MST3K vs. Gamera – Round 2

This Saturday A.D. will see the release of the first episode of three planned episodes of a brand new fan-made Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. A group of far-flung, star-crossed friends (ranging in age from the can-I-drink-yet twenties to the knocking-on-death’s-door thirties) brought together through the magic of “The Internet” and the fanaticism each of them shares for movies starring Japanese dudes in rubber suits, spent portions of the last couple of years on a project meant to right an injustice perpetrated by the original MST3K television series — leaving three of the original Gamera movies unriffed! The project is called MST3K vs Gamera — Round 2 and the first experiment will be Gamera vs. Viras.

In Japan, the age of twenty is a pretty big deal. There’s a whole coming-of-age ceremony and everything. Twenty-year-olds (or “二十歳“/hatachi) put on their Sunday best traditional clothing, sit around watching slideshows memorializing their younger days, and listen to government officials drone on about responsibility and civic duty and something called “key money”.

Well, hatachian college student Brayton Conner (series creator) is having none of that. He’s doing MST3K fanvids instead. (Also, he’s not Japanese.) Bray-bray was too young as a mere baby to notice the cancellation of a cult television series by the Scifi Channel in 1999. He was similarly too young to dance in front of his parents’ gigantic cathode-ray-tube TV, singing the theme song to subsequent re-runs of a show which he would not encounter until middle school. He was born in the age of the world-wide-web, and it was a “website” thereupon (“YouTube”) which gave him his first taste of the original movie-riffing series, Mystery Science theater 3000, by suggesting an episode featuring the experiment “Time of the Apes“. He went on to discover more and more episodes and was transformed into the sort of person who would actually build their own home-made replicas of puppets from a TV show; even winning a prize in an art contest for his Crow T. Robot (mixed media, PVC/styrene/hot glue). But, his robot pals would collect dust until his senior year of high school.

Home-brew bots.

In the mean time, he would meet other people across the world who not only were not also from Davenport, Iowa, but who were also totally into these giant monster movies from Japan that he, too, was also totally into. Have you seen these things? They’ve got people sized rubber suits pretending to be very large, city berubbling creatures with varying cautionary tale origins. Sometimes they battle the human condition. Sometimes they battle each other. And, sometimes, there’s a little kid who somehow has managed to secure an all-access pass to any area that is for “authorized personnel only”. Not even the Japanese military denies this kid passage. Look it up: Kaiju Eiga. Intthat something? In any case, Brayton found a few like-minded folks on the Facebook and they started hanging out online and at G-Fest in Chicago and making YouTube videos and doing podcasts and whatnot together.

When, as a high school student, Brayton hatched the plan to make his own MST3K episodes, it was not lost on him that the original series had forgotten to riff on three of the Gamera movies. There was never any doubt as to which movies would be experiments in his fanvids. The first episode will feature Gamera vs. Viras. When they are eventually completed, the second two episodes will feature Gamera vs Jiger and Gamera: Super Monster. Gamera is a giant flying turtle monster. In the sequels following it’s original horror movie debut, it was found to be “friend to all children”.

Unless you’re Jason Soto or Kyle Pittman, you probably need a few people to star in and write jokes for your fanvid series. Brayton-san already had a Kaiju cadre. But, they were all too far away from each other to meet, economically, in-person. Using modern technological marvels (Skype’n’such), the cadre would meet teleconferencically to watch movies together and write riffs which were recorded and later filtered for quality before being transcribed. As a group, Gamera vs Viras was teleconviewed three times. Brayton watched it a few more times on his own to fill in the gaps and get the script finalized. He says that, by the end of production, he’d seen it quite a few more times besides:

[A]fter writing, recording, filming, editing, adding more jokes, editing some more, I’ve seen “Gamera vs. Viras” a good 15+ times.

While professional entertainment folks have been using similar methods to collaborate for many years, this may very well be the first time such techniques have been applied to the MST3K fanvid scene. (Unless you include Cinematic For The People, which is a live-record via Skype and is mostly unscripted.) Skype technology was used again during production to record the voices for Tom and Crow. Their voices were then synced up to the bot mouths flapping on set with Brayton. The actor in the role of The Crimson Weirdo set up his own camera and directed himself. He sent the footage to Brayton who then edited it in.

[W]hat ended up happening is Andres and Andrew recorded their lines for the robots over Skype, which was then lip-synched with Tom and Crow on my end. While Raf filmed all of his bits on his own. The magic of technology!

MST3KvG:R2 stars Raf Enshohma as The Crimson Weirdo, Brayton Conner as Helmutt Carusoe, Andres Perez as the voice of Tom Servo, and Andrew Battaglia as the voice of Crow T. Robot. Respectively, they are an artist working in comics Los Angeles, a college student, a teacher of English in Japan, and, in New York, an “associate” with mysterious responsibilities at a large online retail concern named for a river in South America. They are also four of the six writers.

