This is my first hybrid entry because it concerns both television and movies. The title of course references the sorely missed low-budget product of Canadian television, “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Luckily, the heir of MST3K lives in on the internet as RiffTrax.
MST3K introduced me to the concept that objectively terrible movies can still be enjoyed through the strategic use of snarkage and sarcasm. That idea had never occured to me and yet when I watched my first episode, once I figured out what the heck was going on, it was like a light bulb went off over my head. Once I saw the snark value in bad movies, I began to see all sorts of possibilities for snark for even good movies, or television, or books, or life in general.
For those of you who have never seen this, many episodes are available on YouTube. My favorites include, “Devilfish,” “Pumaman,” “Werewolf,” and the classic, “Manos: the Hands of Fate.” The premise of the show is summed up with the theme song but basically an evil scientist uses a poor schmuck as an experiment to determine the effects of watching terrible movies. The schmuck has four robots to keep him company, two of which always watch the movie with him. They generally watch old B-movies, generally science fiction and/or horror, and make fun of them. During the breaks there were some skits and songs many of which were pretty funny despite the low budget (so low budget it’s obvious Gypsy’s “eye” is just a large flashlight). Part of the reason for using these bad bad movies is because they were really really bad, but also because the producers probably didn’t have to pay to use them.
Alas, nothing lasts forever, even low-budget Canadian television, so the show ended its run. However, the writers managed to make the jump to the internet where they run a site called RiffTrax, in which they record soundtracks to play with movies. This time they actually get to riff on popular movies. You can tell I’ve taken this to heart given all my Fifteen-minute Movies postings. RiffTrax is the only thing that made the first three “Twilight” movies bearable. I will re-iterate, however, that even RiffTrax is not enough to get me to watch the other two. I am glad those guys have managed to turn snarking at bad movies into a career. That’s one of those dream careers, like playing video games for a living. It’s also a career I didn’t really knew existed, so extra props to them for defining it.
By the way, if you ever get a chance to see a live performance of RiffTrax, or watch a movie where they are broadcasting a live show, go see it. I recently saw their screening of Birdemic and it was fantastic (also probably available on YouTube). Also, the movie itself is almost as bad as Manos: the Hands of Fate but has worse special effects and more exploding birds. Of course, it’s weird for me to see the voices of Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo coming from ordinary guys.
In short, any media can be MST3K or RiffTrax if you have enough people who also enjoy snarking at objectively terrible media. As the theme song says, “If you’re wondering how he eats and breathes and other science facts/repeat to yourself it’s just a show; you should really just relax.”