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Mystery Science Theater 3000: 4

Rhino // Unrated // November 18, 2003
List Price: $59.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted December 6, 2003 | E-mail the Author
Ever watch a movie that was so bad you actually enjoyed it?  Most people have.   If you have friends over and you all start laughing at this horrible film, it is even more fun.  That's what creator Joel Hodgson noticed when he created Mystery Science Theater 3000:  it can be entertaining to watch people make fun of a bad movie.  He, and the rest of the crew at Best Brains, turned talking during a movie into an art form, and made a very funny show while he was at it.

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.

I have to admit a bias here.  I have been a huge MST fan since the show's second season.  I've traveled up to Minnesota one more than one occasion to tour their studio, and have owned most of the episodes on tape at one time or another.  The fact that episodes are being released on DVD is great!  I eagerly await each new DVD or set.

This fourth boxed set, like the three before it, contains four shows.  None of these programs have not been released to home video before, and are from later seasons with Mike as the host.   Many fans, myself included, prefer Joel's episodes. They will be disappointed that he is not in any of these shows.  The problem is that the rights to the movies that were originally shown on MST have reverted back to their original owners.  Since the show was done on a shoe string budget, the rights to the movies they lampooned were leased for a certain period of time, they were not bought out right.  The time has elapsed for most of these movies, and Best Brains, MST3K's production company, can no longer release them legally.  That is why all of the episodes in this set are from the eighth and tenth seasons.

The Episodes:

As previously mentioned, this set has four programs, each running about 90 minutes.

Girl in Gold Boots Episode 1002:

Austin Powers would have loved this movie.  A go-go dancer movie from the '60's!  It all starts when this swinging chick, Michele, skips out on her drunken father with a drifter, Buzz, who blows into the diner she works in.  They ride out an meet up with another cat, Critter, who's cycle has broken down.  All three head to the hip town of L.A. where Michele gets a job dancing in a night club and Critter joins that groovy scene as a janitor.  Buzz starts selling smack and puts the moves on Michele, but Critter likes the bird too.  Will love conquer all?  Groovy baby!

The Girl in Gold Boots is an average episode.  The host segments are pretty entertaining, especially the one concerning Crow's new WWBSMD? bracelet.  "What would Buffy St. Marie Do?  Down on the planet, Pearl is being inspected to become an accredited mad scientist.

The movie itself is certainly bad with little redeeming quality, but the riffs are just mediocre.  In general, I think the science fiction and horror movies lend themselves to being lampooned much better than your average bad 60's B flicks.  Dramas like this one don't have the stupid dialog, bad costumes and cheap scenery that a bad SF movie does, and that cuts down on the possible jokes.  While the jokes fairly frequent, they were not as amusing as other episodes.  I managed to smile through the whole episode and laughed out loud several times.  Some of the better riffs:
 

What the--? Oh, a gun! So that was the record and burning sensation in my groin.

My father passed away. I stuck his head in the deep fryer.

I'm gonna go get a goodbye slap from dad.

Ah! They're throwing us violently into the next scene!

So long, non acquaintance who inexplicably gave us rides in his dune buggy.

Michelle: I'm good at dancing, too.
Crow: Compared to Stephen Hawking.


Not one of their best shows, but a solid effort.  It could have been much worse.  Speaking of horrible episodes, that brings us to the next one in this set.

Hamlet Episode 1009:

A Shakespeare tragedy ripped by the Satellite of Love?  Yep.  It's not a pretty sight.

I was actually surprised, and slightly dismayed, when I saw that this episode was included on this set.  It has my vote for one of the worst episodes ever.  It's really sad when the movie that they are watching is more enjoyable than the comments Mike and the 'bots are making.

The prince of Denmark, Hamlet, returns home to find his father dead.  The king has been murdered by his brother, and is going to marry Hamlet's mother.  Hamlet broods on what to do.  Should he kill his uncle?  Should he kill himself?  He broods some more.  He drives his girlfriend crazy and she kills herself.  He broods some more.  Then the fifth act arrives, and nearly everyone dies.  Shakespeare wrote some amazingly beautiful prose, but it is extreamly easy to preform it poorly, as this movie shows.

This movie was orginally film in 1960 for German TV.  It was then dubbed in English, and heavily edited to fit into MST's time slot.  Even with these things in it's favor, Mike and the robots couldn't come up with funny jokes.  This episode was just a failure.  Not because the movie was good, it wasn't, but because it was not suited to being made fun of.  Hamlet is a tragic play dealing with weighty issues, and comedy just doesn't mesh with that.

