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August 28, 2015

Kevin Murphy sings the praises of MST3K, Rifftrax and mocking classics

by John Scott Lewinski, posted Jun 3rd 2009 2:02PM
The cast of MST3K returns to mock the classic at Rifftrax.It seems no movie is safe from Kevin Murphy and his former Mystery Science Theater 3000 comrades as they mock flicks full-time for Rifftrax.

Murphy, RiffTrax writer/commentator and forever Tom Servo on the Satellite of Love of the original movie-mocking show famous for tackling B-movies, regularly joins fellow MST3K alums Bill Corbett and Michael J. Nelson to record a series of commentaries on classic and significantly less than classic flicks. Their targets range from The Happening and Twilight to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars - all available for $4.

The site just released perhaps the most challenging riff, deliberately taking on what many people consider the greatest film of all time, Casablanca.

Many movie fans -- even those who enjoy Rifftrax -- object to mockery of such iconic work, but Murphy points to the sites' motto: "We don't make movies. We make them funny."

"We get some criticism for making fun of classics," Murphy said. "But we consider those more like celebrity roasts. We wanted to see if we could make some good movies funny, and I don't think we do any damage to the classics."

"And coming up with the material for classic movies is challenging. It's easier to do The Happening with classic lines like 'Why are you eying my lemon drink? Then again, when you take something awful like The Wicker Man -- that's one of my favorite riffs, but it's not easy looking at Nicholas Cage's gob for two hours, either."

Rifftrax grew out of the remnants of Joel Hodgson's MST3K and Nelson's original DVD commentary work on Legend Films releases like Night of the Living Dead and Reefer Madness. The three-man team would return for full-on mockery of the same titles on DVD via the Rifftrax site.

Each DVD comes with a specially written "Rifftone" or theme song written and performed by Murphy, Nelson and Corbett.

"Those grew out of how much we loved doing the songs on MST3K," Murphy said. "We realized we had an opportunity to return to songs with the DVDs. We wanted to make music again -- though none of us have musical training."

The newly released DVDs include a second volume of Rifftrax Shorts as the three take on the sort of public domain 16mm shorts seen in morose ugliness like "Shaking Hands with Danger" (an industrial safety short featuring multiple, sudden, yet amusing amputations).

"Those are the same movies I used to watch back in fourth grade while the teacher kicked back with a cigarette," Murphy added. "We'd cut them up even back then, so I came by this work honestly."

While no official announcements are pending, Murphy thinks more DVDs are en route from Rifftrax: "I think we'll do some more. These things always depend on how well the previous titles sell. And, we'll be doing additional video on demand riffs for people to watch just online."

"We'll continue to provide this stuff as long as people enjoy it," he said.

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Joel Hodgson has also regrouped a slew of the old MST3K gang for Cinematic Titanic. I was lucky enough to see them do a live show this spring, and it was one of the funniest things I've ever seen (improved by the fact that the opening act was Dave "Gruber" Allen, the hippie teacher from Freaks and Geeks). I'm glad that the MST3K concept lives on still.

June 03 2009 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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