Monday, June 30, 2014

Film Crew: Killers from Space

Movie: (1953/4) An atomic scientist disappears, reappears, acts strangely, and eventually spins a fantastic yarn about being held captive by odd-looking aliens.  When no one believes him, he commandeers the local power plant to try to fight back. 

First released:  8/7/2007 (on DVD)

Opening:   Kevin electrocutes himself just before Bob Honcho calls.  Mike, Bill and Kevin and are given a riddle along with their assignment, while Honcho recovers from a leg extension treatment in St. Bart’s with Tony Danza.

Lunch Break: Kevin shows some alternate designs for the aliens from the “original sketchbook of the original costume designer of the original movie.”

End: Mike and Kevin describe and then demonstrate the movie’s most unusual technique, “Robichet”;  an insert shot of an actor in extreme close up with all life drained out of them.

Extra: Kevin invites viewers to choose a translation of the backwards-masking in a scene.  Although just watching and waiting is also pretty entertaining.

Availability: Amazon, Amazon instant, and Netflix. Strangely absent on Hulu.

Reminds me of:  The beginning is reminiscent of Amazing Colossal Man, and overall the alien’s plan is close to Teenagers from Space as well as MST3K: the Movie.  

Stray observations:
This is the first movie that is really similar to early MST fare.  The limited cast, heavy use of stock footage and drawn-out scenes are all typical of very low-budget films of the time.  IMBD says it was released in 1954, and you can spot a 1953 license plate tag on a car.  
I doubt they were meant to be very menacing in the first place but the alien costumes are really hard to take seriously.  The googly-eye look just cracks me up.  
The atomic testing being a danger to the world is a plot point that has also been used before.  Were people really that concerned about them at the time?  The weird surgical scar is a nice touch to suggest something happened, but since the cause was a jet plane in a nose dive, was his heart really the only thing that was needed help?  Also fun is when aliens threaten to colonize Earth, bringing “one billion” new people to a planet that already has “three billion.”  We’re at about 7 billion now. 
I do enjoy the use of the slide rule here.  I’ve always wanted to learn how to use one.
The print here is one of the worst I’ve ever seen.  There is also a strange disconnect between foreground and background at times—was this supposed to be in 3D?
Cast and crew roundup:  Peter Graves is the most recognizable face here, having appeared in Beginning of the End, It Conquered the World and Parts: the Clonus Horror.  The only other face that pops out is Frank Gerstle (Dr Kruger), who we’ll see again in a few weeks on Wasp Woman.  The director’s son was the story writer.  Most of the cast had long careers as character actors on various TV shows.
Callback: Several Biography jokes, but probably less than in Clonus.  Also they mix it up with some Mission: Impossible references.
Fave riff:  “Wee-hoo.  I’m as happy as a clam.”  Honorable mention:  “More like Killers of time.”

Next week:  Cinematic Titanic takes us past the end of the world with “Doomsday Machine”!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Cinematic Titanic: The Oozing Skull

Movie: (1971) The beloved king Amir of Khalid is dying and wants to have a brain transplant.  His followers take his body to a doctor in America, where his brain is temporarily given to a disfigured giant.  The doctor is up to no good, and neither is anyone else, really.

First released: 12/21/2007 (DVD, download)

Premise: The premise is not explained at all in this show, although they do refer to it as their first production. 

Opening: A countdown screen and jazzy theme with bits from the upcoming movie, while the riffers take the stage.  From left to right the Titans are Josh Weinstein, Joel Hodgson, Mary Jo Pehl, Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu.  All five are shown in silhouette around the lower screen.
Skit: Frank introduces the “most beloved” sketch of Cinematic Titanic, “Frank Conniff’s Hollywood Cavalcade.”  Al Hirt tries to play the trumpet, but is overcome by the operation scene.
Skit: Joel stops to ask if watching someone pour battery acid on someone’s face is really entertainment.
Skit: Trace helps the lady with her makeup.
Skit: Josh tries to create a theme song for the lovers.
End: Mary Jo drives off in a Brain-of-Bloodmobile, while the other silhouettes go wild.
Extra: No extras. 
Availability: on Hulu, Amazon Instant.  The original download service (EZTakes) does not seem to still be available, nor does the DVD.
Reminds me of:  Parts: the Clonus Horror,  Atomic Brain, and The Brain that Wouldn’t Die; but the lurid color is more like Castle of Fu Manchu or Blood Waters of Dr. Z.

