Mysterious Sideproject Theatre 2007
April 18, 2009 3:30 PM   Subscribe

Before RiffTrax (and, of course, after Mystery Science Theater 3000), Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett worked on a failed DVD MST-like movie mocking project called The Film Crew. Publisher Shout! Factory has made all four episodes available for viewing in their entirety, over five hours of video, on YouTube.
Giant of Marathon (with Steve Reeves) - Killers From Space - Wild Women of Wongo - Hollywood After Dark
posted by JHarris (38 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Cool - thanks for the post.
posted by Staggering Jack at 3:46 PM on April 18, 2009

Good luck, Tony Danza! that's serious funny
posted by Mblue at 3:56 PM on April 18, 2009

Huge thanks!

Coincidentally enough, I'm watching RiffTrax tackle Harrison Ford's failed Firewall this afternoon. I'm pulling down The Film Crew's work for bigscreen viewing.
posted by porn in the woods at 4:01 PM on April 18, 2009

Awesome, thanks. Also, I've been trying to figure out a way to sneak in these awesome MST3K style vids on Mefi.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:01 PM on April 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

posted by brundlefly at 4:20 PM on April 18, 2009

These were available on netflix streaming a week ago, and are probably still there.
posted by mrzarquon at 4:25 PM on April 18, 2009

So you're saying these "Film Crew" vids are the MSTing Link?
posted by wendell at 4:26 PM on April 18, 2009

Foci for analysis beat me to it, but if you have not watched the "fun with shorts" videos, you are missing something wonderful. I recommend the table manners one: here is a preview: "Can't talk now, older self talking in my head..."

Trust me on this.
posted by wittgenstein at 4:40 PM on April 18, 2009

The "Road House" RiffTrax is so effin' good.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 4:54 PM on April 18, 2009

A favorite Rifftrax of mine is the one for Jaws (they occaisionally do good movies). That's the one that features Kevin Murphy saying, after they kill the shark:

"Oh no! But there's a bigger shark coming to attack them! Made of many more sharks that all came together like Shark Voltron! And on its hands are cannons made out of many more sharks, which shoot smaller sharks at them! But even THAT isn't as stupid as Jaws: The Revenge."

They also finished the Trax up with a special little song written by them, "When a Man Loves a Shark."
posted by JHarris at 5:12 PM on April 18, 2009

posted by nola at 5:20 PM on April 18, 2009

[this is good]

Although, it's somewhat disconcerting to hear Crow's and Tom Servo's voices coming out of those men (instead of the robots to whom they rightfully belong).
posted by knave at 5:36 PM on April 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Rifftrax's take on the Star Wars Holiday Special is great. The 30-year-old commercials are sidesplitting, as is their recommended method of obtaining a copy:

So ours is two hours long and has a descriptive scroll on the front end, just like the one you can Get frOm yOur friend Greg, in LakE VIDEO, Illinois.
posted by porn in the woods at 5:38 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Unskippable does the MST3K thing for long-ass video game intros and I thought it was .... better than I expected. I enjoyed the Eternal Sonata episode more than I should have.

"Oh ...GOD the FLOWERS."
posted by The Whelk at 6:40 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by CitrusFreak12 at 7:09 PM on April 18, 2009

I'm a little depressed they couldn't afford Mads at this point. Anything you say, evil boss guy on the phone!
posted by ormondsacker at 8:24 PM on April 18, 2009

Thanks for the links, I didn't even known about this.

<derail> Transformers is hands-down my favorite RiffTrax. It's sort of an easy target, but they are in top form from beginning to end. BattleField Earth gets an honorable mention -- this movie is near Manos-level bad in that it's almost physically painful to watch unaided. That they managed to make it watchable is heroic. I'm luke-warm on a lot of them (I've seen most), but they do occasionally hit the right notes and I'm just glad someone is still practicing this art of skewering bad movies in real time.

