Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Film Crew

Before working together on Rifftrax, Mike, Kevin and Bill reunited for a couple of post MST3K projects as the "Film Crew"

There were hosting gigs, a website, talk of a book (never happened) and a planned series of Rhino released DVDs where the guys would once again riff on old movies. The DVDs collected dust until Shout Factory came along and rescued them from obscurity.

Film Crew: Alien Invasion on Encore 
     One of the Crews early gigs was to act as hosts for several Friday midnight movies and other special events for "Encore".  The one I caught was an "Alien Invasions" marathon that Encore staged to celebrate the release of Speilberg's "War of the Worlds"

     Often informative, sometimes funny; but more often than not the Crew's work was simply, 'cute'. The movies they covered include; It: Terror From Beyond Space, Predator, The Blob (The remake), Starship Troopers 2, The Thing (with a funny 'Abbott & Costello' style exchange), the Puppet Masters (My favorite, since I too find puppets creepy -aside from our friends on the SOL) and Alien Intruder.

     Corbett comes off the best. He's the most natural of the trio. Mike and Kevin kind of recede in his manic shadow -maybe they're more comfortable on screen when they're doing characters? While the Crew do tackle the movies, they often have more fun taking pokes at one another. Good stuff, not brilliant.

The Three Stooges DVD in Color 
     I never was a Stooge fan, not in B&W at least, but would I love them in chalky color? The short answer after watching this disc was "No". But lucky for me, the Film Crew, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett come along for the ride.

The 'Crew' add wraparounds to each short and these bits provide the discs bright spot. The opening segment sets the stage; presenting the trio as manly men, bonding over a shared love of Stooges, chips and drinks. Kevin earns some chuckles at both his and Mikes expense (Nice little plug too)

The second is a scathing look at Shemp. It's pure MST-style put down at its best. Funny and harsh - overly sensitive Shemp fans might want to avoid this one, but if you do you'll miss Bill's hilarious tearful disclosure.

Next is a helpful demonstration on recognizing a harmful Moe. This cute little skit cuts to the core of Moe's evil. In that he can never be trusted, no matter how kind he might seem at the time.
Their fourth spot examines whether women can be Stooge fans. It is the most horrifying piece on the DVD. That's all I can say without causing lasting harm. And lastly, the disc ends with Mike paying tribute to Larry, using several disgusting items around the house.
I enjoyed the "Film Crew" skits. These three obviously like one another. They click as a team and play off one another to create seamless comedy. If your not a Stooge fan though, it's not quite enough to make it worth your money. If the DVD shows up in your local Library, I would definitely recommend checking out. Easter Egg? It comes during the short "Malice in the Palace", click when you see the map and the Crew will help you enhance your Stooge enjoyment. It's not much of a gift though, as it's the weakest skit of the bunch. Grade: B for the Film Crew. 

The Three Stooges Greatest Routines
      Not a true Film Crew project as Bill is missing in action; this DVD came and went without much fanfare. Mike and Kevin provide a few quick introductions to the shorts. The duo delivers their intros from a Marina, a kitchen and the dentist chair (to name a few). Each of these 6 bits is cute enough and for the bargain bin price $1.60 I spent on the DVD, it was worth the investment. I don’t know if I’d have been as happy had I spent full retail as the remaining material held little interest for me.
I did asked a few Stooges fans if the shorts were any good and most stated that they were culled from the trios later work which wasn’t that hot. I wouldn’t know ‘good from bad’ for these guys so I skipped ‘em after sampling the first 2.
If you’re a MSTie who has to have it all you’ll of course want to add this to your library. For the casual fan, while I liked what Mike and Kevi did, you could skip this and not miss much sleep over it. Just keep scouring those bargain bins. Grade: B for the intros 

Hollywood After Dark
     The premise here is that Bob Honcho (Played by Mike Dodge, last seen by MSTies as the Bomb in “Invasion USA”). Desires to have every movie carry a commentary track, and he’s hired the Film Crew to bring that dream to fruition. The first project is a toughie. “Hollywood After Dark” is a bleak, boring depressant that seems to be reaching for something deep, but collapses under the overwrought melodrama. The film stars Rue McClanahan as a stripper   –GAH!-   And the guy playing her boyfriend is in a perpetual state of hilarious gloom,

Riffing on such a dry film is a challenge and at first I wasn’t impressed. But after another go, I found the effort grew on me. It’s not up to MST gold standards, but there are solid laughs. As when Bob Barker (?) shows up at a junkyard and quotes (according to Bill) from William Shatner novels. And Rue as a stripper disturbs me as much as it does the Crew, which inspires some classic quips…   -“Sexy or horrifying, you decide!” - Bill”-   But the best jokes target the Bi-Polar boyfriend/junkyard/robber guy. His manic spell at the beach, his affection for trees and lame skills as a fighter   -“You know if your gonna fight, you should have a plan. Not just grab a guys shoulders and wave him around a lot” – Bill.    plus, –“I don’t know which drab, vaguely evil guy I want to win?” - Mike,   And his death scene was a riot (Actually, the final scenes in general got me laughing the most).

