Like MST3K Before It, Cinematic Titanic Breathes Life Into Unwatchable Sci-Fi

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More photos from the show, including cast members after the show, in our slide show.

Joel Hodgson and the rest of the old MST3K crew treated a fair-sized crowd of die-hard fans to the first run-through of their signature treatment of The Alien Factor Friday night, loosening the bolts in the old Lakewood Theater seats as the crowd rolled around laughing.

Cinematic Titanic, the touring show we told you about yesterday is an awful lot like the old Comedy Central standby, with all the same talent, missing only the pretense of robot puppets and a space-travel plot. Best of all, it's back again tonight at the Lakewood, for an 8 p.m. skewering of a film called Tiki Island. For autograph seekers with other Saturday night plans, the cast will also be at Premiere Video today at 4 p.m., signing things and chatting with fans.

As for Friday night's show, the evening began with a half-hour set of tag-team stand-up from stars Frank Conniff, Trace Beaulieu and J. Elvis Weinstein, and an appearance by Hodgson answering written questions from the audience.

What happened to MST3K?

"It became a parody of itself."

What's become of the robots from the show?

"They've gone back to being Tupperware."

Then as the film reel playing its countdown, Mary Jo Pehl joined the rest of the cast as they took their places on either side of the stage, each at a mic with a dimly lit script or notebook on a stand.

After making mincemeat of the campy outer-space-themed opening credits sequence, Hodgson and friends did an impressive job of sustaining the laughs through a film that peppered over-the-top ridiculous moments through an excruciatingly slow aliens-invade-suburban-Baltimore plot.

The 1977 film is full of huge feathered, wavy hair, Canadian tuxedos and jackhammer-subtle acting. It came ready-made with plenty of low-hanging joke fruit, like the thick-mustached alien-hunter's successively creepier repeat delivery of the line "I have special equipment."

The best laughs, though, skewered the less obvious details of the movie's half-baked production -- riffs on the horrible editing, the way shots held a few seconds too long add up to suspenseless minutes watching characters trudge through the woods. The Alien Factor, as one of the Titanic crew put it, is "the safest movie ever to go to the bathroom during."

Early on, the crew riffed on the makeshift cop car the camera was following, pointing out the kind of detail you might have missed if, like the folks who made the movie, you just weren't paying that much attention -- "It the only two-door police car in the world!" Hilarious enough until a few minutes later, when a state trooper pulls up driving a VW Beetle.

After they took a bow, the comedians sat back down to give the show a better sendoff more appropriate than the one the film provided (To me, anyway, Alien Factor's ending felt rushed): a run-through of their greatest riffs over the years, told to a highlight real of some of the worst film moments that would be lost today if it weren't for these guys.

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