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Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol. 10
It's hard to believe, but Rhino has released their tenth Mystery Science Theater 3000 video collection. This four disc set contain a good mix of shows; two with Joel as host and a pair from Mike as well. The headliner from this set is Godzilla Vs Megalon, a great episode with the hilarious Jet Jaguar. This set also includes Swamp Diamonds, Teen-Age Strangler, and the wretchedly horrible film The Giant Spider Invasion along with two shorts and some fun extras. A great treat for MST fans.
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 bad movies. 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 #212: Godzilla Vs. Megalon
Common knowledge said that this film would never be commercially available. The rights had lapsed, and it was thought that getting them back would be next to impossible. But somehow those silver tounged devils at Rhino have done just that.
This goofy Godzilla movie makes for a great MST episode. After some nuclear tests shake the underground kingdom of Seatopia, the ruler of the subterranean country sends their monster Megalon to the upper world. Apparently they think this will cause the nuclear tests to stop. Before the great Godzilla vs. Megalon battle at the end though, there's some plot. In order to control the giant monster, Seatopia needs a new robot that has been created by a pair of scientist: Jet Jaguar. They send some hood to kidnap the robot and nab one of the scientists and his irritating kid. Meanwhile the other scientist, named Rex Dart, Eskimo Spy by Joel and the gang, goes to the rescue. Meanwhile Jet Jaguar rebels against the Seatopians and, get this, programs himself to grow to gigantic size and joins Godzilla in kicking some Megalon butt. Gee, I hope my laptop never programs itself like that.
There were some great riffs in this episode. The young Japanese kids that always happen to be featured in these films make for great fodder, and this episode in no different. The mercilessly rib the kid and his supposed lack of bladder control. The guys also laugh at many of the absurd aspects for the film, which is easy to do. I loved Crow's observation "I guess a rocket is standard picnicking equipment in Japan..."
The host segments are above par too. In one they take clips from the movie and make a trailer to a new film: Rex Dart, Eskimo Spy, which is hilarious. They also translate the ending song from the movie, Jet Jaguar's Theme, in the last segment. Somehow I don't think that the song originally had the line "He basically good-hearted but he'd like to smash that kid against a rock." A funny show that is the showcase of this set.
Show #503: Swamp Diamonds w/ the short What to do on a Date
I've always thought that MST does a better job on the shorts than they do on the feature length movies, and What to do on a Date is a classic example why. Joel and the bots start riffing on this film during the opening credits and never let up. The (very) dated film about how to ask a girl on a date and what wholesome things a couple can do is hokey and outrageous when seen today, but when the guys start to comment, it turns truly hilarious.
The movie on the other hand, is just average. This Roger Corman film is up to his usual standards as far as quality goes. A police woman who goes undercover in a prison to find out where a girl gang has stashed some diamonds that they had stolen. Not the least bit suspicious of the new girl, the three crooks and the cop break out and head into a swamp. When their boat starts sinking they shanghai Bob Mathews (Mike Conners from TV's Mannix) and take him along with them. (As if Mannix would ever allow a bunch of girls to take him. He was tough I tell ya! In every episode Mannix gets shot in the shoulder, knocked out, and/or severely beaten. But after the commercial break, he's ready to go again good as new! That's a man's man. One quality individual! But I digress...)
The riffs were okay, but the quality of the jokes was never as great as this poor film deserved. They just didn't let go as well as they did on some of Corman's other films. That's not to say that this was a poor episode, it wasn't. The comments for the movies could have been a little better. The did do a great job making fun of Conners though, who for some unknown reason was billed as "Touch Conners." The skewered that without mercy.
The host segments to this were great in this show. The Star Trek parody at the beginning was one of the best parody the show ever did; short, sweet, and ruthlessly cruel. (And I'm a Trek fan.) The other segments are strong too with Tom, inspired by the short, asking Gypsy out on a date and the tragic results of that. When all is said and done, though the movie isn't the best they've ever done the short and host segments make up for it.
Show #514: Teen-Age Strangler w/ the short Is This Love?
