MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Mothra » Wed Oct 02, 2019 11:13 am

Thad wrote:Gail Simone wrote for Rifftrax's latest riff, Karate Cop.

Oooo, gonna get this one.

The main reason I started following Gail Simone was for her amazing comedic stuff in Agent X / Deadpool's Four Winds arc. It'd be good to see her do pure comedy again.

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Thad » Wed Oct 02, 2019 7:42 pm

She did some great work on Simpsons Comics, too.

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Thad » Wed Nov 27, 2019 4:01 pm

Netflix has canceled MST3K.

Joel says it's not the end, just the end of a chapter. We'll see what comes next; the tour is going on right now, and they could always go the Rifftrax route and distribute the show themselves. (That would mean some major budget cuts, but if you ask me, the new show could *use* some budget cuts.)

Kind of a bummer to get the news right before Turkey Day, but so it goes.

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Mothra » Fri Nov 29, 2019 5:59 pm

Sucks.

I haven't really enjoyed the new stuff much, unfortunately, but I was hoping the show might go on long enough to find its footing.

Hopefully we'll get another revamp in the future with a new crew. I know that sounds unlikely, but, a man can hope.

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Brentai » Fri Nov 29, 2019 6:37 pm

It's not MST3K until it changes its network twice.
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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Thad » Thu Feb 20, 2020 1:30 am

Susan Nicholson Hofheinz (nee Hart) appears to have reached a deal with Shout Factory. Hopefully that means It Conquered The World, Attack of the the Eye Creatures, I Was A Teenage Werewolf, Amazing Colossal Man, and Terror From The Year 5000 will finally see DVD releases.

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Thad » Fri Mar 06, 2020 4:29 pm

The annual Rifftrax Kickstarter is on and, as always, you can get a pretty good selection of shorts for just a dollar.

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Thad » Fri Mar 20, 2020 12:49 pm

I've had MST3K on in the background the past couple days, because it's kind of the ultimate "put it on in the background" show. (Seriously, I remember watching my old tapes in college and thinking "Well obviously I've seen this one before because I edited the commercials out, but I have no recollection of it whatsoever, so I must have been doing something else and not paying much attention." ...I keep meaning to go through those tapes. I know for a fact I've got Amazing Colossal Man, Fire Maidens of Outer Space, and Godzilla vs. Megalon, and I bet I've got most or all of the unreleased season 9 eps. If I hooked up a VCR to a capture card, I don't know what kind of quality I'd get compared to the AVIs that have been floating around for 20 years; on the one hand, those are shitty AVI rips, but on the other, my tapes are 20 years older than the ones those were taken from and I'm sure there's been some deterioration in those years, and most of my Comedy Central tapes are second-generation copies, so they didn't look great in the first place. I don't know what better encoding of a worse source is going to end up looking like, but I keep meaning to find out.)

First of all, man, it can be a chore to watch online streams on an actual 4:3 TV. Twitch, Pluto, and the official MST3K YouTube show "fullscreen" videos on a 4:3 TV with a giant damn black frame around them; it appears they've been columnboxed for 16:9 and then letterboxed back down to 4:3. Given that the issue is the same across multiple sites I expect the problem is with the source videos; I expect I'd have the same problem watching them on Vudu, too, if I could get it to run in fullscreen at all, but...WTF is even up with that interface? There's a picture-in-picture button but no fullscreen? The fuck is that? And Shout TV apparently doesn't work on Linux anymore, so that's fun.

The ones on Amazon do 4:3 fullscreen fine, though. Fan uploads on YouTube vary; some do 640x480 fullscreen correctly and some don't.

Anyway. Watching an early Joel episode and following it immediately with a late Mike episode is interesting. I watched several old Joel episodes with an occasional chuckle, and then I put on I Was a Teenage Werewolf and the show's just a well-oiled joke-delivery machine by that point; even barely watching the movie I'm laughing at the lines I'm hearing.

I'm sure there are a lot of factors that can explain the difference, the most obvious of which is experience. Season 8's somewhat rocky start notwithstanding, the writers had been at it for a long time by that point and knew what the show was; two of the three performers had been there for years, and Bill had 8 episodes under his belt as Crow by then and was finding his groove. There's really no question that the show got sharper as it went on; after all, there's pretty popular consensus that Joel's best episode was his last (and Joel himself agrees). OTOH, there's a pretty good argument to be made that the show was firing on all cylinders by season 3, or perhaps the end of season 2 (with the Godzilla movies).