The guys gave it their best shot, but it wasn't any where near good enough.  The dialog was very good, even if the delivery wasn't.  When the 'bots riffed on one of the lines, it just came out stupid and juvenile, not funny.  For example, take this line:
 

Hamlet: I see a cherub...
Crow: In thy nose.


Sound like something that would be whispered in a junior high English class.

There were a few amusing lines but not nearly as many as in the other episodes.   Some of the better ones:
 

This place could use a shrub, or, hell, even a stick would cheer it up.

Danish clowns: The damp, smelly, silverfish infested basement of the clown world.

Is there a word in the English language he hasn't said?

Well, Mike, this has convinced me not to kill your dad and marry your mom.


This show just didn't work.  It is unfortunate that this show was chosen over other shows that Best Brains still has the rights to.

Overdrawn at the Memory Bank Episode 822:

This movie is a cross between The Matrix, Blade Runner, and that Super 8 mm movie you made with your friends when you were 12.  In a futuristic society totally controlled by large corporations (the Blade Runner part,) Aram Fingal (Raul Julia) is a computer clerk who manages to hack into the forbidden "cinemas."  Instead of working, he spends his days watching movies, his favorite being Casablanca.  After a couple of weeks they finally notice that Raul is doing no work what so ever, and sentence him to 48 hours of "doppling."  That is where they extract his consciousness and insert it into an animals body, in this case a baboon.  I'm not sure why that is supposed to make him not want to watch movies any more, but that's the theory I guess.  In any case, when it's time for him to leave the monkey, they can't seem to find his body due to a clerical error.  So they transfer his mind into the master computer.  While inside, he fashions a reality for himself (the Matrix part) based on Casablanca.  Yes, we get to see Raul Julia doing his impression of Humphrey Bogart playing Rick.  He does it very badly.  Anyway, for some stupid reason a technician named Appollonia James is supposed to interface with the computer and keep track of Fingal.   While she's doing this, the CEO of the large corporation that runs the center doesn't like what Aram is doing while in the computer, so he enters it and spends the rest of this confusing and bad movie (like your Super-8 movie all those years ago) chasing Appollonia and Aram.

When you first start watching this movie, it seem okay.  It was made by PBS in Canada, so I cut it some slack.  It didn't have a high budget, so the special effects were bad.  I could even live with the dumb futuristic names they gave everything.  But the more the movie progressed, the more I realized that this film was truly awful.  I mean really outstandingly horrid.  The plot is laughably stupid, the acting half-hearted at best, and the dialog atrocious.  A lot of it just didn't make any sense at all.  And that was before they started the Casablanca-in-the-computer story line.  What were they thinking???

Mike and the bots do a great job cutting this movie to ribbons.  The jokes are consistently funny throughout, with some huge laughs in places.  Some of the best lines:

When Raul Julia starts to watch Casablanca: "Never show a good movie in the middle of your crappy movie."

So, aging lesbian nuns run the future.

You know, with this digital technology, the suckiness comes through with great clarity.

I finally killed my virtual pet!

Eraserhead was easier to follow than this movie.

I guess this movie was kinda like watching Casablanca while having a small child use your groin as a punching bag.

While the credits are rolling at the end, Mike, frustrated that he can't understand much of this incomprehensible movie, calls technical support for some help.  This is an classic bit, truly inspired.  It's one of the best gags from the later seasons.

The host  segments were good.  Not great, but good.  Pearl holds a pledge drive for 'Public Pearl Television' and on the Satellite of Love, Tom and Crow order a pet monkey over the internet who runs wild.

A strong show from the later seasons that will keep you smiling throughout.

Space Mutiny Episode 820:

A spaceship that has been traveling for generations to settle a new planet runs into trouble with their own security force, the Enforcers.  The Enforcers want to take control of the ship and land on a nearby planet instead of continuing on to their original destination.  To this end, the sabotage the ship and then start an all out mutiny.

This is a great episode!  The host segments are very entertaining.  It starts with Crow and Tom complaining about how old Mike's set of encyclopedias are, which describe Hitler as "a fairly stabel veteran from the great war" and states that "someday we hope to harness fire to serve mankind."  Down on Earth, Pearl and her cohorts are being held prisoner in an ancient Roman dungeon.  They try to get Mile to help them escape.

