It was a sad day in 1999 when the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 wrapped up its 11-year run with the dreadful Diabolik and we bid adieu to Mike Nelson (Michael J. Nelson) and his mechanical friends Crow T. Robot (voiced by Bill Corbett) and Tom Servo (voiced by Kevin Murphy).
If you don’t know about MST3K, the premise was that a mad scientist traps a sad sack temp employee—played by show creator Joel Hodgson until the middle of season five, then Nelson, who was the show’s head writer—on a space satellite and forces him to sit through abominable movies to see how long it will take before the unfortunate man goes nuts. The guy constructs a couple of sentient—and sarcastic—robots to keep him company and they all stay sane by making fun of the movies while they watch them.
The running commentary, or riffing, that Mike, Crow and Tom Servo provided during the films—the majority of which were rotten sci-fi B-movies—coupled with the vignettes that ran during the breaks are unrivaled and irreplaceable in American television. Sort of.
The introduction of RiffTrax in 2006 gave us back Nelson, who soon brought Corbett and Murphy back into the fold. Minus the characters of hapless Mike Nelson, Crow and Tom Servo, RiffTrax are downloadable tracks of their classic commentary that can be synched with movies, many of them big-budget Hollywood flicks like The Matrix, Titanic, Lord of the Rings and Twilight. The popularity of the hilarity led back almost full circle, with the guys goofing on awful films: RiffTrax on DVD.
More than a dozen DVDs are now available including RiffTrax Live: Plan 9 From Outer Space, in which the sarcastic gents riff along to the Ed Wood classic before a live audience in Nashville, Tenn. The show is hosted by geeky Internet hottie Veronica Belmont and was beamed to more than 400 theaters across the country last December. Also included on the DVD are two funny films by SomethingAwful.com’s Rich Kyanka, a live musical performance by singing sci-geek Jonathan Coulton and a short educational film upon which Corbett, Murphy and Nelson spew some of their finest riffs to date.
While it’s not quite the same without the silhouettes of Mike, Crow and Tom Servo across the bottom of the screen, the laugh-out-loud lampooning is as funny as ever. And the 10 or 15 bones it costs to own the DVDs is far better spent than on some of the stuff showing in theaters right now.
Visit RiffTrax.com for more info.