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Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXXVII

Shout Factory // Unrated // November 22, 2016
List Price: $59.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted November 26, 2016 | E-mail the Author
The Movies:



It's hard to believe that Shout! Factory is putting out the 37th
collection of Mystery Science Theater 3000 shows. While most of the
best shows (that don't have rights issues) have been released, I'm
pleased to say that this set has four good shows. While none of them
are classic episodes, these three Mike and single Joel 'experiments'
are well worth watching and adding to your collection.



The shows included in this set are:



Experiment 420 - The Human Duplicators:



Crow: This is Beverly Hills Cop, only the slow, white
version.



Season four had Joel and the bots at the height of their game, but
there are still some so-so installments, such as this one. The film
itself features Richard Kiel as an alien who has arrived on Earth
with the purpose of creating robot duplicates of humans to wreak
havoc on the planet and soften it up for an invasion. He arrives at
the home of a reclusive scientist who is working on robotics and
quickly goes about duplicating scientists so that they can use their
access to steal important materials that are needed to create more
duplicates.



It's not a bad premise for a movie, but the narrative follows a
bland FBI investigator who is trying to figure out why prominent
scientists are stealing from their employers, rather than the alien
trying to take over. The movie plods along with all of the
excitement of... well, a bad 50's SF film.



Usually this type of movie is a prime candidate for MST, but the
riffing on this is just mediocre. The jokes are fairly constant, but
it's a case of quantity over quality. Don't get me wrong, the
episode isn't bad, but it just doesn't have many memorable lines and
only a few really good laughs.



Experiment 705 - Escape 2000:



Crow: Oh, I get it. This is a metaphor for something.



This experiment features an Italian movie that is trying to cash in
on dystopian future films like Mad Max and Escape from
New York
that were popular at the time. (It's actually the
sequel too, but which makes it even worse than you'd expect.)
Originally entitled Escape from The Bronx, this nonsensical
film features a beefy motorcycle-riding hero, Trash, who is fighting
against the conglomerate who wants to level the Bronx and relocate
the inhabitants to New Mexico in order to build some new luxury
high-rise apartments.



This film doesn't really make much sense, starting with the title.
The plot revolves around people who want to stay in the Bronx, not
'escape' it. In any case, it plays like random scenes strung
together with little thought of pacing, plot, or continuity. Things
just sort of happen because. While Mike and his cybernetic
companions try to enliven the film, it doesn't succeed as well as it
could. There are a few good riffs, but most of them are just cute
rather than really funny.



The host segments in this episode are actually pretty bad. While I
looked forward to those scenes when Joel was the host (and even then
they were hit-or-miss) during them time (after Frank left, but Dr.
Forester was still in Deep 13) they were pretty awful and this show
is no exception. Dr. Forrester has put his mother, Pearl, in a
'home' because she's lost her senses, or so he says. The home is a
small child's playhouse, and Pearl spends the episode telling
everyone she's fine from a small window in the house. There's a fine
line between 'hilariously irreverent' and 'that's really dumb' and
unfortunately this falls into the latter category. As does the SOL
segment (which I admit had potential) where Crow has a charity
auction for "a really good cause" and he tries to sell a penny and a
nickel.



Experiment 817 - The Horror of Party Beach:



Tom: I generally had a positive impression of white people before
this movie.



This was my favorite experiment in this collection. While it's not
great, it is a lot of fun. The movie itself is an odd mashup of a
60's beach movie with a low-budget horror flick. Think Catalina
Caper meets It Conquered the Earth. A group of teens including go to
the beach to have a swinging party until Hank's girlfriend, Tina,
has a drink. Hank doesn't approve and they get into a fight, which
causes Tina to flirt with the leader of the local motorcycle gang. A
fight ensues and after the clean-living Hank trashes the thug, he
goes home distraught that his girlfriend is such a floozy. Tina,
meanwhile, swims out to an island where she's killed by monsters
spawned when radioactive waste was dumped into the sea and came into
contact with the skeletons of long-dead seamen. The monsters decide
that killing people is kind of fun, and head to the mainland to
wreak havoc.



There's no two ways around it, this is a bad movie. The plot is
dumb, the acting is amateur, and the monsters suits are absurd. But
it is a lot of fun with the riffing. Mike and the guys make fun of
how cheap the film is and are pretty merciless. I love when Tom
shouts "Dad's being smothered by a huge loaf of pepperoni-studded
brown bread!" when a creature attacks. The jokes are pretty strong
throughout and there are some memorable bits in this one.



Experiment 819 - Invasion of the Neptune Men:



Mike: I never thought I'd say this, but suddenly Independence Day
seems like a deeply nuanced film.



This Japanese film stars Sonny Chiba of Street Fighter fame
as the super-hero Space Chief who saves a group of young boys, as
well as the Earth, from an alien invasion. The movie has an
interesting history that explains why it doesn't really make a lot
of sense. Originally the film was shown as two 60-minute films in
Japan playing on consecutive weeks sort of like a serial. Realizing
there wasn't a foreign market for such a creature, the production
studio, Toei, edited the two parts into a single 78-minute feature
and sold it overseas. It was purchased for US television by a man
named Walter Manley, but he had a problem: to package it for TV
markets it needed to be 80-minutes long, and there were three
musical numbers that he thought wouldn't fly in the US. So he cut
out five minutes of running time and then padded the movie with
seven minutes of stock footage and repeated battle scenes. The
result is something that's fairly incomprehensible.



Mike and the bots do a pretty good job with this one. They make fun
of the fact that the group of children who are the main characters
have access to high level meetings and that the hero, Space Chief,
doesn't really show up in the film very often. Their comments on the
hilarious looking aliens aren't to be missed either. The riffs are
fine but not as strong as the best episodes, making this another
solid but unexceptional installment.



 The DVD:





Audio:



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.



Video:



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 were acceptable, but this is much
better. Some of the prints that were used for the show are showing
their age, but there's not anything that can really be done about
that.



Extras:



Three out of the four episodes in this set are packed with some cool
extras, with one show (The Human Duplicators) being a bit
skimpy with only the MST Hour wraps. The other three have great
bonus though. First off there are newly filmed introductions to the
shows by Mary Jo Pehl. She reminisces about the writing and filming
of the episode in question and provides some fun facts.



Once again Shout! Factory has included featurettes created by
Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, where they interview film scholars and
experts about the movie that was riffed in a particular episode
where the background and history of the movie is discussed. These
are all quite fascinating and filled with some interesting
information. These are all highly recommended viewing.



Final Thoughts:



While I wouldn't recommend starting with this collection if you've
never seen MST before, this set of four episodes of the classic
series is good fun. All of the shows are decent, and while none of
them are top-tier, none of them are bad either. Recommended.
Buy from Amazon.com

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