The End and Beyond - Part 3
DVDs of The Oozing Skull by Cinematic Titanic began shipping on 1/9/08. Fans were immediately impressed with the production and riff quality and thoroughly enjoyed the theme written by J. Elvis. The media also picked up on the release and reviews were positive across the board.
Mike, Kevin and Bill performed another live RiffTrax on 1/17/08 at the 7th Annual Sketchfest at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. This time they performed the Ed Wood classic Plan 9 From Outer Space. The mp3 version was available for fans to download on 1/22.
A somewhat unexpected announcement came out on 1/24 when Shout! Factory posted that they would be taking over the release of MST3K DVDs from Rhino. Although MSTies had periodic issues with Rhino over the years they had issued twelve 4-DVD sets and numerous single DVDs. Fans were not immediately given any information of the format or frequency of releases from the Shout! Factory.
1/29 saw the release of a new RiffTrax for the movie Batman and Robin. This offering was the first to be entirely written by fans who sent in scripts to RiffTrax, who edited together the best bits and then performed the results. Overall the riffing was well received. The next RiffTrax on 2/5 would be Jurassic Park where Mike would be joined by Weird Al Yankovic.
Rhino DVD set 10.2 was released on 2/5. Along with the promised replacement of Godzilla vs. Megalon with The Giant Gila Monster this upgraded set included new intros by Joel and the bots (with Servo voiced by Frank) as well as Trace and Frank recreating their roles as Dr Forrester and TV's Frank. There was also an interview the Gila Monster star Don Sullivan.
The Acme Comedy Co. in Minneapolis hosted a Cinematic Titanic premiere event on 2/12/08. Trace, Mary Jo, Frank, J. Elvis and Joel each performed their standup act for the gathering. Joel even produced a few of his old props, such as the pocket mohawk and the leaf blower bagpipe. After a short Q & A session there was a toast to the 20th anniversary of the launch of MST featuring an acoustic guitar version of the theme song played by the original composers, Joel and J. Elvis.
Joel and J. Elvis next showed up at something called Gallery One's Nineteenth Symphony Opus 2008, a Dr Who convention held at the LA Airport Marriot Hotel from 2/15-17. Generally they were there for a short Q & A session and some face time for Cinematic Titanic.
RiffTrax On Demand continued presenting some wonderful old short subjects and on 2/22 they posted Beginning Responsibility: Lunchroom Manners. This is the classic 1960 short featuring Mr. Bungle made famous on Pee Wee's Playhouse.
Long time MSTie Keith Olberman took time to wish Joel a happy 48th birthday on his MSNBC broadcast on 2/22. Then on 2/27 Joel, J Elvis and Frank appeared on a Sound of Young America podcast, hosted by Jesse Thorn, telling old tales of MST and discussing Cinematic Titanic.
On 2/27/08 the folks at RiffTrax posted six political ads with new voice-overs slightly changing the intended message. They posted seven more on 3/3 including one with Hillary Clinton's voice provided by Bridget.
The single disk version of The Giant Gila Monster (402) finally began shipping from Rhino on 3/5. The disk included the 10.2 upgrade with Joel, Trace, J Elvis and Frank plus the Don Sullivan interview that were part of the 4-disk box set.
Beginning 3/18 Frank appeared in the first of a 10-part web series on C-Spot called The Writers Room. The series showed the behind the scenes workings of a group of staff writers for a fictitious "Super Late" night show starring Kevin Pollack, who only appears as a voice on the other end of a speaker phone.
Cinematic Titanic announced on 4/2/08 that the recent 100-day writers strike had raised havoc with their plans of monthly releases of new titles. Fans were assured that in May 2008 the staff would be shooting three new episodes for rapid release.
Joel appeared in The Vampira Show on 4/5/08 at the Steve Allen Theater in Los Angeles. The event was organized to raise money for the Maila Nurmi Memorial Fund. Finnish born actress Nurmi, who portayed Vampira in the 1950's, had died of natural causes at the age of 85 on 1/10/08.
J. Elvis posted a song called Piece of Eights on the Cinematic Titanic web site on 4/16. The song was written specially for the 8th Super Ball put on by Joel and Jim Hodgson. On 4/23 J. Elvis posted Super Ball 7, which was his offering at, you guessed it, Super Ball 7. Meanwhile, MST3K: The Movie began a run on Cinemax on 4/17.
On 4/26 the Cinematic Titanic troupe performed a live showing of Wasp Woman at the USA Film Festival in Dallas. Kevin Murphy was scheduled to attend, but was forced to cancel due to illness.