Look for a cameo from Ken Wilson of Ken’s Cinema of Shenanigans in a future episode. (His cameo is the only one that isn’t so-far still a secret. Brayton hints that there could be some YouTube reviewer/MSTie/riffer stunt casting in the works.)

Screenshot MST3K: Revenge of the Creature

“I remember him… quite fondly, in fact”

MVG2 is semi-standard Mystery Science Theater 3000-style fan-made video series. According to B. Conner, the series fits somewhere in the MST3K universe between seasons 7 and 8 of the original series. At the end of the final episode of the Comedy Central era of the original series (Laserblast), everyone on the Satellite of Love left their corporeal bodies at the edge of the universe to become pure energy. Cut to the first episode of the Scifi Channel era (Revenge of the Creature) and we find out that Crow had gotten bored after 5 minutes of that and recorporealized back on the Satellite of Love. While everyone else was off galavanting across the universe as beings of pure energy, Crow “had a few hundred years” to himself (after a fashion) “to kick-around” on the Satellite of Love. That’s how they explain how the set got redecorated between networks, anyway. That’s also how they explained the existence of the Nanites. Which can only be seen with a piece of technology left behind by someone named “Helmutt” who lived with Crow on the Sat du Amor, “for about twenty years”.

M versus G (A.K.A – Round 2) gives that guy a last name (ala Robinson, not David) and, now, his own story. Turns out he volunteered (volunteered!) to be a test subject for a new round of evil movie-watching, mind-monitoring experiments being perpetrated by Dr. Clayton Forrester. Who, as you may recall — hey, you can’t expect everyone else to do your homework for you. Go watch the MST3K episodes mentioned above and get up to speed. Gee Criminy! Yadda Yadda Yadda, Dr. F is on vacation and second-banana hopeful The Crimson Weirdo is in charge until he gets back.

The Crimson Weirdo

The Crimson Weirdo

Anyhoo, new fanvid, new set, new door sequence, new test subject, new mad, new premise revealing theme song and opening sequence, host segments, theater segments, bots, magic voice, shadowrama, stinger video clip, commercial breaks with actual commercials, Satellite of Love, rocket number nine, Gamera, Gamera, Gamera, won’t you?

B-Ray says that he concocted the idea to hatch a plan to do an MST3K fanvid project a while before he even attempted to make a go of it, but the prospect of it filled him with daunt. It was do or daunt for a while there. Then his daunt surrendered to the French in 1807 and he was inspired to “do” after coming across projects such as Project Popcorn, Ken’s Cinema of Shenanigans, Mystery Fandom Theater 3000, and something called “Incognito Cinema Warriors XP“. He also has a fondness for Media Center Theatre 3000:

Theirs was the first I saw and found incredibly inspiring, letting me know that I wasn’t crazy for wanting to do something like this.

The immediate plan for the series is that they’re going to do three episodes for sure. The first episode,  MST3K vs. Gamera – Round 2: Gamera vs. Viras comes out Saturday, March 30th, 2019. Originally, they were going to do all three concurrently. But, after discovering what it takes to make an episode they decided to stick to making just one at a time. The host segment scripts for episodes two and three have already been written. But, they’re still working on the riffing, which, a reliable source reports, is “well on its way”. Depending on the effects of unknown circumstances, the second episode should come out by the end of this summer, with the third in the trilogy sometime in the fall.

“Helmutt Carusoe, Don Serbo, and Bird of the Satellite of Love.”

One fortunate result of not doing three episodes at the same time is that future episodes can have fan-mail. To that end, they’ve set up an email address “for viewers to write in to Helmutt and the bots if they do so wish”. If you’re lucky, your letter (or beautiful, hand-hewn fan-art) might end up being shown in the next 2 episodes! It flashes unobfuscated on the screen near the end of the first episode, but it also can be obtained by solving a riddle: ‘sattoflovemailbag at the gmail’.

As for plans for episodes beyond the three already announced, BrayCon says that they’ve been kicking some ideas around but they’re not in stone:

We want to stop producing them while we’re still having fun doing it… the last thing I would ever want is for paying tribute to [MST3K] to feel like a chore. So right now, the Gamera trilogy is the only definite plan, but never say never.

The equipment Brayton and his local crew used for production was a Panasonic G7 camera, an LED panel with a photographer’s umbrella for a key-light, 4 multi-colored light bulbs to gussy up the set, and a Sennheiser shotgun microphone spent it’s time soaking in the sound waves, man. The SoL background is plywood and 2×4’s with falderwhatsit glued thereupon. To save money, rather than build something elaborate with all those angles and facets like how done the original series what did, Helmutt’s adventures were moved to what turns out to be “deck 7” of the Satellite of Love, and a flatter design was adopted. B. “The Butcher” C. says he took a cue from Project Popcorn (the “Russian MST3K”) in that regard. But, while PP shot in an empty piece of real estate in St. Petersburg, MstVeGaRTu:GamVerVir was shot in Brayton’s garage. (Which was not in St. Petersburg.)

