[5 December 2007]
The Film Crew is the latest series from Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, those crazy guys behind Mystery Science Theater 3000. And if you loved MST 3000, chances are you’ll have an equal measure of affection for this new program. Upon first glance, this reconfiguration lacks the visual panache created by MST 3000. With its sci-fi sets, robot characters, and live actors, MST 3000 allowed for far more movie-break nuttiness. But smart and funny film commentary is the central element that made MST 3000 great, and this new offering easily lives up to the older program’s high standards.
Rather than being banished to outer space and forced to watch bad movies, which was the setup for MST 3000, our hapless trio is given the equally unenviable task of providing DVD film commentary for stinker films that lack any spoken accompaniment – a standard bonus feature with almost every new DVD, these days. But instead of creating an insider’s view into the making of the film, along with a love-fest description of it, our boys pick it apart the way vultures devour days old antelope in Africa’s wilderness.
The plot of this film is unimportant, unless, of course, you’re one of those people who have never seen a film they didn’t like. (And for you folks, there is absolutely no hope). But for the sake of discussion, The Giant of Marathon tells the story of an ancient Olympic athlete who is asked to lead the Greeks against an invading Persian army. Phillipides is the name of this star sportsman, and he is played by Steve Reeves.
The Film Crew’s unseen boss is Mr. Bob Honcho, who is heard asking over the phone, “What the hell has this world come to?” while explaining how The Giant of Marathon doesn’t yet have a commentary. He has called the guys from a private moon shot, presumably where he’s accompanied for the ride by lady friend Rita Moreno. But he must hang up quickly after ‘they’ begin taking meteor hits while out on his space ride.
It’s not long before the movie’s commentary gets down and dirty. After the camera pans across a couple of stereotypical Athenian male statues, we hear this remark: “They didn’t have penises back then, just huge testicles.” [As a warning to you parents, there are far more potty jokes in this series than Mystery Science 3000] And when they ask themselves, “This isn’t too gay, is it?” the question foreshadows a lot of gay jokes to come. After all, the original film is filled with shiny, shirtless men, and our commentators cannot seem to pass up any obvious gay joke. The movie may not be too gay for you, although the commentary might be.
Before we get to the film’s climactic battle scenes, however, the movie is interrupted by one extensive staged scene where the crew members are looked in on taking their lunch break. Much to the other two’s dismay, Bill Corbett enthusiastically reenacts the war scenes using the other two guys’ lunch elements. It’s all in the name of art, of course, but it also leaves them hungry. In another extra bit, the guys come up with even sillier hats than what the film’s actual warriors wore—and the actual soldier attire is pretty pathetic, described as Keebler Elf wear. The cinematic battle scenes are so lame; I found the food fight rendition far more exciting.
It’s hard to imagine anyone sitting all the way through this film without the humorous help of The Film Crew. This is a movie with a whole lot of posing, yet little action. Period pieces like Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments are classics because they are based on familiar stories and recreated beautifully. The Giant of Marathon has all the stereotypical elements of a period piece, but without one ounce of tangible drama. It tries hard to be taken seriously, however, which is why The Film Crew is able to have so much fun with it.