Over at RiffTrax the gang was busy developing some new projects. They began offering RiffTrax Ringtones on 5/2. Then on 5/8 they debuted the first two "Mike Nelson sanctioned" RiffTrax Presents commentaries. While Mike was off doing other unspecified things these movies would feature riffs by other artists. Some would be from ex-Best Brainers while others would be by comedians not associated with MST. The first two shows were Star Trek: The New Voyages: World Enough and Time with Kevin and Bill at the helm, and Dark Water featuring commentary by British comedian Matthew J. Elliott.
Joel and J. Elvis appeared at Super-Con in San Jose, CA. Those attending the show were delighted to see that Trace also made the event. The two artists that worked with Trace to prepare his Here Come the Big People comics, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, were also in attendance.
Back on 5/3 the keepers of MST3K.com had shut the site down for an overhaul. The new and improved MST3K.com reopened on 6/3. The site now featured a Riff of the Day, the Planet Theater with clips from episodes previously released on DVD, Gypsy's Host Segment Drive-In and the MSTie Mall for your shopping needs.
The exciting season finale of The Writers Room web series, featuring Frank Conniff debuted on 6/6. Part 10 of the 10 part series was entitled Exciting Season Finale. Then on 6/7 Kevin appeared at the Last Call Film Festival in Louisville, KY. Kevin acted as host for the evenings viewing of Four-Eyed Monster and The Corndog Man.
The second DVD offering by Cinematic Titanic came out on 6/19. This time the CT folks riffed on the 1972 apocalyptic film Doomsday Machine.
As June rolled on, along with the usual publicity for various ex-Brains offerings, announcements for upcoming events to celebrate MST3K's 20th anniversary began to pop up. Joel appeared on Adam Carolla's 6/20 radio show on KLSX. Joel spoke about Cinematic Titanic's appearance the next evening at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre as part of the LA Film Festival. It had been advertised that Wasp Woman would be presented live, but when the show began it was actually Doomsday Machine. Apparently Mr. Roger Corman had some last minute issues with his movie being used. On the radio show Joel also discussed that there would be an MST3K 20th anniversary reunion at the San Diego Comic Con in July.
On 6/22 Mary Jo was a guest judge in a "short film gong show" at the Studio Movie Grill in Dallas. Frank then appeared in the web show Comics On Comics where a group of comedians discussed recent film releases of comic book (or graphic novel) super heroes.
The 1000th issue of Entertainment Weekly hit news stands on 6/27/08. One of the articles was EW's 100 best television shows of the last 25 years. MST3K came in at #63.
Also on 6/27 Kevin hosted a viewing of MST3K: The Movie on the big screen at the Temple Theatre as part of the Riverside Saginaw Film Festival in Saginaw, MI. Kevin treated the crowd to his treatise on Why Hollywood Sucks before the movie began. (I'd like to add that after all these years this was the first time the maintainer of this web site had seen the movie on the big screen or had seen a live performance by one of the Brains. An exciting and fun evening.)
For the month of July the RiffTrax guys promised to present two new On Demand shorts each week. The first two were a safety film called Down and Out (7/1) followed by a confusing short with Bob Crane explaining what Patriotism means (7/3).
Trace spent the 4th of July weekend as guest of honor at the 10th Annual CONvergence in Minneapolis, MN. MSTies watching Jeopardy on 7/8 found the $1000 question in the Writing For TV category particularly interesting. The correct answer was given as "Mystery Science Theater."
The Film Crew version of Hollywood After Dark showed up on streaming video on-line complete with ads on 7/10. It appeared on Hulu, a video portal run by FOX and NBC.
The new summer blockbuster movie Meet Dave starring Eddie Murphy opening in theaters on 7/11/08. The original screenplay (entitled Starship Dave) was co-written by Bill Corbett and Rob Greenberg. Neither the reviews nor the box office were kind to the movie.
San Diego Comic Con 2008 was the site of a 20th Anniversary Reunion of the MST3K cast and crew. From 7/24/08 through 7/27/08 there were numerous signing sessions and live events featuring various combinations of Jim, Joel, Mike, Kevin, Trace, Josh, Frank, Bill, Mary Jo, Bridget and Paul. All of them were part of a panel hosted by MST fan Patton Oswald on 7/25. On 7/26 RiffTrax Live! featured two performances of Plan 9 From Outer Space riffed by Mike, Kevin and Bill at the historic Balboa Theatre. Finally on 7/27 Frank appeared on the panel for The Radio Adventures of Dr Floyd. (I was able to attend the event and posted a separate page HERE loaded with pictures and a full report of the weekend.)
