An all-new Pop Culture Beast is coming!

An all-new Pop Culture Beast is coming!
Pardon our dust!

Pop Culture Beast proudly supports The Trevor Project

Pop Culture Beast proudly supports The Trevor Project
Please consider doing the same.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXV (2012) DVD Review

For those who are unfamiliar with Mystery Science Theater 3000, the basic idea is that Joel is working for some people who don't like him, and they shoot him off into space and experiment on him (and torture him) by making him watch bad films on his ship. To remain sane, Joel creates a couple of robots and the three of them make jokes about the movies. So yes, this show essentially turns B-grade films into The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  It sounds lame, I know, but trust me, it isn't.

Also, you might think these would be good for just one viewing. But you'd be wrong. I still have some episodes of this show on videocassette, and that is one of the reasons I can't get rid of my VCR. I do still watch those episodes on a somewhat regular basis.

The show is filled out with some very short sketches aboard the ship, named the Satellite of Love. Those sketches are hit or miss, but the jokes about the films are often incredibly clever and witty. These aren't idiots shouting at a screen.  There are often literary references (for example, in this box set there are references to Shakespeare and Steinbeck, among others), as well as references to films and television programs and music. Pop culture geeks rejoice!

Volume XXV features four episodes that were previously unavailable on DVD, each episode on its own disc. There are some special features on each of the discs, including introductions by Joel Hodgson and Mike Nelson. I do wish, however, that the DVDs also included the original films, preferably widescreen. This is especially true of Operation: Kid Brother, which isn't available in any other DVD format.

Disc 1: Robot Holocaust

The first episode is from 1990 and so quite early in the series.  The film they watch is called Robot Holocaust. Sometimes the movies they watch aren't too terrible, but this one is unbelievably bad. And often when the film is particularly bad, the show is particularly good.  Before the feature, there is a short segment of a Commander Cody serial. As for the feature, the evil overlords tell Joel the movie is in color. Joel and the robots cheer, until they hear, "but it's edited for television," and the excitement turns to despair.  That was always my reaction upon learning something was edited for television.  At one point during the film, Joel holds his hands up to cover the nipples of a male wrestling spectator, and says, "I'm editing this."

This episode has a lot of great moments. Here are a few that stood out for me:
- When four of the actors enter frame individually and stop suddenly, Joel says, "Uh, here's my mark" (and yes, the actor on screen actually looks down for his mark).
- A pointless voice over says, "A knife is placed in the ground." Their response: "A voiceover is placed in the script." 
- A female character says, "We have no history. We have always been here."  Crow responds, "So you have a history."
- One character says, "We must be quiet from here on in."  Another asks, "Why?"  Crow answers, "Writers' strike."

One of the female actors has some sort of outrageous speech impediment, so the gang has a lot of fun at her expense.

I also like the invention exchange at the beginning of the episode: a ski mask that shows expressions so criminals won't be misunderstood. So thoughtful.

There are a couple of special features on this disc. The first is a five-minute introduction by Joel Hodgson, in which he says this is one of the first episodes and talks about production being rushed. The second feature is titled Life After MST3K: J. Elvis Weinstein, and it's an eighteen-minute interview with J. Elvis Weinstein about - you guessed it - what he's done since leaving the series. He talks about going on the road as a comic, moving to Los Angeles, writing for Later With Greg Kinnear, Talk Soup, Freaks And Geeks, and then Dead Last (I actually liked that show). He also talks about Cinematic Titanic.

Disc 2: Operation: Kid Brother

The second disc features a film titled Operation: Kid Brother (though the title on screen is Operation Double 007). During the film's opening credits, Crow says, "You know when there's four people on a screenplay, there's going to be trouble." Indeed. In this film, Sean Connery's brother Neil plays James Bonds' brother, though the character is named Neil Connery. Go figure. Several actors from the Bond series are featured, including the woman who played Moneypenny. I've seen all the Bond pictures, but had never heard of this.  There's a reason for that: It's terrible (worse than Never Say Never Again and perhaps even worse than Die Another Day). But that means it's bound to be a good film for the MST3K gang.

