Tuesday, September 30, 2014


This week marks the (possibly temporary) end of AfterMST3K.  It began as an exercise in looking over recent projects instead of keeping up with the weekly episode guide for KTMA episodes over at the venerable Satellite News.  Unfortunately I am not much of a self-promoter so I never built much of an audience here.  After keeping it up over the summer, which being my first attempt at a blog was by no means guaranteed, real life intervenes and I will not be available for the next 2-3 weeks.  After that, well, the KTMA season has also run its course, and I fear I am falling behind watching MST3K itself now!  There are only so many hours in the week, alas. 

So, in about a month I will see if the spirit moves me, at least enough to post semi-regularly.  There are a lot of episodes still to cover...

Thanks to anyone who's come across this blog, I hope you enjoyed it or it at least encouraged you to check out some Film Crew, Rifftrax and/or Cinematic Titanic projects yourself.  The possibility remains that Joel's plan to reboot MST3K itself will happen, and if so, I know we'll all be looking forward to it.  And if you'd like to read more episode guides, I would suggest MightyJacks MST3K Review site, which I enjoyed as well.

Thanks for watching!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cinematic Titanic Live: East Meets Watts

Movie: (1974, aka Stud Brown and/or The Dynamite Brothers) A kung-fu expert comes to America searching for his brother, and ends up handcuffed to an ex-con.  Escaping together, they make their way to LA where they confront the Chinese heroin smuggling ring taking over the ghetto in a Kung-fu-meets-Blaxploitation extravaganza.

First released: 12/16/2009 (DVD, download)

Premise:  They are simply performers putting on a show which involves riffing a movie that is being shown.

Opening:  Joel introduces the riffers as they enter the stage and take their seats.  They are placed approximately as on the shadow-rama releases, but more vertically so that they are on the sides of the screen, rather than the bottom.  If you ever wondered how to correctly pronounce “Beaulieu”, this is your chance.

Skit: Well, they take a break for water and Trace does an awesome spit-take at the N-word.  Later they turn down the lights for a moment and Trace tries to escape.  Does that count?  No, I guess not.  

End: The show ends, the performers take a bow.

Extra: No extras.

Availability: on Hulu and from Amazon (DVD, no streaming).   

Reminds me of:  Strangely neither genre was really covered by MST originally, but maybe Angels’ Revenge.

Joel, Frank and Mary Jo’s Take:  here.

Stray observations:
This really felt more like a home movie done by amateurs (particularly the stunts) even though this was a professional cast and crew.  The idea of “Kung-fu-meets-Blaxploitation” is great but execution is sorely lacking, as is a budget (“Seriously, you couldn’t afford even one extra?”).  It also does not pass the Bechdel test—one of the female characters is literally mute!  The twist at the end is set up well enough that the overall story at least has a decent arc.   
No gore to speak of (no bullet holes in bodies even) but it looks like they also cut some nudity (again).  According to Mr Skin, the bad cop’s girlfriend has a longer scene coming out of the swimming pool. 
Overall the new format isn’t as bad as I expected.  It was indeed just like watching a live show; the audience reactions don’t interfere with hearing the riffs (good sound editing/mixing), and the visual presence of the riffers is not a distraction.  The riffers flub lines and crack each other up a lot, along with some affectionate interplay ("Oh, Mary Jo!" "Why?").
By the way, Hulu is not a great way to watch.  One show contains eight commercial breaks (every 10 minutes) with as many as four commercials per break.  Perhaps I’ve just been spoiled watching so many MST-related things on DVD now.
Cast and crew roundup:  Director Al Adamson was also the director of The Oozing Skull (Brain of Blood).  Alan Tang (Larry Chin) had a long and successful career in Hong Kong and Taiwan; he appears to speak English well enough in the film (some kung-fu actors only spoke English phonetically).  Timothy Brown (Stud) had been an NFL player for almost a decade before turning to acting.  James Hong (Wei Chin) is a legend of the screen, playing every Asian character imaginable for many decades.  (I once got his autograph at a comic book convention.)  Aldo Ray (Burke) had been in more impressive work before this.  Susan McIver (Burke’s girlfriend Laura) had been one of Dean Martin’s Golddiggers and a Ding-a-ling Girl, both of which I’ve only heard of via MST riffs!  Eric Cord (Bigot) was a stuntman who also appeared in Sidehackers (Five the Hard Way).
Credits watch:  By my count there are the five riffers, two directors, and seven other credited assistants/producers/sound crew/stage hands, for a total of 14.  The non-silhouette version of CT thus apparently took only 2/3 the manpower and one would imagine is that much more cost-effective.
Callback: “Hey Trace, watch out for snakes, okay.” “Hey Joel, rock climbing.”
Fave riff:  “This is how people get laws named after them.”  Honorable mention: “Aww, it’s copywritten!  Forget it.” ,“You know he’s out of his element when Chinatown seems foreign to him.”

