Monday, January 14, 2008

Cinematic Titanic : The Oozing Skull

Last year saw a sort of revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on several fronts. There were the hilarious Rifftrax mp3 commentary tracks available for download, the four Film Crew releases, and the advent of whole episodes of the show popping up on YouTube.

Towards the end of the year it was announced that some of the original members of the cast, and its creators, were banding together to start their own movie - riffing troupe, calling itself Cinematic Titanic. Included in this group are Joel Hodgson, who created the show and hosted it during its first few years on Comedy Central, J. Elvis Weinstein (who played Tom Servo initially), Trace Beaulieu (the original Crow and the mad Dr. Clayton Forrester), Frank Coniff (TV's Frank), and Mary Jo Pehl(Pearl Forrester).

The first disk went on a sort of pre-order around Christmas, and it finally began arriving to rabid fans a few days ago. I got mine on Saturday and Monique and I sat down to watch it right away.

The presentation is in Shadowrama like MST 3K, which means that you see silhouettes of the cast while the movie plays in front of them. Instead of sitting in theater seats, though, the crew of Cinematic Titanic are arranged in tiered scaffolding on the bottom left and right corners. On the left, sitting at the bottom, is Mary Jo Pehl. Seated one tier above her is Joel, and standing (not sitting)above him is J. Elvis Weinstein, holding onto a railing. On the right is a similar arrangement with Frank Coniff seated and Trace Beaulieu standing above him with his own railing.

This works really well, with the two standing cast members using more body movements and sight gags. There are several other surprises as well, including a "cameo" where Dr. Stephen Hawking rolls out into view and states that if the brain transplant happening in the movie works, he's next. So wrong, but so funny.

Instead of the host segments (skits) from MST 3K, the Titanic crew has opted to simply stop the film at times, freezing the frame, and doing various fun things. It works well, as does the five-person team of riffers, and the Oozing Skull turns out to be a movie rife for riffs - evil doctors, an evil little person assistant, a scary-looking big deformed guy, girls tied up in dungeons, and of course the simple fact that the movie was shot in the 1970s.

The best testament I can give to the Oozing Skull is that it was so funny that it was over well before I expected. Right out of the chutes the Cinematic Titanic crew is firing on all cylinders and it feels like MST3K never went away. My only complaint was that I was mailed just a disk, with no DVD case or anything. Of course, I found a fan-made cover and printed it out and put the thing in my own case, but really, for sixteen dollars they could have made one themselves.

It's a minor geek-style complaint, though, and after seeing the Ooozing Skull I'm ready for more. Bring them on, Cinematic Titanic!

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