Release Date(s)Various (August 8, 2017)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C-
- Overall Grade: B
From (part of) the minds that brought you Mystery Science Theater 3000 comes Cinematic Titanic, consisting of MST3K veterans Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, J. Elvis Weinstein, and Mary Joe Pehl. The movie riffing troupe took their particular brand of silhouetted film insult both on the road and into the studio between 2007 and 2013. While doing so, they managed to pump out 12 DVD releases, most of which went out of print quickly. Thankfully, that has now been rectified thanks to Shout! Factory with Cinematic Titanic: The Complete Collection, which gathers together all of those DVD performances into one package, and for much less bread.
Things start off on Disc One with The Oozing Skull (aka Brain of Blood or The Creature’s Revenge), in which a mad scientist takes the brain of a kindly sovereign and transplants it into someone dim-witted – the horror ensues. The film was directed by Al Adamson (Satan’s Sadists and Blood of Dracula’s Castle) and released in 1971 on a double bill with The Vampire People (aka Blood is the Color of Night or The Blood Drinkers). Next up is Doomsday Machine (aka Escape from Planet Earth), which tells of a group of people sent into orbit to repopulate the human race after Earth is annihilated. Released in 1972, it was a rocky production, sharing three director’s credits, a variety of dubbed voices, and a vast amount of bad movie karma.
On Disc Two is The Wasp Woman (aka The Bee Woman or Insect Woman) from 1959. Directed by Roger Corman, it shows us just what happens when a lady obsessed with her age and good looks takes to injecting herself with the royal jelly of a queen wasp – she turns into one! The film was originally released as a double feature with Beast from Haunted Cave and later sold to TV with further directorial assistance by Jack Hill (The Big Bird Cage). Next is Legacy of Blood (aka Blood Legacy or Will to Die) from 1971. This independent quickie goes for the standard “a group of people gather together at an old mansion to claim an inheritance and are bumped off one by one” premise. Helmed by Carl Monson, the independent writer/producer/director who also gave us Booby Trap and Death Feud, it’s also interesting to note that the exteriors of the mansion are the same ones used from the 1960s Batman TV show.
Disc Three features the truly unique Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, which both Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax have covered previously. Released in 1964 and panned almost immediately, this “holiday classic” revolves around a rogue Martian trying to stop other Martians from exposing their children to Santa Claus. Following that up is Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks from 1974. If the story of a hanged man brought back to life by a doctor only to break loose from his confines and run amok sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. The film was directed by Dick Randall, who would go on to produce the cult horror favorites Don’t Open Till Christmas and Slaughter High.
Leading off Disc Four is the Filipino horror movie Blood of the Vampires (aka Whisper to the Wind or Curse of the Vampires). Directed by Gerardo de Leon (who also directed the aforementioned Vampire People), the film was released in 1966 and tells of a chained-up vampire mother who bites her son and turns him into one as well. Next is East Meets Watts (aka The Dynamite Brothers), which is a live riffing. Directed by Al Adamson (who also directed The Oozing Skull) and released in 1974, this mash-up of blaxploitation and martial arts stars Timothy Brown, Alan Tang, James Hong, and Aldo Ray.
Disc Five begins with a live riffing of The Alien Factor, a 1976 sci-fi creature feature from schlock extraordinaire Don Dohler (The Galaxy Invader). It’s your standard “spaceship lands in the middle of nowhere and aliens begin terrorizing the locals” type of plot, but with Don Dohler’s hand at the wheel. Next is another live show, Danger on Tiki Island (aka Brides of Blood), another Filipino horror movie from Gerardo de Leon (as well as genre veteran Eddie Romero). This 1968 drive-in fest features man-eating plants and virgin sacrifices – what more could you possibly want?
Only two live shows remain on Disc Six. Things begin with War of the Insects (aka Genocide), which was originally released on a double bill with The Living Skeleton. This Japanese killer bug movie was made in 1968 and distributed in the U.S. in 1969, long before American International Pictures came along and repopularized the “nature gone wild” milieu (after the success of Jaws, of course). Last but not least is Rattlers, a 1976 TV movie about, you guessed it, killer rattlesnakes that have been exposed to chemicals discarded by the military. It’s most notable for containing an early film score from composer Miles Goodman.
In terms of the film sources used, the video quality of each presentation is on par with the MST3K boxed sets. Some are better than others, but everything is as clean and clear as you could ask for on both fronts. The audio, which is presented with English 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks, keeps the riffs and the movie soundtracks coming through with excellent clarity. There are no subtitle options, but a couple of extras have been included: A Look Back with J. Elvis Weinstein on Disc One and a Between the Riffs featurette on Disc Six. And for those who might be wondering, The Doll Squad, The Astral Factor, and Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World were all riffed live, but unfortunately, never professionally filmed or released, so not included here.
In complete honesty, I consider Cinematic Titanic to be the least of the MST3K spin-offs, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. I know some folks who are quite the opposite and think it’s better than both Rifftrax and The Film Crew. For those folks, and MST3K fans alike, this set is a must-own.
- Tim Salmons