We angled the the two sides out to give it some dimension, glued a bunch of plastic vacuformed material and egg cartons to it, painted it grey, gave it some interesting lighting, and for how cheap it is, it turned out looking pretty decent.

The plan had its ups and downs and fits and starts throughout the years after it was hatched, but eventually the first episode was finally on its way into the can and onto your lean-back-experience. You can watch the inaugural episode of MST3K vs Gamera – Round 2 when it’s released tomorrow on the official BranzanFiLMS YouTube channel. Or, if you’re in a hurry, you can take in the opening sequence and a few other short bits and bobs as amuses bouche.

 

A tip o’ the old cap to Agonywolf Media for the heads-up.

 

Recipe for Christmas

On this day, which is today, which is also Christmas day, presents which for weeks have been sneakily shaken can finally be opened. Their joyous contents are revealed and the wrapping paper is strewn about. Did you get everything you wished for? Did you get to the bottom of the pile of Christmas cheer without having to remember that it’s the thought that counts when opening a soft parcel containing a 12-pack of tube socks? Did you get the Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVD box set you waited in line to tell Santa about?

When all the presents are opened; when all the turkeys are carved; when all the carols are sung; when all the eggs are nogged; when all the ale’s are wassed; when all the Rankin’s are Bassed; when the light above the ol’ stage door turns off and the little dude playing baby Jesus goes out to have a smoke, it’s time to mop up the blood and entrails and sit back in the La-Z-Boy for a night with Joikah, the ‘Bots, and some experiments featuring that jolly old elf, Santa.

If you want to do it up chronologically, discover why Dropo is the laziest man on Mars and start off with the old classic, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It’s a Joel episode from season 3 of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Then, jump on over to season 5 for a Mexi-horror staring the devil, called, simply, Santa Claus. It’s a Mike episode that will leave you lusting for keytar music and, if that’s alright, all-inclusive music for holidays of all faiths.

It’s time now to take a break. Get some left-overs. A little Swiss Miss? Oh, that’s fine.

Well dopple my Fingal, the third episode to mingle with Kris Kringle comes straight from season 11. Newest captive human host, Jonah learns that even Saint Nick has a mortgage. Santa gets a job (and warms our hearts) in a movie they called The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t.

That makes three episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that feature family-friendly experiments where Santa Claus overcomes adversity to make sure that kids all over the world get presents– even if they’re on Mars. Adversity is one thing, but… hey, are the kids asleep? Good. Now that it’s after-hours, it’s time to pop in something from the other side of the tracks– it’s time for Christmas-themed slasher films. It’s time for fan-made MST3K.

If nobody is looking, open the secure vault to your extra-special, secret collection of MST3K fanvids that you dare not speak of except in hushed whispers. There’s a bare bulb swinging above the stairs. Pull the rusty chain to turn it on. What’s that creaking? Is it me bones? Golly, it’s damp in here. Oh, there it is. The first of several fan-made, Christmas-themed, Mystery Science Theater 3000 inspired videos. This one is from B-Movie Central 5000. Learn why garbage day is such a perilous time when Professor Snyder forces Jason Soto to watch Silent Night, Deadly Night: Part II. Haven’t seen Part I? Don’t worry, there’s a recap.

You don’t have all night, and you’re in the mood for blood, so you brush past riffing of clean fare the likes of The Year Without A Santa Claus, Annabelle’s Wish, and Yogi’s First Christmas. Ah, here we are: Bromance on Film. Philip and Taylor find out what happens when Santa tries to clean up the filthy streets of London in Don’t Open Till Christmas. Gene Simmons is in it, too. Wait, that’s Alan Lake. Anyhoo, it’s getting late. There’s time left for only one more MST3K fanvid. It’s another one from Bromance on Film. Released just yesterday, on Christmas eve. Taylor and Philip go to the movies (on purpose) to watch a cautionary tale for finishing school girls about why it’s a good idea to go home for Christmas vacation called To All A Good Night.

It’s time to make your way out of the vault. Make sure nobody is looking. Wait! Okay, the coast is clear. Pull the rusty chain, lock the vault door, brush your teeth, put in your retainer, and go to bed. Three Christmas movies for the whole family, riffed with care by professionals. Three Christmas-themed slasher-flicks with nudity, sacrilege, and bloody knives, riffed with care by regular people, with regular jobs, who loved Mystery Science Theater 3000 so much they committed flattery in its ultimate form. You’ve had a full day.

