CinematicTitanic: Mystery Science Theatre 3000 rides again -- sheer hilarity!

CinematicTitanic is Joel Hodgson's latest project, and it kicks ass. Hodgson is the creator of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 -- one of the greatest TV shows in history, in which Hodgson and friends screened insanely bad old movies while making hundreds and hundreds of snarky, convulsively funny jokes (someone once clocked it at 200 jokes an hour).

CinematicTitanic picks up where MST3K left off -- much of the original cast are back, along with some new voices, except this time, it's direct-from-net distribution of DRM-free DVDs and (soon) DRM-free downloads (Hodgson says that the delay for downloads is -- incredibly -- due to the rightsholders for these unspeakably crummy movies worrying about piracy -- don't flatter yourself, guys).

I just finished watching a DVD of the premiere episode, "The Oozing Brain," and it was like stepping into a time-machine and going back to the day that my pal Tom Marcinko mailed me a VHS cassette full of home-recorded MST3K episodes and I sat down on the sofa and began to laugh until it felt like I was going to throw up.

CinematicTitanic is artist-owned and was financed out of Hodgson and co's pockets (the DVD features a lovely and warm take on the stupid fake "FBI" warnings that blight other DVDs). Check out the free trailer! Link


  1. Awesome of course, but I find it hard looking at both sides of the bottom of the screen for visual silhouette gags. And 5 jokesters? That’s a lot to take in. Who’s speaking?

  2. meh, Joel has said for a long time he was done with MST3K.

    It seems odd to me that he maintained that position until mike nelsons rifftrax started taking off in popularity.

  3. After hearing so much about MST3K, I tried to watch one episode once, a decade ago. Was it Karate Kid ? Don’t remember, but I found the comments so lame that all I could think was that there was a lot more artistic value and interest in the movie itself than in the stupid shadows in front of the screen. Maybe it happened to be a lame episode, maybe it wasn’t even a real one, but one thing for sure, I still have no idea what the fuss is about and how dissing bad movies can be considered ‘entertainment’.

  4. The juvenile hissy-fit between the old cast of MST3K manifested in the dueling spinoffs (Rifftrax vs. Cinematic Titanic) is sad and unfortunate. I hope they both to well, but I would prefer a joint project. In a particular fantasy of mine I can imagine actual movie studios approaching such an effort to willingly add the humorous commentary as a selling point for the official DVD of a subpar film.

    To callously enter into a side in said hissy-fit; it is somewhat difficult to not notice the creation of the Cinematic Titanic occurred only after Rifftrax proved that such a venue is a viable internet-based product.

  5. Wow… Cory, you must be busy. Joel made the initial announcement about this three months ago.

    And, actually, no one in the cast is “new,” per se. They are all MST3K alums (though J. Elvis was only on the show for a short time at the very beginning and is one a lot of people are unfamiliar with). Basically, CT has everyone from MST3K’s cast but the three over at Rifftrax & Film Crew (Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy). And Mary Jo has made an appearance on the Rifftrax riff of Mariah Carey’s Glitter, so there’s even been some blurring of that line.

    However… I would not hold my breath for Mike to make an appearance at CT or Joel at Rifftrax. Joel and Mike really are two distinct personalities with two different styles, and are, essentially, the leaders of their respective groups. Trying to put them together would be a little awkward (to say the least).

    Oh, and Dargaud: Karate Kid is not an MST3k episode (as far as I can remember). There were a few DVDs (Ghostbusters is an example) that took the visual for the commentary track, but I doubt Karate Kid was one of them.

    Yes, I know too much about MST3K for my own good.

  6. Cory, you were mentioned in the RiffTrax of Independence Day. When the scientist played by Brent Spiner comes out to meet the president, he’s nervous and stammering and someone, I think it was Mike Nelson says “He’s more excited than the time he met Cory Doctorow!”

  7. Gallipoli, agreed.

    Its a hard side to take too, because Joel was the guy i grew up with. Nelsons Rifftrax is such a great format though. Sure theres no characters onscreen, but that lets them release their wares for a few bucks per movie, and they can do whatever movie they want without paying royalties.

    Their version of fellowship of the ring is amazing.

  8. Dargaud – Karate Kid was never used either as a feature nor a short. But thanks for spreading your harsh anyway.

  9. I had an idea for a party theme a while ago. Everyone constructs their own robot, and you watch a horrible movie. something that would be easy pickings for even a riffing novice (like the Timothy Hines version of war of the worlds)

    It’d be an S.O.L. party.

  10. My all time favorite MST3K was “The Clonus Horror”. Dick Sargent as an evil scientist and Peter Graves as a congressman along with the hilarious commentary make it pure movie magic. I really need to get that one on DVD…

    Thanks for the update on the new project – I heard about it when they were first pitching it but didn’t know the first release was out. My DVD will arrive in about a week. :)

  11. They never did the Karate Kid, but they did do a couple episodes of the TV show The Master, which they called Master Ninja I and II. Two of my all-time favorites and definitely worth seeking out.

