Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Cinematic Titanic: Let's Go on With the Show....
With this being an October show the Cinematic Titanic troupe gave this performance the appropriate atmosphere by choosing two films featuring those old horror standbys -- Dr. Frankenstein and vampires. Or, to be more specific, Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks and Blood of the Vampires. The first film is a 1974 Italian production while the second one dates from the 1960's and was shot in the Philippines with a Filipino cast.... despite supposedly being set in 1800's Mexico. Oh, yeah, and some members of the cast play servants... in blackface. Soooo not even kidding on that. So yeah, you know these films are bad and well deserving of whatever hilarious heck the Cinematic Titans choose to put them through.
The gang doesn't jump into the movies right away; oh no. First comes the "talent show" portion of the evening. Each member of the group is given five minutes or so on stage to do whatever they want to with whatever particular talents they have. In addition, they are joined in this portion of the show by Dave "Gruber" Allen -- an old friend of many of the members, a fellow stand-up comedian, and kind of quasi-MC/roadie for Cinematic Titanic.
Each of the performers played to their strengths or else displayed hidden or new talents. J. Elvis Weinstein helped out considerably by providing background vocals and/or bass guitar for a couple of his cohorts and his solo in the spotlight featured a live rendition of the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 theme song (which the audience enthusiastically joined in on the "La-la-la's"), Frank Conniff did a more traditional stand-up routine but with his own skewed spin on things, Mary jo Pehl provided an introduction for Gruber with her own dry, witty style, Trace Beaulieu read two poems from his own book of children's poetry -- Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children, and Joel Hodgson went back to his roots with a magic trick and a little comedic audience banter.
With the opening out of the way it was time to start carving up the movie. The gang took their places on stage and things got off to a roaring start. Both the movies were, of course, horrible. Really, really, horrible -- which the audience had expected -- but the riffing was truly awesome. The Cinematic Titans were focused on the job at hand but it was also obvious that there were aware of the audience and they fed the energy from the room into the delivery of their jokes.
In addition to the energy the live format also made the performance unique. In the first movie Frank Conniff got tongue tied and missed a riff -- stuttering over the words until he finally just gave up. In response J. Elvis Weinstein casually looked over and said "Nice recovery though -- really." In the second movie Joel Hodgson missed two riffs -- which caused him to turn to the audience and remark on their somewhat lousy track record that night with a sum total of three missed riffs. At another point one of J. Elvis's riffs fell flat with the audience just not getting the joke. At the "dead air" he turned and said "No one gets it? Really?!" It really brought home the fact that every live performance would be a little different and that the gang could, at any time, choose to go a little off-script. Also, it brought the audience into the performance as well. We, sitting in the seats, may have been the audience but with our laughter and good-natured boos (usually researved for bad puns or deliberately lame jokes) we were also a part of the performance itself. Our reactions helped shape the experience both for the other audience members around us and for the riffers onstage.
If I had one complaint it was that the theatre's sound system didn't seem to be quite up to the task. While I could hear the riffers just fine there were a great many points where I couldn't hear the movie very well at all.
Still, did I have a good time? You bet your sweet bippy.
Did I laugh? Till tears came to my eyes.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
You might think that the idea of live movie riffing seems strange -- or that it wouldn't work but I can attest that it does work and it works in a way that few might expect. The performance becomes a collaboration and there is nothing quite like getting to be a part of that collaboration.... But the idea of live movie riffing is a little bit strange.