Joel’s Take:  here.

Stray observations:
Five years after the end of MST3K, and closer to twelve years since Joel left it, it is great to hear those voices riffing again.  Josh is a revelation here, as he has matured into a surprisingly able riffer, certainly better than his season with MST would suggest.  Joel and Trace are as versatile as ever, although without the Joel/Crow dynamic, and Frank and Mary Jo fill out the cast with solid work despite having only riffed for one segment in MST. 
The Oozing Skull (aka Brain of Blood) is darker and bloodier than MST fare.  The dying leader Amir inspires great loyalty in his subjects, although he does not really seem that great, and I don’t know if any Middle Eastern monarchs are really so beloved.  Maybe this was more plausible at the time?  His friend Bob is the default protagonist as most of rest of the cast gets killed.  Bob does not really seem to be as smart as you would want for a doctor, being blind to the ethics of this brain transplant business and never once seeing through the scheming fiancĂ©/wife Tracy.
A few minutes seem to be edited out (sadly, not the operation or acid scenes) so maybe there were some resolutions and explanations missing.  Why did the doctor try to have Bob and Mohammed killed?  They were just coming back later to pick up the body.  How did Gor take over the body, or was Amir just fine with random violence?  Why was Tracy helping the doctor, when she was already in line to marry Amir?  Most of all, what happened to the little girl chained up in the basement?   
The end is a downer—except for the creation of a well-funded Ministry of Science back in Khalid, which seems almost prescient.  It almost makes up for the creation of a race of immortals ruling the world that Dr. Trenton has now permitted.  And I guess Katherine and the boy got away.  Probably.
Cast and crew roundup: The most recognizable cast member, Kent Taylor (Dr. Trenton), was in The Crawling Hand.  Regina Carol (Tracy) was married to the director, and they made many films together.  John Bloom (Gor) was 7’ 4” in real life, so actually was pretty imposing!  Angelo Rossitto (Dorro) had a very long and impressive career, including Todd Browning’s Freaks.  Sadly most of the cast has passed away over the years. 
Credits watch: Aside from the five riffers no familiar names from MST.  I count 22 crewmembers in production roles; again, more than the last season of MST3K.
Fave riff:  “Christina’s World.  Look it up.”  Honorable mention: “You are the wind beneath my scabs.”

Next week:  Film Crew checks in with “Killers from Space”!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Film Crew: Hollywood After Dark

Movie: (1961/62/68/69) A cynical loner at a salvage yard is invited to a life of crime by the owner of a burlesque house, where he meets an ambitious stripper played by a young Rue McClanahan. 

First released: 7/10/2007 (on DVD)

Premise:  Mike, Bill and Kevin play lightly-fictionalized versions of themselves, sitting in a basement putting commentary tracks on films under the direction of “Bob Honcho.”  To quote: “Think of us as a value-added reseller, increasing profits for people who aren’t us.” 

Opening:   The premise is established with Mike, Bill and Kevin introducing themselves, then taking a conference call with their boss.  Honcho assigns them to provide a commentary track for Rue McClanahan’s Hollywood After Dark.
Break:  Bill wants to run a lunch meeting while Mike and Kevin just want lunch.
End: An attempt to reenact the ‘character killed by lightbulb’ scene is scuttled when they realize that the character was not in fact killed.
Extra: Bill recites a sonnet about lunch.
Availability: DVD sold out at Shout, but available on Hulu, Amazon, Amazon instant, and Netflix.
Reminds me of:  some of the JD/crime films, like Beatniks, Sinister Urge, Racket Girls or Dead Talk Back.  Not quite as nihilistic as the Coleman Francis series, but getting there.