The folks at Cinematic Titanic introduced their new look website version 2.0 on 8/1/08. Next on 8/7 they released their third movie, The Wasp Woman from 1959. At first it was only available via download with the mail order option beginning on 8/11.
Also on 8/11 we saw the debut of a strange new show on the Fine Living Network called Whatever, Martha! The show starred Martha Stewart's daughter Alexis and Alexis' BFF Jennifer Koppelman Hutt. Alex and Jenn are featured sitting around a plush living room
whining aboutmaking witty remarks about vintage Martha Stewart shows. Martha herself said she got this wonderful idea from watching old episodes of MST3K. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new market for...I mean...well, it could...the Hell?
Frank and Josh hosted a night of stand up at the Fake Gallery in LA on 8/15. Then on 8/17/08 while viewers of HD cable in Helena, MT were watching the Olympics being broadcast from Beijing, China they suddenly saw the following image that lasted for a few minutes. To my knowledge lots of rumors, but no confirmed explanation ever arose.
On 8/20 the gang at RiffTrax announced a new way to create and post your own riffs called iRiffs. Artists such as Josh Way, Riff Raff Theater and Incognito Cinema Warriors were among the first to post their work.
Dragon*Con 2008 took place in Atlanta from 8/29 to 9/1. This year Joel, Trace and Frank were in attendance and thrilled fans by showing part of the original pilot for MST3K that Joel had just recently discovered a copy of. Also at the event was a screening of the animated film Max the Hero featuring the voice talents of Mike, Kevin and Bill. The film ended up winning the award for Best Animated Comedy at this years film festival. Brad Dourif presented the award to producer Mike Salva.
Word came out through the message boards that Cinematic Titanic's version of The Doomsday Machine had been shown to 50 service men and civilians at Saddam Hussein's presidential palace in Baghdad. The event had been arranged by soldier and devoted MSTie Josh Hutcheson.
The entire Cinematic Titanic crew made an appearance at Archon 32 in St Louis, MO from 10/3-5/08. After giving a taste of the pilot at Dragon*Con Joel now treated those attending this event to the entire pilot. (This was a huge event for some of us slightly compulsive MSTies who look forward to every little but of new material that emerges from the MST archives.)
The creepy 1978 film Legacy of Blood was the fourth Cinematic Titanic offering. It first became available starting 10/9.
An announcement came out on 10/17 telling us that RiffTrax, Hulu and Overcast Media were partnering to offer a pre-synched Riff Test. Viewers were offered a chance to listen to riffs over the premiere episode of the Bill Bixby/ Lou Ferrigno television opus The Incredible Hulk. (The episode Final Round premiered on NBC on 3-10-78.)
Joel and Trace appeared on Twin Cities Live on 10/24/08 in preparation for the live appearance of Cinematic Titanic the next evening at the State Theatre in Minneapolis, MN. Fans came from far and wide to see the troupe perform back in the town where it all started. The 10/25 live show featured the world premiere of the 1970 Mexican/Filipino production Blood of the Vampire. (I was able to attend and have posted a report with pictures here.)
10/28/08 was a big day in the world of MSTies. First off it was announced that The RiffTones (Mike, Kevin and Bill) had won the original song writting contest Masters of Song Fu #2. The competition had gone through four rounds starting back on 8/21/08 and the Riff boys had made it through to be crowned champions.
Next a huge DVD set called Abbott & Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection was released on 10/28 and featured commentary by Frank on the film Who Done It?
Finally 10/28 saw the release of the long awaited MST3K 20th Anniversary DVD set (13th DVD set). Fans had waited anxiously to see this first MST release from Shout! Factory. The collectors' tin featured the episodes First Spaceship on Venus (211), Laserblast (706), Werewolf (904) and Future War (1004). Also included were lobby cards for each episode and a collectible Crow figurine. DVD extras were a three part documentary featuring interviews of virtually the entire cast of MST, a history of the evolving MST3K theme song and original trailers for each film. (On a personal note I would like to mention that I had the honor to be able to support this project in a small way. Many of the images that are shown during the documentary are pictures of items from my collection or that I took during my tours of the Best Brains Studios. I sincerely appreciate that the folks at Shout! Factory who asked for my permission to use the pictures saw fit to include me in the credits.)
