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.

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