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Movies Are New Again With Fan-Made Commentaries

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When DVDs (and before them, Laserdiscs) were new, I really used to enjoy listening to the commentary tracks. Granted, some were better than others, but I couldn’t seem to get enough of the “behind the scenes” talk, and to hear the cast and crew telling funny stories about each other.

Those don’t interest me as much as they used to, and in fact these days I’m more likely to rent a DVD than buy it, but there is a kind of commentary track that I still enjoy: the kind made by people who weren’t at all involved in making the movie.

The gold standard for these is Rifftrax, from three of the people who made Mystery Science Theater 3000. When it comes to making fun of movies, few people have had anywhere near as much practice. It’s a pretty ingenious system that manages to avoid conflicts with copyright law. Here’s how it works:

  • Find a commentary track for a movie that you have a copy of (or want to rent, or buy)
  • Pay $3 or $4
  • Download the .mp3 file (free of DRM, of course)
  • Play the movie and the .mp3 file simultaneously (the commentary will come with instructions for syncing and a guide to help you get back on track if they drift apart)

Here’s an example from the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie:

This is a great way to spend a few dollars and make new again some of the movies you probably already have on your shelf. Some of my favorites from Rifftrax go with movies that honestly, nobody should own (Troll 2 comes immediately to mind), but among those you’re likely to have lying around, these are good, too:

Do you know of any other good “alternate commentary” sources? Tell us in the comments!

Updated September 8, 2011 and originally published May 22, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Smithee formerly lived primarily on credit cards and the good will of his friends. He is a newbie to personal finance but quickly learning from his past mistakes. You can follow him on Twitter, where his user name is @SmitheeConsumer. View all articles by .

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Clare K

Pretty neat… I haven’t seen any of these…. you’d want to make sure you’d already seen the original, though!:) Some of their comments are a bit dumb in a not-too-funny way, though.

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avatar Smithee ♦1,358 (Quarter)

Oh, I disagree. I don’t think I could ever have tolerated “Twilight” or “The Happening” without the Rifftrax to go with them. The guys are smart enough not to talk over important plot points.

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avatar irishgrl

rifftrax sounds exactly like Mystery Science Theater 3000. And they both copied Fractured Flickers. Nothing new under the sun as they say…

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avatar Jim

I like Rifftrax. It will likely go over pretty well with MST3k fans like myself but this kind of humor isn’t for everyone.

Using Rifftrax audio simultaneously with the DVD movie can be a bit annoying if you don’t have the right setup. Initially I played the Rifftrax on my portable MP3 player and had the headphones on while I watched the movie on the big TV with the stereo on. That was a little annoying trying to listen to both the MP3 player and TV audio and keep them both in synch. But then I hooked the computer to the TV and I can play the movie in the computer DVD drive and also play the Rifftrax MP3 on the computer so I get both the original and Rifftrax audio on the computer without headphones.

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avatar Fardawg

THE place to find most, if not all, of the fan commentaries out there is zarban.com
It has over 2,000 commentaries so far. Down in front, MMM commentaries, and Tysto are several examples of good fan commentary sites that are listed on Zarban.

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