Greetings, geeks and geekettes (and you nerds, too. I didn’t forget you). “El Sacerdote” coming to you from New York. This past Thursday, May 5th was the 20th RiffTrax Live screening, this time featuring the 1991 film Time Chasers, a David Giancola film that was previously skewered on Mystery Science Theater 3000. This time out, though, was an unedited version of that classic (*snicker….sorry*) time travel film, with two new characters, and a couple of new scenes thrown into the mix as well. This was the culmination of a week of exciting MST3K updates, as I also was able to participate in a phone interview with former castmates (and two current members of RifffTrax) Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy, as well as original MST3K castmember Trace Beaulieu, and new host Jonah Ray. They got to joke around and give updates as to what to expect from the new iteration of Mystery Science Theater, and to tease the upcoming live reunion show on June 28th, 2016 (tickets still available via Fathom Events).
First, onto the movie…
As is par for course, the RiffTrax Live event opened with some fake/humorous title slides and parody songs ot keep the audience at least relaxed before the main event. After an introduction and taking center stage, the three hosts (Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy, and Michael Nelson) opened with a short film, Chimp The Fireman (which is about exactly what the title says). The shorter forms kept the jokes whizzing by at a fast pace, and it appears that the shorts are where the trio excel. Admittedly, once the feature film started, there were a few gaps in between jibes at the film.
Having watched the MST3K version so many times I can quote it in order, this new iteration seemed to fall a bit short in terms of exactly how many jibes were made. Having gone to both the Manos: Hands of Fate screening, and the Santa Claus screening, it is hard to separate the MST3K episodes from the RiffTrax editions. Where I expect a familiar riff, either silence, or a new joke (that may or may not stick) instead greets me. This is admittedly a familiarity issue on my part, but a distracting one nonetheless. Hopefully future screenings feature more previously untouched films, and not retreads of past episodes.
While any RiffTrax Live event is worth its price of admission, the inclusion of deleted scenes from a well-known (if terrible) film elevated it, especially having been so familiar with the film to begin with. Time Chasers involves unlikely “action hero”/science professor Nick Miller (living chin and mullet enthusiast Matthew Bruch) using his time machine airplane to stop an evil corporate CEO (from whom he’d received an R&D grant to continue his work) from using a copy of his technology to go back in time and change…things?…for some reason? It’s not so much that the film is “bad” per se, but merely that it far outreaches what it is capable of achieving, with a protagonist who lacks charisma, yet is sold as being a capable action star. That being said, the riffs made at its expense are classic (both the MST3K version, and this event, which gets its biggest set of laughs during the aforementioned deleted scene, which involves a wayward, racist, karate-loving New York cabbie making his fares in Rutland, Vermont…for some reason).
The hosts make the most of the material, but, again, perhaps the retreading of well-worn territory seemed a bit lackluster in comparison to the memories of the MST3K episode, but the night was, regardless, well worth going out and attending.
Tickets for Tuesday’s — May 17th — encore performance of Rifftrax Live: Time Chasers can be purchased here.