Throughout the first seven Cinematic Titanic releases, I always had an underlying feeling that there was something missing. Granted, all of the first seven releases were good in their own way — some were perfect, in fact — but the whole setup seemed as if it had one foot in limbo, while the rest of its body stood firmly in our universe.
Fortunately, with the release of their eighth DVD, the former Mystery Science Theater 3000 crowd (Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, J. Elvis Weinstein, and Mary Jo Pehl) have developed a formula that works: a live presentation. And there’s no better movie for a live audience than East Meets Watts (a fitting alias for a Z-Grade 1970s blaxploitation/martial arts flick, Dynamite Brothers) from the late exploitation guru Al Adamson.
Thrill to the logic-defying adventures of streetwise urbanite Stud Brown (former running back Timothy Brown, who also appeared in both the MASH movie as well as the TV series) and Hong Kong ass-kicker Larry Chin (martial arts star Alan Tang, in his only all English-speaking role). After they are both arrested by a corrupt cop (the great Aldo Ray), the unlikely tag-team of handcuffed heroes venture to L.A., where Larry attempts to find his long lost brother (who murdered his wife), and Stud promises to help his Watts District buddies’ by discovering who is behind the wave of heroine pushing. As it turns out of course, both Stud and Larry are looking for the same guy: Wei Chin (veteran character actor James Hong, who probably omits this entry on his résumé). It’s nothing but kung-fu action, funky soul music, and racist white cops all the way, baby.
Alas, Al Adamson didn’t quite succeed in making the masterpiece some guy somewhere must’ve hoped for with East Meets Watts. Bad news for the cast and crew of the film, perhaps — but it’s excellent riff-material for the Cinematic Titanic crew. From their near-abusive inner monologues for Aldo Ray to the constant barrage of bad puns and politically incorrect jokes for the film’s lead characters, East Meets Watts is easily the best work the Cinematic Titanic brains have assembled to date. And the fact that it’s all live, complete with uproarious laughter and hissing from the audience, makes it that much better.
Aside from being the first live event, East Meets Watts is also the first DVD release from Cinematic Titanic to be available in widescreen. The main feature itself (which looks like it was culled from a VHS source) is displayed in a standard square-ish ratio in the center of the screen, while the CT cast members are placed to the immediate left and right of the image. Unlike the previous CT releases, we do not get the performers’ silhouettes this time: for once, we get to see their actual facial expressions — which is enjoying in itself (check out the moment when an onscreen character drops the “N” Bomb, for example), but absolutely hilarious when they foul-up their lines or ad-lib (by my scoring, TV’s Frank is still the man, especially when he jokingly shouts out “How dare you judge me!” to an unseen audience member who obviously didn’t care for his joke).
Audio-wise, the DVD houses a two-channel stereo track. The track itself is very clean, and every line comes through clearly (many of the audience’s remarks are distinct, too). The beginning of Trace’s first line appears to have been dubbed in for this video release, owing undoubtedly to a technical difficulty during the performance. The only special features here include previews for the other Cinematic Titanic releases. Please note that this release contains a brief bit of nudity and mild profanity. Cinematic Titanic Live: East Meets Watts is available at the official Cinematic Titanic website (along with all of the other releases) via DVD or download.
Most definitely recommended. Keep up the good work, guys and gal — you’re rockin’ the world of movie riffin’ more than ever.