1999 brought upon us the end of an eleven year era; the end of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. Beloved by many, the show brought to life the art of ‘riffing’ to many a B-Movie that most viewers would never had bothered watching if it wasn’t for Jole and the Bots. Cut to nine years later, and now the original gang is back with “Cinematic Titanic”!
Cribbing from the original formula that worked so well, Joel Hodgson brought together the original cast; Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein, Frank Conniff, and Mary Jo Pehl and set work on ripping on some new old movies. Where Mike Nelson reinvented this niche genre with ‘Rifftrax’, the gang here stuck to what they knew oh so well.
In this, the third release from Cinematic Titanic, they bring to us “The Wasp Woman”, the 1959 Sci-Fi B-Movie (No pun intended) extolling the fears of sexism and age-ism starrring Susan Cabot. This Corman classic is well known and has be included in probably hundreds of bargain bin box sets as its been in the public domain for many years. There’s not much to say on the movie itself; it’s pretty much synopsized completely by the title. (Note: the gang makes a point of this on the DVD too!) There’s not much to review as far as the movie goes; it’s being riffed for a reason. It’s not a stellar movie; it’s fun in it’s zany plot and corny-ness. Despite that, it’s not really the point!
The reason that I’m here reviewing this disk and why we’re buying the DVD is for the laughs. 1999 was a sad year for many when the Bots were put to rest once and for all. With Cinematic Titanic, the bots aren’t back, but their voices are! With all of the original voices returned, it’s easy to forget that you’re not watching MST3K. The humor is the same as ever; it’s funny, it’s lewd, it’s timed well. Much like any given movie night across the country with a group of friends chugging beer and watching a bad movie, it feels natural and familiar. It feels so much like the old days, it makes me nostalgic just writing about it!
The big difference here between Cinematic Titanic and MST3K is the change in silhouettes and formats of the shows. Gone are the cut up scenes cast around commercial breaks, most likely because there are no commercial breaks! This is sad in a nostalgic sense as those scenes were among my favorite things about the show. Be it Joel and the bots with their invention swaps, or Dr. Forrester and TV’s Franks oddball mad scientist schtick, they added just as much to the viewing experience as the riffing itself did. Cinematic Titanic has dropped this all together, although they do add in the occasional silhouetted gag across the bottom of the screen. These work, but not as effective as their original counterparts; this omission doesn’t effect the overall movie experience however.
The riffing still makes up for the lack of scenes or scenery and is still a laugh riot. The silhouettes are a bit disconcerting at first too. The original show had Joel and company sitting in theater seats across the bottom of the screen. In Cinematic Titanic, the five jokesters are set in a more elaborate setup that creeps up the corners of the screen and contains various things like chairs, railings, or podiums. Again, not a real detractor from the disk itself, but…it just doesn’t make sense! The bots and their theater seats made you feel like you were there in the theater with them and was immediately identifiable. Now it’s slightly confusing and doesn’t really mesh as seamlessly. More than anything? I end up feeling uncomfortable for the two guys who spend the entirety of the moving standing up!
“Cinematic Titanic” is the next evolution of MST3K. Mike Nelson’s Rifftrax are fun and a nice continuation; this is the real thing. Being an avid watcher of the original show, (I got KTMA episodes on VHS, for reals.) this incarnation just felt natural. The true test? I watched this on the computer while multitasking. While listening to it in the background, it was easy to forget I wasn’t watching MST3K.