On 10/29 Trace posted his write up of the Minneapolis Cinematic Titanic Live show from a few days prior and was kind enough to include some pictures of fans, including yours truly. Along with the photo, which I believe was taken by Trace's wife Katie, I also included Trace's caption, that I think is a hoot. (As always, thanks Trace and all the CT crew! Was that my 15 minutes of fame? Cool. That was fun.)
Hereís celebrity web site archivist Tom from Tomís Temple chatting with Joel
The Cinematic Titanic Winter Tour 2008 continued on 11/1 at the Family Arena in St Charles, MO. A completely new riff of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians made its debut that evening. Although some fans were surprised by the decision to remake one of the classic episodes of MST3K reviews of the show were excellent and the general consensus was that the new version was a welcome edition to the CT library.
On 11/2/08 Plan 9 From Outer Space was performed live by the RiffTrax team at an American Cinematheque sponsored event at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, CA. A few weeks later on 11/17 a collection of RiffTrax shorts was released on DVD. The DVD included a new short called Shake Hands With Danger that was hosted by 3D versions of Mike, Kevin and Bill.
On 11/20 the new Cinematic Titanic version of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was released on DVD. The same day Frank and Josh appeared at the Laugh at Breast Cancer comedy concert at the Aura Night Club in Studio City, CA.
11/24/08 saw the much anticipated 20th Anniversary of the debut of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on KTMA. Grateful fans filled message boards with thanks and glad tidings to the creative team that brought us the show. With RiffTrax, Cinematic Titanic and MST3K.com all in full swing fans still have a lot of laughter to look forward to.
Cinematic Titanic introduced the Holiday e-card Machine on 11/27. Each of the Santa Claus Conquers the Martians based cards featured the artwork of long time MSTie Gary Glover. Below are some examples of his work.
As the holidays approached the Cinematic Titanic Winter Tour continued. There were three shows performed at the Lakeshore Theater in Chicago from 12/18 through 12/20. Each night a different show was performed. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was riffed on 12/18 followed by Blood of the Vampire on 12/19. 12/20 featured the debut of Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks. Below is the "Manos" inspired graphic used to promote the shows.
2009 began with the release of Cinematic Titanic's latest riff of Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks on 1/8. On 1/10 the episodes that had been included on the MST 20th Anniversary DVD set became available for download on iTunes for $9.99 each. (Those same episodes would be the first available on a new MST store on iTunes on 1/22.)
Joel and Trace made an appearance at MIT on 1/11/09 discussing "The Design and Speculative Technology of MST3K." Below is the page from the MIT website announcing the appearance.
1/15/09 saw the first RiffTrax Live streaming video broadcast of the short Self-Conscious Guy. Mike, Kevin and Bill in association with Ustream.tv performed the short live followed by an all too brief Q&A session featuring questions presented through the RiffTrax forum and by viewers on-line as the live event was happening. Even with a few technical issues it was good to hear the guys perform live and appear in a some what familiar silhouette in front of the screen.
The guys at RiffTrax began performing "three riffer" editions of the movies that Mike had previously prepared solo commentaries for on Legend Films DVDs. The first was done for Reefer Madness on 1/20. (Note: they would also prepare a three riffer version of Missile to the Moon that had been performed by Mike and Fred Willard.)
The second RiffTrax Live on-line had a few more technical issues. On 1/28 the guys riffed the short Overcoming Fear. Depending on what method viewers used to connect some had no sound for the first few minutes of the introduction. After the sound was corrected the short began, but soon a severe echo developed and eventually the short was stopped. After a few more minutes the RiffTrax gang was back and started the short over again. After the live riff the topic of "fears" was discussed for about eight minutes.
Frank and his Cartoon Dump crew appeared at San Francisco Sketchfest on 1/31/09. Adam Kindler joined Frank for the event at the Eureka Theater.
The second MST DVD set released by Shout! Factory came out on 2/3. Set XIV (14) included Mad Monster (103), Manhunt in Space (413), Soultaker (1001) and Final Justice (1005). Also included were new interviews with Joe Estevez and Greydon Clark, the original Mad Monster film trailer and four new mini posters. The appearance of Mike, Tom and Crow on Cheap Seats without Ron Parker was also an extra.
