Colorized movies on MST3K? Yea or Nay?

We would’ve lost some really prime riffs if all the movies had been in color.

So you can guess how I voted.


For the most part, no, I don’t care for colorization and would prefer B&W to stay B&W.

But just to :waffle: a bit, I agree with folks who brought up Plan 9 and Reefer Madness, what they did with those was fun, just added another layer of cheese for the guys to play with.

And let’s be honest, they’re already tampering with someone else’s art by riffing on it. Making it something new. To go back to da Vinci - as Trace said in response to criticism about them riffing on This Island Earth, “It’s not like we painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa”, the original still exists, you can still watch it.

So, I vote yes and no, but mostly no, only on special occasions, yes. But no - maybe?



Yikes, that is almost a color strobe effect. Horrible. I was in the ‘I don’t care’ category, but that pushes me into the ‘No’ zone.

1 Like

It is? Maybe it’s the soul leaving my body that’s turning the world into something colorless and joyless when I watch that movie.


Though in some cases, how a film was created and how it survived are two different things.

For example, a couple of the Santo films were filmed in color, but only the black and white print survived. Santo in the Treasure of Dracula was one of these for a long time until they discovered three different copies of a naughty X-rated version intended for European sales (which had extra scenes of nudity spliced in) sitting perfectly preserved in a film vault in the 2000’s. The version shown on MST3K was actually this long lost nudie version, with all the boobie scenes removed to restore it back to the original theatrical cut.

I want to say that Yongary was also in a similar boat (not with the nudity, but with the original color prints being lost) and what we saw on MST3K is a heavily edited lower quality American TV print from the 70’s, and the only color version still around. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) nobody owns a “complete” version of Yongary, as the surviving black and white 35mm Korean print contains some footage trimmed from the American release, but is missing about 40 minutes worth of material itself, as well as the entire original Korean audio track, so only the English language dub survives.


I don’t think the topics of film reconstruction and colorization are necessarily relatable. The former is used to recreate a work that ha deteriorated due to neglect while the latter is used to create something new either as experimentation or to appease differing sensibilities. People wouldn’t be bothered if the Spider Pit sequence from King Kong was found tomorrow then reinserted back into the film.

If we were talking a film that was in color but only survived in black and white, that would be an example of colorization being used for film reconstruction purposes. For example, I believe there’s an episode of Doctor Who from the 70’s (I want to say…Invasion of the Dinosaurs?..maybe?) that was junked and only survived in a black and white print, which they remastered with colorization. I’m pretty sure most Doctor Who fans were okay with that. But then again, Doctor Who fans are just happy that not every episode was tossed in a dumpster and lit on fire.


Yeah, drifting off on a tangent, but since it’s a favorite subject of mine and I know some of the people involved… members of the Doctor Who Restoration Team literally spent 20 years inventing an entirely new technical process to extract the hidden color signal that was still embedded in the black and white recordings of Invasion of the Dinosaurs episode 1, Planet of the Daleks episode 3, all of Mind of Evil, and 6/7ths of The Ambassadors of Death, just so they could watch those stories in color. Now that is dedication to your fandom.

Though this process was only partially effective since it was able to recover the red and green chromadots fairly well, but not the blue. So the BBC still ended up working with Legend Films to use a mix of computer assisted and hand colorization techniques to complete the recolorization process for the original DVD releases.

Still, probably one of the most impressive and oddly specific feats of visual engineering I’ve ever encountered. And all because fans in the 90’s noticed that whenever the tracking was off on their crappy 2nd and 3rd generation VHS copies, tiny bits of color signal appeared to bleed through from the edges.


The Movie Mates of the Midwest weigh in.


I remember when Ted Turner showed the colorized version of Yankee Doodle Dandy on TBS and it was scandalous. It also looked awful because the technology was in its infancy. And it also also looked awful because, again, the whole movie was designed to look good in black and white, not color. Any half-way competent crew would select lighting, makeup, costumes, set design, etc. with the expectation that it would be seen in black and white.

I don’t care that much about a colorized Yankee Doodle Dandy because it’s a sappy film with terrible casting. Jimmy Cagney tries hard, but he just can’t pull it off… but imagine a film that looks glorious in black and white like Top Hat or The Maltese Falcon or The Third Man ignoring all that in service of modern audiences who prefer color.

Don’t tell me this shot would look better in color. It just wouldn’t:


Every single thing about that image was designed to pop in black and white. Colorizing it would ruin it.

And I even feel that way for crappy movies. Because crappy movies still often had a crew that at least knew the basics about lighting, costuming, etc. to fit what the film would look like on the screen.

Yeah, it probably doesn’t matter for Reefer Madness or Plan 9. I still don’t like it in principle. If they wanted to do it, fine, but I think it’s an unnecessary sacrifice.


The black and white version Rifftrax used for their Night of the Living Dead Live show looks great. Of course that movie, while very riffable, isn’t actually bad.


Like many of you, I’m not a fan of colorization. But if we ever did do one, I’d pitch that everything in the episode taking place outside the theater be in Black & White.


Aw, I like James Cagney in that movie! It’s actually the first movie I ever saw him in. I had no idea he was known more for gangster movies.


I do to, and it’s generally thought of as a top-drawer performance (It’s a sappy film, but he carries it, makes it worth watching).

I nomination him at my blog for that year - but gave the win to Bogart for Casablanca… interestingly, both movies were directed by Michael Curtiz.


If the colorized is the best print available, sure, but it’s certainly not my preference… although given how gaudy the colorized versions can be it might add to the riffing.

1 Like

According to Wikipedia, this is the case for most of the Jon Pertwee episodes.


I’m not a fan of the colourisation of films or photographs. Roger Ebert, when writing on Ted Turner’s colourised Casablanca, noted that black and white is a “deliberate absence of colour”. The colour or the lack thereof informs the film’s lighting and cinematography.

I know in his case he’s talking about classic movies, not the kind that usually end up on MST3k but I’d argue it stands true for any film shot in black and white. C. Courtney Joyner, the post-show Q and A of Dr Mordrid compared the team(s) behind MST3k to film archivists. I think that comparison holds very true, and in that spirit, I’d rather see the show bring us the movies as close to how they should look as they can (with the obvious caveat that sometimes they do have to cut them for time or content).


I voted “Yes”, but it’s really a “Yes, but” vote. As in “Yes, but it all depends on the movie”. Others have already mentioned the colorized versions used over at Rifftrax for Plan 9 and Reefer Madness. I recently watched their colorized version of Carnival of Souls and it was fine. Certainly I would not be fine with a colorized version of Citizen Kane or Double Indemnity or High Noon or Psycho. But a colorized version of The Wild, Wild World of Batwoman – heck yeah, I’d watch that!

You know what would be a really good candidate for colorization – the Teenagers movies that Mary Jo and Bridget have riffed. They are supposed to be lightweight, silly comedies, but I bet to younger viewers the b&w cinematography just makes it all look drab and dull. A little color wouldn’t hurt them any and would perhaps make them a bit more appealing to younger audiences.


My dad really loved it too, and he loved that Cagney is playing against type, which is always interesting for an actor. The problem is, he just isn’t that good. He’s not Jimmy Stewart in Born to Dance bad, but he’s not great.

That said, it’s probably been over 20 years since I’ve seen it, so my opinion might have changed.



Emo always knows what to say. Probably because he grew up on the tough streets of Downer’s Grove, Illinois.