Also I was saddened to hear recently a friend of mine attended a live floorshow of Cinematic Titanic here in SF. I hadn't even heard about it, I so would've been there.
posted by cj_ at 8:44 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Those of you with Hulu, the videos are also on there as well as YT and Netflix streaming.
posted by subbes at 10:26 PM on April 18, 2009

Why the Sci Fi Channel ever dropped them I'll never know.
posted by Lokisbane at 10:46 PM on April 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

My current favorite is the Rifftrax to the new Indiana Jones movie - I rarely saw a movie so richly deserving of one...

Some trivia for the nerds: the film crew videos were originally supposed to be released on the Rhino Records label, and the name of the boss on the phone was to be "Bob Rhino"; some segments were already filmed when the deal fell through, and you can supposedly catch the ADR when they re-did their lines with "Bob Honcho" as the name.

And yes, I love MST3K, Rifftrax, and Cinematic Titanic. There cannot be enough of this stuff out there (oh, and thanks for pointing me towards the "Fun with Shorts" stuff, seems quite good - Jesus, did they really used to drink coffee out of half-liter cups like the ones in Word to the Wives? That would explain quite a lot, actually...).
posted by PontifexPrimus at 1:29 AM on April 19, 2009

Lokisbane: Why the Sci Fi Channel ever dropped them I'll never know.

I think it's pretty obvious. The last season of MST3K coincided with the SciFi Channel's previous massive rebranding effort, the one that dropped all the classic shows and the distinctive look of the channel's early years and replaced it with the milky-Saturn look. They were seeking to distance themselves from all that came before, and MST3K, while a show with great ratings relative to its production costs, was part of that old branding. This is probably similar to the reason that Comedy Central dumped the show; remember, MST3K was dumped by CC right around the time they dropped Penn Jilette as catch-all announcer and was close to the introduction of South Park.

Another bit of trivia: the voice of Bob Honcho is Mike Dodge, one of the lesser-known MST3K alumni. He was a writer for the late Comedy Central era. I believe he played the part of the morose A-bomb who visited Mike and the 'Bots on the Hexfield once. I don't think it's the only time he appeared on camera, but it's close.
posted by JHarris at 1:49 AM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

That was Penn Jilette? Holy crap - during my first 5 trips to America, I basically got hooked on CC (and MST via that) and the announcer voice was one of the things I most looked forward to coming across during my trips.

You can't imagine how confused I was when all of a sudden, he wasn't there anymore.
posted by cerulgalactus at 2:38 AM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I always wondered if there’d been some sort of falling out between the RiffTrax/Film Crew guys, and the Cinematic Titanic gang. Other than that Comic-Con "reunion" panel last year, the two camps don't seem particularly interested in working together. Which is, like, sad.
posted by sidesh0w at 6:38 AM on April 19, 2009

sidesh0w: "I always wondered if there’d been some sort of falling out between the RiffTrax/Film Crew guys, and the Cinematic Titanic gang. Other than that Comic-Con "reunion" panel last year, the two camps don't seem particularly interested in working together. Which is, like, sad."

Well, there was some major turmoil over someone (*cough*googleit*cough*) selling all the show rights to Rhino for a very very low price, thus screwing them all out of money and the fans out of proper quality releases.

(The fact that they're now releasing sets with Shout! Factory is great for all concerned because Rhino's feeding preferences fall near the bottom.)
posted by subbes at 8:20 AM on April 19, 2009

subbes: I am not familiar with the situation you mention. Trying to search for it myself doesn't come up with anything conclusive. Could you link to the page in question?

The situation as I've pieced it together so far has to do with a mixture of bad blood over Joel's leaving, Jim Mallon's control over the show (which resulted from Joel's leaving when he wanted to direct the movie), and possibly other related things. Notice that when Joel left and Mike took over as host, Frank left a year-and-a-half later, and Trace left a year after that. (On the other hand, that coincided with the end of the CC run.) Trace also barely participated in the Amazing Collosal Episode Guide, and Frank only contributes an occasional sidebar. And of course J. Elvis Weinstein left the show in the first season.