The next phase of the Cinematic Titanic live tour began 2/13/09 and over the next few months included stops in San Francisco, Boston, Cleveland, Austin and Seattle. Throughout the tour the Friday evening show would be Blood of the Vampire while the Saturday show was The Dynamite Brothers (later referred to as East Meets Watts). The live shows of The Dynamite Brothers mark the first time that Cinematic Titanic performed a movie live before it had been recorded for release on DVD. This allowed the crew to hone their riffs to perfection before entering the studio. (Note: I was able to attend the 2/28 performance of The Dynamite Brothers at the Hanna Theatre in Cleveland, OH. Fantastic show and as always it was great to speak with the crew afterwards. Here are a few pictures and a write up of my trip.)
The long awaited movie American Scary was released on DVD on 2/27/09. The documentary about television monster/ horror movie hosts featured interviews with Joel and had a short discussion about Mystery Science Theater 3000. Then on 2/20 of collection of short stories by Mary Jo called Snap Shots was made available on iPhone.
Mike posted his press conference on YouTube on 2/27 regarding a recent development in his self imposed challenge to eat nothing but bacon for every meal throughout the month of February. Mike was flanked by Bridget and their two sons when he announced that he had abandoned the project within a few days of its completion. The limited explanation left fans wanting more information, but none was forthcoming. Heroes are only human and sometimes fall short of our desires. Sad really.
Kevin began posting on a new personal website on 3/5 called Kevin Murphy - Human Being Since 1956.
While in Austin, TX for the next live performance of the Cinematic Titanic tour on 3/7 the entire cast was interviewed for the show Sneak Peek on University of Texas Student Television.
The CT crew next appeared on 3/12 signing autographs at Scarecrow Video in Seattle, WA in preparation for their shows the following two nights. We later learned that Jeopardy guru Ken Jennings attended the 3/14 show and is a big fan of MST3K and Cinematic Titanic. Then on 3/21 Public Radio International aired an interview of the CT gang that had been recorded on 2/21 at the Sommerville Theater show in Boston.
3/19/09 saw the beginning of a new era of RiffTrax Shorts being released on a regular basis starting with a 1958 gem called How Much Affection. That same day the next Cinematic Titanic DVD Blood of the Vampire was released. This disk included the promo clips for the first six CT offerings as extras.
On 3/24 MST3K.com announced some new merchandise was available including a United Servo Academy t-shirt and a set of four mini posters. They also promised that there would be some new KTMA and season 1 content added to their website. Next on 3/26 we heard that the guys from RiffTrax would be joining CBS Radio. RiffTrax followed this up on 4/3 by letting us know that they would be selling DVDs of some of their recent 3-riffer commentaries, the first three being Little Shop of Horrors, Night of the Living Dead and Reefer Madness. Even more 3-riffer DVDs were announced on 4/24.
With very little notice RiffTrax conducted a live beta test on 4/28/09 of the short Cooking Terms and What They Mean. Fans that saw the announcement in time were able to pay 10 cents to join the event. Unlike earlier live on-line events this time there was no Q&A or audience participation.
5/1/09 saw the end of two auctions with some interesting items for MST3K fans. One was the made up of figures from the Hollywood Wax Museum, including the somewhat creepy visage of Patrick Swayze as Dalton from the movie Roadhouse. The second was the auction of Forrest Ackerman's amazing collection of Hollywood memorabilia. Forry had housed his vast collection at his Acker-mansion until his recent death. One item that caught my eye was an actual tunic worn in the 1954 Rocky Jones Space Ranger TV series.
To go along with the recently announced RiffTrax DVDs was the second collection of shorts, coincidentally called The Best of RiffTrax Shorts Volume Two, that became available on 5/1.
On 5/5 the next RiffTrax short became available for download. It was the 1955 cautionary tale What About Juvenile Delinquency? that had previously been seen accompanying the MST episode 518 The Atomic Brain. This was the first time RiffTrax used an item that had already been seen on MST. Then on 5/6/09 the first official Rifftones album was released. Entitled Music For Riffing, each selection was inspired by one of the movies previously riffed by the gang.
The Cinematic Titanic website offered us a whole new look starting on 5/8/09. On 5/15 the next series of CT live appearances began as their newest tour would visit Atlanta, Phoenix (or Mesa), Portland (OR), Dallas and Philadelphia. Throughout the tour there would be a number of live appearances at local venues for fans to meet the troup. On this tour the Friday show at the first three stops would be East Meets Watts while the Saturday shows would be Danger on Tiki Island (aka Brides of Blood Island). For the Dallas and Philly shows the Friday movie would be switched to The Alien Factor. There were also posters made up for these movies that were available for fans to get signed by the CT cast.
