wrote A Year at the Movies, an account of his visiting different theaters across the world, every day for a year. This is another innovative idea, because while zillions of people talk about movies, nobody really talks about the movie-going experience. He visits all sorts of theaters, from your modern-day megaplex to your old-time art houses. And, just as the audience and the experience heightened my enjoyment of Cinematic Titanic, so does the act of going to the theater change the film-watching experience. Murphy gets this, and it is an interesting read whether you like going out to the movies, or like me, staying in and watching the DVD.