Patrick Swayze would be proud.

 

Tromasterpiece Theatre

A few fellas from Michigan took and went and got a bee in their bonnet to pay homage to Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Troma Entertainment. They cooked up some costumes, glued up some puppets, wrangled in a pile of friends to write a script, rented an actual movie theater, and shot some footage. A year later, round about July 29 of this year, the first episode of a new MST3K-style movie riffing series hit the YouTube. It was called Tromasterpiece Theatre, and the experiment was a work of campy surrealism called The Battle of Love’s Return.

Addison Binek, Johnathan Gogoleski, and Andrew Barber (the few fellas), star as Himself, Corny, and Reelie, respectively. Himself is a disillusioned usher who is left in charge of a movie theater “for a few hours”. His dissatisfaction with what he thought would be a fun job gets the better of him and, yadda yadda yadda, he ends up in the front row of the theater, watching a movie with a box of popcorn and a reel of film. All three of which having been gifted with the power of speech.

In real life, Addison is a budding film-maker. He had a run in with MST3K, pre-second-cancellation. But, it took nigh on a decade before the MSTie obsession took hold with the Joe Estevez masterpiece, Werewolf. In the mean while, the The Toxic Avenger franchise introduced him to the movies of the fiercely independent film company Troma. Well, 2011 rolls around and Addison starts putting his MSTie chops to the grindstone with a movie review series called Movies To Watch on a Rainy Afternoon.

MTWOARA, which he still produces even nowadays, takes a Reader’s Digest version of a movie and gives it a The Film Crew-style treatment. It’s a combination of riffing and reviewing, with some comedy bits sprinkled in. A few years of riffviewing go by (to this day reaching something like 82 episodes) and he gets noticed by Troma. They liked his episode on Rabid Grannies, and decided to include episodes featuring Troma movies on TromaMovies (one of Troma’s official YouTube channels — the one that shows over 250 Troma titles for free) and their on-demand monthly subscription service TromaNow; adding to them their signature “A Troma Team Release” cityscape imprimatur.

Troma is mostly a movie distribution company. They’re totally into what they call “independent art”. (Co-founder Lloyd Kaufman often rails against the “devil worshipping conglomerates” that have monopolized world-wide motion picture distribution.) And, they encourage boisterous fan engagement. Sometimes they bank-roll movies, sometimes they produce their own, sometimes they provide finishing funds, and, sometimes, Lloyd Kaufman will have lunch alone with a 17 year old girl and write her a personal check. But, Addison says that Troma is neither producing TMPT nor paying for anything. He and his friends are doing it up fan-art style. What they’re getting from Troma is moral support, official permission, and an introduction to the eyeballs of Troma’s worldwide fanbase. (On TromaMovies, TroMPiTh has broken 3000 views. On Addison’s own channel, it’s at just over 500.)

After coming to the attention of Troma with MoToWaOnARaAf, and becoming pen-pals with Uncle Lloydie himself, Addison pitched the idea of Tromasterpiece Theatre. He says that Lloyd has given him permission to use Troma movies in the series (excluding, of course, the The Toxic Avenger franchise) and an admonition to make it funny. Production took about a year from start to finish, and included three days of shooting at the historical Main Art Theater in downtown Royal Oak, Michigan. A month or so after posting Tromasterpiece Theatre: The Battle of Love’s Return to his personal channel on the YouTube, on August 1st, 2017, TMPT:TBOLR appeared on TromaMovies. It has also since become a part of the TromaNow catalog. Your Subscription Model May Vary.

Another bit of sage advice Lloyd gave Addison was his suggestion for the pilot episode. Back in 1971, before Troma was Troma, Lloyd directed and starred in a motion picture called The Battle of Love’s Return. It’s about a bestriped, yet directionless, doofus who ambles about a city getting into all kinds of scrapes and muchados. His misadventures are juxtaposed by interviews with denizens of the city who tell it like it is — according to them. Lloyd himself has described this movie, his debut into sync-sound filmmaking, as “unwatchable“. Addison reveals that Lloyd has suggested Poultrygeist for a second experiment. But, what the next experiment will actually be has not yet been chosen, because the fellas still have a stack of movies to go through before deciding.

“[Y]ou made the movie almost entertaining!”

Lloyd Kaufman

Who are these Michigander fellas, anyway? The guy in the Pee Wee Herman hat is TMPT director and editor, and budding filmmaker, Addison Binek. He works in a Walgreens, but also assists the budded filmmaker who directed the Troma Team Release Hectic Knife (Greg Deliso). Johnathan Gogoleski is a trained recording engineer and musician who’s in a couple of bands. He used to drive a forklift, but these days he makes ends meet by cooking lines at a restaurant. By night, Andrew Barber is in a band with Johnathan, but spends his days with Addison, mild-manneredly managing that Walgreens. These latter two voice and puppeteer the googley-eyed box of popcorn and reel of film, but you can get a sneak peek at their actual faces when they double dip as the theater manager and a litterbuggy theater patron, respectively.

