May 22, 2016

Seattle International Film Festival 2016: Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu of MST3K Riff on Glen or Glenda (1953)

SIFF staffers sent MST3K superfan Jeffery to the front of the line when they saw his Tom Servo robot

I started Seattle International Film Festival 2016 with a bang, watching a midnight screening at the SIFF Egyptian Theater. And I can't think of a better time to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 legends Frank Conniff (TV's Frank) and Trace Beaulieu (Crow T. Robot) doing what they do best, riff on bad movies. I mean, I actually associate Trace Beaulieu's voice with late nights watching MST3K when I couldn't get to sleep after going out. It was almost touching to be mere feet away from him, hearing his familiar, comforting, wise ass comments.

The pair chose Ed Wood Jr's nearly incomprehensible Glen or Glenda (1953) and the hilarious and frightening dating advice short More Dates for Kay (1952). Both movies were odd enough to inspire laughs on their own, but they would have been unbearable without these two weighing in. As it is, there were people in the audience laughing so hard they were choking.

Beaulieu and Conniff sat to the right of the screen, with their faces slightly illuminated. It was pretty amusing to have the rare chance to actually see what they look like when they make all those comments. It was weird though, just like live accompaniment for silent movies I got used to them being there and eventually forgot to look over.
Beaulieu and Conniff between films
I know these guys plan and practice for a performance, but they somehow make it seem like they're making it all up as they go along. It was amazing how closely they matched the spirit and tone of MST3K. Of course, they did take advantage of the freedom to be a lot raunchier. Makes you wonder want an uncensored version of the TV series would have been like.

The pair made much of the fact that More Dates for Kay (1952) essentially encouraged mid-century teenagers to stalk men. Apparently desperation, manipulation and a total lack of self-respect were A-Okay back in the day if it meant finding a boyfriend.

Then began the utter confusion of Glen or Glenda, the kind of movie that makes you feel like you've fallen asleep for a few minutes, even though you've been unable to tear your eyes away. Somewhere inside this 68 minute movie, there's a five minute film about a man who struggles with transvestism in an age where men in female clothes could face arrest.

@IngyandMillie wore Tom Servo and Crow earrings
To pad out the wispy storyline there are long passages of Bela Lugosi squinting and making people appear and disappear, extended shots of cars rushing down the freeway--supposedly to represent the masses of ordinary, non-transvestite people, an endless dream sequence featuring a lady rocking on a sideways couch, and a jauntily-scored series of S&M scenarios with ladies writhing on a couch that looks like it was found on the curb and fighting off rape from what looks like the devil. That last part made me ask out loud if I'd been sleeping.

Glen or Glenda is full of scenes that start, but never quite end. For some reason it has a lot of people waving their hands around at different times. Wood seemed to think that hands were the key to good drama. I watch and enjoy a lot of so-called bad movies, so I thought I was pretty strong, but this one hurt my brain.

Basically, these guys chose wisely; this movie was crazy, and I never would have made it through without them. I usually can't help drifting off a bit at midnight screenings, but this time I stayed wide awake, and laughed the whole time. A great start to SIFF 2016.


  1. I love the MST3K guys... Sound like the best (only?!?) way to watch those films. :)

  2. Seriously Carrie, if only they could come over when I watch that stuff.

  3. That guy with the Tom Servo sure is neat. Wait a minute, I am that guy!

    Good write up. This show was spectacular.

  4. Thank you for commenting Jeffery! I felt so silly forgetting to get your name. I suppose I was just excited about the show. I've updated the caption. Thanks for the kind words. I also thought it was a fantastic show. Once-in-a-lifetime really.

  5. Yaaay! It was awesome getting to see this with you. A truly unique experience. Ha

  6. Wasn't it amazing? Definitely the kind of experience you can't replicate. It's been so much fun to extend that TCMFF vibe with you at SIFF!