Cinematic Titanic // 2008 // 82 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // April 29th, 2010
"Why is this house so full of hate?"
The Cinematic Titanic crew make their fourth deposit into the Time Tube with Legacy of Blood, a sleazy '70s horror movie about grown-up siblings who are systematically killed at their deceased father's house. Thankfully, Cinema Titans Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Joel Hodgson, Mary Jo Pehl, and J. Elvis Weinstein have the skills necessary to dispatch this slice of sleaze. As they have been doing since late 2007 (and as far back as their days on Mystery Science Theater 3000), Hodgson and crew riff this stinker into oblivion, giving fans a solid 82 minutes of entertainment along the way.
Though the comedians of Cinematic Titanic seem to have turned most of their attention to their live performances, they started the movie-riffing project as a collection of straight-to-DVD and digital download episodes. Eschewing the high-concept puppet show of MST3K, they distilled the experience down to simple black and white graphics, silhouettes, and killer jokes. There is a backstory to Cinematic Titanic, but it's pretty vague -- something about their having been tasked by a shadowy (possibly government) agency with saving the world's collective cinema from a tear in the "electron scaffolding." Although the Titans appear to have more freedom that Joel or Mike were given by Drs. Forrester, their "employers" have no problem siccing paramilitary forces on them if their attention wanders away from the job at hand. In Legacy of Blood, for example, we see just how seriously they take the no-gum-in-the-theater rule. Still, our heroes riff on, pulling no punches as they carve their way through this awful, awful movie.
During its 10 seasons, Mystery Science Theater 3000 tackled a wide variety of B-movies. Although they tended mostly towards science-fiction (especially after moving to the Sci-Fi Channel), they took aim at everything from teen dramas to spy pictures to monster movies. With very few exceptions, though, they kept the content family-friendly. Freed from the restraints of basic cable, the Cinematic Titanic crew is able to take on edgier material. They still keep things PG-13, but as Legacy of Blood shows us, a movie can be disturbing without excessive blood and gore.
Don't get me wrong. Legacy of Blood has blood (or, at least, thick red tempera paint) and gore, in the form of people getting electrocuted, decapitated, and eaten by fish. It also has creepy sexual innuendo, Nazi memorabilia, and a lamp made out of a human skull. But the scares come more from the realization that once you've seen this excruciatingly bad movie, it will be stuck in your brain forever. Good thing we have the tireless riffers of Cinematic Titanic to get us through.
Most of the jokes come at the expense of the dysfunctional siblings who have gathered to hear the reading of their father's will, only to find out that they won't see a dime of his money unless they stay in the house for a full week. That semi-interesting setup is discarded almost instantly, replaced by endless bickering, drinking, and vague references to family secrets that include (yecch!) incest. Of the bed-bound Leslie -- a.k.a. the "hot" sister -- one of the Titans quips that "vintage pinball machines are less maintenance." When one of his siblings complains that Meatloaf-esque Johnny is "afraid of his own shadow," Mary Jo pipes up: "Because it's huge!" The movie eventually gets to the murders, but they're too ridiculous to be scary. A homely cop -- "The long face of the law" -- takes an axe to the face and ends up (spoiler-alert!...oh, who am I kidding?) with his decapitated head on a plate in the family's fridge. The eldest brother and his wife "achieve premature electrocution" thanks to a convenient loose lamp wire. And a brother gets killed and stuck head-first into an aquarium stocked with piranhas. The most disturbing thing about the movie, though, are the dream sequences that feature the dead patriarch, played by John Carradine, whipping his willing butler with a cane. "Can't we watch something a little more wholesome, like a Tijuana snuff film?" Weinstein complains. Pehl adds that "Salvador Dail called...he says he doesn't get it."
Like their other releases, the Titans break up the film by pausing it for a couple short sketches. The breaks in this episode are the gum raid mentioned earlier, and a rousing (and hilarious) game of "Which Thing Won't Kill You?" Also like their other releases, the episode is presented in full screen format, with stereo sound and no extras -- unless you count a chapter selection menu as an extra. Hopefully they will come up with some sort of bonus features for future releases, or make the episodes themselves just a little longer, though with this kind of straight-to-DVD release, the notion of "extras" may be outdated. It's fair for fans to want as much as possible from the artists they love, but it's also fair for those artists to focus on what they do best -- in this case, making fun of bad movies.
In the relatively short life of their project, the Cinematic Titanic gang has had way more hits than misses. There is certainly room for these veteran comedians to expand their empire, but as an episode like Legacy of Blood shows, the quality is already top notch. Now all they need is an audience. The days of circulating the tapes are gone, but fans can still spread the word. Don't let their Legacy...um...bleed...away. Shoot! I almost had something there. Just watch the darn thing, OK?
Here's there real legacy: Not guilty!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinematic Titanic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site