This is the second episode with Mike as a host, and it's pretty good overall. The show starts with one of those "What would you do?" shorts they used to show in school to start discussions; Is This Love? A college girl tells her room mate that she's getting married at the end of the semester to her boyfriend of three months. Is that wise? Is she rushing into things? Her room mate councils her to wait, but when the girl's father tries to bribe her to finish her degree, she runs off and elopes. Ha!
The chattering trio has a great time with this one, especially with the roommate who looks like she's approaching 40. I found a bit more enjoyment out of this one than most people since I was engaged to my college sweetheart after three months of dating and married after six. (That was nineteen years ago and were still together, quite happily thank you.)
The movie itself features a serial killer stalking a college campus. The lead suspect is Jimmy. Everyone knows he's a rotten apple since he *gasp* stole a bike a year or two ago. (Actually, he didn't even steal the bike, his kid brother did and Jimmy took the fall.) As every police officer will tell you, bicycle theft is the gateway crime to serial killing. Naturally Jimmy's girlfriend ends up being stalked by the killer, which gives him the perfect chance to clear himself.
There were some great riffs in this episode, such as:
Tom: Jeez, now you've ruined it, no more killing all summer.
Crow: Looks like he took dance lessons from Arch Hall Jr. (A reference to the classic Eegah!.)
They just don't come as rapidly as they do in other episodes. Mike still wasn't comfortable in the role and I think that they cut out some of the more marginal jokes because of that. Most of what they say is funny, it's just there aren't as many riffs as normal.
Show #810: The Giant Spider Invasion
This set ends on a weak note. This 70's low budget horror film is bad enough alright, with horrible acting and cheesy special effects that Roger Corman would have rejected in the 50's, but the episode isn't as funny as it could have been. By this time in the series, the show was running out of steam and that is clearly evident in this episode.
When a meteor crashes to Earth in a remote farming community in Wisconsin, a NASA agent flies out to investigate. Aided by a local scientist played by Barbara Hale (Perry Mason) and the sheriff played by Alan Hale (Gilligan's Island) they discover that the extraterrestrial object littered a local farm with geodes that contain alien spiders and industrial grade diamonds. Somehow the meteor also punched a hole in the fabric of time and space which has allowed giant arachnids access to our world. Can this trio of incompetents kill the huge creatures and plug the hole before the world is taken over? Does anyone care after the first 15 minutes?
Though the film is bad, Mike and the 'bots don't really rise to the occasion and many of the riffs fall flat. It seems like a missed opportunity with few riffs on Alan Hale and the running gag of people yelling "Packers Won!" getting monotonous very quickly. While some to the white trash jokes were funny ("Greasy guys carrying unconscious girls, comfortable 2 PM beer buzz...you homesick yet, Mike?") most of the spider jokes weren't. ("Please...consider my legs when cleaning your pipe!")
The host segments weren't that entertaining either. This time they did a parody of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Pearl sending up alien pods. Though gypsy's chant was amusing, the rest of these segments weren't that great and the end was pretty bad. While this isn't a horrible show, it is one of the weaker ones.
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.
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.
One pleasant surprise is that Rhino has included some nice substantial extras in this set. There is a fifteen minute reel of out takes from the show (originally released as part of Poopie 2 on VHS) which are mostly funny, and a photo gallery that has a lot of interesting behind the scenes pictures. The bonus that I was most excited about was the Video Jukebox. This includes 15 songs from the series there were done by the cast. This was great, because their songs are often the highlights of the host segments. This set has the following songs:
Tibby, Oh Tibby
Slow the Plot Down
The Waffle Song
Oh Kim Cattrall
My Wild Irish Ireland
Toobular Boobular Joy
Merry Christmas - If That's Okay?
Nummy Muffin Coocol Butter
AM Radio in Space
When I Held Your Brain in My Arms
The Canada Song
Rhino has created another great package. I'm still amazed that Godzilla VS Megalon has been released. Hopefully the Sandy Frank movies will follow suit. While I wasn't a fan of The Giant Spider Invasion, it's worth watching, and the other two offerings are solid good fun. The fact that they filled this release with extras is another welcome surprise and makes this set highly recommended. Rhino continues to provide good value too. The fact that these boxed sets are cheaper than the individual releases on a per episode basis is a great bonus.