Mary Jo Pehl has crossed the line twice. But the other CT guys don't even mention RiffTrax unless someone presses the issue. Joel even pointedly ignored an Ask Slashdot question about RiffTrax, one that that later he claimed it was a mistake. For their part, the only RiffTrax guy who shows any public interest in healing the rift is Bill Corbett.

Other reasons for the rift are uncertain, and could range from Mike's (barely expressed in-Trax) conservatism (he has a notorious interview on a site out there somewhere, I think it was LGM or Free Republic), Joel & co's professionalism (RiffTrax is gregarious, communicates with the fans a lot, and maintains a pretty good blog--bacon stunts notwithstanding; Cinematic Titanic holds the fans a bit more of an arm's length but is more cinema knowledgeable due in part to the aid of Frank Conniff), and cosmic ray storms. But it's also possible that the most comforting reason could still be true: that both sides are just dedicated to doing what they do, and respect each other enough not to air dirty laundry in public.

It's saddening that the MST3K guys have fallen into two camps. A bit part of the fun of the show, I think, is the knowledge that most of these guys had little experience in show production other than a short stint at an obscure UHF station in Minneapolis and a certain Troma movie called Blood Hook. The most savvy of them all was Joel Hodgson, who always felt like something of an outsider to the Hollywood scene.

These are people among the millions in the U.S. who, let's not mince words here, are not ordinarily allowed to participate in the culture-production scene. (The failure of most of the MST guys to find non-msting entertainment work points that this situation hasn't changed for most of them; Joel made a pilot and a couple of forgotten things, Mike wrote three little-remembered but pretty good books, Kevin wrote an awesome book; note however that Bill Corbett wrote Meet Dave, so my premise is obviously a bit flawed.) They were mid-westerners. They used puppets and low-tech sets, and sometimes they didn't have the best acting. They mocked some of the worst things to come put of Hollywood itself. That they got their show made, retained rights to it, and it turned out to be one of the most awesome things ever to escape TV's notorious maze of mediocrity was a very slim chance. Some of the show's continued entertainment comes from the fact that it still seems so different from most other things out there, which I attribute to how far outside the media production process the show was made.

It was a setup that one would think would work utterly against the creation of egos and splits, and yet they've clearly shown up anyway. MST3K was always best when we got the sense that all these people were great friends off-camera, and they were just having a blast making their self-described cowtown puppet show and somehow making it work. Each of the individual camps seems to have retained that camaraderie amongst themselves, but not outside their group. It's enough to make one wonder how much of it was real, and how much was just on-screen. It's probably a situation that won't be made clear to us until someone writes the tell-all.
posted by JHarris at 1:33 PM on April 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

subbes: In the writing of my huge comment I forgot to mention some other important things:

I've never been aware that there was any ill will around licensing Rhino to distribute the show. In fact, Rhino took a big risk in distributing it, one that worked out very well for everyone involved; the show's sales, I hear, have only increased over time, instead of trailing off after initial release as most pop culture properties do. The show released twelve compilation volumes with Rhino alone, along with a fair number of single-DVD sales.

And the Rhino releases, to my eyes at least, have not been poor quality either. They've commissioned special artwork, some of it awesome, for every disc; later discs have special artwork on the disc as well; some packages have nifty cover effects, like pull-tab pop-up elements; many disks have special features like old fan club tape material, intros by Mike, or other things; and they even released Godzilla vs. Megalon, one of the best episodes in the whole series that many thought would never make it to disc since the movie was owned by Toei, which is very protective of their giant rubber lizard monster. (This seems to have been an error, and later releases of that compilation, I seem to remember, substituted a different movie.) It is true that they abandoned the "spaghetti ball" logo, but that's ultimately a fairly minor point.

