In a nutshell: The best four
disc set of MST that Rhino has released yet!
With their seventh Mystery Science Theater Collection Rhino releases
one of the best sets to date. Featuring three shows from the fourth
season, the show's golden age, and a solid effort from season 8, all of
these experiments are winners.
Most of you reading this are probably already familiar with Mystery
Science Theater 3000 (or MST for short.) For those of
you who might have missed it, here is the concept in a nutshell: Joel (later
replaced by Mike) is trapped on a satellite in space by an evil scientist.
This mad man (or his mother in the later shows) tortures poor Joel by forcing
him to watch really bad movies. To keep his sanity, Joel has used
parts from the ship to fashion robots, Crow and Tom Servo, who watch the
movies with him. While these movies are playing, Joel, Crow and Tom
are silhouetted at the bottom of the screen and crack jokes at the movie's
expense. It sounds simple, but it is one of the funniest shows to
ever air on television. One of the reason's for the show's success
is the fact that the jokes come form all over. They will throw in references
to pop culture, ancient history, current events, movies, music (classical,
jazz, country or rock,) politics, famous people, (and not-so-famous people)
and just about anything else you can think of. Some of the trivia
they come up with is so obscure it is amazing.
Of course, the quality of the movies they pick are almost not an issue.
As a general rule, the worse the movie is, the better the show will be.
(As evidenced by Manos, Hands of Fate. A totally abysmal film
that is arguably the best episode of MST ever. Read my review
In any case, I'll give a brief synopsis of the movies, as well as a review
of the quality of the episode.
408 - Hercules Unchained:
Joel : This is like Empire Strikes Back,
only..not all that great.
In this second Hercules movie, the last to star Steve Reeves, the Greek
hero wanders around with his pal Ulysses in a loin cloth showing off his
muscles. After opening a can of Wup Ass on a guy who gets his strength
from the ground, he drinks from the Fountain of Forgetfulness, and forgets
who he is. (D'oh!) An evil queen captures Herc and with daily
doses of the fountain's water, keeps him around as her boy-toy.
It's up to Ulysses to save his friend from the horrible fate of unending
sex with willing, hot babes.
Crow: Brass! I can't bend it. Guess
I have to stay here with all the nymphs.
This was a fun show with a lot of riffs at Hercules expense. Joel
and the bots keep the jokes flowing, and the movie has a least a little
bit of a plot to keep viewers interested. There are also a great
host segment where the naive robots ask a nervous Joel what Hercules and
the nice women are doing off camera. All around a funny episode.
Episode 410 - Hercules Against the Moon Men:
Crow - Wait, he can bend steel but he can't break
through a net??
is back, but this time it's Allan Steele in the leather miniskirt.
Herc finds himself knee deep in another plot involving an evil queen, this
time it's Queen Samara who has been making human sacrifices to aliens from
the moon. The muscle man checks it out and ends up fighting a monkey
creature, some rock men, and having to get through a really long and boring
Adam Tyner, in his
review of this set remarked that it would have been better if Rhino
has selected another episode, rather than have two Hercules movies back
to back. While I agree with that, I like this experiment a lot better
than Adam did. It isn't as good as Hercules Unchained, but
it still has some great moments.
There's a lot in this movie to make fun of; the clothing, the moon men,
and the silly rock creatures that can't raise their arms. Joel and
the bots make the most of it, laughing their way through this truly awful
movie. The never-ending sandstorm, and all of the complaints it elicited
was a great example of MST turning really bad film making into great
Joel: Guys, I think I'm beginning to give into..Deep
The host segment with the mad scientists this time around is really
good. They let Joel know that this experiment is going to involve
"Deep Hurting! Deep Hurting!" which it does. While this is
the weakest effort in the set, its still a solid effort.
816 - Prince of Space:
Crow: His power lies in his ability to choose
A wonderfully cheesy Japanese sci-fi movie is riffed in this episode.
When beak-faced chicken-aliens from the planet crank whore, opps I mean
Krankor, led by the Phantom of Krankor try to take over the Earth, the
only person who can possibly stop them is *da-ta-da* the Prince of Space.
You see the Krankor weapons don't work on the Prince, though he does have
the tendency to run away during battles even though he's not hurt.
Tom: Go you bizarre little man!
This is one of the strongest shows from the Sc-Fi Channel days.
It just works all around. The movie is outrageously goofy and almost
seems to be playing into the writers hands at times. Mile and the
bots are in top form, and riff constantly throughout the movie. How
could they NOT come up with a show full of jokes? The costumes alone
are a laugh riot, and the little kids (it's a Japanese SF movie, it has
to have kids in it) in their unsettling short pants are just ripe for being
made fun of.