Next week:  I will post an update this week if time allows.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Rifftrax: Incredible Hulk: The Final Round

Movie:  (1978) On the run, David Banner helps people while he searches for a cure for his condition—turning into the Incredible Hulk!  In this (third) episode of the series, Banner befriends an aspiring boxer who unwittingly delivers drugs for the shady gym owner.  When the boxer is set up to be killed in the ring, the Hulk must rescue him.

First released: 05/12/2008 (VOD)

Availability: Download VOD from Rifftrax only.

Reminds me of:  Master Ninja, maybe a bit of The Indestructible Man.

Stray observations:
This was a lot of fun.  Looking at the list of Season 1 Hulk episodes is like looking at a list of every 70’s TV/movie cliché, and this one homages Rocky so strongly that the main character is nicknamed “Rocky”!  I still wonder why this particular episode was chosen—on other TV shows like Heroes or Gray’s Anatomy they used the first two episodes, and from the look of it they could riff this whole season.  Don’t I wish!
There are lots of riffs about Karate Kid, the original Rocky, how old the street gang is (“this was before street toughs had to be, you know, tough”), how dumb the main character is, and the subtle homoerotic quality of Rocky and David’s relationship.
Cast and crew roundup:  Bill Bixby had been on several TV shows already (“Magician… Eddie’s Father… nephew to a Martian”).  He moved from acting to directing and passed, relatively young, in 1993.  Martin Kove (Rocky) has had an amazingly long career, and still has several projects in pre-production today.  He was a frequent guest in 70’s Universal TV productions, from a one-shot on  Charlies’ Angels to a costarring role in Cagney and Lacey.  He is still best remembered as the evil dojo leader from Karate Kid.  John Witherspoon (Tom) and Al Ruscio (Mr. Sariego) have also been around forever; Fran Myers (Mary) went on to write for several soap operas.
Fave riff:  “Guy’s nuttier than squirrel poop.”  Honorable mention:  “He’s in severe danger of being called a ‘turkey’!”  

Next week:   Cinematic Titanic goes unplugged when “East meets Watts”!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cinematic Titanic: Blood of the Vampires

Movie: (1966, aka Whisper to the Wind) A Filipino production about a nineteenth-century Mexican family cursed by a vampire mother who is kept chained in the basement.  While the son and daughter are about to get married (to another brother and sister) the father tries to end their legacy.  The son takes things into his own hands and disaster ensues.

First released: 03/19/2009 (DVD, download)

Premise:  This is the last episode using the original shadow-rama like format.  Although originally stating that studio versions would return, later statements indicated that the cast had abandoned the idea entirely.

Opening:  Todd from The Institute tells the riffers about a data spill in the Coppola sector.  “What, you have good movies here too?”

Skit: Josh hands around some drinks; Frank takes one and gets a call from his sponsor.  We learn that Frank has been sober for 22 years, and that he has the CT theme as his ringtone.

End: Everyone wanders off.

Extra: No extras.

Availability: on Hulu and Amazon Instant.  The DVD does not seem to still be available. (nb: the Hulu version has at least 8 commercial interruptions.)

Reminds me of:  A telenovela version of Manos.

Joel’s Take:  here.

Stray observations:
I saw this at my only Cinematic Titanic Live show, in Cleveland in February 2009.  It was indeed a fun time. 
The movie is a bit of a downer, and has a de-centered feeling that no-one is really the main (sympathetic) character here, and several of the actors and actresses look alike.  Still, no real gore to speak of, and the movie is actually kind of well-done all things considered.

The strangest thing about the movie is the use of actors in blackface.  It is really distracting, and serves as the basis for much riffing.  One wonders why it was so important to have the servant  characters be black in the first place.
Cast and crew roundup:  Most went on to long careers in the Philippines.
Credits watch:  Final count for studio version:  30 named people working on the production, including Todd Carlin as ‘Todd’.
Callback: Joel’s “I do believe in spooks!”, also “Hat from the Torgo collection.”
Gore count: nothing really.
Fave riff:  “Foley guy must be from Holland.”  Honorable mention: “They’re only showing silhouettes of the performers!  That’s lame.”  Poorly timed honorable mention: “My Joan Rivers jewelry is really having an impact on my life!”  Ironic honorable mention: “Oh, I hear it’s on Hulu now.”

Next week:  Good question!  Working from the list onWikipedia, I’m going to go back and watch Rifftrax take on the TV episode Incredible Hulk: The Final Round!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Rifftrax: Little Shop of Horrors

Movie:  (1960) Classic Roger Corman film about a nebbishy flower-shop employee who accidently breeds a carnivorous plant to impress his lovely coworker.  As the plant blooms his good fortune grows, so when he discovers it feeds on blood he makes the best of a bad situation.

First released: 1/28/2009 (mp3 and VOD) 3/4/2009 (on DVD)

Availability: A little complicated!  Download mp3 from Rifftrax; DVD from Rifftrax, Amazon or Netflix. Not on Hulu; no VOD from Rifftrax.  Amazon instant version appears to be Mike solo riff.  (DVD watched for review.)

