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Local News / Entertainment

Monday, 22 February, 2010 5:56 PM

Review: Cinematic Titanic soars by bench-pressing celluloid eyesore

Photo Credit: www.cinematictitanic.com

by Pete Bublitz
petblitz@yahoo.com

 

ROYAL OAK, Mich. -- On Friday evening, the movie-riffing comedy troupe Cinematic Titanic delivered a pre-scheduled encore in the Royal Oak Music Theatre with their panning presentation of the sword-and-sandal themed Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World. It served as a follow-up to the earlier riffing of War of the Insects, which was described as setting itself up for well-prepared quips.

“Watching the movie a couple of times to come up with lines makes it better,” said Demetrios, a bartender working on the venue’s balcony level. As the film progressed, there were riffs either blatant based on what’s happening onscreen or up to date with recent events that were evidence of this.

For those unfamiliar with the group’s TV show predecessor, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Cinematic Titanic’s name alone would likely suggest something more stage based. One bathroom attendant even thought the show had more to do with a boat setting.

The show’s warm-up activities began with Mary Jo Pehl, who played Pearl Forrester on MST3K, introducing associate act Dave “Gruber” Allen with help from a Wikipedia article (a gag given away by the uttered inclusion of “This article needs additional citations.”)

Allen would continue this gag by reading off advertising for the event itself, right down to the naming of sponsors. “You guys like sugar, right?” he asked of the audience. “Quit dicking around and have some Skittles.”

Soon, J. Elvis Weinstein, the original voice of MST3K’s Tom Servo, joined Allen for a song centered on the hook that “Nobody likes a clown when he’s crying.”

The main show began when MST3K creator Joel Hodgson appeared. He praised the audience for helping to maintain the original show’s legacy for so long. “The great thing about Mystery Science Theater fans is their attention span,” Hodgson said. “You not only watched a show that was two hours long, you still watch it [ten] years later.”

With the rest of the group introduced, the movie diss-course was underway. The film itself, a renamed import from the Maciste-strongman genre, centered on the disturbingly scantily clad Samson moseying through the Chinese countryside when he becomes involved in thwarting an evil ruler’s scheme to overtake the intentions of a young princess and a rather Caucasian rebel leader. Under threat from the villains, Samson and his friends manage to undertake their endeavors through the hospitality of, as Joel puts it, “A herd of Lamas.”

As the plot fills itself out for the crew and the audience, its presentation seems to fit the ideal of bad strongman films that highlighted MST3K episodes from long ago. For most of the film, the sound on screen became too faint for occasional dialogue to be heard by the audience.

As for the visual display, the most jumped-on issue was a series of blackouts while action progressed, which were merely a case of the lens cap being left on, according to Trace Beaulieu (who played Dr. Clayton Forrester on MST3K). Even when it appeared that the cap was taken off, the film looked as though it relied on enough natural lighting to make McCabe and Mrs. Miller as bright as Dick Tracy.

Even with such setbacks, the film continues the spirit of every other strongman feature, shown on MST3K before it, by racking up Samson’s beat down of man, beast, and even plant life (when he uproots a tree to shake out snipers). It was when Samson was set on his motive that the troupe was set on frequenting the riffs.

It got to the point that Samson was literally involved in a bench-clearing brawl with a bench, which group endorsed as being “brought to you by the letter T.”

Even from the beginning of the film, no topic was safe as the group threw in everything from expected Monty Python quotes to a note on the recent Tiger Woods sex scandal.

But even as the Cinematic Titanic group seemed to be moving at a five-riffs-a-minute pace well past midnight, the small audience managed to keep up well enough to leave the riffers giggling back at its reactions on several occasions.

This matter of quick and loud audience response would receive one closing crest of cheers and applause as an earthquake struck onscreen during the climax. While Samson manages to shake up the cameras from underneath, Joel and the gang managed to entice the viewers one more time with a callback that was one of MST3K’s most enduring taglines: “We’ve got movie sign!”

Despite the technical setbacks that were part of the film and perhaps in addition to it, Cinematic Titanic’s delivery was successful that night by doing what they’ve done for decades: using quick tongues and witty outbursts to set a trend of jest that can guide viewers through any storyline anarchy like that which was displayed from late night into early morning.

Related Story: Joel Hodgson provides glimpse into Cinematic Titanic's upcoming stop

 

Photo credit: Joshua Targownik

Cast members on the Cinematic Titanic

 

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