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.


Comments 1

  1. Administrator wrote:

    It’s Saturday!

    Posted 30 Mar 2019 at 6:26 am

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