Something titled “They Came from El Segundo,” about a radioactive UFO crash site that causes a pack of jack rabbits to go loco and hunt down a group of unsuspecting teens whose van broke down on the side of a deserted road at night, probably isn’t going to be Oscar-worthy.
But, oh, the joyful moments one can have razzing such a movie for its delicious ridiculousness.
This is the premise of “Cinematic Titanic,” Saturday at the Royal Oak Music Theatre. Attendees can expect a two-hour, live stage show, featuring a B movie that incessantly will be made fun of by the original cast and creators of the comedy series “Mystery Science Theater 3000” (“MST3K”).
On “MST3K,” a man and two robotic sidekicks are stuck on a space station and forced to watch horrendous cinematic offerings, which they joke about. The series, which first aired regionally in Minnesota, in 1988, and ended in 1999 on what is now the Syfy Channel, won a 1993 Peabody Award and in 1994 and 1995 was nominated for two Emmy Awards.
Taking the basic premise from the TV show and bringing it to the stage wasn’t difficult, says Josh Weinstein, who played Dr. Laurence Erhardt. That’s because cast members began their careers as stand-up comedians in Minneapolis, he says.
“It was surprisingly seamless. I think part of that is because we have this loyal audience that has continued to love ‘Mystery Theater’ even though it’s been off the air for over a decade,” says Weinstein. “People have maintained their relationship with the series; so when they come to stage shows, they are accustomed to that rhythm. ‘Oh there’s going to be a voice interrupting this movie’ so they don’t feel that it is an interruption. Their ears are open to the whole thing.”
Like Weinstein, fellow cast member Mary Jo Pehl has a genuine love for B movies.
“I was always a movie fan, especially of B movies,” says Pehl. “I am of the generation when I would baby-sit I would watch horror and mystery movies on network TV. One that I remember was “From Hell It Came,” it was a about a vengeful tree. It was a favorite.
“They played it so straight,” she says. “The plot and dialogue was wonderfully bad.”
Weinstein adds that B movie creators deserve some respect for just their sheer effort.
“It is so hard to make a movie — a good one or a bad one,” he says. “Shooting of a bad movie, they have all the things good movies have, camera, lights, actors, directors, but yet something has gone horribly wrong, it is always about choices. And why would they make those bad, weird, implausible choices becomes fascinating.”
While the “Cinematic Titanic” crew has discussed bringing MST3K back to TV, Weinstein and Pehl say they’re having fun with the stage production.
“I think we have settled into the fact that we love this being a live show. It’s sort of an evolution of what we did before,” says Weinstein. “While people are feeling nostalgic for the TV show, I don’t feel we are doing a nostalgia show. We don’t want to get mired in ‘Remember us?'”
“We are actually meeting our fans face-to-face after each show,” she says. “It is great to have that interaction.”