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Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 8
Rhino continues their releases of Mystery Science Theater episodes with another boxed set of four episodes. This eighth set has some great shows and though only one of them is hosted by Joel, all of these shows are solid and very funny. Rhino has created another great package. The fact that these boxed sets are cheaper than the individual releases on a per episode basis is a great bonus.
Most of you reading this are probably already familiar with Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or MST3K 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 here.) In any case, I'll give a brief synopsis of the movies, as well as a review of the quality of the episode.
The episodes included on this volume are:
Show #907 Hobgoblins
Crow: In an unforeseen tragedy, the two actors were not in the car at the time of the crash.
This cheesy low-budget rip-off of the movie Gremlins tries to capture the appeal of the Joe Dante movie and fails utterly. The plot involves a security guard trainee, Kevin, who opens a vault and lets the Hobgoblins loose out into the world. These alien creature give people their fondest wishes but kill them in the process. The creatures go off to Kevin's house where they make all of his friends fondest wishes come true. (And some of them are really lame too.)
Tom: We don't need to see every part of the human anatomy outlined in spandex. I can trust it's all there.
The guys do a really good job on this one, making it one of the better Sci-Fi era shows. The riffing is solid throughout and there are some really good lines. This is an easy movie to riff, it's so bad and poorly made. These later films don't even have the naive charm that the Corman films and Sandy Frank Japanese imports do, so they spend more time making fun of the mechanics of the movie and way people react rather than the insipid plot. The comments seem a little more harsh too, like they REALLY hate this movie. That made this particular episode a lot of fun.
Mike: What, did they split a keg of Robitussin? What are you-- get *up*.
The host segments are funny too. Crows documentary on women (he comes to the conclusion that they don't actually exist) is great, and I really his hotline for people traumatized by the movie. The end skit is really funny too, where Tom goes back in time and kicks the director in the shins. Unfortunately this inspires the man to make the movie in the first place. The best episode in this set.
Show #902 The Phantom Planet
Mike: "Pegasus 4, you are..." Completely boned.
Another offering from the later part of the series, this time they are riffing another late 50's early 60's SF cheapie. This is easily my favorite genre for them to spoof, as the movies themselves have a lot of charm, and they create another good episode with this film.
While investigating a series of mysterious space shop crashes, Astronaut Frank Chapman crash lands of the Phantom Planet. He's unharmed, but when he falls and his helmet opens up the air on the planet causes him to shrink in size. He then discovers that the planet, that resembles a piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken, is inhabited. The little people tell Frank how they have been under attack by the Solanites for years. They've been trying to steal their gravity control system, but so far have been unsuccessful. How can Chapman defeat the Solanite invasion, enlarge himself, and get back to his base on the moon without a space ship?
Crow: No fair! You can't flash back to stuff we saw ten seconds ago!
This is another solid episode with some great riffing. The jokes are really good, and the fact that the movie isn't horrible makes the show more enjoyable. The part where Frank thinks about his past and Mike and the robots add their own dialog is great. They start off in top form, and only slow down a little as the show goes on.
Crow: Today, the moon narrowly missed hitting a man's eye like a big pizza pie.
Tom: Scientists believe that's amore.
The host segments are just so-so, and don't really add much to the show. The part where Mike accidently received the power supply to Pearl's mail-order doomsday device is mildly amusing, and the segment where Tom and Crow are playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on water filled glasses is funny, but the punch line was easy to see and drawn out a little too long. Overall a funny movie with mediocre host segments.
Show #402 Monster A-Go-Go
Crow: This is gonna suck.
Crow was right. The only Joel show in this set, this movie is really bad, but the crew make it enjoyable. First though, the experiment starts off with the short Circus on Ice. This short about an ice skating act that has a circus theme is mercilessly savaged by the Joel et al. The sequence where they portrayed a deer being shot by a hunter has to be seen to be believed.
Tom: Shut up and watch the deer get slaughtered! It's fun!
Monster A-Go-Go is a train wreck of a movie that the had such a low budget that someone had to mimic the sound of a telephone ringing. (Badly too, I might add.) I mean this is Manos: The Hands of Fate bad. The plot, what there is of it, involves a space capsule that crashes to Earth, and soon after at tall monster starts running around killing people. It doesn't sound too bad, but so much of the story happens off screen, the viewers are only cued in by the narrator, that this movie easily falls into the "abominably horrible" category.
Joel warns everyone that this is going to be a hard movie to get through, and he's right. They try, and some of the riffs are really very good, but there are some long stretches without many laughs too. They just didn't take this movie apart the way they should have.
To make up for it though, some of the host segments were great. The invention exchange where everyone makes action figures is great. Dr. Forester's Johnny Longtorso (with everything sold seperately) is a classic. One of the middle segments includes one of my favorite MST lines of all time too. When Gypsy says that she just doesn't get Tom, he replies with Nobody does. I'm the wind, baby! Oh yea, this one also has Joel explaining the Pina Colada Song to Crow and Tom.
The final segment is the best though. It starts out pretty lame, but soon achieves greatness when Tom and Crow describe the movie and how horrible it was. Sidesplittingly funny, it makes up for a lot.
Tom: This is just a test. Had this been an actual movie, you would have been entertained.
Show #603: The Dead Talk Back
Mike: This balance of power keeps ice cream in check.
The experiment starts off with an Anheuser-Busch short The Selling Wizard. This promotional film for low temperature cabinets for selling ice cream is a riot. It has Mike, Crow and Tom in top form riffing left and right. Who would have thought that ice cream cabinets would be so interesting? As Tom said: Where do I sign? I want it NOW!
The feature film is The Dead Talk Back, a 1957 movie is so bad that it was never released. That's saying a lot, since just about anything Roger Corman threw onto film in that time made it to the big screen. The plot involves a girl who was murdered by someone in her boarding house (or someone else entirely) but the police can't figure out who the culprit is. After a long boring investigation, the authorities contact Henry Krasker a creepy looking inventor who is working on a machine that can contact the dead. Can this invention solve the murder?
Crow: NC-17 - 50's style!
In this early Mike episode, he and the 'bots make a valiant effort to trash the film, but it only partially succeeds. There are long patches of the movie where nothing really happens and it's really hard to riff someone walking down the street. The jokes start out good, but by the end of the film you can tell that the writers were really scratching their heads for something, anything, to say about the film. Not a bad effort, but not a great one either.
Tom: Come on pal, if you're going to murder somebody, seize the moment.
The host segments made up for the weak movie though. The Dead Talk Back radio show, where dead people can call in with their questions and comments was funny, but I really enjoyed the running gag that starts with the second segment. Inspired by the movie, the crew dresses up as Jerry Garcia and the gang and sings ("The Dead" talk back Get it?) It's going fine until Crow starts on his guitar solo, which goes on for the rest of the host segments and into the credits. A running gag that was pretty funny.
The audio on the host segments is very clean, and the riffs coming through loud and clear. The audio during the movies is 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.
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.
The one exception was The Dead Talk Back episode. This show had several horizontal video glitches, defects that are on the original video tapes.
Unfortunately, there are no extras on this disc.
This was another great set. Not quite as good as volume 7, but still a lot of fun. Each of these episodes had something to offer. Though The Dead Talk Back was only average, the host segments made up for it. Hobgoblins, one of the top four or five worst movies that MST has screened, was hilarious. They really take off the kid gloves with this one, and it turns into one of the better episodes from season 9. All of these shows were enjoyable, and though I prefer Joel, I have to admit that the Mike episodes in this set are very good. Run out and buy this. Highly Recommended.