Cinematic Titanic // 2009 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino // April 23rd, 2010
"What is this, Ike Turner Classic Movies?"
Two new movie-riffing outfits rose from the styrofoam and plastic-filled wreckage of Mystery Science Theater 3000. One being the tech-savvy online venture, RiffTrax, with Michael J. Nelson, and the other being the more traditional MST descendent, Cinematic Titanic, with Joel Hodgson. Like their respective tenures on MST3K, the two take next-gen riffing in very different directions: RiffTrax spits out downloadable commentary tracks for every movie under the sun; Cinematic Titanic offers up one finely crafted episode at a time. Titanic is a series that, until this review, I had yet to experience. I'm sorry I waited this long.
The set up for Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks, as well as all other Titanic releases, features five riffers standing on scaffolding that resides on the outer edges of the screen. All five cast members are classic MST3K stars: Joel Hodgson (the show's creator), TV's Frank Conniff, Trace Beaulieu (the original Dr. Forrester and Crow), Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester), and J. Elvis Weinstein (Dr. Lawrence Erhardt). The riffers aren't portraying robots or mad scientists this time; they're just playing themselves, tearing down this awful Italian horror movie in a most efficient, well-timed manner.
The Titanic experience begins with a quiet introduction, as the hosts' silhouettes march to the theater and drop some helpful info about the feature they're going to destroy. Everything about Titanic's presentation is fine-tuned and professional; this new series isn't high concept, and it never feels cheap. Hodgson and Co. come off as old pros, sniping jokes at just the right time and playing off of one another. Occasionally the five join forces to sing or scream at the movie. It all just feels right.
What isn't right, however, is Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks (1974), a cheesy mash-up of hunchbacked servants and cavemen from Italy. The film follows Dr. Frankenstein's (Rossano Brazzi, South Pacific) attempt to create another monster, this time named Goliath. His plans are derailed, however, because he's invited his daughter and her friends to spend the weekend at the mansion. Also, his henchmen's sloppy graverobbing skills have the town's detectives and vigilante mobs hot on Dr. Frank's tail. It's not long before Goliath is running amok, killing a harmless caveman named Ook (played by some Italian guy billed as "Boris Lugosi") and befriending a beautiful houseguest.
Obviously, it's a terrible movie, and the crew of the Titanic tears it to shreds with intelligent wit and goofy one-liners. The jokes are choreographed to perfection, and most of them are winners. All five riffers are clearly at the top of their game, to the point where Cinematic Titanic would be a natural progression for fans missing the Satellite of Love.
The group also employs a few sight gags to mix things up. This episode marks the first appearance of the "Breast Blimp," a pleasant little dirigible that flies on the screen just in time to ensure the film stays PG-13. It's hysterically distracting, and adds a welcomed bit of physical humor to a fairly static setup. For the most part, the group is oddly statuesque on their scaffolding; sometimes it's difficult to tell who's even talking. For as much as I appreciate the scaffolding as a new approach to the silhouette angle, I hope that they utilize it more in the future.
The disc's production values are sparse, but effective. The simple black and white menu and opening credits keep the focus on the movie and the riffing experience. The silhouettes are crisp and clean; Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks isn't anything particularly pretty to look at, but it at least has a bright and grainy '70s transfer. As of right now the only way for you to get this installment, and the rest of the series, is on Cinematic Titanic's website via DVD or digital download. Either way, it's worth the effort.
Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks is perfect fodder for the Titanic crew, and it's a great entry point for newcomers. If you're a long-time MST3k fan dying for some new episodes, this is as close as they come.
Review content copyright © 2010 Michael Rubino; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinematic Titanic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Cinematic Titanic Show Guide