During a host-segment, Corny, Addison, and Reelie read from a naughty book they saw on a shelf in the movie.

Before you get up in arms about how there’s already a popcorn themed riffing puppet out there…  when asked, Addison said that he hadn’t heard of Agonywolf Media’s Incognito Cinema Warriors XP, until recently. Apparently, two different groups came up with a popcorn themed character after also independently deciding to have a concession stand as the setting for the host-segments of their movie-riffing series set in a movie theater. In any case, Topsy Bot 5000‘s head is a bucket and Corny’s entire being is a box.

Tromasterpiece Theatre is a non-standard Mystery Science Theater 3000-style fanvid series. It has shadowrama, host-segments, a premise, a theme song explaining the premise (see “yadda”, above), and a couple of puppets watching a movie with a puppet of meat. The first episode was shot in the new-fangled “4K” format, and edited with Final Cut Pro X. It was written by a pile of long-time friends near Detroit, Michigan. You can watch it for free on the YouTube (on either Addison’s personal channel or on Troma’s TromaMovies), or you can have it as part of a paid TromaNow subscription.

Bromance on Film: Scream

Circa 1981, veteran stuntman Byron Quisenberry took up the mantle of film director, writer, and executive producer. Upon that mantle, near a painting of a ship, he placed some figurines and a clock. Two weeks later, out of the blue cookie fog and dripping with a soupçon of Dario Argento-style stage-blood, emerged the working-entitled slasher flick, The Outing. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that Byron’s highly atmospheric motion picture saw theaters– under a different title. Thirty-four years later,  the morning of September 2, 2017, the boys of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanvid series Bromance on Film released their twelfth episode. But, by that time, the title under which B.Q.’s 16mm directorial debut had been released in 1983 had long since been usurped by Wes Craven’s more successful “outing”. The reluctant companions in Bromance on Film marked their first full year of hanging out together to please their girlfriends by going to see a Neve Campbell-free Scream.

Bromance on Film is a presentation of “p3“, an independent film production outfit out of Austin, Texas. In September of last year, they presented the first episode. It featured a motion-picture which can only be called Grizzly. In twelve months, twelve episodes were released onto the Youtube. Except for August missing out on its monthly allocation due to a delay caused by a natural disaster which can only be called a hurricane, an episode of B.O.F. was released every month. They had planned to do the series for a year and then decide where to go from there. It’s been a year, and it looks like they have decided. A message containing a positive exclamation appeared via the show’s official “Twitter” account, just as their riff of Scream was going live on the Youtube:

“Enjoy the last show of the season! We’ll be back in a couple of months!”

 

 

Bromance on Film: The Alien Dead

In 1980 (or thereabouts) notable film producer Fred Olen Ray took to the waters of central Florida (USA), to produce a movie that was part Killdozer, part Blood Waters of Dr. Z, part Laserblast, part Giant Spider Invasion, part Legend of Boggy Creek 2; part — your parts may vary. On July 23, 2017, the boys of Bromance on Film, after having taken to the trails of Austin, Texas, released the eleventh episode of their nearly year-long MST3K fanvid series project. What do they have in common? A water-logged horror flick known as The Alien Dead, that’s what!

Phil’s hand passes judgement on one of the many hinders that end up centered in the frame during The Alien Dead.

In addition to their F.O.Ray into an experiment filled with aquatic, cop-a-feel zombies presenting an extraterrestrial, existential threat to southern townsfolk (and a couple of gratuitously-filmed, nudie-cutie bathing-beauties), Bromance on Film: The Alien Dead also starts off with a short, educational film from 1945 called Despotism. It’s an Erpi Classroom Film produced by the folks at Encyclopædia Britannica Films whose subject matter was definitely not whatever it was that Lady Macbeth was wringing her hands about.

Episodes of Bromance on Film are available on the YouTube.

Erpi!

Mystery Trekkie Theater 3000 and the Long, Leisurely Chat

 

Peter David, Bob Greenberger, and Michael Jan Friedman have been writing and performing Mystery Trekkie Theater 3000, their Mystery Science Theater 3000 Alive!-style live-show featuring Star Trek universe experiments nearly every year at the Shore Leave scienty fiction convention in Baltimore, Maryland for neigh on 25 years.

The doors opened on their first performance, featuring the Star Trek original series episode Turnabout Intruder, the morning of Sunday, July 12th, 1992. Ever since, they’ve been wrangling their friends, an innocent bystander or two, and usually a cameo from a celebrity, onto the stage. In the early days, noted letterer of comic books Bob Pinaha and scienty fiction writer Brad Ferguson served time as the opening-skit mad-scientists who forced them to watch bad Star Trek episodes. After a while Shore Leave regular T.A. Chafin came aboard and he’s been playing the mad scientist ever since. Eventually, the Sunday evening slot came open and MTT3K turned into a regular Sunday night thing that closed out the con.