The rights were never sold to Rhino; they were licensed. This is why Shout Factory is now able to pick up in releasing the movies. Jim and Joel still receive a portion of every disc sold. I doubt that Jim Mallon and Joel Hodgson, after realizing their incredible foresight/luck in not signing away ownership rights to Comedy Central upon being picked up originally (since deregulation, VERY FEW network or cable shows are not ultimately owned by the broadcaster), would then willingly go and sell them to anyone else.

Finally, even if there had been inter-Brain squabbling over the rights to the show, it wouldn't affect the great majority of the people who worked on it. The only people who own rights to the show are executive producers Jim Mallon and Joel Hodgson. Mike, Kevin, Bill, Mary Jo, Trace, J. Elvis and Frank have no input, and receive no money from sales of the show except for any extra bits they release; this is probably why so many of them have created/signed on to new projects.

Back in the old days, right after the closure of the show, many of these people got together and formed a comedy website, Timmy Big Hands. There were some great bits on the site but, alas, it failed to take off.

Credit: most of this info (including the links in the FPP) comes from obsessive perusal of Satellite News, probably the best source in the world for MST3K-related info.
posted by JHarris at 6:12 PM on April 19, 2009

Oof, I had a comment all-but written and lost my laptop battery. Anyway. I will try to recreate it (cue the $6000-dollar-man noises).

Thank you for correcting me on the term: licensing.

My pointer to google was a mistake, a glib comment primarily the result of my being too lazy to dig up the original reference from about a year ago and either on SNews or linked to from SNews. The post referred to Mallon's licensing of MST3K and the friction resulting from it.

It stuck with me because during panels on which Mallon has appeared there has been a certain space around him. From the Mike/Kevin/Paul side, the rumor the Film Crew wasn't released on Rhino because Mallon threatened to pull MST because the Film Crew was "too similar." From the Joel/Trace side, the birth of CT from the hopes for a Reunion Show quashed because of... MST3K animated?

I disagree on the Rhino quality, though. While they are obviously better than fantapes or the DAP releases, it's only been the later releases (the box sets with Space Mutiny and Time Chasers come to mind) that have anything I would call extras - in the form of the Mike intros. And Rhino's QC? Thanks for missing an entire segment off the disc of Killer Shrews, guys. And not knowing the difference between the silhouettes of Mike and Joel when you're picking artwork for the boxes.

Shout!Factory on the other hand haven't fucked up... yet. And hey! Cinematic Titanic Live!
posted by subbes at 7:42 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, I won't argue on those other things. Rhino did many things well, but yes, there have been problems as well. I forgot about those things, thanks for setting me straight.

MSTies tend to be fairly demanding as far as the fan base goes, going right back to Comedy Central catching flak for overlaying Penn Jilette's voice over closing credit gags. Of course, we gripe because we love.
posted by JHarris at 8:13 PM on April 19, 2009

JHarris: "we gripe because we love"

And we're too wound up from forcing ourselves to "just relax."
posted by subbes at 8:35 PM on April 19, 2009

"My current favorite is the Rifftrax to the new Indiana Jones movie"

Oh god yes, forgot about that. I think Shia is just easy to make fun of, and damn does he deserve it.

JHarris: I'm not upset that there is a rift between Cinematic Titanic and RiffTrax, because they both do different things, so it's twice the fun. Joel is still focusing on the film-geek watching bad older movies schtick, while Mike is pursuing a more pop-culture aware path. He mostly riffs on newer movies and has an encylopedic knowledge of internet memes, which is hilarious in completely different ways than CT. I enjoy them both. If they all collaborated, it'd just be MST3K again. The archives of MST3K are large, it's great to have some new stuff.

As a side note, I was also surprised to hear Mike is a conservative, but it actually made a few things click for me (some jokes at the expense of activist Hollywood types and Al Gore). It just honestly didn't occur to me that a dyed-in-the-wool conservative could be funny, because every attempt at right-wing humor I've ever heard tended more to the ranty hateful stereotype spectrum of humor, littered with trope like LOL IT'S COLD OUT, GLOBAL WARMING AMIRITE HIPPIES.

