When High Art Meets Schlock

I was fortunate enough to see this opera at the premiere and it is quite amazing. Mr. Morganelli set Bava’s 1961 Hercules film, known by many names, to music. Honestly, the original film is pretty good, with a couple of shockingly bad SFX moments, so it’s not really “schlock”, but it is an instance of so-called “high art” being made of “low art”.

In a way, I think MST3K “raises” the level of much of the “art” (I’m gonna run out of scare quotes here in a second) it uses as its subject—which may be why some people object to riffing “good” movies, since it “lowers” the subject. (Though, note, most people love the spectacular Chuck Jones Bugs Bunny opera cartoons, which is similar in this sense.)

Anyway, I recommend the opera and was wondering if anyone had any other similar examples, not strictly limited to music, but maybe some other “serious” art which incorporated MST-like elements/sources.


I don’t think it " ‘lowers’ the subject" to riff on an acclaimed film. I do think it tends to show the riffers in a bad light. I tried to watch RT’s version of Living Dead a few weeks ago. They’re making fun of the scenes in which law enforcement (some of it DIY) is talking to an anchorman: the hosts dwell on how these guys are all creepy and have multiple screws loose. But-- that’s the whole intent of the scene, for cryin’ out loud! Romero didn’t convey that by accident. So by drawing attention to it, they’re kind of failing at their job.

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If we don’t assume that riffing is a punishment, the this-or-that aspects of any movie don’t matter.

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I wouldn’t say I felt punished. But their jokes didn’t really break the spell of the film at all. Maybe for younger fans who are used to much more glitz and intensity from a horror film, there wouldn’t be a spell to break. But I still felt the same claustrophobia and disgust I would’ve watching it as-is. Not begrudging anyone else their good time. It’s just how I feel. There are plenty of truly terrible movies to go after, and that’s where they’re at their best.


Just to make clear, when I say “raise” or “lower”, I’m talking about a quality, but not a judgment. That is, I don’t mean “better” or “worse”. I don’t mean to say that the opera makes “Hercules vs. Vampires” better, because, let’s face it, a lot of people hate opera and would prefer the movie any day.

But it definitely adds a higher level of art to it: One of precision and fine-ness not really possible on a shoestring budgeted sword-and-sandal movie. Just as MST3K adds something finer to a lot of not-very-fine movies.

And I think when a work of art hits you on its own level successfully, it takes all the more careful handling to layer something on top of it successfully, which:

I tend to agree: NotLD is still very effective and a lot of the riffs feel very tacky, like pointing out perfectly common and serviceable movie tropes. In the “I should really just relax” department, the job, of course, is to be funny not to be fair, but I think it’s harder to be funny when the object of the mockery is good at what it does.

That said, the idea of the thread is things that are lifted by this higher level of artistry (e.g., most of the MST3K oeuvre) but in non-MST3K ways.

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I don’t work tomorrow, so maybe then I can give the link the attention it deserves. (Too much else going on right now.)

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Well, definitely the musical ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ raises the original story quite admirably.


Oh, excellent example. I love the original but the musical is sublime.

This thread would come full circle if there was a musical version of Schlock.

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Tough to sing inside a gorilla costume.

Some other examples occurred to me: Dvorak’s New World Symphony, which used themes from Native American folk songs:

I’m not even sure which side this one comes in, but Chuck Jones parodied “Nude Descending A Staircase” with “Nude Duck Descending a staircase”:

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Here’s an example that I adore:

I saw this when it first started and it was called “Bugs Bunny on Broadway”, then it morphed to “Bugs Bunny at the Hollywood Bowl”, which I was fortunate to see on Chuck Jones 80th birthday.

Now it’s celebrating its 30th anniversary!

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