I loved Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K). It was my favorite show from the moment I first saw an episode. I watched it, I collected episodes, I even traded tapes through the mail with other people. When it went off the air I was terribly disappointed, but in the last few years technology has changed and it has made side projects like Mike Nelson’s RiffTrax possible. Mike was head writer on MST3K for many years and his RiffTrax are MP3 audio files you could buy and download for a few dollars and pair with a commercial DVD to have an experience kind of like the one watching MST3K. Mike and others make snarky comments about a bad film while it rolls. On the downside you didn’t get the silhouettes of Mike and the robot puppets from the show and there weren’t any intermissions for skits, but on the upside they gained the ability to riff on mainstream movies like Transformers, Lord of the Rings, and 300 that they never could have afforded to buy the rights to. In fact, for the first time they can riff on good movies as well as bad.
In addition RiffTrax he’s paired with two of his old MST3K buddies, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy to do a new straight-to-DVD series where they play “The Film Crew” and they do a show basically the same as the old MST3K sans puppets. They riff on the film, they interrupt to do skits, etc. There are four in that series and I’m hoping that there will be many more yet to come:
Feel free to buy them from Amazon through these links in order to help fund my own habit.
No doubt viewing the success that Mike has enjoyed with these endeavors none other than Joel Hodgson and pretty much everyone else associated with MST3K in its early days have decided to do their own movie riffing project called Cinematic Titanic. They haven’t produced anything yet but the announcement is out there and it’s a fantastic crew behind it. Just remember, the longer the Hollywood writer’s strike lingers on, the more people like Joel, Trace, Mary Jo, etc. will need to work on something like this either to pay the bills or just to keep busy writing. Oddly enough, a quick end to the strike could be the worst thing for this particular project.
The only possible misfire project I’ve seen so far is the new MST3K.com site. There the old producer of the series (and voice of Gypsy the robot) and one of the writers are taking a stab at some animated pieces using the robots from the series. The two I watched were… well, horrible. But they own great stuff (the name, the logo, the website, the robots, the theme music) so there’s no reason they can’t start off in a fresh direction and create something great.
Here’s a cool interview with Mike Nelson about all the recent announcements. Notice that while a lot of people would like it to all be about some kind of competition between the various groups, he is very welcoming and seems to look forward to having more material available if only because it might increase the visibility of RiffTrax and The Film Crew.