I guess I was kind of disappointed, but it hasn't colored how I view his work at all -- he's hilarious regardless of his political views. I could see it being an issue for someone who has to work with him and is clearly on the complete opposite end of the Venn diagram. In the end, though, I don't think it much matters they had a falling-out, because we're still getting quality product.
posted by cj_ at 2:24 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

In regards to Nelson's political views, I can't help but think that, even as a conservative, he doesn't hold for any of the typical conservative sacred cows, having no with riffs making fun of, say, Newt Gingrich, from Time Chasers, I believe, or, one of my favorites, the bit from Teenagers from Outer Space where the alien leader is going off, saying, "We are the supreme race! We have the supreme weapons!" and Crow responding, "Ahh, turn Rush Limbaugh off!"

Basically, I get the feeling that he is relaxed in his political views, (especially considering Jevin Murphy is supposed to be fairly liberal, and they're good friends,) and that he doesn't view humor as simply another avenue in which to make fun of liberals.
posted by Snyder at 11:14 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mike's (barely expressed in-Trax) conservatism (he has a notorious interview on a site out there somewhere, I think it was LGM or Free Republic

Oh crap. I want to read it and I know that if I do I'll never be able to watch the Mike episodes again. In fact, I already may not be able to . :((((
posted by DU at 5:52 AM on April 21, 2009

Mike's (barely expressed in-Trax) conservatism (he has a notorious interview on a site out there somewhere, I think it was LGM or Free Republic

No, it was just quoted on Free Republic, it's actually from here.
posted by Snyder at 10:28 PM on April 21, 2009

Oh crap. I want to read it and I know that if I do I'll never be able to watch the Mike episodes again. In fact, I already may not be able to . :((((

It's only your loss.
posted by Snyder at 10:31 PM on April 21, 2009

I didn't say or imply it was anyone else's loss. If I did stop watching MST3k, it wouldn't be to boycott them or something. A single person boycott would be ineffective in the best of circumstances but they aren't even a going concern anymore, so what possible harm could it bring them?

The reason I would have to stop watching would be that the entire time I'm doing so I might be thinking about what crazy thing Mike really thought. Distracting and upsetting.
posted by DU at 4:37 AM on April 22, 2009

I'm pretty much with Snyder. I've never heard anything to tip off Mike's views, either in a track or on the RiffTrax blog, or on MST3K for that matter. And his comedy sensibility seems to be fairly anti-idiot, so I can't but help but think he must have rolled his eyes at Sarah Palin, or the dumbening of McCain, as much as any of us.

And as far as making fun of Hollywood types goes, you don't have to be a freeper to see that there is a healthy proportion of crazy in the movie industry.
posted by JHarris at 7:32 PM on April 22, 2009

> Oh crap. I want to read it and I know that if I do I'll never be able to watch the Mike episodes again. In fact, I already may not be able to . :((((
It's not that bad, he made some tame comments and Free Republic rolled with it. If this helps it all, the freepers reaction was "LOL I BET THOSE LIBERALS WON'T LISTEN TO HIM ANYMORE", so you should put it behind you just to spite them.

In terms of right-leaning humor, I think he's more like the South Park guys than, say, Dennis Miller. He's anti-stupid, and a pretty good judge of it when it comes to his craft. I don't actually know exactly what he believes or why (the interview was very vague) because he doesn't wear it on his sleeve or make his jokes all about LOLIBRULS.
posted by cj_ at 11:11 PM on April 23, 2009

Also: I think it's a crucial skill to be able to laugh at yourself, and know when to do it. As long as he's being funny instead of callous or preachy, I'm not going to get all worked up when he makes a joke at the expense of my sacred beliefs.

That said, probably don't watch the RiffTrax for The Happening.
posted by cj_ at 11:16 PM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

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