Also on 5/15/09 RiffTrax made their next attempt at a live performance on-line. This time there would be the short Shake Hands With Danger and the feature length movie Planet of Dinosaurs. The event started out well, but as the short was being performed the sound began to lag and eventually cut out completely. After a lengthy break viewers were directed to go to the Ustream.tv feed. Sadly, technical difficulties prevented the main event from being performed and the evening was cut short. (By the way, I'm not sure who the person is in the last photo below, but he came on briefly to explain that the show was cancelled. Unfortunately no one could hear what he was saying, but we figured it out.)
Frank served as an award presenter at the 3rd Annual IIG Awards ceremony on 5/18/09 at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood, CA. The Independent Investigation Group recognized those that promote science in entertainment.
6/2/09 saw an interesting offering from RiffTrax. The crew presented the first of what they referred to as a "challenge" when they riffed on the 1942 classic Casablanca. Mike, Kevin and Bill made an extra effort to explain that this is a movie they love, but that doesn't mean that it can't, or shouldn't, be riffed. (I for one agree completely and thoroughly enjoyed the commentary.)
Frank appeared on the TV Guide Network's show TV Watercooler along with fellow comedian Andy Kindler on 6/8/09. Although the segment was only about ten minutes long Frank was able to get some good jabs in at the new shows being discussed, including the much anticipated Paris Hilton's My New BFF. Frank and Josh appeared in The Fake Show at The Fake Gallery in LA on 6/26.
DVD set XV (15) hit store shelves on 7/7/09. Episodes include Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (102), Girl in Lovers Lane (509), Zombie Nightmare (604) and Racket Girls (616). Shout! Factory included the extras Glimpses of KTMA and Behind the Scenes clips(taken from the original MST Scrapbook tape), interviews with Zombie Nightmare cast member Frank Dietz and Jon Mikl Thor, a sneak peek of Hamlet ADD featuring voice work by Kevin and Trace and a variety of promos and trailers. (There is also an Easter egg accessible from the Zombie Nightmare menu by highlighting Zombie Nightmare = MST3K Dream then clicking the down arrow. When the purple light will lights up click enter and you will treated to an extremely cheesy music video of a song called Luongo by the band Freddie Flex and Heavy Eric Sci-Fi Show, who is produced by Thor.)
Jim Mallon made many obsessive MSTies (including myself) extremely happy when he added some new content to MST3K.com on 7/14/09. A new button on the site labeled GENESIS lead to video clips from the original three KTMA episodes plus one from Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (102). There was also a collection of photos from KTMA and Season 1. Another unexpected, but well received, section was the first installment of Jim's memoirs about the birth of MST3K. Jim has a unique perspective since he was the first of the crew at KTMA and was the person that pulled the threads together. He included a clip called The Wall featuring Kevin as an investigative reporter for TV23.
Mike, Kevin and Bill attended San Diego Comic Con from 7/23 to 7/26. Along with various autograph sessions and appearances at the RiffTrax booth there was also a panel discussion and a live riff of the short Shake Hands With Danger. (Photos below are courtesy of ShutterBun.) Meanwhile at the Shout! Factory booth there was an announcement of the episode titles scheduled to appear on DVD set XVI coming out 12/3/09. Fans were extremely pleased to hear that the four disks would be The Corpse Vanishes (105), Warrior of the Lost World (501), Santa Claus (521) and Night of the Blood Beast (701), complete with the 1995 Turkey Day marathon bumpers, a miniature Tom Servo plus other extras. Frank also appeared in a live performance of the Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd on Sunday 7/26. That same day a MSTie favorite, director Rick Sloane, was on hand with some of the cast of Hobgoblins to promote the sequel, appropriately entitled Hobgoblins 2.
Joel posted on the Cinematic Titanic blog on 7/29 that he and the rest of the CT gang were taking the summer off to rest up after their active live performance schedule during the first half of the year. He also mentioned that there would not be any new DVD releases forthcoming. Fans filled the message boards with their concerns until Joel clarified his comment. DVDs would eventually be released, but for the time being the latest movie projects would continue to be used for upcoming live performances in the fall.
