Most of the people I really, really like went through a slightly freakish Mystery Science Theater 3000 phase at some point. In high school, a few friends painstakingly transcribed—by hand, on sheaves of crumpled notebook paper—the entire script of Manos: The Hands of Fate (minus commentary), for the purposes of a homemade remake. (If memory serves, I secured a coveted role as one of the Master's many sensual, be-togaed wives.) Production on this masterpiece, sadly, stalled somewhere between studying for the SATs and so-and-so's-mom-won't-let-him-ride-his-bike-over-here-after-dark and um-does-anyone-actually-have-a-video-camera? RIP, pruney unborn fetus of Manos: The Hands of Fate—The Six High School Kids Who Don't Actually Have a Video Camera Edition! God, fuck so-and-so's mom.
MST3K is a near-perfect cinematic/television experience for people who are not humorless assholes: all the fun of mocking terrible movies, but without the pressure of having to come up with your own funny jokes. (Professional robots do it for you!) MST3K creator Joel Hodgson is back on the making-fun-of-movies tip, releasing DVDs and touring with a group of former cast members (Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein, Frank Conniff, and Mary Jo Pehl) under the name Cinematic Titanic.
The main thing that sets Cinematic Titanic apart from MST3K, explained Hodgson (who had the misfortune of speaking on the telephone with Lindy West, World's Awkwardest Interviewer™), is the presence of the audience: "The live thing is informing us so much and shaping who we are so much, it's become really important. We're kind of beyond the MST3K nostalgia thing—we're really adding some new ideas to the lexicon."
I watched the first episode of Cinematic Titanic (The Oozing Skull, about the dying ruler of a fake Middle Eastern nation whose beloved brain is transplanted into the head of a gigantic special-needs hillbilly with a melting face), and it is like MST3K back from beyond the grave: silhouettes, droll wordplay, well-placed a capella Yakety Sax. I'm curious to see how the live show (Fri–Sat March 13–14 at King Cat Theater) changes the experience.
I asked where Cinematic Titanic gets its source material. "We work with a guy who finds films for us and hooks us up with distributors," he said. "Cagey showmen, basically, who know how to make more money off their old movies."
"Did you say 'cagey showmen'?" I said.
"Yeah, you know, cagey showmen. Like, sly... [paaause]... showmen."
At their Seattle appearance, Hodgson told me, they'll be screening a few different films, including a "kung-fu-sploitation" movie called Dynamite Brothers—in which an Asian guy, who's an expert in kung fu, gets chained to a black guy, who's an expert in being a black guy. Sploitation ensues. I shall be there.