Sometimes it is possible for a movie to be so utterly bad that those watching it get a certain amount of joy from every viewing. Those kinds of movies are just begging to be riffed (made fun of) and there is no one better to do that than the cast of Cinematic Titanic.
Created by the original members of the cult television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 the troupe digs up some of the worst movies ever created and gives them their hilarious due.The cast gathered together in Los Angeles last Sunday night to roast
the 70’s classic The Doll Squad. Often considered to be the inspiration for Charlie’s Angels, the film tells the story of a group of sexy women hired by the government to fight a super villain that wants to release the black plague on the world. The film itself is badly lit, has questionable dialogue and sound quality that only allows the viewer to hear about half the film clearly. This movie is just asking for a good riffing.
Rather than simply a live version of the MST3K show, Cinematic Titanic takes the concept much further. With the addition of the show’s MC/roadie Dave “Gruber” Allen there is sure to be a bit of chaos before every movie. For their Los Angeles show Gruber decided he was going to try an experiment and attempt Mystery Dramatic Theater 3000, which is probably one of the most surreal yet genius incarnations of riffing created.
Instead of merely making fun of a movie that was released decades ago Gruber used a century old play performed by Mary Jo Pehl and Trace Beaulieu. A somber piece involving divorce among Vikings, the two approached the material straight while Gruber riffed the action on stage with them. The result was naturally awkward for all involved butalso insanely funny and meta.
The cast knows that there is an entire subculture of people all over the world that love bad cinema. There wasn’t an empty seat in the house as many in the audience could be heard reminiscing about their favorite MST3K episodes. As much as Cinematic Titanic is a new beginning for the cast they respect their roots and realize that much of their fanbase comes from the cult classic. It is no surprise that everyone became more than a little giddy when J. Elvis Weinstein (the voice of Gypsy and the original Tom Servo) took the stage leading everyone in a rock version of the MST3K theme.
One of the perks of Cinematic Titanic is that by this point in their careers the entire cast knows each other extremely well. They have been working together, in one form or another, for almost two decades. That level of comfort shows through in their material on each new movie they riff. Unlike an MST3K show with only three people riffing on the movie the Cinematic Titanic crew attacks each film with all five members of the cast. The result is rapid-fire comedy for almost 90 minutes straight. Some jokes inevitably land better than others but both the audience and the performers feed off of each other creating a truly unique viewing experience.
Los Angeles is a city that revolves around film. Stay in this town long enough and you will eventually run into the people responsible for the films you either love or hate. Such was the case Sunday night as Francine York, one of the lead roles in the film being riffed was in attendance. “This is one of those things we only get to do when we’re in Hollywood,” exclaimed show creator Joel Hodgson. York seemed to appreciate the attention being given to the film and even joined the cast in their autograph session after the show. Not every actor can take criticism like that with a grain of salt but York knew it was all in good fun and was happy to join in.
As Hollywood studios continue to crank out more and more films every year consider Cinematic Titanic and other shows like it to be the watchdogs of the industry. The cast is still pretty young and there are a lot more bad movies to see.