If you’ve lived in Seattle long enough, at some point, you might have seen a poster for Twisted Flicks and wondered what Jet City Improv’s on-the-spot movie redubbing entails. The premise for the show is simple: an obscure black and white movie is played in its entirety while improv performers and musicians reimagine the dialogue and score. It’s been happening with a new film every month ever since the 1997 original, but, on October 25th, I saw the opening night performance of Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster.
I immediately loved the mood of the venue from the moment I walked in. A large amount of attendees who seemed to be regulars were already seated and mingling with the cast, who were roaming the theater for suggestions. This atmosphere made the space feel like it hosted a community of people who cared about each other—comedians who love to perform and an audience eager to support them. Even with an established fan base, the environment was nothing but welcoming and not exclusionary in any capacity.
Each of the performers introduced themselves and the night’s suggestions before Bride of the Monster officially began. As a connoisseur of so-bad-it’s-good cinema, a few things immediately stood out. First off, the director, Ed Wood, created what is considered by many to be the worst movie of all time: Plan 9 From Outer Space. Adding to the campy atmosphere, former Swedish wrestler and B movie mainstay Tor Johnson stars in Bride of the Monster alongside Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi, in his last speaking role. Few films can top the amount of pure awful baked into this triumph of cinematic failure.
Jet City Improv in Twisted Flicks. Photo by Todd Gardiner.
The plot of Bride of the Monster was hard to follow without any of the intended dialogue, but I’m sure even with the original audio it would be something of a mess. Regardless, the movie’s humorous enough on its own without being the focus of an improv show. Bela Lugosi flailing around on the world’s least convincing rubber octopus is funny—a scene made even more hilarious because it’s the end result of a mad scientist running away from a chronically nervous detective.
Twisted Flicks’ format was really the definitive factor in determining the worth of the show. It succeeds in being unique; shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000, which revolves around commentary accompanying old movies, and Bad Lip Reading, a program that consists of comedic dubbing over TV shows and sporting events, are Twisted Flicks’ closest contemporaries. But both are pretty distant from the live, improvisational nature of this show.
My main problem with Twisted Flicks is that, at times, it could be hard to follow. I wouldn’t say that it detracted from my enjoyment of the humor, but I found it difficult to explain to my friends and family how the improvisers spoofed the source material as a result. For example, one of my favorite bits riffed on the random parrot that sat on the police chief’s shoulder. The jokes they made about the parrot controlling the police unit were funny, but the bird completely vanishes from the rest of the movie apart from this one scene. It’s no fault of the performers—they don’t get to control the course of the movie—but when elements that can become pretty important to the plot of the improvised show come and go at essentially random intervals, it creates a narrative that works in person but falls apart outside of the theater, at least in my experience.
There were definitely moments during the night where the entire audience was laughing hysterically, but that wasn’t really the style of comedy that this show was about. It was more of a chuckle-here-and-there kind of funny; not all of the jokes were drop-dead hilarious, but there were enough silly quips peppered throughout to still get enjoyment out of the movie. While I didn’t think this was a bad thing at all, I could imagine people who have a specific expectation for the show leaving disappointed.
So, if you’re in the mood for some improv movie madness, grab a friend, grab some popcorn, and head on down to Jet City Improv to give Twisted Flicks a try. Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster premiers November 23rd, and it’s guaranteed to be a mix of rubber-suit monster antics and pure comedic insanity.
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