MTT3K is arguably the first ever homage to Mystery Science Theater 3000; beating Ryan K. Johnson’s fanvid by a few months. (Interestingly, both featured experiments from Star Trek.) And, it was nearly the first ever live MST3K-style show! When MTT3K first started, MST3K had been going on television for five years, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 Alive! was nearly not even yet a thing. But, two days before P, B, and Jan (and pals) performed their first live-version homage of MST3K, Best Brains (the folks that produced the original show) performed their own live version of MST3K in Minneapolis, Minnesota — at the first Conventioconexpofestarama, which shared a weekend with Shore Leave.

Come this Sunday evening, Peter David, Bob Greenberger, and Michael Jan Friedman will have enjoyed a long and well-received run of their MST3K-inspired live-show, with what will be 24 total performances of Mystery Trekkie Theater 3000. But, come this Sunday evening plus about an hour, Mystery Trekkie Theater 3000 will be no more. They’ve decided to retire the show.

Why would they do that? Why now? Quick! Someone email them a torrent of questions and compile their answers together into what will then appear to be one long, leisurely conversation about a show the last 25 years have trained us to expect would never leave us!

Someone did.

Let’s “listen” in:

Continue Reading »

Subterranean Cinema 4000

In what might be called “just over five years ago”, a group of former band mates from Hillsboro, Illinois released what might be called “experiment 1” of their own take on what might be called the genre “of” fan-made Mystery Science Theater 3000. On April 11, 2012, the YouTube became just over one hour and twenty minutes larger, with the debut of Subterranean Cinema 4000. It has custom sets, robots, a mad scientist, shadowrama, host segments, theme music, and an original door sequence (in the form of a decrepit elevator shaft) — everything a proper homage to MST3K deserves.

STC4K’s non-standard premise, instead of a mad scientist shooting someone into space, has a mad scientist trapping a guy under ground. In fact — and this isn’t explained in the instrumental theme song or in any on-screen exposition — the guy the evil Dr. Wehttam has trapped underground is his own clone! Dr. Wehttam’s favorite TV show is MST3K. So, after the show went off the air, he went to work trying to recreate the show himself — a mile beneath the surface of the Earth. He strands his clone in a subterranean bunker, with a couple of robots (Vic and Ray). Then, “phase 2” of his evil plan begins: force the clone to watch bad movies.

In a fit of unseemly obsession, Wehttam spent ten years constructing an underground, highly secure bunker to unleash his master plan–an experiment in media based torture, for his own entertainment. Wary of his claustrophobia, he decided to clone himself so he could function as both the observer and subject of the experiment. (STC4K/Facebook)

The first experiment was the 1993 feature film Robot Wars.  The milk shake that brings the boys to the Robot Wars yard is gigantic, robotic war-machines brought to life with stop-motion animation — and the main character’s sweet feathered hair. Some might call it a sequel to Robot Jox from 1989, but some might argue differently.

“It gives me great pleasure to introduce phase two of my master plan….”

The creator of SubTCin4000, Matt Reck (who played Matt), says that he started building Vic and Ray originally without any plans to use them in anything. Building them was just something to kill the time over a few weekends. The same goes for Dr. Wehttam’s robotic left arm; he made it a few years earlier for no good reason at all. It was Matt’s aimless creative output that finally lead to the four friends, who had met in high school, to get excited about doing an MST3K-style project:

I built a bunch of stuff and my friends got more and more excited at the idea every time I’d show them something else I’d built.

Things started to get going in earnest around July of 2010 and he says that it took about nine months to write and shoot the first episode; most of the shooting taking place in the cold, cold Illinois winter months from October to January. Soon after shooting ended, Matt moved out of town to seek his fortune in Florida — leaving his friend Dustin O’Dell to complete the editing.

Matt and the bots having a devil of a time in some footage from the ill-fated second episode of Subterranean Cinema 4000.

Work on the second episode of Subterranean Cinema 4000 began not too long after the first episode was released, giving Matt a whole year to decide to move back to town. The second experiment was originally going to be the feature film The Prisoners of the Lost Universe, starring Battlestar Gallactica‘s own Richard Hatch. But, the plan was derailed when they discovered that Rifftrax had already trod those boards and they decided to abandon the riffs they’d already written and take on a different movie: 1989’s Night Shadow.