Crow: I have no superpowers, but I can skip
This is one of those episodes that you can watch again and again.
It seems to get funnier every time I see it.
Episode 407 - The Killer Shrews (with the short
Joel: Go ahead, strip me of my dignity at
age four. What are you looking at!?!
This movie starts off with a short about an old man who convinces some
children to put on a rodeo for kids. The jokes fly as frequently
as the kids do. The managed to refrain from any PETA jokes, making
fun of the kids, and the adults watching them. A great little short.
Tom: Ya know, it seems that being a cowboy
would kind of suck.
The Killer Shews:
Joel: Does anyone know the plot yet?
The captain of a small ship is taking supplies out to an island that
houses a small group of scientists when a hurricane blows in. He's
trapped on the island, and discovers that the scientists have accidently
created giant, poisonous, shrews that look like dogs with bath mats on
their backs. They've eaten all the animals on the island and so the
starving animals set their sights on the humans in their gated compound.
Crow: They're just puppies. What's he running
from puppies for?
low budget B-movie is the prefect fodder for Joel et al and make yet another
great episode. The stupid looking 'shrews', constant drinking by
the characters and inane subject create a lot of great straight lines for
the Satellite of Love residents to play off of. The jokes are
fairly constant and uniformly funny.
Joel: I think I just heard Griswold explode?
This episode also has one of the best opening segments the show ever
did. It's "Present Day," and Gypsy gets a the Little Mermaid Play
set she's always wanted! Joel gives Tom a scale race car that he
can ride in. It will got 30 MPH, has a cool stereo, and if he runs
into a wall, the car just bounces back and heads in another direction.
Joel's save the best for last though, and give the excited Crow...a pair
of dress pants from J. C. Penny. To add insult to injury, Tom doesn't
let him forget what a great present he's received.
Joel: Okay, I think this movie just broke
the goofy meter.
The audio on the host segments is very clean, and the riffs coming through
loud and clear. The audio during the movies are pretty good, though the
film's soundtracks leave a little to be desired. They actually do
a very good job mixing the audio from the movie in with the actor's comments,
adjusting the levels so that both the riffs and the movie can be heard.
Of course there are a couple of times when one or the other isn't as easy
to discern, but that is fairly rare.
The only movie that had really bad audio was The Killer Shrews.
There was a hum through the movie and it was also scratchy. With
MST, that's not really a drawback, and the show was aired that way.
There are no subtitles.
After watching this show for years on the S-VHS copies that I taped
off of Comedy Central when it was first broadcast, I was very pleased at
how clear it was. My S-VHS tapes are good but this is much better. The
host segments are clear and bright, while the silhouettes during the movie
are solid black. The quality of the movies themselves leave something to
be desired, but they look just as faded and scratchy as when they were
first shown on MST3K, which is how it should be.
This set also comes with three bonus shorts!
The highlight of the extras is Assignment: Venezuela. This
short was never aired, it was made for a CD-ROM project that was never
completed. It was only ever released as a mail order VHS tape from
Best Brains. This is the first time it has been widely distributed.
Mike's the host for this show which follows a petroleum engineer as
he is transferred to Venezuela and boy, this guy really likes oil.
In any case, Mike and the 'bots riff on his letters home to his family
as he describes the country and the wonderful Quonset hut that they'll
be living in.
Tom: It's like living in a B-52.
Running about 24 minutes, this short is okay but not outstanding.
The jokes were fairly average but still enjoyable. The print used
still has the time code on burned in and the silhouettes were soft, but
it was fun finally seeing this rare short.
The first short that MST3K broadcast after the show moved to
the Sci-Fi channel was Century 21 Calling. It originally appeared
in episode 906, The Space Children. This short, which involves a
pair of kids discovering what Ma Bell has in store for us at the 1962 Seattle
World's Fair was also just mediocre. There were some good moments,
but overall the result was uninspired.
Jumping from the first Sci-Fi era short we come to A Case of Spring
Fever which was the last short ever shown on Mystery Science Theater.
*sniff* (It accompanied episode 1012, Squirm.) At least the
shorts went out with a bang. This odd film is about a man who wishes
that there were no springs in the world. In a bizarre, twisted parody
of It's a Wonderful Life, a Spring Sprite grants him his wish, and
he gets to see how the world would be changed if springs didn't exist.
The horror...the horror. An easy short to riff since it was so dumb
to begin with, but Mike et al do a good job making this goofy short even
I have all of Rhino's four episode sets, and this is my favorite so
far. All of the shows are funny, and most of them have a high replay
value. The rare bonus material is just icing on the cake. If
you are a fan of Mystery Science Theater, run out and snag a copy of this.
DVD Talk Collector Series.