Here are a couple of my favorite moments:
- A character says, "This is beginning to look pretty serious." Tom Servo responds, "We'd better bring Sean in."
- Connery tells a woman, "You have gorgeous eyes, you know." She asks, "Do you really like them?" Connery replies, "Very much." Crow then asks, "Can I have one?"
- The female lead wears an adorable fur outfit, sort of like Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, but with the addition of fur mittens. And when she's in a helicopter, they quip, "Airwolf meets Doctor Zhivago." Perfect.

As always, there are plenty of pop culture references, including references to "El Paso," Sleeper and Police Squad. (And I'm always intrigued because there are several references I don't get.) And during one of the breaks from the film, the gang contrasts the careers of Sean Connery and Neil Connery.

This disc has only one special feature, a three-minute introduction by Joel Hodgson, in which he talks about how it was his last season.  By the way, as far as I know, this movie is not available on DVD, so this is basically its only DVD release.

Disc 3: Kitten With A Whip

When you pop in the third disc, let the menu screen play for a while. It's hilarious.  This movie, Kitten With A Whip, isn't nearly as bad as the others. For one thing, it stars Ann-Margret and John Forsythe. Ann-Margret plays a sexy and completely insane young woman who thrusts herself into the life of a man who might later pursue a political career. As she tries to jump a train at the beginning, the gang jokes, "Ann-Margret in The Woody Guthrie Story." (For anyone who hasn't seen Bound For Glory, you should absolutely check out that film.) The Apocalypse Now reference is great. During a sudden action sequence, they say, "Whoa, the cameraman must not have expected this."

This disc's special feature is an introduction by Mike Nelson, in which he talks about how this film is outside their usual fare.

Disc 4: Revenge Of The Creature

The fourth disc's episode is from 1997, much later in the series. This one adds a bit of a plot to the show, the plot coming from Planet Of The Apes. Yes, you guessed it: It's completely unnecessary, and Mike Nelson actually talks about that in one of the disc's special features. This one starts slowly, but ends up being one of the funniest episodes.

For those who don't know, Revenge Of The Creature is the seriously lame sequel to The Creature From The Black Lagoon. Some men go to capture the creature. And on the boat on the Amazon, there is of course the obligatory Jaws reference. But there is also a Manimal reference (Remember that one? Of course you do).

Here are a few of my favorite bits:
- The creature actually waves at the camera, and the gang jokes, "Hi, Pop," "Hey, Ted, how's it going?"
- They capture the creature and bring him to Florida, where they move him around in a tank to revive him. When it works, the gang quips, "Oh ho, that's good chlorine" and "Great, I've got to change my name to Creature Of The Edinburgh Park Kiddie Pool" and "Open creature swim until 5 p.m."
- When they move the creature to a large tank, while he's tied up and chained, they guys say, "They're treating him like Bobby Seale" (a nice reference to the Black Panther who was a defendant in the Trial Of The Chicago 8).
- As a turtle swims by, they sing a line of "Happy Together." (There's also a Country Joe & The Fish reference.)

But one of my favorite bits is when the gang makes fun of an extra who keeps pointing off into space. (Extras should never point or look at their watches.)

There are some great baseball references in this episode, as well as a Grapes Of Wrath reference. But my favorite is, of course, the Hamlet reference. The girl goes to look in the tank, to find the creature seated by himself at the bottom. Tom Servo says, "O that this too, too solid flesh." That is the first line from Hamlet's first soliloquy, from Act I Scene ii.

The segment on board the ship with the nanites - Wade and Ned - is great. Often the sketches on the ship aren't all that good. But this is a definite exception.

This fourth disc has more special features than the others, including an introduction by Mike Nelson (7 minutes), in which he says this was the first episode on the Sci-Fi Channel, and how the folks there wanted a story. Ah-ha. Auteur On The Campus: Jack Arnold At Universal is a 20-minute documentary about Jack Arnold, who also directed It Came From Outer Space. In this documentary, they explain that that film was shot with the idea of never seeing the monster, but the studio went ahead and designed a creature anyway. This documentary also has segments about Creature From The Black Lagoon, Revenge Of The Creature, Tarantula, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Monster On The Campus and No Name On The Bullet.  The third special feature is Life After MST3K: Bill Corbett, a twelve-minute interview in which Bill Corbett talks about the animated series he worked on and RiffTrax.

This box set also includes 4 mini-posters of the individual DVD cases for the episodes.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXV is scheduled to be released on December 4, 2012 through Shout! Factory.

Post a Comment