The Oozing Skull is the first release from Cinematic Titanic, a project that reunites the original cast and writers of Mystery Science Theater 3000 as well as writer/performers from later in the series. Series creator Joel Hodgson is joined once again by Trace Beaulieu, Frank Connif, Mary Jo Pehl, and J. Elvis Weinstein (with a special guest appearance by Dr. Stephen Hawking). MST3K was perhaps the greatest TV show in the history of the medium, at least as far as this B-movie buff is concerned. Each week the program would show a schlocky old flick with the cast, shown in silhouette in the bottom right of the screen, constantly tossing jokes at the screen. Cinematic Titanic does very much the same thing, with all five of the writer/performers appearing on screen and riffing in a style reminiscent of MST3K. Not every joke hits its mark, but there are so damn many of them, you'd have to be inhuman not to find something to laugh at here. The film being skewered here was originally called Brain of Blood, a 1972 release from Hemisphere Pictures, directed by Schlock-meister Al Adamson, who also inflicted Dracula Vs. Frankenstein, Naughty Stewardesses and Satan's Sadists on the world. The title has been changed to The Oozing Skull to avoid confusion with the original version of the film which is also available on DVD. Amir, the leader of a middle eastern country that seems oddly populated by caucasian people, is dying, but his most loyal aids are not ready to let him go. Dr. Trenton has perfected human brain transplants, and upon Amir's death his brain will be placed in a healthy young body. A classic monster film screw up leads to the brain being put into the body of Gor, a monstrously huge lab assistant with a severely scarred face. Chaos and gore (and Gor) ensue. The cast includes Adamson regulars Regina Carrol, Zandor Vorkov and Kent Taylor, as well as Grant Williams (star of The Incredible Shrinking Man) and Angelo Rossitto (the diminutive half of Master Blaster from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome).
The jokes come fast and furious, with the Cinematic Titanic cast tossing out diverse pop culture references ranging from The Pussycat Dolls to comic book artist Todd McFarlane to Rankin Bass's Mad Monster Party. The humor occasionally finds the cast slipping into exaggerated mid-western accents, making them sound like Principal Victoria from South Park. There are plenty of great gags here, with two of my favorites being "Pepperidge Farm dismembers," and referring to a corpse rapped in aluminum foil as "stiffy pop." Several times the film stops to allow for more extended jokes, but these broke the flow and I hope it's a practice that doesn't continue with future installments. At any rate, if MST3K is your bag, then you'll definitely want to check this out.
Noticeably missing from the ensemble is MST3K head writer and host from the post-Joel seasons Mike Nelson. Nelson has a similar project going with the remaining MST3K cast members Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett called The Film Crew (here's my review of their first release), in which they provide silhouette-less humorous audio commentaries to otherwise dreadful films, as well as Riff-Trax, a service that supplies downloadable film riffs for mainstream flicks and television shows. Who would have thought that a market as specialized as movie riffing would breed competing projects, but as a fan of the old show I say the more the merrier.
Interestingly, The Oozing Skull has been available on DVD for a few months, but just recently it's become available as a downloadable DVD from eztakes.com. You pay your $9.99, download the flick and watch it on your computer and/or burn it to DVD. The disk could have been spruced up with a few extras like interviews or behind the scenes stuff, but the official site promises more installments are on the way, so maybe future releases will sport a few extras.