Last night I watched Episode 1 with commentary from RiffTrax. RiffTrax is the brainchild of Mike Nelson, formerly of Mystery Science Theater 3000. If you were a fan of MST3K, you already understand the basic premise behind RiffTrax: Mike (and friends) record a snarky commentary track to a film and release it as an mp3 file. Simply load the file into whatever media player you choose, press play and follow the audio directions. I understood this all in principal (especially since I beta-tested the same concept a few years ago when
was experimenting with DVDTracks), and I loved MST when it was on the air, but I couldn’t tell if this would work or not.
When I saw that they had done Episode 1, I couldn’t resist.. The first thing you notice is that the commentary is delivered in a zip file containing an unprotected mp3 and a text file. The text file contains some basic information and also a guide to mapping “movie time” to “audio time” with some dialog snippets to help you in case you pause or stop the film for whatever reason and lose sync between the two. My biggest concern was the issue of sync, but the RiffTrax guys handled it very well… At the start of the audio file there is some introductory matter, and then there were instructions to pause the audio track after a countdown and to un-pause it after “A long time ago…” faded off the screen. In addition, they have a “robot” named DisembAudio which occasionally recites a line of dialog so you can tell if they were in sync. In practice, I found that it didn’t really matter if they were out of sync, even if it was by a second or two, but also that unless you were pausing or whatever, you didn’t have to worry about sync at all.
As far as content goes, Mike has Kevin Murphy at his side for this one, who you may recognize better as the voice of Tom Servo on MST. Other tracks feature Bill Corbett, who voiced Crow and was also a writer on the old show. While the commentary for Episode 1 started off a little slow (just like the movie!), once they got into a groove it was like old times again. It was a great experience, and if you are an MSTie, you owe it to yourself to grab one of their tracks and give it a go. Obviously with my small sample size, I don’t know how much the quality varies, but for 2-3 bucks, it’s a pretty good deal. I might even consider renting some REAL stinkers and just buying the RiffTrax that go along with them to make them watchable. :)