I'm sure another factor is just the difference between Joel's style and Mike's -- Joel was more visual, so of course I'm not going to get as many of his jokes if I'm not looking at the screen.

Anyway. Bears more study. Back to it!

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Thad » Fri Mar 20, 2020 8:13 pm

Also I failed to mention one incredibly obvious variable: it depends greatly on the movie. Teenage Werewolf worked great without paying much attention, but I put on a couple other Sci-Fi-era shows today (Deadly Bees and Space Children) and they were pretty much just background noise.

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Brentai » Fri Mar 20, 2020 8:44 pm

All I've got to say is that I now associate background MST3K with disappointing sex and an ensuing breakup.
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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Thad » Fri Mar 27, 2020 3:20 pm

Watching the KTMA episodes, as everything's still sort of coming together, leaves me curious about just what order everything happened in.

It seems like the first few episodes were in the can before the theme song was written, because the Mads aren't referenced at all outside the opening titles until episode 6 (Gamera vs. Gaos). The first few episodes don't acknowledge the "his bosses didn't like him so they shot him into space" premise at all; they've got more of a Silent Running, "is anybody out there?" thing going on. Joel mentions them in episode 6 and puts up their picture (a freeze-frame from the opening titles), but they don't actually appear until the following episode. (That would be because Trace was unavailable when episodes 5 and 6 were made; they explain Crow's absence by freezing him and turning him into a Christmas tree.)

The opening titles show a bit from a host segment where Joel is being swarmed by demon dogs. There's a similar demon dog host segment in season 1, and season 1 includes several remakes of host segments from the KTMA season, so I suspect there's probably a demon dog host segment in KTMA episode 3 (the only episode that's not available on the Internet) and that's what they used in the opening titles. Which suggests they had the first three episodes in the can before they made the titles, so that might be about the time Joel came up with the hook that he was being forced to watch bad movies by vindictive mad scientists.

But then starting with episode 4 we've got viewer phone calls responding to previous episode, so we're looking at pretty rapid turnaround by that point. I'm curious at the turnaround time between shooting host segments and theater segments; they're clearly far apart enough in episode 5 that Josh was around for the host segments but not the theater segments, but then in episode 6 there seems to be a pretty clear throughline from the host segments to theater segments as Servo keeps enthusing about his new voice.

And that's an interesting thing too; the show wasn't just finding its metaphorical voice, the actors were still coming up with the characters' literal voices. In the beginning, Crow was the only one of the robots who could speak, and he had more of a stilted delivery. "Yes, Joel Hodgson," "No, Joel Hodgson," that kinda thing (not Robinson yet). And Trace played him with a higher pitch (fans call it the "Baby Crow" voice). Gypsy just shrieked in her earliest appearances. Beeper just beeped; by episode 2 he was Servo and could talk, but he had a high-pitched voice too. In episode 6 Joel adjusts his voice and makes it deeper; that's when he starts calling himself "Tom Servo" like it's a DJ name to go with his new DJ voice. (Crow's voice changes too but they don't bother with a plot explanation for it.) Gypsy starts to speak real words too (voiced by Josh at this point) but still sounds kind of monstrous (Josh speaks while inhaling, and it's kind of caveman/Scooby-Doo talk rather than complete sentences). Trace plays the earliest Forrester appearances without a wig or a mustache, and plays him as a Gregory Peck impression. Josh hasn't settled on his Curly Howard impression for Earhardt yet.

They're really sloppy with continuity; they can't seem to decide whether Gypsy is male or female, and half the time they refer to her as "Gypsum" (and, similarly, to Gamera as "Gameron"). Most of the bits look like they're done in one take and ad-libbed, though by episode 7 or so the riffing has picked up the pace and it's starting to get pretty sharp; I forget whether it was one of the KTMA episodes or one of the season 1 ones (I've been bouncing around and only half-watching so they all kinda run together) but there's a bit where...I think Joel says something about the SPCA, Servo says "What does that stand for," Crow responds "The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Actors," and they laugh and Servo says "Good one" and Crow says "Well, you teed it up." (I may be misremembering who said what, but that's the gist.) I love that kind of spontanaiety; on balance, the scripted episodes have a lot more laughs, but they lose that sense of sudden inspiration.

Fascinating stuff. And given how rough it is, background viewing is the perfect context for it.

