Should MST3K ever do a Silent Movie and, if so, what would it be?

There are a lot of silent movies that exist. Does anyone think they could be riffed and, if so, which ones?

Myself, I think William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes might be a possible target. It was lost for decades before one copy was discovered.

What say ye?


I find myself riffing on certain scenes in silent films - now, would you be able to do a whole movie? The pros could probably pull it off.

Also I’ve thought about replacing title cards with humorous dialogue, that might be good for a laugh.

Off the top of my head I can’t recall if there was one silent flick in particular I found riff worthy, but I did throw a few into a couple of Texas Guinan westerns I watched recently… and they were movies I liked, but some scenes and title cards struck me as funny. (There’s one bit where Texas on horseback, attempts to jump a fence at a guys yard, and instead crashed into and knocks it over)

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I think the easiest and most appropriate silent film to riff is one of the very earliest.

“…so they shot him into spaaAAAAAaace.”


Interesting question… might be a hard sell for someone not totally ensconced in MST, if trying to get new viewers. But, since we’re all kinda’ in on a devoted subscription basis now, it may be an interesting “experiment.” Dr. Caligari was oft referred to in the Joel era. That’s silent, right? Been a few years since I’ve seen it :no_mouth:


As a one-odd “stunt riff” akin to doing Hamlet, I’d be tentatively onboard, but like the riff of Hamlet, I doubt anybody is going to ever list it as their favorite episode.

There’s also the pretty major problem of even finding a feature-length silent movie suitable for riffing. There are only a handful of horror or sci-fi movies from the silent era that even still exist, and just about all of them are viewed as masterpieces. Furthermore, any movie they riff has to be roughly 80 minutes, or about 65 minutes plus a 10 to 15 minute short. So ideally you’re looking for a six to seven-reeler.

If anything, we’d be more likely to get a silent short, like A Trip to the Moon, which was already done on Rifftrax. An early one-reeler that’s about 10 or 12 minutes long is doable… as a novelty. But sooner or later the dead space is going to catch up with you.

If I had to pick a silent film for them to do as a full length feature… It’d have to be something that wasn’t a classic like The Lost World or 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, but still an adventure story that moved at a fairly quick pace. I’d probably go with one of the surviving Rin-Tin-Tin pictures like Clash of the Wolves (1925) or Where the North Begins (1923). Because if you’re going to have a movie where you have to supply all of the dialogue yourself… you might as well do one where the star is a German shepherd (that’s pretending to be a wolf).

Like The Painted Hills, as long as there’s a dog on camera you will always have something to riff on, because imagining what a dog is thinking at any given moment will never not be funny.


I immediately want to see them do Nosferatu


I don’t know what silent movies they should riff, but I am allllll about it - for a very specific reason.

Last year, Trace and Frank did an episode of Movies with the Mads where they riffed Vincent Price’s The Tingler. This isn’t a silent movie, but there’s a character in the film who communicates via sign language, so the film was effectively mute for those scenes, and Trace’s… errrr… “interpretations” of her communication were absolutely hysterical.

With this in mind, I’m allllll about seeing what the MST3k krewe could do with this genre.

(btw - a repeat of The Mads’ Tingler episode will be airing tomorrow night. I’d hiiighly recommend it!)


Yes, we have Nosferatu! We have Nosferatu today!


Yes, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a silent move and one of the odd surreal ones. It might work well.

Another one that has a rather surreal element is:

Metropolis (1927)


A good suggestion and a great musical reference. :slight_smile:

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I admit that would be funny to replace the dialogue. Some of the old Westerns in particular. Actually, the older silent movies did not have the actors doing the dialogue and so someone might be saying, “I hate you so much,” but the card would say, “You are the love of my life.” Lip readers would laugh and the studios started having people say something along the lines of the story.


Metropolis is 153 minutes unedited, or 145 edited. They’d have to remove 65 to 73 minutes out of the movie to make it fit the standard MST3K time slot. Which might be easier on a picture that didn’t have a surviving score. It’s also considered by many to be the greatest silent movie ever made.

Most of the German/Russian artsy stuff, like Aelita: Queen of Mars, The Golem, and The Hands of Orlac, would be way too long to fit MST3K’s format without massive trims. The same also goes for both Jekyll and Hyde movies.

I do believe that anything is technically riffable (Rifftrax did Casablanca, and they survived Hamlet… barely) but even though my dream job is to join the MST3K writing team… I would probably hand in my resignation if somebody asked me to riff that movie.


I think The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Nosferatu are both prime candidates. The kind of broad acting that silent movies require (and that German Expressionism seemed to really encourage) would make for some fun riffs.

Birth of a Nation, however… probably best to stay away from that one.


Häxan: Witchcraft through the ages is a kinda odd Swedish/Danish film that has enough scenes that they could probably make a pretty funny short of. But as a whole episode I’d imagine it would be tough to get through.


The first movie I thought of as well was Nosferatu.

The possibilities are endless though with this list: 101 Free Silent Films: The Great Classics | Open Culture especially the Russian one about space travel!


I watched that for the first time last year. It’s sooooooo weird. Plenty of room for riffs.

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I’m on the fence … Koyaanisqatsi is either infinitely riffable or it would get old in a hurry.

(Not technically a silent, but with no dialogue I think it fits the category for this discussion.)

Maybe if they could do it with a silent short?

Or break up a silent movie into multiple pieces as makeshift “shorts”

But I feel like a silent movie would create a situation where there could be “too many” riffs, as is often a complaint; or nowhere near enough jokes and too much SILENCE, which could make it nearly unwatchable.

But a short could have a couple brief musical moments, a handful of riffs and then inspire a later invention exchange, maybe? Or just set up one big riff, to use as a runner in another feature length “talky”.

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Plenty of silent shorts and serials to go around (though a lot of those are 10 to 14 parts)

As a stunt riff, I can see them knuckling down and committing to 10-12 minutes for a single silent short for a single episode, but anything beyond that is just writer torture.


Maybe a short, but I think even that would be hard. Josh Way/Fun With Shorts did “Using the Dial Telephone” about five years ago and it was kind of interesting, but I thought it lost something not having the back and forth with movie dialogue. But then Josh is a solo riffer so maybe it would be different with multiple people.