Cinematic Titanic stops off in Noho

By Tommy Verdone

Bossi/Flickr

In the not too distant future, a man and his buddies confront the big screen once again. This Saturday, Joel Hodgson and the original cast of the cult television show “Mystery Science Theater 3000” will stop in Northampton for the latest tour of their project, Cinematic Titanic. “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” known to fans as MST3K, began as a show in 1988 on the KTMA network, which served the Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minn,. area. Later that year, the show was pitched to Comedy Central and became one of the first two programs that the network picked up.

MST3K was a feature-length movie riffing television show that went through many different phases in its long history. The original crew consisted of Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and Josh Weinstein. The overarching plot of the program followed the story of Joel Robinson, played by Hodgson, and his self-made robot companions as they spend their endless days trapped on The Satellite of Love, forced to watch the worst movies known to mankind.

The premise of the show is that the character Joel was sent into space because his evil bosses Dr. Clayton Forrester (Beaulieu) and Dr. Larry Erhardt (Weinstein) didn’t like him very much. Because of this, they decided to try an experiment to see how many bad movies it takes to turn a man insane. Joel creates wisecracking robot buddies Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, voiced by Beaulieu and Weinstein, respectively, along with several other creations, to maintain his sanity on this never-ending endeavor.

Tom, Crow and Joel sat and watched one full-length movie per episode, mocking it in real-time, as their silhouetted figures sat aligned towards the bottom right of the screen. In 1993, Hodgson stepped down as the host of the show for lead writer Michael J. Nelson. Nelson’s character took over until the show’s final episode, but Hodgson was never forgotten by fans.

In December of 2007, Hodgson, Beaulieu, Weinstein and other faces from the MST3K gang, such as Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl, took to talking to the screen again as they began touring with their new project, Cinematic Titanic. This new show follows the same structure as MST3K, but takes place in front of a live audience instead of being limited to a television screen. The characters, who this time around essentially play themselves, are forced to watch terrible movies by a shady and controlling organization. Instead of sitting in front of the movie, the performers now line up around the screen and relentlessly pick at the flaws of laughably cheesy films.

The Cinematic Titanic group has been touring over five years now. Earlier this year, the group announced in an email to its mailing list that this will be the team’s last year performing. The email, signed by “The CT Crew,” stated, “We feel that with any project there is a time to move on and as five people living in five different cities with different lives and projects, it has become increasingly difficult to coordinate our schedules.”

The team added that, “The last five plus years have been an amazing opportunity for us all to reconnect creatively with one another and to connect with the fans of MST3K and new fans of Cinematic Titanic… We will be performing as many dates as is feasible this year and we hope you’ll come and see us one last time.”

So, as Hodgson’s latest cult favorite comes to an indefinite close, now may be the last chance to see him and the gang all together for one last hurrah. According to the Cinematic Titanic website, the group will be riffing on the 1976 sci-fi film “The Astral Factor.” Tickets are being song for $25 or $35.

Tommy Verdone can be reached at [email protected]