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Thad » Tue Mar 31, 2020 2:17 pm

Also there's a KTMA episode where they play a viewer phone call and he definitely ends a sentence with "and shit" and they transcribe it as "and ship" and don't bleep it.

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Thad » Thu Apr 09, 2020 11:36 am

Josh is the most interesting cast member to watch in the KTMA episodes, because he had such a short run on the show. I had a pretty low opinion of him at first, watching a couple season 1 episodes and comparing him to Kevin's later work, but in hindsight I think that was more a statement on how rough the show was in the beginning (and on how goddamn good Kevin Murphy is) than on Josh himself. By the end of season 1 I think he was firing on all cylinders; Moon Zero Two is a great episode.

But KTMA's a whole different thing, and it really shows off Josh's talents. He's the best improviser of the three leads, and it's not close; in the era where all the riffs are just made up on the spot, he's really good at it. But he's also way bluer than Joel or Trace; IIRC in the first episode he made a joke about robot enemas, and I just watched one where he said "bitch" and Joel said "Don't ever say that again." I don't think that was planned, and I think Joel meant it.

I suspect that's probably part of why he eventually got fired. Dude was 17 years old when the show started; he liked making off-color jokes on the show and I doubt he stopped when the cameras weren't rolling, and everybody else involved in making the show was a reserved midwesterner trying to make a PG family show. (Josh talked about his firing in some detail on an episode of Bill Corbett's podcast. He acknowledged that his personality really didn't mesh with everybody else's.)

I've seen a few Cinematic Titanics (including one live show) but with five people onstage I didn't really get as much of a sense of any individual performer. I thought Josh did a great job as the warmup act at the live show but he didn't stand out in the ensemble. Watching his old shows makes me want to watch the rest of Cinematic Titanic and compare his later work to the early stuff.

...and yikes, there sure is a lot of casual racism in the KTMA episodes where they riff Japanese movies. I've got the last one, Legend of Dinosaurs, on, and there was a bit where Josh says "Why do they keep calling it the 'magnitude scale'?" and Joel responds, "Because they can't say Richter. [bad Japanese accent:] Lichtel Scare." And a few minutes later there was a joke about eating dogs. And I know I just finished talking about how Josh is the one who makes the offensive jokes, but both of those were Joel (and Trace chimed in on the "wok the dog" riff with a "yeah, get it nice and firm.").

It's also fascinating how early some of the running gags started. The other day I watched a KTMA episode and then a season 8 episode and they both threw out references to Knot's Berry Farm; I can't remember the other runners that were in both episodes but there were several. (And I just heard Joel say "Think about it, won't you?" in Legend of Dinosaurs; "won't you?" continues to be a favorite of Mike's, on through Rifftrax.)

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Brentai » Thu Apr 09, 2020 12:46 pm

MST3K has that streak of anti-Japanese throughout its entire run; it gets a bit more affectionate as time goes on but it's always there. I always remember "Do NOT apologize for the war!" from (iirc) Prince of Space as one of the nationality riffs that isn't exactly uncalled for, but wasn't very kind either. There are some more winceworthy "great shame" kind of references in the same episode though.

I'm tempted to make the usual excuses for the time period and where those guys are from but you know, nah. It's there, it's uncomfortable, it doesn't make them less funny in general, mark it as tragic and move along.
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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Thad » Thu Apr 09, 2020 2:29 pm

Sure, but there's a pretty big difference between something like the "Suggestion Box" sketch and, say, spending a half-hour straight making jokes about egg rolls. It didn't entirely go away, but the stuff they were doing in 1998 wasn't as bad as what they were doing in 1988, either.

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Mothra » Wed Apr 15, 2020 5:49 pm

Very brief mention from a recent Jonah Ray interview on AV Club:

AVC: Where does the MST3K show stand now? Are you guys sort of in limbo at the moment?

JR: Yeah, but Joel’s got some ideas in the pipeline, and it’s pretty exciting, what he’s working on. So hopefully some time soon within this year you’ll hear what’s next for the Satellite Of Love.

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Thad » Wed Apr 15, 2020 6:37 pm

MST3K Broadcast Editions: recent VHS rips, commercials included. Quality is decent, and a number of the unreleased episodes are in there.

There are some up on archive.org, too.

I've also seen a couple articles saying AMC (the TV station, not the movie theater) is streaming MST3K episodes for free, but I can't find them on the website, so you might need a Roku or something.

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Thad » Wed Apr 29, 2020 11:45 am

I watched the Star Wars (the original; Episode 4: A New Hope, if you must) Rifftrax and boy, I was not impressed.

