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Josh takes in Rifftrax Live: Plan 9 From Outer Space!

I just got back from a spectacular evening — seeing the Rifftrax gang live (just not exactly in-person) riffing on what they described as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies,” Plan 9 From Outer Space!

I was overjoyed when I discovered Rifftrax a few years back.  Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy, three of the masterminds behind the later years of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, had again teamed up to make fun of terrible movies.  At Rifftrax.com one can download feature-length commentary tracks to play along with movies you own or rent on DVD, in which Mike and the gang make glorious sport of the film being played.  I’ve downloaded quite a few Rifftrax over the past few years, and they are every bit as entertaining as the best MST3K episodes.

Tonight, the Rifftrax gang performed a live riff in Nashville Tennessee to one of the most well-known awful movies of all-time: Plan 9 From Outer Space.  The performance was broadcast live to movie theatres across the US, and I was lucky enough to take in the show at a theatre here in Boston.  It was fantastic!

The event started promptly at 8 PM (and bonus points for that, by the way).  After introducing themselves, the Rifftrax crew kicked the evening off by riffing on an old short from the 1950’s called (as I recall) Flying Stewardesses.  It’s not, as the gang is quick to point out, a documentary about stewardesses gifted with the ability of flight — rather, it’s a pretty quaint little piece about the training that women must go through to become what we’d now call flight attendants.  The guys were in top form, and their riffs on this short were hilarious.

This was followed by a little time-filling.  Jonathan Coulton (you can find out more about him here) came on and played two amusing songs, which were funny, but not nearly as hilarious as when the cameras broadcasting the event would capture Nashville audience members rapturously mouthing the lyrics along with Mr. Coulton.  There were also some amusing fake ads (created by Richard “Lowtax” Kyanka — I don’t know what that “Lowtax” nickname means, but he created the Something Awful humor site).  All of this stuff was cute, but I started to get a bit antsy for the main event to begin.

But once it did — yowza!  Plan 9 From Outer Space is every bit as catastrophically terrible as you might expect.  (I hadn’t watched the whole film through, start-to-finish, since college.)  It’s so bad that it’s quite unintentionally hilarious to watch all on its own, without any sort of Rifftrax commentary.  Going in, I was a little worried, in fact, that the movie was too easy a target for the gang, and that their jokes might be too obvious.  

I needn’t have fretted.  Mike, Bill, and Kevin were absolutely grab-your-sides hysterical riffing along with the film.  They avoided the easy jokes (well, for the most part — but sometimes an easy joke can still be pretty damn funny!!), and the show was filled with all sorts of the bizarre references that I loved from MST3K.  (There were also some very amusing connections drawn to the short we’d seen at the beginning of the night!)

While not quite as cool as actually getting to see Joel Hodgman and HIS group of MST3K alumni (called Cinematic Titanic) perform live at the Somerville Theatre in Boston last winter (you can read my write-up of that amazing evening here), this was quite a phenomenal event, and I’m thrilled that I was able to be there.  Hopefully Mike and the gang will do this again, soon!!

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