Where there was only one, now there are two. The great schism at Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3k) has created The Film Crew and Cinematic Titanic, both with a cast of main characters and ex-robots intact.
A few months ago I reviewed the first release by Mike Nelson's creation Killers from Space, and now Joel returns to the darkened theater with Cinematic Titanic's The Oozing Skull.
This group consists of Joel Hodgson (Joel), Josh Weinstein (Tom Servo), Trace Beaulieu, (Crow T. Robot), Frank Conniff (TV's Frank) and Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl).
I don't want to do a blow-by-blow comparison. I'll save that for a later article, after I've had a chance to compare a larger body of work. Now let's get to The Oozing Skull.
The DVD arrived in a simple paper shipping sleeve. No inserts or case. A little disappointing, but anyway to save some cost for an artist-financed project is all right by me. The title screen on the DVD is a bit frugal as well. Only "Play" and "Chapter Selection" for choices, no fancy menus or extras, another disappointment.
Anxious to see how this group would present their riffing, I pressed play. The disappointment ends. We get five silhouettes in the bottom corners of the screen, some sitting and some standing watching the film. The use of silhouettes allows them to interact with the movie characters as well as just riff which is an added bonus.
I have to say it was great to hear Joel's familiar voice riffing on the movie. It took me back. To be clear they are not reprising their characters, but it's hard to hear their voices, and not picture Joel in a jumpsuit or Frank in his Deep 13 garb. You don't have to be a fan of MST3k to enjoy this though.
Now to the film, The Oozing Skull itself is worthy of being torn apart. It's a low-budget horror film with a script designed to inflict as much boredom as possible. The movie opens with the ruler of a fictional Middle Eastern country in the hospital dying. However, his life won't end. Hi assistants have arranged with a mad doctor to transplant his brain into another body.
The doctor performing the operation has two assistants, a midget with killer operating skills and a half-brained, mutant man named Gor. You'd think the ruler of a small country could afford better care, but I guess that's what you get with nationalized health care.
Now, if you needed a body for your brain transplant, who would you most like to get the body for you? If you said the mutant-looking half-wit named Gor then you'd be correct.
Of course, Gor screws up the process and they have to use his body for the brain transplant instead. There's plenty of feigned intrigue, but it's so muddled it's beyond recognition. Gor goes on a killing rampage and escapes. His loyal servant and the mad doctor hunt him down.
Finally, the mad doctor with the help of a pain inflictor that looks straight out of Nerf catalog captures Gor. In the end, the mad doctor wins and puts the brain into a better looking guy who he can control with a brain implant.
I know, I know, enough with the movie, how was the riffing? Top quality. All the cast had good jokes, and I was laughing throughout the movie. A scene near the middle with the disabled car had me going the most. When you hear the joke about "bounce starting" then you know you're there.
There were plenty of geeky references in the film with jokes about blogs, Todd McFarlane and other geeky goodies.
The movie does have some "host segments" and guest appearance. They stop the film and have some small "shadow plays." The host segments weren't the strongest part of the production, but I did like the guest appearance rolling in, which I won't the reveal to keep the surprise.
Conclusion on DVD: I love to support artist-backed efforts like this, but this DVD provides enough laughs it'd be worth it even if Rupert Murdoch financed it. Of course, it's much better that your cash is going straight to the artists to create more DVDs. I give this one a hearty recommendation.