The lights in the auditorium fade. A large, boxy white dot — the product of primitive late 1970’s video technology — appears on screen, prompting J. Elvis Weinstein to quip, “In the beginning, there was Pong.” And thus begins the second Cinematic Titanic Live, the latest release in Joel Hodgson’s MST3k riffing offshoot. The main course at this roast is The Alien Factor, an extremely amateurish 1978 science fiction movie from Baltimore’s famed Do-It-Yourself filmmaker, Don Dohler.
Panic is about to grip the entire population of a small rural Maryland redneck town. Well, panic would grip the population of a small rural Maryland redneck town if the trio of murderous aliens that recently escaped from a crashed zoological spaceship weren’t gallivanting about and murdering them! Fortunately, though, there’s an adventurous, portly, porn-stached astronomer there to jump into the ring and take the unstoppable extra terrestrials on one by one. Who is he? What strange powers enable him to communicate telepathically (or is it “telepathetically?”) with the aliens? And will he be able to save the day in time before the backwoods local yokels screw things up any further?
Frankly, one would either be lying or insane if they said they cared. The Alien Factor is one bad mama jama of a movie. The writing is on-par with that of a short science fiction story contest entry written by a high school jock. The actors would have a hard time getting cast in a community theater play even if no one else auditioned. And the special effects are as cheap as they can possibly get. But of course, anyone familiar with the legacy of admittedly cheapo sci-fi and horror films from the late Don Dohler (who sadly, passed away in 2006 at the age of 60) knows that said “flaws” are what made his early works so fun — and the audience members at Cinematic Titanic Live: The Alien Factor recognize such.
I think the Cinematic Titanic crew may have been just as aware of The Alien Factor’s naïve charm as well — because this is by far the driest presentation (live or otherwise) that I have seen from them yet (I didn’t see The Wasp Woman, FYI — and I only mention that because I hear it’s a dry one, too). There are a lot of “silent” moments to be found here wherein our riffers are not tackling the movie relentlessly. Instead, they seem to sit back and smile at the movie’s own ineptitude while the audience chuckles away at the same. It’s only natural, too: by itself, The Alien Factor is ripe with unintentional humor.