For those new to B-movie riffing, Cinematic Titanic is the successor project of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It features Joel Hodgson, the creator of both shows, and the entire original cast of MST3K: Trace Beaulieu (Crow, Dr. Forrester), J. Elvis Weinstein (Tom Servo, Dr. Erhardt), Frank Conniff (TV’s Frank), and Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester). As the Cinematic Titanic website states, “the CT crew is reconnecting with MSTies around the world as well as bringing new fans to the comedy art form first introduced by this group 20 years ago on television.” In pursuit of that goal, the Titans (as the cast is called) have toured extensively since the group’s founding in 2007, and released seven studio DVDs:
- The Oozing Skull
- The Doomsday Machine
- The Wasp Woman
- Legacy of Blood
- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians — a classic holiday film that was first riffed on MST3K, becoming a fan-favourite episode.
- Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks
- Blood of the Vampires
All of the DVDs are also conveniently available as downloads.
Cinematic Titanic LIVE‘s second outing has a script that brings just as much humour to the screen as East Meets Watts, which Cinematic Titanic says is “quickly becoming the runaway favorite CT ep!”, but The Alien Factor could very well abduct that distinction. The performers have had time to refine their live show since they were last taped, and are therefore noticably more relaxed in their new, less formal format, often straying from the script to improv an extra comment or tease one another. They sometimes get so caught up in the moment, laughing at their fellow riffers’ antics and responding to reactions from the appreciative audience, that they miscue or flub a line, which only adds to the hilarity. The overall result is a more interactive, personal experience that comes close to recreating the casual feel of hanging out with friends to view a cheesy movie while goofing off and eating pizza. It’s clear from their banter that the Titans are close friends who enjoy working together, and their playfulness is infectious, making anyone watching them want to join in the fun. As such, the Cinematic Titanic LIVE DVDs are a perfect gateway to entice fans to the live shows.
Like the first live DVD, The Alien Factor seats the five Titans on either side of the movie screen in roughly the same arrangement as the studio shows, the performers highlighted in individual spotlights instead of just appearing as black silhouettes. In the studio DVDs, it’s sometimes difficult to tell who’s saying what in silhouette, so having everyone in full view throughout the live films is a definite plus, especially as it allows facial expressions and subtler gestures to be seen. This is a novelty for Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans, who only saw the host and two robots riff from shadowy theatre seats at the bottom of the screen, and then only from the shoulders up.
The Alien Factor, a 1978 horror sci-fi that rates 4.0/10 on IMDb, is the sort of film that would have been right at home on MST3K, as it was seemingly made for the express purpose of being riffed on. When a movie opens with the cliché situation of “teenagers in a car at make-out point being attacked by an alien monster”, you know you’re in for an enjoyably predictable ride. Indeed, The Alien Factor quickly runs through the expected checklist of cheesy sci-fi tropes that are so much fun to roast, including rubber-suited aliens, special effects done on a less-than-shoestring budget, and a town populated by half-wits who make it painfully easy for the aliens to pick them off, like shooting fish in a barrel. The real proof of Cinematic Titanic‘s claim to fame as “The Masters of Movie Riffing” is revealed, though, when the female lead stumbles aimlessly through the woods for an interminable length of time, with not a moment of dialogue or plot development in sight, and the Titans still manage to make it entertaining. Their incisive critique transforms this unintentionally funny film into a first-rate comedy.
The production quality of Cinematic Titanic‘s DVDs remains on par with big studio releases, an impressive feat for a small, artist-funded project. They may not have bonus materials on their discs, aside from previews of other Cinematic Titanic titles, but with such an outstanding main feature, padding isn’t really essential. The one improvement Cinematic Titanic could make in future releases is to their menus, which are a bit plain and rough-edged, but unless you’re one of those DVD snobs who isn’t satisfied with anything less than fully animated, singing and dancing menus, that’s just a small quibble with an otherwise excellent DVD.
Cinematic Titanic has even posted the first five minutes of Cinematic Titanic LIVE: The Alien Factor on YouTube, so you can “try before you buy”:
The DVD comes with a photo postcard of the Cinematic Titanic cast, printed “Thanks for Watching!” Our pleasure, Titans! Please keep the live (and studio) DVDs coming.
Order directly through the Cinematic Titanic website.
Cinematic Titanic presents… and Cinematic Titanic LIVE DVDs are distributed by Cinematic Titanic.