MSTing: Hopping Mad Over Cinematic Titanic

Poor Roger Corman.

Jonah: I feel bad for him.

First Retromedia plasters his face across The Roger Corman Puerto Rico Trilogy, three public domain titles

Crow: Wait, Roger Corman made three movies about Puerto Rico?
Servo: Oh yeah, he made Puerto Rico, 2Puerto 2Rico, and Puerto Rico III: Progress Island, USA.
Jonah: I don’t think those are the actual names of the movies.

in eye-straining, at times literally out-of-focus transfers,

Servo: Puerto Rico III was literally just the VHS transfer.

then BCI slaps his puss even more prominently on the cover of The Cult Films of Roger Corman, a ten-film set of unwatchable transfers that might have been mastered in somebody’s tool shed.

Jonah: Tool Shed Mastering Co., a BCI company. Mastering DVD releases in tool sheds since 1998.

He had nothing to do with either release.

Crow: Always look for DVDs with the Roger Corman Seal of Approval! Better quality, better releases!

Now comes something like the 25th DVD incarnation (no foolin’)

Servo: Most of the previous 24 were mastered in tool sheds.

of Corman’s The Wasp Woman (1959),

Crow: Is that like The Leech Woman?
Jonah: Yes, Crow.

about a middle-aged cosmetics company president (Susan Cabot)

Jonah: Cabot?
Servo: Cabot?
Crow: Cabot Cosmetics Group, since 1939!
Jonah, Servo: CROW!

and her search for eternal youth.

Crow: Hey, just like The Leech Woman!

I requested the title

Servo: Huh, so Stu liked it?

naively hoping this extremely low budget but somewhat interesting film might look better than its earlier public domain releases,

Crow: I hope it wasn’t mastered in tool sheds!

and to some degree it does; while far from perfect, it’s an entirely watchable presentation.

Jonah: Still better than The Undead.
Servo: STAY!

If only.

Crow: If only what?

Turns out this Wasp Woman has been adapted as a self-described “movie riffing show”

Crow: I hope this isn’t a fan MSTing!

by a label calling itself Cinematic Titanic.

Jonah: You’ve heard of it, right, Servo?
Servo: Huh?

It’s essentially Mystery Science Theater 3000 in all but name,

Crow: Hey, that’s us!

as it features that program’s original cast, also the label’s owners:

Jonah: Is Joel there?

Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, and J. Elvis Weinstein, as well as Mary Jo Pehl and Frank Conniff.

Jonah: Joel’s there!
Servo: That’s Joel, Dr. Forrester, Dr. Erhardt, Pearl, and TV’s Frank to me, Tom Servo!
Crow: Shouldn’t that be J. Stuart Weinstein?

The format is in all essentials unchanged:

Servo: So it’s basically MST3K’s spiritual successor.
Crow: What about RiffTrax and The Film Crew?

As the movie unspools, this quintet of would-be comics appear in silhouette at the bottom and sides of the screen

Crow: Hey, just like MST3K!
Jonah: Uh, you’re not supposed to know that.
Crow: Oh! (whistles innocently)

-not recommended for plasma TV owners; you may be permanently burning them into your TV screen!

Jonah: Not funny, Stuart. Not funny at all.

-cracking wise, almost non-stop, at the action partially blocked onscreen.

Crow: My kind of riffing!

There are tasteless jokes about Susan Cabot’s real-life murder,

Servo: Thank goodness we never did that in Viking Women and the Sea Serpent.

every lame bee/wasp joke imaginable

Jonah: Ready, bots? Let’s call the shots!

(“Music by Sting!” says one performer;

Servo: Music by Sting!
Crow: Every breath you take…

“Buzzzzzz!” cries another;

Crow: Buzzzzzz! That’s one Z!

“Many, many bees were harmed in the making of this movie!” quips a third),

Jonah: Many, many bees were harmed in the making of this movie!

and innumerable obvious pop culture references, everything from The Andy Griffith Show to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which someone quotes at length like a geeky fan.

Servo: (as geeky fan) I’m going to an Aunt Bee convention!
Crow: (as geeky fan) Do you know Johann Gambolputty’s full name?

There seems to be no middle ground with shows like this; you either love 'em or hate 'em.

Crow: I love ‘em!

DVD Talk’s Brian Orndorf is clearly an admirer

Servo: Brian is a genius, but Stuart is not!

but for this reviewer, setting aside the ethical problems of such shows for a moment,

Crow: Problems?! What problems?!

it’s the cinematic equivalent of having bamboo splinters jammed up under the fingernails.

Jonah: I’m glad I just don’t have them up under my fingernails.

I’ve sat through some pretty dire comedies over the years

Crow: I hope he’s gonna list Adam Sandler movies!

-Joe De Rita’s solo two-reelers,

Jonah: How did this guy know that Slappily Married was terrible?

endless Joe McDoakes shorts,

Crow: Hey! I liked Joe McDoakes!

Invasion of the Star Creatures,

Servo: Wasn’t that movie released on a double bill with the movie featured in Mike’s first episode?
Jonah: Yes. The Brain That Wouldn’t Die!
Crow: (as Jan in the Pan) “Let me die!”

Loose Cannons,

Servo: Can I rent that movie with Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy instead?
Crow: Trading Places? Yes!

Nothing But Trouble (both versions!)

Jonah: The one with Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd and the one with Laurel and Hardy? What’s the connection between those two?
Crow: The title, I guess.
Servo: Oh, TWO terrible comedy movies featuring Dan Aykroyd!

-but this was 70-plus minutes of sheer agony, utterly mirthless.


Despite its brief length it took me three days to get through it; even in short doses I thought it would never end.

Servo: Hey! Just like The Castle of Fu Manchu! (sobs)

One man’s meat is another man’s poison, I suppose,

Crow: Like Tom Servo!

but what’s so clever about sneering at an old movie, rattling off extremely obvious, condescending comments at the easy targets onscreen?

Jonah: Joel came up with that idea.
Servo: It’s a thousand times more innovative than Vampira!

I’ve watched ordinary “civilians” with no show business ambitions effortlessly come up with funnier ad-libs than this fivesome’s scripted material.

Crow: Still, I’m wondering why he traveled that far from Ann Arbor to Columbus so he could attend that 24-hour sci-fi film festival.

My favorite to this day remains

Jonah: Wait, he has a favorite ‘riff’?

something writer Christopher Potter (or maybe Jeff Mortimer)

Servo: Both were friends with Stuart before he moved to Japan.

said at an Oscar Party I attended,

Crow: Did we ever have an Academy Award watch party?
Servo: Sort of.

when Sophia Loren came onstage to present an award.

Crow: She’s no Beverly Garland!

“I remember my first Oscar…” she started to say,

Servo: In 1962!

when he continued, “‘I was 13, he was 15.’”

Jonah: This Christopher Potter guy likes MST3K!
Crow: So that’s why he moved to Japan!