Cinematic Titanic // 2007 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // August 20th, 2008
"This movie's really gonna turn people off to brain transplants."
We're living in a remarkable age. Technologies far beyond the dreams of science fiction are bringing us ever closer to the elimination of deadly disease. Alternatives to our rapidly disappearing fossil fuel supply promise to revolutionize energy and transportation. The farthest corners of our planet, for so long relegated to myth and conjecture, are now as close as the nearest Discovery-branded television network. And, most amazing of all, the cast and crew responsible for the cult-classic '90s TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 have risen from the ashes of basic cable cancellation to carry on the vital work of giving truly awful movies what for.
The rebuilding process began two years back, when MST3K writer (and second host) Michael J. Nelson resurfaced the idea of funny movie commentary with his RiffTrax web site, circumventing potential rights issues by selling mp3 commentaries for DVDs people already owned. Before long, he was joined by fellow MST3K-ers Kevin Murphy (a.k.a. Tom Servo) and Bill Corbett (a.k.a. Crow T. Robot part II). Together, they managed to recreate the spirit of the old show, if not always the quality.
Until recently, RiffTrax, and Nelson & Company's short-lived Film Crew DVD project, seemed to be the closest we MSTies were ever going to get to reliving the show's glory days. Then, in late 2007, the other "half" of the Mystery Science Theater crew announced that they were launching their own DVD project -- dubbed "Cinematic Titanic." And a grateful geek nation rejoiced!
Cinematic Titanic is the brainchild of MST3K creator (and original host) Joel Hodgson, along with Trace Beaulieu (who did double duty as the original Crow and evil genius Dr. Clayton Forrester), Frank Coniff (Forrester's put-upon assistant "TV's Frank"), Mary Jo Pehl (who played Pearl Forrester in the show's final seasons), and J. Elvis Weinstein (who helped start the show but left after its first season on Comedy Central). Borrowing the "silhouette" format they pioneered, the five Cinematic Titanic members do their riffing while sitting and standing on platforms that flank the movie screen (it's a little strange at first, but you get used to it).
I know certain "tensions" exist, so let's get something out of the way: I love Joel and Mike equally. I refuse to choose between Trace and Kevin. I want nothing but the best for every single person who made my formative teenage years brighter by virtue of letting me invite a guy wearing a jumpsuit and his robot puppets into my basement bedroom every Saturday. I'm not going to tell you that Cinematic Titanic is better than RiffTrax, or vice versa. What I am going to tell you is to support great comedy. Given the focus of this review, I'll be more specific: Support Cinematic Titanic, and buy their flagship release, The Oozing Skull.
A 1972 stinker, The Oozing Skull (originally named Brain of Blood) tells the disjointed and completely unthrilling tale of an evil doctor hired to transplant the brain of a secretly dying middle eastern ruler into a different, healthy body. But the procedure hits a snag when the doctor's hulking, deformed assistant, Gor, has an oopsie with the intended "donor," forcing the emergency brain transplant into his body instead. There's more to it, of course -- some stuff involving a rival doctor, a midget assistant, various double-crosses, and a woman being held prisoner in a secret dungeon -- but since it doesn't make much sense, I won't pretend to ruin the surprise.
As the group's inaugural release, Cinematic Titanic: The Oozing Skull is a mixed bag. There are laughs to be had, but not nearly as many as eager fans might expect. When Joel & Co. are funny, they're downright hilarious. In response to the filmmakers apparent decision to use red paint for blood, Frank asks, "Who are they operating on? Sherwin-Williams?" inspiring Joel to pipe up, "Paging Dr. Moore...Dr. Benjamin Moore." And when the doctor's diminutive assistant is killed, someone chimes in with "Don't...bury me...in doll clothes." Unfortunately, there are long stretches of the movie that go by with nary a quip. There might be some opening night jitters at play, but I think the movie choice is to blame. As any good MSTie knows, some movies are just too bad to be funny. This is one of those movies.
Despite its few growing pains, I have zero problem endorsing The Oozing Skull -- not only because the people behind Cinematic Titanic are talented comedians, but also because they need our financial support to keep this project going. No, there aren't any extras, subtitles, or audio options. No this isn't in widescreen or high-def. But it's also only $15 for the DVD (available at cinematictitanic.com), or $10 for the digital download through partner web site, EZTakes (which allows you to not only watch the downloaded copy, but also burn it to disc), so break out your e-wallets.
It's exciting to get in at the beginning -- or kind of close to the beginning, anyway -- of a series with such potential. As much as the Cinematic Titanic gang probably want people like me to stop comparing them to Mystery Science Theater 3000, if this new project ends up being even half as awesome, well -- what's half of 3000? Yeah, that awesome!
Review content copyright © 2008 Erich Asperschlager; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinematic Titanic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site