Sunday, July 22, 2012

REVIEW: Cinematic Titanic - Rattlers

Rattlers is the most recent DVD release by the crew at Cinematic Titanic. Founded by original Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson and starring the original cast of the show during its' KTMA season (Trace Beaulieu and J. Elvis Weinstein) as well as Frank "TV's Frank" Conniff and Mary Jo "Pearl Forrester" Pehl, Cinematic Titanic has been performing live shows in venues across the United States for several years now and offering periodic DVD releases of their live shows.

Rattlers, as the name suggests, is a horror movie about killer rattlesnakes. The action, such as it is, centers upon herpetologist Dr. Tom Parkinson - a man who would be the Indiana Jones of snake experts if Indy liked snakes and Tom were played by a better actor. Lured away from the halls of academia for the princely sum of $200, Dr. Tom is brought into investigate a series of mysterious deaths in the Mojave desert. After confirming that the victim's wounds do look like rattlesnake bites, Dr. Tom does nothing much but drive around in the desert with photographer Ann Bradley as more and more people are killed by the snakes in increasingly unlikely fashion.

The trail eventually leads them to the local military base, where commanding officer Colonel Stroud tries to distract Dr. Tom with free helicopter rides and amusing conversations with the base doctor - the finest drunk to command an army medical unit since Hawkeye Pierce. But the drunken doctor has a secret that has nothing to do with the world's greatest martini recipe and it will fall to Dr. Tom - and to a lesser extent Ann - to expose the truth about how a secret government project created a horrible menace to society.

Even by the standards of MST3K, Rattlers is a bad film. There is not a single part of it's production that is not handled in a ham-fisted or half-assed manner. Say what you will about "Manos" The Hands of Fate but at least Hal P. Warren tried to recruit the finest actors that the El Paso Community Theater had to offer. With Rattlers, you doubt they went through that kind of effort. Every performance feels like it was delivered by someone who was a friend of the director.

There are scenes where the boom mike operator couldn't be arsed to follow the actors. The There are scenes where the camera man forgot to remove the "day for night" lens. The storyline resembles a sin wave more than an arc. And the characters - if I may use that term - are all bland, lifeless stock figures with the exception of photographer Ann Bradley, who is either a stereotypical angry feminist or the typical wilting-flower horror movie heroine depending on what scene we are in.

Sadly, there is only so much the CT Crew can do with a movie this dull. While there are numerous WTF moments and numerous bits of slopping editing that add to the humor, you can't avoid the fact that long stretches of the movie are of people walking around in the desert while nothing happens. This isn't a bad episode, by any stretch of the imagination and there are a lot of funny riffs. It just seems that most of the riffs are what we long-time MSTies call "waffle" gags.

A quick explanation: waffle gags are a reference to the classic MST3K episode Viking Women vs. The Sea Serpent where, for some reason nobody seems to recall, all of the skits involved waffles and there was a running gag throughout the movie about waffles. Why? Because 'waffles' is a funny word and it seemed funny at the time to talk about waffles instead of the movie.

That is what many of the riffs here feel like. There's a lot more random non-sequitur lines than usual (i.e. Joel screaming "THE GORILLA IS LOOSE!" after a voice over an intercom requests the attention of all the Zoology students). It's also a bit like the classic episode Lost Continent, where half of the movie is spent trying to desperately think of things to say as we watch several men go rock-climbing.... VERY SLOWLY. This isn't bad, to my mind, but I do know some MSTies who prefer things to be a little heavier on the pop-culture references, as they were in the later Sci-Fi channel episodes.

Despite this, I have no trouble recommending Rattlers to any fan of quality riffing. It's not quite as gut-bustingly funny as recent videos such as War of the Insects or Danger on Tiki Island, but Rattlers is still a solid piece of entertainment that is well worth purchasing. It is available exclusively from

No comments:

Post a Comment