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Local News / Entertainment

Monday, 9 July, 2012 6:21 PM

'Cinematic Titanic' returns to riff on a milestone premiere

Photo credit: Cinematic Titanic

The movie "Rattlers" was one of the films shown during the Cinematic Titanic performance on July 5, 2012 in Ann Arbor, Mich.


by Pete Bublitz




ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The festivities of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival included a second straight night of stage-bound mockery Thursday, but the target this time was a double feature of 1970s movies whose content and production results made them ripe for riffs galore. Making their return to Ann Arbor was "Cinematic Titanic," an interactive live comedy group made up of cast members from the thirteen years gone "Mystery Science Theater 3000."

The evening kicked off normally at 6 p.m., with the first feature riffed on being the John McCauley-directed "Rattlers," which is getting a DVD release this July 17 featuring commentary from a previous Titanic performance. Dealing with a contagion of the same reptilian suborder that nearly stole the show in "East Meets Watts" during CT's last A2 visit, this dullness in the desert story centers on the struggles of a "herpetologist" trying to a find a ssss-olution to ongoing yet randomly spectacular deaths while trying to balance input from a female photographer caught up in the oh-so-liberating times and avoid a battle of the ssss-es (I'm sorry, sssssexe... ah, forget it).

The film's pace involves a slow Ford Bronco ride (don't worry, the Bronco wasn't white) from one snake attack location to another, with each of the heroes' marquee critter encounters usually concluding as a glimpse and run, especially during a later tunnel exploration sequence. One riff during an overhead helicopter shot summed it up well: "Circling around seems to be the motif [of this film]." As it all seems to go somewhere yet nowhere, not even a string of slither-ins, the necessity of saving lives, nor interaction with perhaps some eerily friendly military personnel could deter this couple from making a decision completely out of left field.

That's right: Vegas trip! It's such a random and quick episode of romantic consummation, one would scream "But the Sixties are OVER!" (then suddenly remember this was released the same year England Dan and John Ford Coley struck it big). But hey, "What happens in Vegas stays in this movie," as MST3K founder Joel Hodgson quipped. It's during such a debauched moment of public, clothed slow dancing that arguably the best suggestive riff occurred: "Why does he keep mentioning the snake in the tunnel?" From there, the film devolves into a revelatory ending that viewers might have known was coming since the midpoint yet be a surprise to the otherwise occupied lovers.

With that movie out of the way, an hour and a half break was too rock-climbing long to await the milestone importance of the 9 p.m. show. Not only was it Cinematic Titanic's 100th show, but the cast undertook a world premiere riff. The film was "The Doll Squad," a proto-"Charlie's Angels" girl power romp about a group of elite agents sent to thwart a renegade army led by Neil Diamond impersonators (as the cast members put it) in its attempt to traffick a deadly drug. Or maybe straight up toxin, I couldn't make it out behind all that hair.

Anyways, following a nice prologue by Dave "Gruber" Allen that featured his own "world premiere" riff on Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House" plus other cast member addresses, the cast began the film in familiar territory and then worked from there: "Please don't feed the Killdozer!" Set in a retro era "Before the internet" when "people at work had nothing to do," a bombshell played by Francine York is put on assignment to form a fighting force of fellow femme fatales in order to foil a former fling's foul play and then "Frank off," as one reference to on-hand riffer Frank Conniff.

The outline of action is cringe-inducing for the sense of realism applied to the violence against females, but the group of five riffers would maintain speed with many of the errs to this picture, be they dark or light. Even the editing of day and night shots next to each other was not spared. Along the way, the audience was treated to an air-tasting "Mexican Mickey Dolenz," rooftop camera work by "Mitt Romney's dog," and a heck of a flatulence-causing form of liquor.


As for the interacting dialogue riffs, the more memorable lines included:

  • "This is virgin territory."
  • "What do you mean?"
  • "Comic-Con, guys."

The RPM rates (riffs per minute), references, and observations made these two shows enjoyable enough to pine for followup DVD releases to hurry up and get here, so that previous and firsthand viewers alike can go back and enjoy those riffs all over again; or if the live audience experience is preferred, then hope future shows in the region are all the more possible and the gaps between them less "Torcha"-some.

Cinematic Titanic is made up of Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Joel Hodgson, Mary Jo Pehl, and J. Elvis Weinstein, with support from Dave "Gruber" Allen.

For more information on the group, please visit

Related Stories: Cinematic Titanic entertains fans for two shows at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival; Review: Cinematic Titanic soars by bench-pressing celluloid eyesore; Joel Hodgson provides glimpse into Cinematic Titanic’s upcoming stop



Photo by Ann Marsden

Cinematic Titanic cast


Photo credit: Cinematic Titanic

"East Meets Watts" was also shown on July 5, 2012 in Ann Arbor, Mich.




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Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved.
Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Photos, Videos, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer.