Monday, August 20, 2007

More MST3K Goodness

I'm winning the war for more Mystery Science Theater on three fronts now. You see, back in the heyday of the show in the mid 1990s, it was on Comedy Central all the time. At midnight, on Saturday mornings, and at other times. So I figured I had plenty of time to get myself organized and tape all the episodes.

I was wrong, and what I was left with, instead of a complete high-quality one-episode per tape with the commercials edited out collection of those episodes, was a poorly-organized hodgepodege of VHS tapes of varying picture and sound quality with tons of commercials.

As the nineties wound down, I did a little better, making sure to get all the Sci-Fi channel episodes on tape (again, though, not very well organized) during it's last three seasons which aired on that network. But after that, I was left to the random Rhino VHS and DVD releases, which were a bit pricey.

And the problem of no new MST3K being made persisted, too.

Now, all that has ended and I find myself with free access to some of the episodes I missed, some new movies via the Film Crew, and something I always wanted to see - riffing of current, big budget Hollywood movies via Rifftrax.

A Strange Convergence of Technologies
People are putting up old MST3K episodes on YouTube now. Each episode is broken into about ten parts due to the limitations of the format, but it isn't really a big hinderance to stop and select the next part. I don't want to watch them at my desk, though, as MST3K is very much a couch potato experience, so what was I to do?

Enter the Nintendo Wii Internet Browser. Unlike the wimpy DS browser, it has the capability to play YouTube movies. The problem is, of course, that the full screen presentation is a bit pixellated and blurry, but it's still quite watchable. I've already enjoyed several episodes this way, and have a list of a few more that I know are up on YouTube.

The Film Crew
Last week saw the release of the second Film Crew DVD, where the crew takes on the Peter Graves movie Killers From Space. It's just what any MSTie would expect from a black and white 50's movie with Peter Graves - atom bombs, stiff acting, and Biography references. It was actually so slow at times that I fell asleep, but overall still pretty funny.

The funniest part of the DVD is the bonus feature, called "Did You Know?", featuring Kevin Murphy talking about backmasking. He then presents the viewer with a small list of outtakes from the movie to choose from with each one having a different backmasked message. Those are funny enough, but I seriously recommend not selecting anything when Kevin prompts you to, for some real fun. I didn't catch that on my first viewing and it's easily the funniest part of the DVD.

Next month's Film Crew release is The Wild Women of Wongo. Just that title shows some promise.

I had heard of Rifftrax when it was launched but ignored it because I did not have an Ipod. The service is basically downloadable mp3 files of Mike, sometimes with guest riffers Kevin, Bill, and others, riffing on movies. You put the mp3 on your player and synch it up with the movie and laugh your ass off. The files are only $2.99 each, and the best part is that they are made for modern Hollywood movies and even TV episodes, such as Star Trek VI, The Matrix, and the first two episodes of Grey's Anatomy.

Since I now have an Ipod I decided to test one out last week - Star Trek Generations. It was absolutely hilarious, with Mike and guest riffer Kevin just tearing into the movie ruthlessly. There was no mercy for Chekov or Data, and of course Shatner has always been an easy target for these guys. Even as big a fan of Star Trek as I am, I found myself just losing it over what they were saying. In fact, this was the first riffing in years that made me pull a noser (losing my beverage through my nose while unsuccessfully attempting to sneak a drink in between riffs).

While fans of the show have debated endlessly about the merits of Joel versus Mike or Comedy Central era versus Sci-Fi channel era, I've always said that it's the movie that they are riffing that makes an episode good or great. Some movies move so damn slow, and offer so few opportunities to get in good shots, that it's sometimes difficult to watch them, at least more than once.

But the movies they are doing with Rifftrax are pure gold. And for $2.99, it's quite a bargain.

So, for me personally, Mystery Science Theater is enjoying something of a revival. I suspect a lot of other fans of the show feel the same way, and are enjoying this new era of riffing as much as I am. When I met Mike Nelson back in 2005 and got his autograph, I pleaded with him to get back to the riffing, as Hollywoood was continuing to make really bad movies that deserved it. I guess he already knew that.

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