I think the problem was that they did this one fifth (after the prequels and the Holiday Special) and were sick of Star Wars. They do not seem to be having any fun. There are a bunch of continuity jokes (I laughed at the first "Vader hates sand" joke; I did not laugh at the fifth one) and really it comes across as two hours of fanboys airing their grievances with the prequels and the Special Editions. (The riff on Greedo shooting first is something along the lines of "There it is; the greatest abortion in cinematic history." Which isn't even a joke. It could be a joke, if it were delivered tongue-in-cheek, as a comic exaggeration of fanboy rage, but...it isn't. It's just fanboy rage.) We've heard all this shit before. Why yes I did notice that R2-D2 somehow forgot how to fly at some point between the prequels and the OT. When I saw Episode 1. When I was 16.

At the end there's even an extended bit where Bill's like, "Wait, that was Star Wars? The movie everyone thinks is so great?" And that shit's just tedious. There's a lot to make fun of about Star Wars; it is a frequently-hokey film with frequently-bad acting and dialogue and in hindsight is maybe 20 minutes longer than it should be. But "maybe Star Wars was never really that good in the first place" isn't a funny take, it's just an obnoxious one.

The guys have said in interviews that riffing good movies is different, that it's more like a roast (I've never seen their riffs of Lord of the Rings, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Casablanca, so I guess I'll have to take their word for it). That's sure not what this one felt like. It didn't seem affectionate; it just seemed like people who are burnt-out on Star Wars going back to the first movie and finding themselves unable to enjoy it.

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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Brentai » Wed Apr 29, 2020 2:28 pm

I got the impression that the lot of them never liked Star Wars in the first place, which could open up a more humorously critical perspective, but what they resort to is a lot of high-fiving and am-I-righting at the sympathetic crowd which feels like their default position on a lot of things.

Have to admit that Rifftrax isn't something I go out of my way for very much; I'll throw it on if I'm watching something I've seen a dozen times before, or if it's a movie I really want to see savaged, but being honest, without the visual component and without the benefit of their personas, these are three aging white guys talking over a movie who aren't as charming on their own as they've been led to believe.
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Re: MST3K, Rifftrax, & sundry

Postby Thad » Wed Apr 29, 2020 3:15 pm

Brentai wrote:I got the impression that the lot of them never liked Star Wars in the first place


I think Kevin did. He's the one who was shouting about cinematic abortions.

Have to admit that Rifftrax isn't something I go out of my way for very much; I'll throw it on if I'm watching something I've seen a dozen times before, or if it's a movie I really want to see savaged, but being honest, without the visual component and without the benefit of their personas, these are three aging white guys talking over a movie who aren't as charming on their own as they've been led to believe.


I've watched a lot of them and I think it really depends on the material. It's probably not surprising that I prefer the B-movies over the Hollywood blockbusters (and the accidentally-bad movies over the intentionally-bad ones like Sharknado). There are exceptions -- I think their Twilight riff was great -- but on the whole, I prefer the movies that are more like MST3K movies.

They really seem to excel at '80s martial arts movies. I think part of it is that they've got genuine affection for them. And part of it is that those movies tend to be punchy; they move at a brisk pace, there's usually something interesting happening onscreen, and they're over in 90 minutes. Or less.

I also think their live riffs tend to be among their best. There are probably a number of reasons for that, too -- they do have a visual component, they're typically movies that are already fan-favorites, plus, like any comedy, it doesn't hurt to see it in a theater with other people laughing.

I can rattle off some all-time favorite Rifftrax without having to think too hard about it -- Miami Connection, Jack the Giant-Killer, Samurai Cop, the Christmas Short-Stravaganza, Megaforce, Stone Cold, ROTOR, Krull. They've done hundreds of the things at this point and they can't all be winners, but there are some real gems in there.

And I'm pretty good at selecting ones I'm going to like. I didn't buy the Star Wars one specifically; I got it along with a bunch of other stuff as a reward for kicking in $1 to one of their Kickstarter campaigns.

I think you can tell the difference between movies they did because they wanted to and movies they did because they felt like it was an obligation. Most of the big-name Hollywood movies fall into the latter category (though there are exceptions; I mentioned Twilight as probably their best blockbuster riff, and it's probably not a coincidence that I read an interview where Kevin recounted taking his niece to see it and then immediately calling Mike afterward to say "You have to see this.").

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