Friday, January 18, 2008

The Oozing Skull, or Cinematic Titanic Episode 1

I just got back from seeing Cloverfield which is a spectacular monster movie. I could nitpick some things but it's a giant monster movie. It hits all the giant monster points exactly right and adds a few nice additional layers. If you have ever enjoyed any giant monster movie then Cloverfield is a film to see.

But let's go to the far side of the cinematic quality spectrum. The Oozing Skull a.k.a. Brain of Blood is the first of the releases from "Mystery Science Theater 3000"'s Joel Hodgson. His Cinematic Titanic project is a revival of the show, or as close as he can get to it. They are acquiring distribution rights to terrible movies, riffing on them with a Shadowrama style overlay using about two-thirds of the cast of the show (most of the remaining cast work with Mike Nelson on Rifftrax).

They came out of the gate with guns blazing. With five people riffing on the film they were rarely silent, they had plenty of good gags, and even the obscure references that MSTies love. Going with a seventies exploitation film for the initial project was a smart idea since it is rarely dull while being a terrible movie.

The "plot" of The Oozing Skull is that the very white dictator of a middle eastern country dies but has plans to have his brain transplanted into a young body. Needless to say things go wrong. He gets Abby Normal's body thanks to an incompetent mad scientist assistant and goes crazy. There's also a kidnapped woman chained up in a dungeon below the modern ranch house for some reason, a crusading doctor who's just kind of there, the little guy who played Master of Master Blaster in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome using a convenient footstool to tamper with car engines, and some rednecks who just pour battery acid on people for no good reason. Don't think about the film, just let it wash over you.

Occasionally the film is interrupted for brief skits where they typically interact with the screen but I found that these were not very good. I'm willing to give them some leeway on that since they're finding their feet.

I'm not fond of the Cinematic Titanic set, it feels overly busy to me and blocks too much of the screen. Also despite getting distribution rights to the film they only include a riffed version. I would have enjoyed having both versions of the film on the DVD even if I never watched it unriffed.

But that's hardly anything to complain about. This was a good effort and it makes me excited for the next Cinematic Titanic release.

I would tell you to go order it now but there is one major problem with this. At the moment The Oozing Skull is not available for download. They promise in the future to offer downloads for the films and that is the distribution method I would recommend using. Their other option is to have a service burn a copy of the movie, apply a label to the disk, and then send it to you. The burn and mail system is a complete disaster. It took four weeks between my order and the point that I received my disk. They tried to excuse themselves by saying that the demand was high. I'm sure it was but it costs pennies to use a local DVD reproduction service. They should have spread out their workload for the duplication. The other problem is that I received the disk in an envelope. No protective sleeve, no disk case, just a cardboard envelope at the same price as I could get most DVD's. It makes the burn and mail service seem completely unreliable and I would never use them again even if that's the only way the film is available.

So the product is good but until they have the online distribution rights (supposedly coming in April) I'd say keep away. Patience is a virtue and those of you who can be patient will hopefully be rewarded with much better service than I received.