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Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXV

Shout Factory // Unrated // December 4, 2012
List Price: $59.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted November 30, 2012 | E-mail the Author
The Movies:
Shout! Factory continues to churn out more collections of Mystery Science Theater to the awaiting fans, and Volume XXV is a solid entry.  It has a strong candidate for "First Great Episode" the first show made for the Sci-Fi Channel, and a sexy Ann-Margaret.  What more could you want?
Robot Holocaust (episode 110):  "In the future, all robots will act like Don Knotts." - Crow
The first season of MST is generally looked at as a learning experance.  The first installments showed hints of the greatness that would come, but the crew was generally hit or miss with the riffs.  They really hit their stride in the second season, but that doesn't mean there aren't highlights to season one.  The first really good episode in the series is Robot Holocaust.  It's a very low budget, incredibly cheesy futuristic SF adventure that is laughably bad even before Joel and the bots start their riffing.  This film takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the air is poisonous to breath.  The Dark One has an air purification factory, but he'll only give air to those who work for him.  Into this nightmarish world come Neo (no, not the Matrix one) who gathers a group of workers and decides to storm the Dark One's stronghold and end his tyranny.
With a ridiculous looking 'robot,' a lead villainess who can barely speak her lines, and a nonsensical plot, this movie is so wretchedly bad that it's sometimes hard to look past it and just listen to the riffs.  If you can do that however, the jokes are pretty good and they a peppered through the film at a pretty good rate.  Not the best episode ever, but a highlight from season one.
This also features the last episode of Radar Men from the Moon that was riffed on the show (episode 9 for those who are keeping track.)  The film breaks part way through and that's the end of Commander Cody on the show.
Operation Double 007 (episode 508) [listed as "Operation Kid Brother" on the disc and case to avoid a law suit]:  "You are dressed as a space angel... why?" - Joel
What a horrible idea.  Sean Connery was starring in the James Bond movies and a huge draw, so why not get his little brother to star in a spy movie too!  That's the ticket!  In this train wreck of a film, Neil Connery plays, well... Neil Connery, a plastic surgeon who is a master of hypnosis and the brother of Europe's greatest spy.  When one of his patients is kidnapped by a criminal organization the home office orders Neil to cooperate with Ms. Maxwell (Lois Maxwell who played Ms. Moneypenny in the Bond films) in order to foil the nefarious schemes.  The reluctant spy proves to be a lady's man, hand-to-hand combat expert, and all around bad actor.
You have to give it to the producers... they really tried with this film.  They got sexy girls and had a criminal syndicate that would be a perfect match for 007, but they totally missed the mark.  Silly rather than clever, the movie is absolutely horrid.  Joel and the bots do an admirable job poking fun at some of the sillier aspects, especially the outrageous costumes, but it never quite reaches the greatness of some of the other episodes that aired in season five.  There are a few too many brother jokes, and the action on screen is more hilarious than some of the riffs.  Don't get me wrong, it's still a good episode and worth watching, but it's just average.
Kitten with a Whip (episode 615):  After John Forsythe see Ann-Margret in a nightgown "There isn't a shower cold enough for this man." - Crow
The two Mike episodes in this collection have something in common:  They're actually not horrible movies.  Kitten with a Whip has two big stars, John Forsythe and Ann-Margret, and has some very good production values.  The reason the film doesn't work better than it does is that the two stars don't have much on-screen chemistry and John Forsythe in particular looks a bit lost most of the time.
When a senatorial candidate finds a girl running from her sexually abusive step-father in his house, he helps her out.  He buys her clothes and bus money to her aunts too.  But when he returns home and discovers the girl is still there, and that she's actually an escaped convict, things get a little dicey.  If he turns her in, she threatens to claim that he raped her, so the powerful man is under her control.
The main problem with this experiment is that the movie is too talky.  The two leads spend much of the time yakking away and it's hard for Mike and the bots to get a word in edge-wise.  When they do, the riffs are pretty good, but this installment isn't one that I find myself watching that often.
Having said that, the first host segment for this episode is very good.  Crow is greased down, folded up, and sent to Earth via the umbilicus to find the botton that returns the SoL back to Earth.  He doesn't quite succeed.      
Revenge of the Creature (episode 802):  "Great, now I've got to change my name to 'Creature from the Edinburg Park Kiddie Pool."  -Crow
This is the first episode of the show on the Sci-Fi Channel.  If you recall from the last Comedy Central episode, the Satellite of Love arrived at the end of the universe and Tom, Gypsy, and Mike turned into pure energy.  As this episode begins the three are brought back to the SoL and made whole, where Crow has been waiting.  It's now the year 2525 (and yes, they make a lot of jokes about the song) and while they are orbiting Earth, the surface is now ruled by apes who worship The Lawgiver.  This person has told them to send up a movie, so Mike and the bots go back to the studio...
This movie, a sequel to The Creature from the Black Lagoon, is actually a pretty good flick in its own right.  Even without the riffing it's great to watch, but with it the movie's fantastic.  Mike and the bots start off strong and keep the jokes coming for the entire run of the movie.  It's pretty hilarious.
The only weak spot in this installment are the host segments, and it's not really the fault of the cast or crew.  The Sci-Fi channel insisted that the host segments had a plot that ran from one episode to the next, as if anyone would sit through the two-hour run time of the program just for the 10 minutes of host segments.  In any case, because of that edict they had Pearl chase them across the galaxy.  I never really warmed up to that plot, or any of the new characters that they brought into the host segments at this time, and I still don't care for these.  That's fine, the host segments in this episode may not be funny, but they're not that long.
The DVD:
Each of the four episodes comes in its own slimcase, and all of the disc are housed in a slipcase.
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 films soundtracks leave a little to be desired. There's some light distortion in a couple of cases but nothing major.  They actually do a very good job mixing the audio from the movie in with the actor's comments however, 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 easy to discern, but that is fairly rare.  There are no subtitles.
After watching this show for years on the 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.
I'm pleased that Shout! is including some nice bonus features with their MST releases.  This set has some cook extras.  There are introduction to all four episodes by Joel or Mike (depending on who hosted that installment) which are more than just "hope you enjoy the show!" snippets.  They last for a few minutes and the star of that show talks about what he remembers about the filming, how they selected that particular movie, and some of the behind-the-scenes action that was going on.
Shout! Factory has started a new extra with this set too:  Life After MST3K.  There are two installments included with this collection, one focusing on J. Elvis Weinstein and another on Bill Corbet.  These are really nice and I hope they continue them. 
Finally there's a documentary:  Jack Arnold at Universal, a look at the director of It Came From Outerspace, and Revenge of the Creature among many other films. 
There are also four mini-posters, one for each movie. All together this is a great selection of extras.
Final Thoughts:
Not the absolute best collection of MST3K shows, but it's definitely worth watching.  Even the missteps are enjoyable and this has a good mix from the show's run.  Be sure to check this one out.  Recommended.
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