I’d like to start this review by being perfectly honest: I love Mystery Science Theater 3000. The premise of mocking bad movies is excellent, and the jokes are very smart, witty, and chock-full of film and pop culture references. I admit I joined in the MST3K fun late in the game – the first season I watched was the last season filmed. But through the magic of DVDs and the Internet, I have been able to relive virtually all the bad movies they covered. Needless to say, I was thrilled a few years ago when I heard that the writers (as well as actors) of the show were launching not one, but two movie-riffing projects. One evolved into Cinematic Titanic, headed by the likes of MST3K originators Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Mary Jo Pehl, Frank Coniff, and J. Elvis Weinstein. They tend to cover B-movies exclusively.

The other became RiffTrax, created by former head writer and second MSTie host Michael J. Nelson. It takes a slightly different approach to riffing. They produce .mp3 files that can be played along with commercial DVDs separately, allowing them to riff bigger-name films like Independence Day, Harry Potter, and most recently, The Room. Both are amazingly funny shows, and are well worth checking out.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when a friend of mine mentioned something about a live RiffTrax show being broadcast to multiple movie theaters across the United States. I instantly found the nearest hosting theater (Cinemark Theater 14, a mere 45 minute drive away), ordered my tickets, and eagerly awaited the show date. The event, performed live from The Belcourt Theatre, Nashville, TN, potentially would be the highlight of my summer. And you know what? I was not disappointed.

So, I’m sitting in the theater, surrounded by good friends and bad movie fans alike, waiting for the show to start. That’s when near-disaster struck. The host, Revision3’s Veronica Belmont, came on the screen and began introducing the riffers, but… there was no sound. A few folks began to panic. One guy immediately went to the lobby to complain. 2 minutes later the sound came on, or more accurately, weird elevator music began to play. In my infinite wisdom and uncanny wit, I blurted out, “Wow, she’s like a jukebox or something.” I was met with a smattering of laughter, mostly from my friends. But hey, I don’t get paid to be funny. Anyway, after the sound problem was resolved, the night went off without a hitch. Belmont finished introducing the riffers, Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, then they jumped right into a never-before seen short titles Flying Stewardesses, an informational video about being a flight attendant in the 1950s. It showed the duties of a stewardess, including strapping passengers down during nighttime flights and the art of “shattering men’s elbows with the drink cart.”

The performance’s sponsor, SomethingAwful.com, submitted a few fake ads, one for “Grain Con 2009” and another for “Berry Watch Security.” The site’s creator Rick “Lowtax” Kyanka also made a special appearance. Then a couple of songs were performed by Jonathan Coulton, both dealing with space and zombies. And finally… time for the main event.

Plan 9 from Outer Space is notorious for being the “Worst Movie Ever Made,” and stars film “greats” like Dudley Manlove, Vampira, and Tor “TIME FOR GO TO BED” Johnson. It also is famous for being Bela Lugosi’s last movie… sort of. Now, I could go into the major plot points of the film, recounting it scene for scene like I do with most of my reviews. But that’s not really important. The main concept is that silk tunic-wearing aliens have brought back an army of three (maybe more – I counted at least three different Bela Lugosi’s, all with varying heights and hairlines) zombies to take over the Earth. For what reason? I don’t know. Something about the sun being a can of gasoline and Earthlings being “stupid, stupid, stupid.” Plan 9 is filled with bad dialog, bad sets, and incredibly bad acting.

The riffing, on the other hand, was spot-on. The jokes ranged from subtle references from other films to pointing out flagrant, ridiculous inconsistencies in the film. As soon as the riffing began, I was immediately taken back to the days when MST3K broadcast hilarity directly into my television. The guys from RiffTrax could have picked any movie in their arsenal to riff live and still have a great show, but settling on Plan 9 was, in my opinion, the right decision. It was truly and enjoyable evening.

I really don’t know what else to say. RiffTrax Live was amazing from beginning to end, and had me laughing literally non-stop for two hours straight. And I wasn’t alone. Watching bad movies is definitely a group activity, and the whole crowd, from Nashville across the US to my little corner out in the middle of a cornfield, all giggled, laughed, and busted a gut in unison. It takes something really special to pull of such a feat. So, it is with no great surprise that I give RiffTrax Live: Plan 9 from Outer Space the full 5 out of 5 stars.

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The Author

Sam Dunham

Sam Dunham

Sam Dunham was born at a very early age, and shortly after became entangled in the world of film. His first memories are of seeing King Ralph in his local theater. He learned to talk with the help of Adam West's Batman: The Movie. He's one of the few people to still own a working RCA Videodisc player (heck, it's where he first watched Young Frankenstein!). When Sam is not perusing his extensive B- movie collection or sitting in dark theaters with a tub of popcorn, he is usually found reading comic books, fixing computers, toiling away at his day job, working some nights at a local radio station as a "soundboard guy," and going to class so that he can one day toil away at his day job fixing computers. One time, Lou Ferrigno conned him out of $20.00. But that's another story...

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1 Comment

  1. Joe
    August 24, 2009 at 9:11 am — Reply

    Yes, I was there too. It was excellent. :D

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