Originally, the second episode was planned to be released in the summer of 2012. After two years, they had written and shot footage for some host segments, and had written riffs for something like 3/4 of the new experiment. Dustin, who also wrote the understated morceau of an overture at the beginning of the first episode, even wrote a whole new theme song. But, Subterranean Cinema 4000 succumbed to a common affliction of MST3K fanvid projects. As Dustin puts it:

…the whole thing unfortunately sort of fell apart for us as life happened–we all parted ways physically and so couldn’t do more episodes. There wasn’t a falling out or anything but physical distance made working on the show’s skit material inconvenient.

It wasn’t Randolph Cohlan’s genre picture that killed the project. It was just plain old life getting in the way. Eventually, the sets were dismantled. Official Twitter and Facebook postings teasing progress of the second experiment ceased in early 2014.

Dr. Wehttam’s henchman Internet Jeff eats a microwave samich as Matt, Vic, and Ray get the low down on the experiment and the effects of disobeying the “movie alarm”.

As far as the future of STC4K goes, Trevor Klump (who played Ray) posted on Facebook, not too long ago, his interest in getting the gang back together. Dustin is also game, noting that there’s hope in that they had never formally declared that the project was dead. But unless the problem of Hillsboro, Illinois not being able to keep its residents from moving away can be solved (even Matt’s twin brother Andrew Reck, who played Dr. Wehttam, skipped town for a while), it looks like the most that those encouragement posting YouTube commenters might be able to hope for will have to be cobbled together from what’s already in-the-can. Which, Matt thinks, needs to see the light of day:

Episode 2 has a ton of stuff filmed.  I’ve thought about uploading a short-film style of everything we have filmed because it’s really funny and deserves [to be uploaded] since we put so much work into it.

Another MST3K fanvid series that ended its run by putting out an unfinished episode is Nathanial Torres’s Moon Base Nine. The third episode of Moon Base Nine (The Transformation of Fanghorn) features the MB9 characters in the host segments; but the theater segments were never shot, so even though the characters mention having to go in there, they never actually do. The experiments are short cartoons Nathanial produced himself. They appear as they normally would have, only shadowrama (and riff) free. But, not all unfinished episodes escape the edit bay.

Subterranean Cinema 4000 has a few things in common with MST3K fanvid project Subterranean Cinema Realm (1999-2002) — besides their names (which turns out just to be a pretty neat coincidence). Neither of them has anything to do with Don Alex’s Subterranean Cinema nor Kyle Pittman‘s Subterraneabut, both of them do have an unreleased episode languishing unfinished, with no clear future. They both take place, eponymobviously, subterraneously. And, they both were produced in Illinois; a stone’s throw from St. Louis, Missouri.  (If you add the once a year performances over the last 20 years of Mysterious Theatre 337, Illinois seems to be a hot-bed of MST3K fan-made activity!)

Technically speaking, STC4K was edited with Sony Vegas; the sound was recorded with two shotgun microphones, and those goofy over-the-ear mics; and the camera they used was a Panasonic DVX100a. The garage where they shot everything (a friend’s garage dubbed Buckeye Trail Studio) had a noisy kerosene heater they couldn’t use while they were shooting; so it was always something like 40 degrees in there. The shadowrama was done with a green-screen chroma-key effect.

There’s a whole channel on the YouTube, if you want to check out the one episode of STC4K; you can also check out a blooper reel and a “trailer” for episode two. If you’d like to be surprised by future postings on disused or defunct social media accounts, keep an eye on the STC4K Twitter and Facebook pages. There are even Facebook pages for Ray the Robot and Internet Jeff (Dr. Wehttam’s dopey, tum-tum-exposed minion played by Jesse Elliot). To round out the cast, Vic the Robot (a fictional character who doesn’t seem to be on social media) was played by Jarrod Law.

Bromance on Film: Asylum of Satan

In a feet of double-digit consistency, Bromance on Film dips a second toe in the William Girdler waters with a tenth-in-as-many-months episode. This time, instead of a crazed, supernaturally-sized bear — and sweeping, helicopter panoramas — they keep it strictly 4×3 with a horror film definitely not shot in the Todd A.O. format: 1971’s Asylum of Satan.

Bromance on Film: Asylum of Satan was released, say, noonish (Austin, Texas time), unto the YouTube on June 25th. Phil and Taylor meet up, discuss their shared love of classic literature, and then head to the theater to get up to their first shared love-of: watching bad movies. Before the main feature is a provocative educational short film from 1959 for plant supervisors, commissioned by McGraw-Hill Book Company, called The Trouble With Women. Movie riffing enthusiasts may remember this popular little number that asks the question, “What is Brad’s trouble,” from its 2005 appearance as part of Jason Soto’s B-Movie Central 5000: Shorts Spectacular!! (Volume 1); and as a stand-alone short-subject riff by Rifftrax in 2008. Horror movie enthusiasts may be interested to know that Asylum of Satan features cross-dressing, stylish checkered pants, and a blind chick who definitely didn’t watch out for snakes!