Reminds me of:  

Stray observations:
It sounds like it’s going to be worse than it is.  In fact it’s a pretty entertaining little movie on its own, with Jonathan Haze doing a Jerry Lewis-type routine.  It also includes a Dragnet running joke with a Joe Friday-like narrator.  Overall it really pushes into comedy over horror, and ends up feeling like an episode of the old Dobie Gillis show. “So far this thing is very light on ‘horror’ and very heavy on ‘little shop’.”   It is also famous for being filmed in only two days, which is pretty impressive from any angle.  (If you enjoyed this, I would recommend the similar Bucket of Blood.)
The riffing is just okay, but I really noticed the riffers talking over the dialogue at times. 
This is the second (Rifftrax) movie in a row that ended up being later turned into a stage musical!
Cast and crew roundup:  Haze was a presence in all the MST Corman films, before retiring fairly early (this was his last major role) and going behind the scenes.   Dick Miller (Fouch) is perhaps the most familiar, being a character actor working consistently for the last fifty years.  Jackie Joseph (Audrey) worked a lot over the years, including a number of voice-over credits such as one of the original Josie and the Pussycats!  Most interestingly, the Riffers point out the stick-up man was played by Charles B. Griffith, the screenwriter of this and most other Corman films.  He certainly didn’t try to give himself the glamour role. 
Credits watch: Since I watched the DVD there were some credits; in addition to Mike, Bill and Kevin was additional writing by Conor Lastowka, as well as production and other services by five others.  I don’t know the size of Rifftrax but this gives some idea of how much more streamlined an operation this was than Film Crew or MST.
Callback: The classic “I’m a Grimault warrior!”
Fave riff:  “Does everyone in this film have a ‘who’s on first’ routine?”  Honorable mention:  “Should I call you ‘Mr. Butts’?” 

Next week:   Cinematic Titanic finds the “Blood of the Vampires”!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Cinematic Titanic: Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks

Movie: (1974) aka Terror! Il Castello delle donne maledette (castle of damned women).  A strange 70’s Italian erotic horror film.  A mad scientist (Count Frankenstein?) tries to reanimate a caveman killed nearby, while romancing his visiting daughter’s friend.  Meanwhile his kitchen staff are all plotting against each other, which leads to the dwarf running away to befriend another caveman, then trying to destroy them all.  Surprisingly enough he succeeds.

First released:  11/24/2008 or 1/8/2009 (DVD, download)

Opening:  The animated headshots plus names introduce the Titans again.  One of the supervisors tells them they’ll be testing out the new “Breast Blimp” for the first time, to ‘clean up’ the movie (‘not the print’).  Josh protests, “What, the people of the future won’t be able to handle nudity?”

Skit: Trace tries to do his presentation but is interrupted, although we do learn his t-shirt says “I like Frank..enstein’s Monster” to everyone’s confusion.

End: Some singing along to the instrumental closing theme as everyone wanders off.

Availability: on Hulu and Amazon Instant.  No DVD?

Reminds me of:  Zombie Nightmare? Blood Waters of Dr. Z?  Castle of Fu Manchu?  I don’t really know.

Joel’s and Frank’s Take:  here.

Stray observations:
Okay, this wasn’t as gory as I remembered (probably confusing the brain operations with Oozing Skull), but without nudity it wasn’t much of anything.  The Breast Blimp was a ‘creative decision’ I disagreed with, as they had no qualms about showing some really disgusting gore in previous films but cut some minor (PG!) nudity.  (There was also a scene with the daughter and fiancé that seems cut out, and the servant girl who gets kidnapped is apparently raped and killed.  Okay, I didn’t need to see that, but still.)  Now that was fine for MST’s City Limits since it was being shown on cable, but this is a DVD I purchased from performers that are not doing all-ages material any more. 
Some of the unedited parts can be seen on the clip and trailer compilation Extra Weird Sampler from Something Weird Video (now out of print).
The film’s conclusion is also off-key.  The dwarf instigates multiple killings when he frees the giant, after raping and killing a servant girl, but at the end is almost the only one left alive with Krista!  No comeuppance.
At least twice there was a riff followed by laughing from the other riffers, and I couldn’t tell whether they were flubbing a line or just cracking each other up.
Cast and crew roundup:  The supervisor was played by Todd Carlin. 
Credits watch:  Joel and Frank are both saddened by the decline of Rossano Brazzi (Count Frankenstein), but Michael Dunn (Genz) really steals the show.  The female lead, Christiane Royce/Rücker (Krista) is a knockout in a very 1970’s European way.
Callback: A few come in at the last minute, including “I crap bigger than that,” “It was Callahan” and “Last thing a barfbag sees.”
Fave riff:  “She’s wearing a wedding dress!  Can’t you take a hint?” and Josh’s “This totally reminds me of my last day at MST.”  Poorly-timed honorable mention: “If you ever wondered what Robin Williams looks like naked.”

Next week:  Rifftrax takes on Roger Corman’s original “Little Shop of Horrors”!