The movie is so mind bogglingly horrid that it is perfect for the show.  The story makes no sense,  the acting is wooden, and it has really bad special effects.  (With the exception of  the shots of the exterior of the spaceship which come directly from Battlestar Galactica.  Mike and the bots never mention this.  I assume there was a reason they didn't, since the jokes would have been very easy.  "Hey, they're fleeing from the Cylon menace too!")

The guys start riffing at the opening credits and just don't let up.  Some great lines are in this movie.

As the "starring" card appears in the credits, Tom chirps "I have my doubts that this movie is starring anyone..."

When person who was killed in a previous scene is shown working at her desk, and one of the 'bots comments "I think its really nice of you to give that dead girl another chance."

During an exciting *yawn* laser battle Mike advises that "They shouldn't have set their phasers on miss."

Wall-mounted keyboards... it must be the FUTURE!

It seems that randomly blowing up things is not a good strategy in a spaceship.

You know, a lot of people have compared this scene to the climactic chariot scene in Ben Hur. Yeah, you know, they usually say, 'Ben Hur was really good. This movie totally sucks.'

When the captain learns about the mutiny:  "Bring me my warrior muumuu!"

The quality of the movie was aptly described by the two robots:

Servo: Boy, you know, a retarded jellyfish would make a better movie than this.
Crow: A severely impaired box turtle with a very busy schedule, just give him a camera for a day, he'd come up with something better than this.

All around good episode.  Those who claim that none of Mike's episodes are as funny as Joel's should watch this one.

Mystery Science Theater has great replay value.  (Oh, okay, except for Hamlet.)  There is so much going on in these shows, that they are wonderful to watch over and over.  Every time I watch them I hear a joke or see something new that I hadn't seen before.   That makes these sets an excellent value.
 


The DVDs:


Packaging:

The DVDs are packaged in a die–cut cardboard box with a clear plastic disc announcing that this is set four glued to the front.  The four DVDs are in a fold out sleeve with a still from each movie under the clear plastic disc holder.   I don't like the plastic disc on the slipcase.  It is easily caught on adjacent DVDs when filing this set on a shelf.  Not nearly as cool as the gimmicks on the boxes for the other three sets.  Inside the set, there is an insert that has chapter stops for all four movies. Other than the minor quibble about the glued disc, it is an attractive set.
 

Audio:

The audio is presented in digital stereo with little use of the soundstage.  There are no subtitles, and it would be great if they were an option.  Sometimes it is hard to hear the riffs when there is dialog in the movie at the same time.  If there were subtitles you could easily determine what everyone was saying.

I wish Rhino would have included a 5.1 or at least 3.0 mix.  It would be effective to mix the movie through the center channel (since virtually all the movies the view are in mono) and then have Mike and the robots come out of the front channels.  I'm sure that this would be a lot of trouble, but the results would sound great.

As for the quality of the sound, Mike and the 'bots sound pretty good.  Occasionally, as I mentioned, the movie will be louder than they are, but it was like that when these were originally shown on TV.  Just about all their comments are clear and easy to hear.  The soundtrack to the movies themselves are a different matter.  Many of the older films sound a little rough, but that adds to their charm.

Video:

All four episodes are in full screen as they were originally shown.  These discs look very good.  The host segments are clear and the colors bright.  Sometimes a little too bright, but I think that was the look they were going for.  As with the audio, some of the movie's video is not very good.  But these are supposed to be bad movies, with bad prints.  If they were restored, it would take some of the fun out of it.

The Extras:

Unfortunately, Rhino did not include the original non-MST versions of these movies as they did on the first set.  That was a very nice addition, that I was hoping they would continue, but it seems like they have abandoned the practice.

There are very few extras on these discs.  The Girl with Gold Boots has a trailer and a TV spot, but it is the only movie where those were included.

All of the shows have a short introduction by Mike Nelson.  I was a little disappointed in these.  I was hoping that he would talk about the filming of the episode, or why they chose the film that they did.  Kind of like the Brian Henson intros on the Muppet Show discs.  Instead he told a couple of (lame) jokes about how bad the movie is and that was it.  A missed opportunity.
 

Final Thoughts:

Overall, a nice set of shows.  I'm always happy to see more MST on DVD.  Though Hamlet stinks, Space Mutiny more than make up for it.  I have no idea how long Best Brains will have the rights to these shows.   I do know that they won't have them forever and unless they pay some bucks to renew them these discs will go out of print.  Hardcore MST fans should run out and get this set while the gettin's good.  For casual fans I'd give the set a solid Recommended rating.

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