There was a media blitz for weeks leading up to a RiffTrax Live event held on 8/20/09. The buzz was about a live riffing of the 1958 classic Plan 9 From Outer Space being performed at the historic Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN and broadcast live via satellite to 434 theaters across the country (although the west coast would be tape delayed). Some fans were concerned that the event may not come to fruition based on some of the recent failed attempts to hold on-line live events. As it turned out a few theaters did experience fairly major issues, and many had some minor freeze ups, but over all the event came off extremely well. Those that attended in theaters saw some scrolling movie trivia and information before the program began. It took some folks a while to realize that this info was also supplied by the RiffTrax team. The evening was hosted by attractive web personality Veronica Belmont, host of Tekzilla on Revision3 and Qore on the Playstation Network. Veronica introduced Mike, Kevin and Bill who assured us the event was happening live. Kevin also warned us of a potential pants malfunction. Mike told attendees about some digital freebies and announced the random winner of an iPod Touch (Rob Graham, who was watching at the Regal Cinema & IMAX Theater in Williamsville, NY). One of the highlights of the evening was a new short called Flying Stewardess (1940). There were also short ads by Rich "Lowtax" Kyanka about the Missouri Flour and Grain Expo and a service called Berry Watch. Musician Jonathan Coulton perfomed two songs, The Future Soon and Re: Your Brains, with Kevin assisting by demonstrating appropriate zombie dance moves. Coulton also joined the Rifftones to perform the song Plans 1-9, with Mike accompanying on the nose flute. This was followed immediately by the riff of Plan 9, with many jokes being updated for the event. One interesting item was that occasionally during the film Mike, Kevin and Bill appeared on the left side of the screen as they performed the riff. Finally, everyone took a curtain call and exited the stage. A reminder about the digital freebies came up on the screen as the theaters emptied. The goodies included an autographed Welcome to Nashville photo, a previously recorded riff of the stewardess short, an mp3 of the Rifftones performing Plans 1-9 and Plan 9 avatars created by Len Peralta. The evening was a great success and left fans hoping for more future events such as these in the future. (I attended the show at the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI. The crowd was great throughout the evening and I was told by the theater manager that we had a sell out and he would be happy to host more of these shows.)
Meanwhile, Frank continued his performances of Cartoon Dump the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood. On 8/25/09 he was joined on stage by Josh.
Dragon*Con 2009 took place in Atlanta from 9/4 to 9/6/09. This year's event was attended by Trace, Mary Jo, Frank and Bill. Various groupings of these four appeared at different events throughout the weekend, including one called Crow vs. Crow featuring Trace and Bill. This panel was filmed for later inclusions on a Shout! Factory DVD release.
Two new RiffTrax Shorts collections became available on 9/9 called the Wide World of Shorts and the Shorts-Tacular Shorts-Stravaganza.
From 9/10-12/09 Cinematic Titanic was back at the Lakeshore Theater in Chicago for three consecutive nights riffing three different movies. The shows were East Meets Watts, The Alien Factor and Danger on Tiki Island. A large group from the Cinematic Titanic forum attended, including yours truly. A write up of the weekend can be seen here.
On 10/2/09 update of EW.com they name MST3K as #19 out of the Top 20 Sci-Fi TV Shows. The next RiffTrax was released on 10/5 and featured the movie Dragon Wars D-War, which had been selected by the audience at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con. Also on 10/5 we learned that the computer game Mega Man 3 featured a Tom Servo mod.
The RiffTrax Live show from 8/20/09 had an encore performance on 10/8. It was a tape of the original show and was broadcast to most of the same theaters. Attendance was less than the first show, but overall seemed to be well received once again.
Starting on 10/10 for four consecutive Saturdays Bill taught a writing comedy class for ifp at the Minnesota Center for Media Arts. On 10/16 RiffTrax Live hostess Veronica Belmont joined Mike, Kevin and Bill for the riff of the short subject American Thrift - Part 1. That same day two new RiffTrax DVDs came out featuring the movies Voodoo Man and Plant of Dinosaurs.
From 10/25 through 10/29 Cinematic Titanic played five consecutive nights at Largo at the Coronet in Los Angeles. Each night featured a different movie and for the first time a different special guest. What really had the crowd buzzing was the fact that Trace and Josh switched positions on stage while the riff was being performed. No explanation was given and the world continued to turn. The show schedule was as follows:
10/25 Legacy of Blood with Dana Gould
10/26 Danger on Tiki Island with Patton Oswalt
10/27 Santa Claus Conquers the Martians with Andy Kindler
10/28 Alien Factor with Maria Bramford
10/29 East Meets Watts with Chris Hardwick
A short video called Donny Gets a Haircut was posted on Youtube on 10/27/09 in which a bewildered Donny Osmond is coiffed by a somewhat distracted Frank.
Bill's new play My Monster was performed on 10/27 and 11/3 at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis. Bill and co-author Joseph Scrimshaw performed the show, which they describe as sort of a Frankenstein meets Mamet.