  12. Ya know though I’m psyched to see the “old skool” gang of MTS3K back, the Titanic concept isn’t really grabbing me. They need to just bring back MTS3K if they’re going this far. Or at least keep the theater concept. Maybe an old bijou theater that shows crappy movies, you have 1 mean old man of an owner of the theater (the only recurring character) and each film released have a different variety of characters sitting in the seats. Heck even Tom and Crow could make a cameo one week (they’re still on Earth, right?) Also since the owner wants to make as much money as possible on consessions, he throws in “intermissions” every 15 or so minutes (commercials) which also would be a chance for the characters watching the film to mingle out in the lobby, perform sketches and so on.

    Joel are you reading this? PLEASE steal my idea!

  13. “My all time favorite MST3K was “The Clonus Horror”

    “professor york! Excuse me.. professor york!”

  14. Nekura: You’re in luck! Parts: the Clonus Horror was just released as part of the 12th box set.

    DIVXBruce: I’ve got the Master Ninja Theme Song as my ringtone. Best song ever recorded.

    Dargaud: Sounds like you might’ve seen a fan-made project. About 50 episodes have been released on DVD; you might want to give one another shot. (I recommend Pod People. It stinks!)

  15. Joel debuted “Cinematic Titanic” at Skywalker Ranch for the ILM folks with the classic Sean Connery drug-fueled mess Zardoz. There’s a pretty extensive interview with him on (Where’s Bonnie? Why am I doing her job??)

    I very much doubt there’s that much animosity between Joel and Mike. I think Joel just recognized there’s still very much a demand for the process he invented in today’s media marketplace, and why should Mike have all the fun? I’m glad there’s room for RiffTrax, The Film Crew, Cinematic Titanic,” Brad Neely’s “Wizard People, Dear Reader,” et al.

    Back in Usenet days a friend and I used to participate in “Mystery Usenet Theater 3000,” which were scripts starring the MST3K cast riffing on bad net fanfic. (Hooo, boy, you wanna talk turkeys… I remember a Star Trek: TNG fanfic which included the line: “Hey baldy! Why don’t you shut your Shakespear [sic] addicted mouth?”) At the time I ruminated there were much wider formats rife for kibbitzing, and even suggested a live theme restaurant. (This was in the period in which I thought I would grow up to be a Disney Imagineer.)

    More recently, I’ve written on the idea of trying to create a sort of “channel” that would overlay network TV, movie stations, etc., with simultaneous commentary, be it audio or like Pop-Up Video from VH1. I imagine the networks would protest, but it’s not like you’re hacking their signal. The more shows and movies riffed upon, the more available commentary there would be to sync up, especially in reruns. The layered entertainment found mostly on DVDs nowadays is just waiting to erupt into a wider punk DIY ethos.

  16. I know. You buy a Cinematic Titanic. Then you buy the rifftrax of the same movie. Then you play one over the other.
    And take 3 hits of acid.

  17. I always thought MST3K was for people who weren’t capable of making their own funny snarky comments during a shitty movie. I never found it very funny or much fun.

    Maybe I’ve just been lucky to know hilarious uber-snarky people in RL, so MST3K just seemed tame by comparison, if not unnecessary.

    Or maybe it’s like watching someone play a video game. Even if you suck at it, it’ll always be more fun to play the game yourself than it will be to sit back and watch someone else.

    I have a similar opinion about mashups. Funner to make them yourself, even if you suck at it, than to sit and listen to even the greatest practitioners.

  18. Most MST viewers CAN make their own comments. But the comments do tend to be better when it’s several professional writers doing it, who have had the opportunity to watch the movie several times to come up with more material, and have had an editor look through it to choose the best lines.

    On the whole CT vs Rifftrax thing…. I’d really like to give them the benefit of the doubt on this. If there is actually some animosity there between them, I can see myself getting sick of the idea of riffing, by these people at least, real fast. The idea that people could become prima donas over -making fun of bad movies- seems remarkably petty.

    Fortunately, the Rifftrax side of things seems to be pretty laid back about it at least. The CT guys, however, have very conspicuously said nothing about Rifftrax. At the moment at least, I’d like to think they’re just focusing on their own things.

  19. Thanks to MST3K I’ve seen the Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies more than any other film. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get my Schick out of shape.

  20. Most of the animosity (and thus the lack of any foreseeable MST3K reunion) from both Rifftrax and CT camps seems to be directed toward MST3K executive producer Jim Mallon (AKA Gypsy)–he also apparently holds the rights to the name, characters, etc.

    Mike was the head writer throughout most of the show’s run (including the Joel years), so the Joel vs Mike arguments really stem from style of delivery (Joel=light-hearted stoner, Mike=bitter ex-TGI Fridays waiter). No one wins these arguments, except, perhaps, Dr. Forrester. And probably Karl Rove.

    The haters who think they can riff better than these fine people have likely never followed a fart joke with an Ibsen reference. Where’s your cult audience?

    #25 – There were some great MST-ings of FanFic back in the day, weren’t there. The Stephen Ratliff ST:TNG stories (Kid’s Crew tales!) were stone classics, and there was inspired riffing on spam emails (presented as “shorts” to accompany the stories).

    Going from a Best Brains drought to a smorgasbord of riffage is frankly a dream, so I wish them all the best. It’s not as if they lack for good material.

    P.S. I love my Tom Servo tattoo.

  21. Sorry honey, I prefer my Laserblast unfiltered, without some professional writer’s tongue in my cheek doing my snarking for me.

  22. There are always a few unfortunate souls who just never got the joke. It’s a waste of time to try to explain MST3K to them. Just ignore them and eventually they’ll go away.

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