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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
for the interacting dialogue riffs, the more memorable lines
is virgin territory."
do you mean?"
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.
Titanic is made up of Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Joel Hodgson,
Mary Jo Pehl, and J. Elvis Weinstein, with support from Dave "Gruber"
more information on the group, please visit www.cinematictitanic.com.
Titanic entertains fans for two shows at the Ann Arbor Summer
Cinematic Titanic soars by bench-pressing celluloid eyesore;
Hodgson provides glimpse into Cinematic Titanic’s upcoming