Sunday, July 25, 2010

The return of MST3K: RiffTrax spins the lame into gold

Sunday, July 25, 2010
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In the '90s, one of the most rewarding ways to kick off your Saturday was to catch Mystery Science Theater 3,000 on the Sci-Fi channel. The show was set in space on the Satellite of Love, where a man and two robots were being held prisoner by an evil mastermind. The villain's favorite form of torture was forcing the captives to watch really, really bad movies.

The entertaining part was the commentary provided by Mike Nelson and his lovable robots, Tom-Servo (Kevin Murphy) and Crow T. Robot (Bill Corbett). Alas, the series ended in 1999. However, there are numerous episodes available on DVD, as well as the aptly titled 1996 film,
Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Movie or you could just download some RiffTrax.

That's right, the boys are back, and this time they are not limited to low-budget schlock (although, who doesn't love that stuff?). At the RiffTrax Web site, the guys are still doing what they do best. Visitors can download RiffTrax and synchronize the file with their own DVD, or they can purchase the video file with the commentary included.

The best part of this new incarnation is that, while they still feature some delectably horrible offerings (
Voodoo Man starring Bela Lugosi, for instance), and delightfully dated informative public shorts (my personal favorite is Carnivorous Plants) the guys are now riffing on Hollywood heavy weights.

As Corbett told last year, they have merely added to their repertoire.

"We do the MP3 downloadable commentary for the newer releases," Corbett explained. "But we're also doing some older stuff and a lot of shorts like we used to do on Mystery Science Theater, which are some of my favorite things to do, probably because my attention span is about 15 minutes in general."

Included in the ever-growing list of more recent films are
The Dark Knight, Spiderman, Twilight, three of the Harry Potter films and all of the Star Wars franchise. It could be argued that Darth Vader's first appearance in Star Wars would have been improved had the line from Rifftrax been used:

"Alright, what am I doing? Cuttin' a ribbon on a mall? Nobody tells me anything!"

Additionally, the scene in
The Dark Knight, when Two-Face realizes the best way to blackmail Gordon is with his son, would only have been strengthened by the Riffers contribution of having the little boy triumphantly proclaim, "Daddy loves me best! Daddy loves me best!"

According to Corbett, though, riffing on the newer films has
proved to be a bit of a challenge.

"I find them a little harder, although I've kind of gotten into the swing of 'em now," Corbett told "There are a couple of things, for one they are longer, as a rule. Just maintaining the level of writing quality is a little more difficult. There are go-to areas for jokes in any movie but by hour three of any of these movies it's like, ‘Oh man, we've commented on this thing like a hundred times already.’"

It may seem to those who are unfamiliar with MST3K that these guys are just attempting to cynically tear down films which the public holds in high esteem. However, Corbett said that this is not the case at all.

"The fact that we can riff a movie doesn't mean it's bad," Corbett pointed out. "We often riff movies we really like. Like Jaws, we did that a few months ago, and we're all fans. There are some things in there that haven't aged as well, but still it's a great movie. But because it's pretty serious, we found a way in I think."

So, what titles can we expect to see on the Web site in the future?

"Hopefully we're going to work on an occasional 80's title [since] we all have a fondness for that era when we grew up" Corbett revealed.

Oh, please let one of them be

Do you have a favorite MST3K or Rifftrax quote? Post it up in the comments!


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