 

Bromance on Film: Night of the Demon

The latest episode of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanvid series Bromance on Film was released onto the YouTube on May 28, 2017. As scooped, the day before, by some “website” known for collecting information, of the sort which was scooped, the experiment was the 1980 feature-length motion-picture Night of the Demon.

NOTD concerns itself with a group of college-aged campers, camping out in the woods, with their professor, who has dragged them along to investigate a reported Bigfoot in the area. Some very parental guidance events occur throughout the movie, but BOF has efforted to censor the most egregious and offensive uncovered body parts in order to keep viewers from having to give their age to watch it. This latest episode makes nine total episodes from Phil and Taylor.

 

 

Bromance on Film

When not investigating fraud for a multi-billion dollar trans-national computer company or running a “full service multimedia visual design company“, Taylor Boston and Philip Lee (respectively) of Austin, Texas, spend some of their off-hours writing riffs and improvising host segments for their own Mystery Science Theater 3000-style fan-made video series.

Bromance on Film fanartThey call it Bromance on Film. The first episode of BOF appeared on the YouTube on September 10, 2016, with the Todd A.O. feature film Grizzly as the inaugural experiment.

As the premise goes, Phil and Taylor are strangers, whose girlfriends have demanded that they both hang out and become the best of buds. They reluctantly submit to the demand by getting together to do the only thing either of them has in common — watching bad movies. BromOnFil doesn’t have any mad scientists, just a pair of ladies (life-long besties Ashley and Rebecca) who want to go on couples’ dates with their beaus without their beaus ignoring each other. PhiliTay would be watching the movies anyway. Which is pretty unique, and lands Broofi squarely in the realm of what Mystery Science Theater 3000 Fanvid and Live-performance Database, The calls “non-standard”.

While non-standard as far as emulating MST3K goes (For example, Ryan K. Johnson’s two episodes are considered “standard” while Mystery Fandom Theater 3000 is just slightly non-standard.) Bromance on Film has a commonality with the turn-of-the-century fanvid Count Xigeous’ Halloween Bloodbath, as far as the shadowrama goes. Rather than fill the theater segment shot with the experiment and sitting in front of it, they both position the movie on a smaller screen in the middle of the shot; with the characters tossing asides from the darkened peripheries without obscuring the film, except occasionally for a visual gag. Like Count Xigeous, who is trying to do a horror-host show by watching a movie on the TV in his living room, sometimes Phil and Taylor watch movies in Phil’s living room. But, mostly they sit in the back of a small local theater which seems to specialize in bad movies.

Visual gags from Bromance on Film and Count Xigeous' Halloween Bloodbath

{Left} Phil of Bromance on Film attempting to cover on-screen nudity. {Right} Count Xigeous trying to pull off Grandpa’s mole.

According to Phil, the plan is to release an episode about once a month for a year and then decide where to go from there. They both have day jobs, and don’t want the show to become a chore or get in the way of paying the rent:

[T]his is a labor of love, so we are just enjoying doing what we are doing for now, and taking it as it comes.

When choosing suitable movies and shorts to use, Phil says that due to his love of old horror and scienty fiction movies, he was aware of some of the experiments already. But he also does online research to make sure that whatever he chooses as an experiment is either public domain or appears to be abandoned. (Nobody needs a copyright strike on their YouTube channel to be sure.) He mentions archive.org as a potential source for PSA’s and movies, but since even some of those are getting flagged on YouTube, there is still some peril associated with grabbing media from that site.

What’s next for B-on-F? For seven episodes, the only people in the show were Phil and Taylor. But, in episode eight, Ashley makes an appearance in the opening host segment. In real life, Phil and Taylor have mused about having “guest riffers”, but nothing is set in stone. Though, Phil reveals, for sure, the ninth episode will feature Night of the Demon. It’s a movie with Bigfoot in it. And, this time, he’s not supernatural friends with a kid who escapes from boarding school.

Other feature-length movies which have had their day in front of the Bromancers are Hospital of Terror, Home Sweet Home, Don’t Open Till Christmas, The Giant Claw, Invasion from Inner Earth, and The Cremators. And, sometimes there’s an educational short: Good Eating Habits, Are You Popular?, and Sniffles and Sneezes. You may remember The Giant Claw from the final episode of Media Center Theatre 3000. That fanvid series also riffed on Starcrash, which appears also in an episode of Mystery Fandom Theater 3000. But, more recently, Starcrash was used as an experiment in the newly released eleventh season of the official Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. So, Bromance on Film has two degrees of separation from Joel Hodgson, the Great Creator himself.

You can follow Bromance on Film on social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and Plus.Google. Or, check them out on their website or the YouTube. Phil’s got a Vimeo, too.