The movie is way too dry. For example, an extended striptease gets a big laugh early on -“Uh ma’am, I’ll just take my shuttlecocks back if you done with them” – Mike-   but it quickly gets so dull that even the Crew can’t lift it from the doldrums. And I found this would occur, scene after long drawn out scene. Therefore the pattern becomes… nice laughs, followed by long dry spells, and this makes for a good, but not great commentary. As for the host segments, they are pretty light and didn’t add much. Grade: C+

Killers From Space
     The fun side to this project is seeing a few familiar names in the credits, among them, Beez McKeever (who does some voiceover as Bob Honcho’s secretary). This effort was a big improvement over the last. For one, I actually laughed at a few of the skits (I got a kick out of the close-up sequence and Kevin’s bonus segment was cute -oh and for fun, don't click on the out-takes. Simply sit back and watch Kevin's reaction). For another, the movie makes a better fit.

I received big laughs right from the start. Referencing the Outer Limits and Christopher Walken and knocking inattentive air traffic controllers. All got me rolling before we’d even reached the credits. The FX are lame -“Bob, do you feel kind of see-through?” – Mike, as a clear toy plane flies by-    the alien outfits (with Muppet eyes) are silly, and the bad acting and weak dialog all fire up the Crew’s sharp minds. And speaking of sharp, I loved the bedroom scene with riffs that focused on 1950 sexual conventions. The best material on the disc was heard here.

There were a few missed opportunities. I was disappointed that they didn’t do one “Beginning of the End” call back during the giant bug/lizard sequence. And I was expecting bigger laughs during the… .Lets watch an atomic explosion from a window scene. But for the most part this works. Even the old Biography jokes earned some fresh chuckles (though the Mission Impossible lines were just as fun) and I found this DVD equitable to a gold level MST3K episode and eagerly look forward to the other two releases. Grade: B+

Wild Women of Wongo
     Wongo is another redundant movie that tasks the Film Crew's talents (and one so cheesy that it inspired the Tubes to write a song about it). While funnier than “Hollywood”, it’s not as solid as “Killers”. There are great riffs, but I find I encounter a few too many dead zones as well.

The film (a tongue in check look at love in cave-man times) lingers on scenes forever and that gets tiring, but it also earned a couple of great quips from Bill… -“The more they do this, the better it gets”- and -“The movies stuck. Should we all get out and push?” - The gang also have fun spotting look-a-likes (“Hey it’s that guy from Kiss!”) and doing funny imitations, in particular David Schwimmer (Friends) and Mr. Burns (The Simpsons). A parrot, a screaming Goona woman and the cartoon credits (“He’s following the trail of the assumption”) give up the goods as well.
But the best bit has to do with “DANCE!” – This was the most inspiring moment in the movie, similar to “STAY!” in the MSTed “Undead”. The scene itself was funny on its own, the riffing and the “bonus” skit based on this scene were some of the funniest bits on the DVD.

Skits, aside from the extra one, were weak. Riffing was sparse but when they hit their marks it was a gas. The movie was a silly, drawn out pain in the arse. So, Grade: B 

The Giant of Marathon
     Steve Reeves sans beard stars in this sword and sandal actioner. The riffing provided me a steady amount of laughter - early on we hear Bill obsessing on the male, uh, junk, there’s a quip about Phillipides dating the Joker that gave me a wide grin and the Napoleon Dynamite "Ligger" reference was cute and clever. The skits got a chuckle or two. Mike’s reveal in the first bit was funny and I got a laugh upon seeing Bill’s ketchup stained face after his demonstration. All in all the work on GOM was moving along at a nice clip…. And then, inspiration struck

-SPOILER ALERT- Watch the DVD before reading this because I don’t want to spoil it by over selling it. I don’t even know if I’ll have the same reaction in future viewings, but…

 While almost always funny, there are moments in MST3K that leave me breathless. The first time I saw the “Craig” scene in Santa Claus, the first 20 minutes of skits and short for the Racket Girls episode to name two. And now, the Film Crew joins in that short list: There’s a scene with Herc, Uh Phillipides crossing a river on horseback. I don’t know if it was just my mood but the whole thing struck my funny bone hard. Lending the horse a voice was cute and Bill bringing the imagery of the animal on a jet ski to my mind tickled me to death. Then Mike gets in one final jab, imitating Mr. Ed, he chides muscle head from a bridge!

If these releases offer nothing else, it would have been worth every penny just for this sequence. After this inspired moment the riffing settles back into its solid, regular groove. But for one side splitting instant it was blissful comedy Nirvana and that boosts this to an A- grade