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.

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