Back during the first run of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the beloved TV series that featured a bunch of puppets and a fictional janitor from Milwaukee riffing on terrible movies, the episode about the 1988 sci-fi flick Space Mutiny stood out as a fan favorite. It wasn't hard to make fun of the low-budget South African flick, with its wooden acting, cheap sets and painful cliches — it almost seemed like a spoof, played as straight as possible.
Even over 20 years after that episode premiered, people quote jokes from the riffs to the guys who wrote and voiced them, especially now that the Netflix revival has created a new generation of MST3K. And because most of that original cast has their own series now, an internet-driven show called RiffTrax, they were free to revisit Space Mutiny with fresh eyes.
" I thought it was a good time to revisit this movie because it's just so much fun as a riff," Murphy says in a new episode The Fandom Files podcast. "It's like the ideal movie for what we do, because it's just so earnest, and so dumb at the same time that it makes our job easy. So many of the scenes in the film set themselves up for us so easily. It's a delight to do."
The RiffTrax team — which consists of Murphy, Michael J. Nelson, and Bill Corbett — will broadcast their riff on Space Mutiny live in theaters on June 14th. It's the latest in their run of live events, which highlight both old fan favorites and newly available movies (the rights to use certain movies don't come cheap). After nearly three decades of riffing, the criteria for celebrating trash has become very clear.
"If someone attempted to make a really adventuresome science fiction movie and tried to put in some deep subjects and themes, and interesting subplots, and they just failed completely," Murphy says. "But they really tried hard, and the earnestness of what folks do in order to try to tell a good story that they ultimately can't tell because they're just not really good at making movies, those make the best riffs for us, because there's something really almost naïve about it."
Simply put: The bad movies have to not believe they're bad, and let the comedians do the comedy.
"It was [guest riffer] Trace Beaulieu who long ago said that — and if you're a Marx Brothers fan, you'll get this immediately — the movies we do are our Margaret Dumont," Murphy says. "They're definitely our straight man or straight woman, and the more sincere they are, the better it is for us, because we can just poke a lot of fun at them."
Murphy also spoke to The Fandom Files about why he really, really hates Forrest Gump, some of his other favorite bad movies, and his feelings on the MST3K reboot!
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