Stray observations:
This was a welcome return to riffing over five years after the end of MST3K.  The Film Crew’s Wikipedia and IMBD pages give the basic story behind the production:  Originally filmed as a direct-to-DVD release for Rhino home video, disputes with Jim Mallon over similarities to MST kept the episodes on the shelf until picked up by Shout Factory.  After some adjustments in post-production (“Bob Rhino” became “Bob Honcho”) a poll was taken to determine the release order for 4 new Film Crew productions, and this was the first chosen by the fans.  (This still seems strange to me.)
The year the film was made or released is given several times, none of which match.  Bob Honcho says it was made in 1962, and the opening credits are 1969.  However IMBD (aka Walk the Angry Beach) claims it was made in 1961 and released in 1968.  The earlier date is reflected by the cars and clothes in the film.  (Note the Film Crew’s own release date was 2007, with credits for 2005!)
The stripping sequences look like they were inserted later, perhaps for the 1969 release.  There is thankfully very limited Rue stripping, and she is shown from behind and side instead of full on with pasties as the ‘real’ strippers are.  While the film may have been cut in places the stripping sequences are not edited, and go on far too long. 
Cast and crew roundup:  There are actually no credits on the movie itself!  Strange.  Of course Rue McClanahan is the big name here:  the writer/director’s IMBD page mentions that he was seeing Rue for several years, which probably explains her presence.
Credits watch: Several names from the MST days are here, most notably the beloved Beez McKeever as the secretary’s voice and behind the scenes prop work, but also Brad Keely and Jeff Stonehouse.  The Film Crew is a well-populated production:  by my count 23 people listed in the credits in various production capacities, which is actually more than the last season of MST where I count 19 working on a representative episode!
Callback: There’s a “Mike Nelson” riff which Mike responds to that seems very much like a late MST routine.
Fave riff:  “If Jim Jarmusch directed a caper film.”/Honorable mention:  “Sexy or horrifying? You decide!” and "We call ourselves 'McLana-fans'."

Next week: Cinematic Titanic starts off with “The Oozing Skull”!

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Welcome to AfterMST3K, an experimental (and rather bare-bones) blog for mutual viewing and discussion of the riffed movies of Film Crew, Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic.  I am going to try having regular viewings and (hopefully) discussions during the next 2-3 months, while venerable Satellite News  is covering the KTMA “Season zero” episodes of MST3K.  After that we will see if this blog has more life.

I’m not going to pretend to be some Rifftrax/Cinematic Titanic Superfan.  But I have enjoyed some of the productions from both groups, and want to try giving the MST3KInfo Episode Guide treatment to some of the episodes they’ve created, and after Sampo at Satellite News announced they would not be dividing their time between old and new material, i thought i might as well try to do something myself.  Believe it or not Film Crew launched in 2005-6, making it about 8 years old already!  And frankly i was more interested in this than MST's KTMA episodes.  I get it, but when I think that CT literally lived and died within the time we were discussing the “Green Slime” pilot for the second time, I really began to feel guilty that I was still looking at old things and not giving their new work a chance.

My schedule for the upcoming weeks is intended to alternate equally between Rifftrax/Film Crew and Cinematic Titanic.  Obviously the output from Rifftrax is much larger than either of the others, so to give myself some guidelines:
  • All Film Crew releases
  • All Cinematic Titanic releases
  • Rifftrax releases that are VOD and/or DVD, and of those only the 3-riffer versions.
  • Chronological order (of release)

So here we go.  I have never run a blog so bear with me!  I am hoping to get comments about what other viewers liked/disliked, so i am going to try to make the comments easy to post, and hopefully we will not get the spam that proliferates on untended blog comments.  Please leave any suggestions for more or less coverage and we'll see what people want to do!

Tentative schedule:

  1. June 16:  “Hollywood After Dark” (Film Crew)
  2. June 23: “The Oozing Brain” (Cinematic Titanic)
  3. June 30: “Killers From Space” (Film Crew)
  4. July 7: “The Doomsday Machine” (Cinematic Titanic)
See you next Monday.