Who doesn’t remember Mystery Science Theater 3000, the cult television puppet show that redefined the bad movie experience? In the 90s, the brainchild of Joel Hodgson saw a regular Joe was forced to watch bad movies with the help of his robot friends not only elevated the standard of unique television programming, it brought long forgotten (or in most cases, never discovered) films into our collective awareness. It continued to do so even after Hodgson handed custodianship of the franchise to Michael J. Nelson.
MST3K was sadly canceled back in 1999, but in 2006, Nelson reformed the core riffing trio from the final three seasons, which included himself, Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo) and Bill Corbett (Crow T. Robot,) under the banner of RiffTrax. Initially, RiffTrax released audio-only riffs of major blockbusters and well known/despised films as opposed to obscure ones. That went on for about five years, and in 2011 they began to shift back towards audio/visual goofing on movies that would’ve been featured on classic MST3K.
So on RiffTrax’s 10 year anniversary, the entire MST3K cast is getting back together for one special event, along with new Mystery Science host Jonah Ray, to celebrate in grand fashion at RiffTrax Live: MST3K Reunion! But before we celebrate MST3K, let’s take a moment to honor RiffTrax itself and the work that best defines it. These are the films that you should sample before (or even after) the June 28 special, so you can see how far Rifftrax has come and how good it truly is.
Birdemic: Shock and Terror – What’s this movie about? A software/solar panel salesman who strikes it rich falls in love with a Victoria’s Secret model, and they go on to fight an apocalyptic clipart bird invasion caused by global warming. …and NO, I didn’t make ANY of that up! It’s easy to see why the guys would have a field day with this.
The Harry Potter Series – The guys started riffing the cinematic wizarding world back in 2007, and just finished up with Deathly Hallows, Part 2, earlier this year, making it the most riffed series in the entire library, and it is truly Mike, Kevin and Bill at their finest.
House on Haunted Hill – If you haven’t seen the movie (and if you were born after 1975, there’s a good chance you haven’t,) it is a compelling horror mystery starring Vincent Price and less famous people. I was as involved with Haunted Hills‘ twists as I was with Mike, Kevin and Bill mocking the mystery onscreen.
Manos: The Hands of Fate – The most iconic episode of MST3K is revisited in glorious fashion in RiffTrax’s best live show (there have been 20, and they have all been awesome) to date. MST3K purists will choke on their Chinderwear when I say that this riff is better than the original, but it’s true.
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny – Ever hear of Pirates World? …yeah, neither did I before this one. The defunct Florida amusement park produced this “Christmas” flick featuring a stranded Santa on its beaches, a fire truck-driving, mentally diminished bunny monster, and the story of Thumbelina. Why? Look, it’s best not to ask questions that will never have any answers.
The Guy From Harlem – In the words of Kevin Murphy, The Guy From Harlem “is the doofiest Blaxploitation film” ever. Not even taking place in Harlem, the Guy From runs a private detective agency in Miami (hence the “From Harlem” part of the title,) and gets in all kinds of sexy/wacky/stupid adventures. And the villain’s name is “Big Daddy,” so you know it’s legit!
The Star Wars Holiday Special – How do you riff something like The Star Wars Holiday Special? It’s not a movie. Hell, it barely meets the requirements of bad a television special. Rifftrax’s crew had to dig up a 30-year-old cassette recording from Baltimore somewhere on Google Video just to be able to do it up right. And the resulting riffs are hysterical.
The Room – The classic cult film directed by singular auteur Tommy Wiseau is legendary in and of itself, but RiffTrax commentary has a legacy all it’s own. Caution, though, it contains baffling and creepy love scenes. If you value your eyeballs, you’ll wear sunglasses for this one.
The Transformers Trilogy – Of all the CGI monstrosities in the movies these days, you can’t get any better (and by that I mean “worse) than Michael Bay’s Transformers series. If you hate it, and I’d wager all the money in my pockets that you do, rest assured that so does RiffTrax. It’ll be a bonding experience you’ll never forget.
The Twilight Saga – Back when Twilight first made it’s big splash in popular culture, I was very annoyed that they dared taint the reputation of vampires and werewolves with this lovesick, poorly acted garbage. And then RiffTrax released their riffs on the series, and suddenly I couldn’t bear the thought of living in a world without Twilight. The entire existence of that franchise is justified just so I could experience the happiness these movies and their riffs brought me. The credits scene in Breaking Dawn, Part 1 is quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.
And then there’s The Apple, Buffalo Rider, Ghost House, Road House, Rollergator and Total Riff Off that are essential RiffTrax viewing, but we just don’t have enough space to delve into all of them right now. Thank god for video, amiright? And keep in mind that this is far from a comprehensive breakdown of the entire RiffTrax franchise. Since 2006, Mike, Kevin and Bill (along with an entire cadre of guest riffers through the years) have talked over more than 200 feature films, more than Mystery Science Theater’s entire run! For a complete rundown of the entire library, you can very conveniently browse RiffWiki.net, the RiffTrax wiki powered by Wikia. Hope to see you all there in the not too distant future, kay? And be sure to go to the MST3K Reunion Show on June 28! Tickets are available now at Fathom Events!