The epic movie Titanic finally made it's RiffTrax debut on 10/29. Fans were glad to hear that the classic line "I'm gonna sink this bitch" used by Kevin back 1998 earlier during the Academy of Robots' Choice Awards Special was kept in the script.
According to a patent filed by Sony Computer Entertainment America the Playstation 3 gaming system was going to receive an MST3K-like interface. Here is a simple diagram showing how easy the process would be:
Joel appeared (and was briefly and poorly riffed) on a St Louis morning news show on 11/20 to promote that the gang from Cinematic Titanic would be at the St Louis International Film Festival that night and then riffing the movie War of the Insects (aka Genocide) for the first time on 11/21 at the Family Arena.
12/1/09 saw the release of the MST DVD set XVI by Shout! Factory. This box set included the episodes The Corpse Vanishes (105), Warrior of the Lost World (501), Santa Claus (521) and Night of the Blood Beast (701). Extras included an interview with WOTLW director David Worth, a documentary of Santa Claus producer K. Gordon Murray, all of the 1995 Turkey Day bumpers plus the complete Thanksgiving version of NOTBB. Also included was a small Tom Servo figure to go along with the Crow figure included in the 20th Anniversary set. (On the Santa Claus disk there are two different "Making of the Episode" Easter eggs. When you first insert the disk, highlight extras, click the left arrow and when the blue button turns purple hit enter. You'll see Kevin and Paul discussing the Gift Exchange host segment in the episode. When you go back to the main menu and repeat the exact same process you'll see Kevin and Bill discussing The Songs.)
Next on 12/9/09 a RiffTrax Live DVD of the Plan 9 shows performed earlier in the year was released. It included some behind the scenes photos from the event. A week later on 12/16 the next Cinematic Titanic DVD of East Meets Watts (aka Dynamite Brothers) was released. For the first time the CT commentary was recorded live for the DVD at the Largo at the Coronet in Los Angeles on 10/29/09.
RiffTrax Live Christmas Shorts-Stravaganza was broadcast live from the Escondido Center for the Arts across the country on 12/16/09. The show consisted of a series of mostly Christmas related short subjects and some classic toy commercials. Pre-show entertainment included some new movie related trivia and quotes on the screen while we listened to some Rifftones and Weird Al Yankovic music. Mike, Bill and Kevin's first short was the weird classic Christmas Toyshop (1945) that features the clumsiest father, most depressed Santa and a strange animated story of a toyshop under attack by a spider. Next we met Jason Denen seated in the balcony, who was the winner of the RiffTrax/ Twitter contest. Then followed A Visit to Santa (1963) to his split level palace and Christmas Rhapsody (1948) starring a tree that was apparently small and of no importance. Weird Al then represented the Pork Council while guest riffing on a pork related short called Three Magic Words. (Those words by the way were Quality, Freshness and Flavor). The RiffTrax guys used some old commercials to show the gifts they had bought for each other. These included a battery powered dog named Gaylord for Kevin, made by Ideal (c. 1963), a Jimmy Jet for Bill, made by Deluxe (c. 1962) and the Ding-a-Ling toys for Mike, including King Ding, made by Topper (c. 1972). Interspersed with the commercials were the shorts The Night Before Christmas (1946), A Christmas Dream (1949) with it's vengeful, reanimated sock puppet and the strange choice of Parade of Aquatic Champions (c. 1947). The last short was the 1948 Max Fleischer cartoon version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which upon further reflection is far creepier than anyone had ever noticed before. Finally, the audience was treated to RiffTrax Holiday Havoc highlighted by Kevin in fishnets and the vomit inducing effect this had on the others. (This short had been previously released back on 12/11/07). Attending fans also were given a link to some freebies including the Christmas Rhapsody short, the Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey riff, Sparkly Vampires performed by the Rifftones, an autographed Live from San Diego photo and Three Magic Words wallpaper created by Len Peralta. An Encore presentation of the event was held at (most) theaters on 12/17.
2009 ended with a Cinematic Titanic marathon on New Year's Eve at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA (near Philadelphia). The gang riffed on War of the Insects and then debuted Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World before taking a short break to countdown to the New Year and share a toast with the crowd. After the clock stopped chiming midnight they were back to the riff fest by presenting Legacy of Blood. This was the first time Legacy of Blood was riffed live even though the DVD version had come out over a year earlier. Once again, a travelling band of CT fans flocked to Philly to be able to attend the show.